Today we were meant to be having friends to visit. Unfortunately friends are off, due to illness.
It is not our illness, which is both a surprise and a treat.
I am sorry that they are not coming, but I am just delighted that it is not us having to bail.
It usually is our illness.
I live in a permanent miasma of shame thanks to various ailments that may or may not be transmittable, and am always having to confess to people that they might not want to see us/hug us/speak to us ever again, as we trail around a list of illnesses that would make a medieval leper colony look positively sanitary in comparison.
This means that we have a whole day where we are not required to do anything much of anything.
I did think about ringing around people at the last minute and squeezing in a bit of impromptu visiting.
Then I had a stern word with myself and pointed out that I shall be mostly galloping around for the foreseeable future, and maybe it would be nice to take it easy and catch our breath for a bit.
So that’s what we shall do.
I have a recipe book to review. Gizzi Erskine’s ‘Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts’.
When I bought my Hairy Dieter’s recipe book, which is still one of my favourite recipe books, despite the fact that none of us are on a diet, Amazon kept trying to flog me this book. I declined, on the grounds that I have never heard of Gizzi Erskine, and the fact that she looks like a very glamorous Amy Winehouse doesn’t necessarily bode well for the world of eating.
Then Amazon Vine offered it to me to review for free and I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I don’t like to review recipe books without actually trying some of the recipes first. I don’t see how you can know if the ingredients aren’t too weird or the method is missing a step etc, if you don’t actually try it out practically, so that is my plan for the next few days in between ferrying various children to different points on the compass.
Today I have been going through the book, working out what I can realistically feed my family and what they won’t touch with a ten foot pole. I have been ordering groceries and mulling over what will go with what, and when I can fit things in.
My thoughts to begin with:
This is not a cookery book for people with families, unless your family is extremely cosmopolitan.
When I say cosmopolitan I mean the middle class stereotype where children either call mummy and daddy, mummy and daddy (into their forties), or call them Tarquin and Jacinta. Your children will be named after characters in mythology – Atlanta – or from the Farrow and Ball paint chart range – Mole Pelt (with or without a hyphen). You will have taught them Mandarin in the womb with the aid of flash cards, and they will already be on grade six violin, despite only being 2. You will holiday in out of the way places in countries like Guatemala, and your children will eat everything put in front of them, no matter how bizarre.
Then this cookery book will work for you.
If, however, you are the sort of family where your children (and husband) prod everything that comes out of your oven that isn’t recognisably a roast chicken, and push whatever it is round the plate as if it might rear up and attack you, then it isn’t going to work for you.
Sadly, my family are of the rearing up and attacking sort.
This is going to make reviewing interesting.
I have already discounted the Japanese feast, on the grounds that my children would rather drink hot sick than eat sashimi, and Nasu Dengaku, which is aubergines grilled with miso and mirin on the top, will finish them all off. Okonomiyaki has an entire tranche of ingredients that I, and Waitrose have never heard of, including okonomiyaki sauce and togarashi. Apparently you shake togarashi.
Which is nice.
These are the kinds of ingredients, along with many others in the book, which work exceedingly well if you live in the heart of the throbbing metropolis. At one point, she recommends popping to a local sushi shop and asking them to prep the sashimi fish for you in case you can’t manage it yourself. This actually made me laugh out loud.
We have only just got a Yo Sushi in Leicester, and if I take my sashimi quality sea bass in there I can only imagine the reception I will get.
I appreciate that you can now order most things like this online, which is fine, if you are fairly sure that your family are going to like what you make, and that you are going to use the ingredients again, so that the ingredients are of value to you. I don’t want to order togarashi for example, to find that I have to pretend I haven’t used any, and give it away in the next school raffle.
There are a lot of recipes like that in the book. A lot.
Then there are the recipes I don’t actually consider recipes at all. The one for boiled eggs served with toast soldiers, but where you spread Marmite on the toast and sprinkle a handful of seeds on the plate is one such item. This is not a recipe. This is the desperation of someone needing to fill another page and knowing the deadline is looming. There are quite a few recipes like that, too.
It is what I think of as a lifestyle recipe book. It is probably great for adventurous cuisinists who have all the time in the world to fart about with obscure products, or who are bored by every day cookery, and who want to radiate a certain je ne sais quoi. Not so good if you have three fussy children clamouring about the fact that this food has got ‘bits’ in it, and negotiating which of the ‘bits’ they will be required to eat in order to qualify for pudding.
It is supposed to offer you healthy week day options, and weekend blow out options so you can remain glamorously thin while still nodding knowledgeably about things like sweet potato glass noodles and knowing how to pronounce quinoa.
I’m not convinced.
Anyhow, the proof will be in the pudding – or low fat, artsy fartsy version with freeze dried goji berries served on a whisp of sea foam and camel fart.
I have decided to make:
Malaysian Beef Rendang
This is because in our house people are willing to try curry, however strange. The children have been gradually beaten into submission over the subject of curry, by our refusal to stop eating it no matter how much they whinge. They are now fairly good at curries.
This curry requires beef shin. Waitrose do not deliver beef shin. Probably because I imagine beef shins need quite a lot of storage for little meat, as cows legs are notoriously skinny and unstable. To get the 600g of shin required for the recipe I estimate you would have to fell three or four adult cows. I have pondered this for some days, so I am fairly definite on this point. I am sparing the shin, as I cannot be bothered to go to an actual butcher. I am substituting it with braising steak. I do not know which bit of the cow the ‘braise’ actually is. But I know it requires long, slow cooking, and as I intend to stick all the ingredients in my slow cooker, this is perfect. I imagine shins, sparse though they are, require the same kind of cooking, hence the reason for my substitution.
I have never spent so long thinking about cows shins in my life as I have over the last few days.
In fact, it is fair to say that I have never spent any time previously thinking about cows shins.
Is this what life turns into as you wander into your forties?
The one recipe in the book that really excited me was a version of Butterscotch Angel Delight, but without the e numbers. I lived on Butterscotch Angel Delight as a child and I miss it. So I shall be trying it out.
We are also trying:
Gypsy Tart (granny has been reminiscing about the wonders of gypsy tart, so we shall give it a whirl)
Spiced Pumpkin Cake
Ricotta sour cherry pancakes
Nyonya Chicken (another Malaysian curry)
Pork Bun Xao – A kind of hot and sour pork salad thing
Hummus – I’ve always wanted to make my own and never done it.
Crumpets – ditto
I think that’s a fair crack at it, and an eclectic enough mix, don’t you?
We shall report back.