January 10, 2012

no recipe, but a book review

One of my Christmas presents from my family was Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch, by Nigel Slater, which I'm really enjoying. Slater, a food writer for the Guardian London Observer, writes about turning the back lawn of his London townhouse into a garden and the joy the process has brought him. Each chapter highlights a different vegetable, with his notes on varieties, tips on harvesting from the garden or selecting from the market, preferred cooking techniques, seasonings, accompaniments, and of course recipes. As far as the writing goes, I think I've mentioned before that Slater is one of my favorite food writers (his Kitchen Diaries lives on my nightstand for bedtime reading). But everything else about the book is inspiring, as well -- the philosophy, the photography, the layout, the food styling that makes food look beautiful while still looking something I could turn out in my own kitchen.

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So far, I've mostly enjoyed thumbing through and reading his words. On turnips: "The soil-encrusted root, gnarled like the bark of an old tree, hides a creamy flesh that is both earthy and sweet. Snapped in half, it smells of freshly dug ground. Roasted in butter, it smells of warm heather honey. I value the parsnip for its gentle sweetness, its happy marriage with the crusted edges of a piece of roast beef, and the velvety soup you can make even from its woody core."

For those of you whose stomachs turn at this kind of descriptive prose, I should also point out that Slater has a droll streak too (he's British, of course he does): "Not for me the pile of buttered carrots on the plate. Too sweet, too orange, (too bloody cheerful more like it)." He also refers to the common eggplant as "that big purple shlong we know so well."

Though I haven't followed any recipes yet, I have already found his tips handy. A handful of baby turnips, freshly dug from our garden, were as good as they could be when glazed with butter, a big pinch of sugar, and a sprinkling of dill. (I say "as good as they could be" because these particular turnips were probably in the ground too long.) Oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, masses of chopped cilantro, and a hot wok transformed a hunk of rapidly browning cabbage into a super pleasing lunch.  I'm looking forward to cooking the crap out of this book in 2012.

3 comments:

Rachel said...

Not v. familiar with Slater though I come across his recipes on food blogs here and there. Will be interested in hearing how you like his recipes. I hate to add new cookbooks to my collection unless I'm sure I'll cook from them.

Anne P. said...

I believe he's a writer for the Observer, but I agree -- this book is BEAUTIFUL and I constantly flip through it for inspiration and recipes. Love Nigel Slater.

Kim said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Anne. It's now corrected.