A for almond, B for blue cheese, C for caramel, D for dumplings, E for eggs, F for fat and so on.
Felicity Cloake’s new book, The A-Z of Eating are all themed around Felicity’s favourite ingredients.
A pretty novel approach at a time when it’s difficult to come up with something new and catchy but Felicity is definitely one to watch.
She writes for the Daily Mail, the New Statesman and the Guardian, was named Food Journalist of the Year. She also carried off the New Media of the Year Award in 2011.
Each chapter opens with a fascinating introduction to the ingredient, blending history, food sciences, sharp insights and top tips.
This book won’t teach you how to fry an egg or make hollandaise.
“It’s for those brave souls who feel they have a fairly firm grasp on the basics, those who know it’s easier to make tomato sauce than to go out and buy a jar, for whom fish holds no fear and baking birthday cakes is a cause for celebration, not panic – in other words, people who can already cook.”
Apart from recipes to impress there are lots of tempting ideas to try for utterly delicious midweek suppers. Felicity also urges us cooks to make our lives easier by stocking our kitchens with a few bits of natty kitchen equipment.
Measuring spoons, cheap, last for ever and essential for accurate baking. She’s right, ordinary kitchen spoons vary widely in size.
A stick blender is less of an investment than a stand mixer and is super useful for everything from homemade mayonnaise to soups, sauces to smoothies, and whipping cream.
A cooking thermometer, Felicity poses the question – why faff about trying to guess the temperature of oil or caramel or whether your Sunday roast is rosy pink or well done in the centre.
Digital varieties with a probe on a lead are most practical. I still like to teach people how to judge without any props but these inexpensive thermometers are brilliantly handy and eliminate the guesswork.
An oven thermometer is another must have, few ovens are the same temperature from top to bottom and cooks very often blame themselves for inconsistent results.
Finally a decent food processor, they don’t come cheap but I certainly bless the person who invented this robust time saving gadget on a daily basis.
If you don’t yet have a food processor put it on your wish list, let it be known among family and friends.
Few bits of kitchen can transform your enjoyment of cooking like a food processor; laboursome tasks are literally done in seconds rather than minutes or even hours.
Here are a few of the recipes that caught my eye in the A-Z of Eating by Felicity Cloake published by Penguin Random House.
Under Z for zest, I found peach and mozzarella salad with lemon zest and basil. Under U for umami, another little gem, courgette.
T is for toast, lots of ideas here for our favourite comfort food, I choose salmon and coriander tartare and in the year that’s in it Tricolour jellies, a delicious green, white and gold jelly made with basil, mozzarella and tomatoes and finally under I for ices an easy-peasy banana and peanut butter ice.
There’s tons more but I’m sure these ideas will whet your appetite.
Felicity Cloake’s Salmon and Coriander Tartare with Avocado and Wasabi Cream on Toasted Rye
1 ripe Haas avocado
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp soy sauce (preferably Japanese)
1 salmon fillet
A small bunch of coriander, chopped
A handful of pea shoots
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
A dash of pumpkin seed, extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
2 slices of dark rye bread
Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone, and then scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Add half the wasabi along with the lime juice and soy sauce. Whiz until smooth (or mash as best you can, if you don’t have a stick blender), then taste and season. I like to add the rest of the wasabi, but you may not.
Skin the salmon if necessary, and then cut into small dice. Put into a small bowl with the coriander, season well, and toss together with the pea shoots, pumpkin seeds and a dash of oil.
Toast the bread until crisp, then spread with the avocado and top with the salmon and pea shoots. Eat immediately.
Felicity Cloake’s Simple Banana and Peanut Butter Ice
This is so unbelievably creamy that you won’t miss the dairy one bit – the peanut butter is optional and can be left out or substituted with honey, chocolate spread or chips, nuts, spice or maple syrup. It’s ideal for children and best eaten as soon as it’s made rather than frozen. The bananas must be really ripe or they won’t be sweet enough.
Serves 2-4 (2 greedily, 4 more moderately)
4 very ripe bananas
2 tsp peanut butter
Handful of salted roasted peanuts, to top (optional)
Peel the bananas, chop into even slices and freeze for at least 3 hours.
