Tag Archives: Niamh Shields

Summer companions.

Feta-Chickpea-and-Spinach-Salad-(5965)Just before the summer months, here in the UK a.k.a. the non-existent one, I tweeted that I would have two constants in my kitchen: James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking (review found here) and Niamh Shields’ Comfort and Spice. And I really did. They are two different books with different styles of cooking but equally delightful, as are the two young people who wrote them.

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During one very rainy morning, where J was working from home, I wanted something quick to prepare for lunch, with minimum dishes, plates and so on to wash. There was only one condition: I had some chickpeas in the pantry to use up. Armed with a pencil (just because I always have to write notes) and my trusty companions I found two easy recipes which I have to say went down very well. Lunch and dinner sorted: James’ spinach and chickpea curry and Niamh’s spiced chickpea, spinach and feta salad. Niamh’s recipe was great simply served on toast (not the usual beans I tell ya). I changed a few things here and there *not* because the recipe needed it. By all means, definitely not! (I just had to clear that up.) I had to adapt according to the ingredients I had, even though I still had to make a trip to my local store. I’m sure Niamh doesn’t mind. The list may be a bit long but you will end up with something very very tasty. Add turmeric, garam masala and chilli flakes to some toasted coriander and cumin seeds (which you place in a dry pan for a minute or so, and grind). In a pan, fry a finely chopped onion (and also some celery if you have) and add the spices. Then add around three cubes of finely chopped crystallized ginger and garlic in the same pan. Tip in fresh plum tomatoes (quartered) and cook for a few minutes, but don’t let the tomatoes get too squishy. Add the chickpeas (from a large tin if you don’t have the dried ones which you have already cooked) and spinach, and let this wilt. All you need now is fresh coriander and feta, cut into small cubes, lemon juice and perhaps a sprinkling of salt. You don’t need pepper if you added the chilli. Love it.

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All James’ curry needed is rice and some pita to mop everything up with. Watch him here make a version of this on his website. You need an onion, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper, chickpeas, spinach, coconut milk, tomato purée, some lemon juice and things to serve it with. And if you want to add some chicken to it, you always could, but I liked it as is. It is a simple meal and on paper it may not seem much, as he points out, but it works. It really does and it will make your life easier when you just cannot or will not spend any more than a chunk of minutes in the kitchen after work. So make this, serve in a bowl, relax, feet up on the coffee table and enjoy. I certainly did.

You can read all about Niamh’s food here (eatlikeagirl.com) and James’ adventures here (jamesramsden.com). Both are on Twitter: @eatlikeagirl and @jteramsden. They will answer any kitchen query. I told you – they are lovely.

Enjoy the books!

Rob x

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A little nostalgia and fun…

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In Comfort & SpiceNiamh Shields says that potato became her one of her favourite pizza toppings since her first trip to Rome. Not to worry – I *did* tell Niamh that the Maltese love that too. I remember a visit to Gozo a long time ago (I must have been around 21 I think..I did say ‘a long time ago’) while looking for somewhere to eat I was directed by a local to a lady who made the “best pizza”. I really cannot recall where this was, and I don’t know if it really was the best pizza. To tell you where you can find that I would have to get back to you. What I will say now is that it was really good.

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When I’m homesick I love to recreate recipes which take me back to the islands for a little while and a really quick way of doing that is to make a basic pizza dough and put plenty of thinly sliced potatoes on top. Make sure it doesn’t dry up on you, so add plenty of olive oil. I do have a recipe for pizza dough in this blog. Whatever you put on your pizza is up to you. Traditionalists will pull their noses up and not look at these pics, but I don’t really care. Apart from the classic Napoletana, which I think is similar to the Margherita, I love it with Maltese sausages and/or potatoes. That’s how we roll in Malta.

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I’m also posting here some photos taken on a recent visit to Malta – I managed some to do some cooking, including some pizzas for lunch. A few were made with goat’s cheese (ġbejniet) and the traditional zalzett Malti. Hope you enjoy them as much as much as I did.

