I promised my husband that I’d restrain myself from buying more cookbooks. You’ll notice I didn’t say I wouldn’t buy any more cookbooks, more that I’d restrain myself from buying them. There’s a slim but very important difference between those two statements. In any case, I have been trying. There has been the occasional slip-up where a cookbook has fallen into my virtual trolley while I’ve been browsing online, and my dog has, of course, purchased the occasional one for events such as Christmas (Rick Stein’s Home) and my recent birthday (Nigel Slater’s A Cook’s Book). Mostly though, I’ve been restrained.
The key to my restraint has been the local library. I’ve been treating it almost as a try before you buy type of thing – checking out cookbooks that I’m interested in but can’t justify buying…yet.
One of these is Claudia Roden’s Med. I have been lusting after this book since its release last September and was disappointed that despite being on both my Christmas and birthday list, all my hints have been ignored.
In the meantime, I’ve had it on the reservation list at the library for what has seemed like an age and now that I have my hands on the book, I’ve upped my campaign for a copy of my own for Mother’s Day. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’m pretty sure Adventure Spaniel will come through with the goods.
This cookbook is, as is everything by Claudia Roden, a book for reading as well as cooking. In fact, Yottam Ottolenghi says on the front cover:
To read Claudia is to sit at her table, with everything, simply, as it should be. Pull up a chair for the food; stay at the table for the stories.Yottam Ottolenghi
I could not love this book more. A palpable instant classic, infused with wisdome, generosity and achievable deliciousness. Every page feels like a blessing.Nigella Lawson
Can any cookbook live up to praise like that? This one can.
It’s a travelogue, memoir, cultural history, and perfect food writing (as you’d expect from someone who has been writing about food for fifty years) all in one. It’s also the best of the food of the countries lying around the Mediterranean – from Egypt to the French Riviera. I literally want to cook everything in this book. So far, though, I’ve made this tomato and red pepper salad – using the leftovers for pasta the following night, this Spaghetti with olives and anchovies, these sweet and sour minty grilled courgettes, Tagliolini with lemon, and these roasted peaches although not with the clotted cream – this is, after all, south-east Queensland. And yes, I have extended the library loan twice now and will be forced to take the book back this week. Heavy sighs.
Last Saturday night we travelled (virtually, of course) to the Mediterranean. We began with baked feta and warm olives (I’ll post the recipe separately), and from there moved on to Roden’s pan-grilled fish with garlic, vinegar and chilli with a warm cannellini bean salad and her Turkish Yoghurt cake.
When I was telling the girls at the hairdressers about it on Saturday afternoon, one of them said it’s known as Revani and is often made with semolina. I have no idea about that, but what I do know is that this cake is a revelation. It has the texture of a cheesecake, but without the crust and the, well, cheese. Instead, it’s tangy and light – almost virtuously so. In Med, Roden suggests serving it with macerated strawberries, but strawberries are out of season now, so I roasted some plums instead and they were perfect.
You’ll find the recipe here.