I was recently given copy of Jane Grigson’s English Food, as regular readers will know I have a very high opinion of both her recipes and her writing (the interspersing of history and personal anecdotes is much imitated but never matched). English Food was first published 1974, but I have the 1992 edition, which contains both a new introduction by her daughter Sophie Grigson, as well as a caustic introduction from the 1978 edition, in which she rails against the loss of cooking skills, bland convenience food and patronising food writers.
Omelettes were one of the first things I learned to make and of course all my early attempts were horrific. Now I can make them (the way I like them) on autopilot, likwise frittata, tortilla and even occasionally pajeon.
Even though it’s summer, there’s always time for pie. Today I’m cooking something from a book which I bought ten years ago, to divert myself on a long-haul flight – Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book. I’ve owned it for far longer than The Vegetable Book, although it was written and published afterwards, in 1982.
The plums are some gorgeous organic ones which I bought when the lovely Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green held a small weekend market in late July. I am cheating/being lazy/not-chaining-myself-to-the-kitchen-on-the-weekend-I-have-a-real-job-and-I-need-to-relax-don’t-you-know and using shop-bought pastry.
I wanted to serve this with the cream crust pastry, as courgettes goes so well with tomatoes and peppers, and I thought the cream would balance the acidity of the tomatoes and peppers. From Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book (Penguin, 1976):
Courgettes with cream and rosemary
A dish that can be served on its own, or with veal, chicken and lamb. Use fresh rosemary from the garden. Other herbs can be substituted – parsley, chives, tarragon, fennel – but rosemary gives the best flavour of all.
It’s National Vegetarian Week, so find a vegetarian and eat them! Mmmm – corn-fed!
Ahem. I was a vegetarian in my mid to late teens (around the time I started cooking) and eat meat a two or maybe three times a week currently (and no, I don‘t refer to myself as a ‘flexitarian‘, a ‘vegan until 6pm‘ or any such precious, guilt-addled nonsense). We have lots of vegetarian recipes on the blog (as you can see from the index), several of which have become things I eat regularly – particularly fasolakia, porotos granados and artichoke dip.
First off however, is a simple recipe which I remember my mother teaching me to cook as a young ‘un, though I haven’t made it for years. (Mamaliga is the Romanian term for this dish, incidentally.)
My usual method of making pumpkin (or squash soup) is to roast chunks of pumpkin and onion with olive oil and chilli and liquidise them with some stock. Today I thought I might try something different. It’s been a while since I cooked anything from Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book (Penguin, 1978) but the last soup I made from this book was more than serviceable.
Courgettes are one of my very favourite vegetables and I would gladly eat them all year round, if they tasted of anything in winter. Anyway, it is now courgette season and if you have been organised enough to plant some, you’ll be reaping the rewards. (I’m mostly enjoying things in my garden which have seeded themselves, although, apparently, urban pigeons have so much littered food to eat, they can afford to ignore my cherries. Hurrah!) Here is a quick salad from Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book (Penguin, 1978).
I’ve been planning to cook this ever since I bought the Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book ( Penguin, 1978). It is rather lengthy, however I much prefer aubergines after they have been salted and left to drain for a full hour so I knew it would be worth it.
Aubergine Kuku (Kukuye Bademjan)
4 aubergines (about ¾ quarters of a kilo)
2 large onions, chopped very coarsely
4 large eggs
2 heaped tablespoons flour
Salt, freshly ground pepper
I bent the rules slightly here by using up some butternut squash in place of pumpkin and as various substitutions for those who cannot lay their hands on cranberry or navy beans are suggested, I feel I’m doing justice to the spirit of the dish.
We are informed that this dish is originally from Chile (Porotos is the Chilean word for beans) although it has ‘decided Indian overtones’ in terms of its ingredients and that the corn/pumpkin combination is also popular in the Basque country and Aquitaine.
Jane Grigson (from Vegetable Book, Penguin, 1978) rhapsodises about spinach at the start of this chapter giving its history – first known descriptions are by the Chinese whose name for it still translates as ‘Persian vegetable’. Obviously we’d say Iranian now, but the influence of the name from that language, aspanakh, is clear. Its first recorded use in English food was in 1568 and apparently it became very popular very quickly, probably because it grows so well in the UK. I love spinach (and swiss chard) so much that as a child, I thought of it as a treat, especially when stirred through pasta with cheese.
Give me greens! I feel I have eaten distinctly fewer veg and far more fat than normal over the last week. I go to bed feeling perfectly insulated and without applying lipbalm as the oil or butter I have consumed at dinner has already moisturised them. This is entirely down to my recipe choices over the last few days as well as last week’s high-cake diet.
Consequently today I am dining on a double dose of Jane Grigson, from her marvellous ‘Vegetable Book’ (I have the 1978 edition published by Penguin) which is as much a pleasure to read as to eat from. Almost every recipe comes with some historical or cultural background, revealing her earlier careers in publishing and the arts (although I won’t always write these up). Her success in mainland Europe, particularly France, means that measurements are printed in metric as well as imperial as standard – hurrah.