19 March 2012

getting by with unearthed treasures

Most of our belongings are rolling on the high seas. Sitting squarely on the luxurious cushion of insurance, I've been wondering how bad it would really be if the container slipped overboard somewhere in the Bay of Bengal, or was commandeered by actual pirates. (Naturally I mean friendly pirates, rather like those in the Straits of Malacca discovered by esteemed sometime anthropologist Domenica MacDonald, established resident of Scotland Street. But I digress...)

Obviously I'd need a new food processor and new plastic banana leaf curry plates (not kidding) but in the digital age, even photo albums aren't quite as priceless as they once were. I've learned that I wouldn't miss the telly or DVD player at all, and my bookshelves would groan with delight if five of the packing crates were to perish.

Oh but hang about, no, it would be awful. There remain two purely analogue parts of my life that are irreplaceable - I'd even save them from the waves before my (horrendous) wedding album - it's my recipe folders. (The eagle-eyed may notice that the plastic folders are now pluralised - streamlining fail.)

I'm rather lost without them and long to have them back in pride of place. Not because I use them every day, but because they're sort of comforting to have around when you've run out of inspiration half way through an online Sainsburys order. Instead, I'm currently reduced to about 10 recipe books; all the crappy/unused ones that were deemed unnecessary when we abandoned our house two years ago. Or so I thought...

Dom's challenge this month is to choose a recipe from the 17th book on your shelf, and for this I had to count round my diminished shelf twice, hoping against hope to avoid the bossy toddler meal planners and deluded slo-cooker evangelists. Oddly, the random book turned out not to be crap at all, the complete opposite in fact. It was Nigel Slater in an almost unrecognisable incarnation.

Nigel Slater's Real Food is my husband's book and, as far as I can tell, has sat on a shelf unused since 1998. I've never even thought to look at it. I can't justify that, it's just one of those unforgivable things that's happened over the years.

Like plastic footwear.

The random recipe selected was on page 118, Pasta with spicy sausage, basil and mustard. Unfortunately I couldn't get any spicy Italian sausages, so I used the inners of some good pork and leek instead (de-skinned and crumbled into the pan). They weren't quite right, a wee bit too sweet, but it was still really tasty, and probably suited The Boss' palate better. White wine (I used Noilly Prat just because that's what I always have to hand), fresh basil, chilli flakes, mustard, double cream, bronze die penne; you can't really argue with any of it can you? I think it has the makings of a great store-cupboard staple supper for the future. My conscience can't comfortably accept that cholesterol + carbs = a family meal, so I confess to adding a few large handfuls of frozen peas to the pasta water about four minutes before the end of the cooking time. (Sacrilege I know - just don't tell the Italian part of my family - seriously.)

I'm so glad to get back into the Random Recipe project after a few months absence, caused (in part) by the messy chaos of our lives. As well as being a signal that things might be settling down at last, it's prompted me to unearth this treasure of a book. And despite what I really think is a pretty dire cover shot (by the time the 2009 edition came out others clearly concurred) the food photography really is lip-licking.

sorry, no picture of our actual dinner, it was eaten too fast!

Do head over to Belleau Kitchen at the end of the month to see what everyone else has randomly selected!


  1. isn't it amazing that once we're without stuff for a while we realise how little we need to get by... they are just things we've accumulated along the way... I could do with a huge de-clutter myself... I love that you chose this cookbook... the poor, neglected thing, sitting on a shelf un-loved... it's exactly what this challenge is all about... welcome back and thanks for taking part xx

  2. I love that recipe book - the way he writes about food always makes me want to eat! I think that's the book I have made a couple of recipes out of, the Grilled Mustard and Herb chicken is lovely, as is the Roasted red pepper salad :)

  3. Welcome back to the UK (and to the RR challenge). I hope you'll get your belongings soon and hoping there will be no pirates! :)
    I agree with you... Nigel doesn't look like Nigel on the cover of that book. The pasta sounds scrumptious and is my kind of meal.

  4. nigel slater is one of my favourite chefs. jsut watching him cook relaxes me. that man has a knack for making the simplest foods sing(: I'm glad you got to visit his recipe! (:

  5. I'm so happy you made it back home! Does it feel strange to be back in the place you've missed so much?

    Hope all your stuff makes it quickly to your doorstep.

  6. Cannot believe that book has been unloved in your home so long! What have you been playing at? Never judge a book by the cover! :-)

  7. That is a gem of a book. I love Nigel's way of cooking and writing. I hope that you get reunited with your recipe folders soon.

  8. Thanks so much for dropping by my blog and checking out my selected Random Recipe - I really appreciate it. I've never seen any of Nigel's books but then I guess I've never really been looking either ;) Honestly, most of the recipe books I have sit on my shelves un-used, so I certainly can't judge ;)


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