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Rob x

Some of my favourite cookbooks and what I’m reading now #1

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I love cookbooks and I use them often. I also review them. I’m no food expert, which is something that I say again and again, but I love to try out new recipes whenever I can. Recently I received messages from quite a number of people asking me about my favourite books/chefs/authors/food writers and though you can get a pretty good idea if you look through my links page, I’ll gladly post some right here. This is obviously not a comprehensive list, because I don’t own every cookbook ever published. (For more inspiration you can see the one Stylist compiled here. It was a good list, but they did leave out the classic stuff, e.g. Escoffier.) The following are my current favourites, old ones and very new ones but it’s all good. Please note that this is just the first part. I don’t want to make one long post – it would be too tedious. And no book will be numbered (as in order of preference.)

How to Eat by Nigella Lawson (1999, Chatto & Windus). I know what you’re thinking. She has to mention Nigella, doesn’t she? Yes, of course I do (and there’s another one coming a bit later). I have to start with this though. It covers everything, from the basic sauces to pastry in the first chapter, to feeding children. It’s such a good introduction to Nigella’s cooking, well shall I dare say to cooking in general? Nigel Slater described this as his “book of the decade”. How to Eat is like an encyclopaedia, but refreshingly non-patronising and unassuming. Very charming trait indeed. Plus it’s nice and thick, and I love my paperback version, which makes things a little bit easier when carrying it around the house just for a read.

I can never rave enough about James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking (2011, Quadrille), and the whole New Voices in Food series. Which brings me also to another nifty little book by Niamh Shields’ Comfort & Spice, same series, same publisher, same year. These two (not just the books but James and Niamh themselves) are delightful. With exciting but uncomplicated recipes, they will definitely guarantee a wow from all your friends. Definitely my two constant companions this summer.

Now I don’t mind a bit of a challenge sometimes. A recipe with a longish list of ingredients won’t be necessarily dismiss. However I would only give it a go when I have some time to spare in the kitchen. This is not always possible. So here comes my other favourite James. I bought James Tanner Takes 5 (2010, Kyle Books) on an unplanned trip to the bookstore with my mum. The idea behind this is simple: you need five ingredients for each recipe, plus the usual salt, pepper and pantry staples. Nothing complicated, which is just what you need, especially during the summer months. There’s also a good mixture of dishes and it’s a book which will continue to be well-loved by me because of it’s practicality.

If you’re a bit of a baking buff like me, then you will guess what the next book will be. I’ve said many times that How to be a Domestic Goddess, another Nigella book, (Chatto & Windus, 2000) is one of my favourites. It’s not the only book I go to for easy baking ideas, but I find myself grabbing it from the shelves nine times out of ten. It’s not all about cakes, so it’s not for you if you want just your sweet things. I must admit that I haven’t tried any of the savoury recipes, perhaps because I already had good recipes to work with when I bought the book. However there’s no need to say that the cakes and sweet pies and muffins and brownies, and whatever else that remains from HTBADG (my abbreviation) I baked, were yummie.

During my many hours on the internet looking for the newest publications, I came across A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell (2012, Harper Collins). And when it came through the post around three weeks ago I couldn’t help but feel excited and yet afraid. Why? Because this book was not an easy feat. Before I opened the book I said: it’s either going to be really really really good, or it’s going to be a disaster. Thank goodness it is such a good read! Not everyone could do this. Sitwell did. Hats off. So A History of Food has to be included in my list…in any list if I may say so. Please note that this is *not* a recipe book in the classic sense of the word. Most of the recipes cannot be replicated (especially those that go back to 1958BC) but I just love all the history. I don’t think the chapters are meant to be read in order, which makes it an ideal reference manual, and they are short, which is always a joy. It is, and it’s for everyone. I didn’t know that Virgil probably had one of the first recipes for roast goat…

Rob x