Put into a food processor and whiz until smooth and creamy (you’ll probably need to keep sticking a spatula in to stop it clumping into large frozen balls, but it will happen, I promise).
Add the peanut butter, or any other flavourings, and a pinch of salt and whiz to incorporate. Serve with a few roughly chopped peanuts scattered over the top, or indeed a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce.
Felicity Cloake’s Courgette Fritters with Bagna Cauda Hollandaise
Serves 4 with extra sauce
2 spring onions
50g plain flour
50g dried breadcrumbs, preferably panko
1 tsp chilli flakes
A whole nutmeg, to grate
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Oil, to fry
For the Sauce
3 fat garlic cloves
10 anchovies, rinsed if packed in salt
100 ml olive oil
3 egg yolks
150g cold butter, cubed
Coarsely grate the courgettes into a colander in the sink. Salt lightly, toss and leave to weep while you make the sauce.
Roughly chop the garlic and anchovies and mash together into a smooth paste. Heat a splash of oil in a small frying pan over a lowish heat and gently fry the mixture until the garlic just smells cooked. Scoop out of the hot pan so it doesn’t continue cooking.
Heat the olive oil to warm. (I put the jug into a saucepan of hot water) and boil a small kettle of water.)
Put the egg yolks into a pan with 1 tablespoon of cold water and the butter and set over a low heat. Stir continually until the butter has melted and emulsified into a smooth, thickish sauce, then gradually but vigorously whisk in the warm olive oil. Turn up the heat slightly and whisk until thickened. If it threatens to separate, whisk in a little of the boiling water from the kettle, which should bring it back tougher.
Once thickened, stir in the anchovy and garlic and set aside somewhere warm while you make the fritters, whisking it occasionally (I sit the pan in the larger pan of warm water previously occupied by the jug of oil).
Squeeze the courgettes well. Finely slice the spring onions, and then put in to a large bowl with the courgettes, flour, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes and a pinch of nutmeg. Briefly beat the egg and mix in along with the parsley.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat to shallow fry – if you only grease the pan, your fritters will be soggy.
Once the pan is hot enough that a courgette strand sizzles as it hits the oil, add the mixture in spoonfuls, flattening out as you do so, and fry in batches until golden brown on both sides.
Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with the sauce.
Successional Sowings and Summer Harvesting: On Monday, June 27, from 9.30am to 5pm, Susan Turner of Ballymaloe Cookery School gardens will teach a one-day gardening course on successional sowings through the summer.
Susan will cover organic year round crop rotation, crop management, feeding regimes and harvesting, best methods to attract beneficial insects, and pest control. There will be coffee on arrival and light lunch included; www.cookingisfun.ie.
Some of the most fashionable and hip tapas bars have popped up in LA, San Francisco, New York and London. Why? Because tapas offers a unique combination of taste and convenience making them perfect for home entertaining.
There are literally hundreds of tapas and pinchos: classic tortilla a la patata, shavings of Serrano or lberico hams, chorizo with fino sherry, salt cod fritters with piquillo peppers, albondigas, bonita with anchovies, prawns with chilli and sea salt, pinchos moranos, queso con membrillo.
On Wednesday, June 29, Darina Allen will give a course explaining why she has chosen some of the favourite tapas collected during her visits to Spain over the years; www.cookingisufn.ie.
Summer Food Festivals are in full swing:
Catch the Westport Food Festival this weekend, one of the best.
There’s mushroom foraging, a food village showcasing local products, hourly cookery demonstrations and family fun set against the backdrop of Croagh Patrick; www.westportfoodfestival.ie.
Become a BBQ Hero:
Host a fun event this summer that also raises money for a great cause. The Marie Keating Foundation needs you to host a fundraising BBQ this summer with your friends, family or workmates.
It doesn’t matter when you host it, how many people you invite, or if you’re a good cook.
All that matters is that you and your friends are coming together to help a worthy cause. Register online at www.mariekeating.ie/bbq
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