Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Off The Shelf: The Kitchen Diaries

It's that time of year when many of us begin to think of calendars, schedules, and diaries for the new year. Today's book, The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater, is a great book to consider starting to read in the new year.

Nigel Slater is a very gifted food writer. As the cover to The Kitchen Diaries says, Nigel writes "about food in a way that stimulates the imagination, the heart, and the palate all at once." Nigel has written several cookbooks (including a favorite of mine called Appetite) and writes a popular column for the UK newspaper The Observer.

The Kitchen Diaries is exactly what it says it is: it's a record of what Nigel cooked and ate for one year, complete with recipes and mouth-watering pictures. The book is broken down into months, so you can either read the book from cover to cover, or just glance at the current month's recipes. Of course Nigel is a big fan of seasonal cooking, so this doubles as a seasonal idea and cookbook. Even if you have no intention of cooking any of Nigel's recipes, this book is still a good read in terms of food descriptions.

Here are some tempting items from the book:

January: Onion soup without tears, Chicken broth with noodles, lemon and mint, Sausage with salami and lentils
February: Chicken patties with rosemary and pancetta, Hot chocolate puddings, Braised lamb with leeks
March: Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and ginger, Chickpea and sweet potato curry, Chocolate almond cake
April: Thai fish cakes, Thyme and feta lamb, Lemon trifle, Bramley apple shortcake
May: Lemon and basil linguine, Orange and ricotta pancakes, Asparagus and lemon risotto
June: Chicken and rice salad, Radish, mint and feta salad, Strawberry mascarpone tart
July: A soup of roasted summer vegetables, Zucchini cakes with dill and feta, A lunch of baked tomatoes
August: Grilled chicken with lemon and couscous, Mozzarella grilled with fennel, Bread and tomato salad
September: A moist, fresh plum cake, Baked mushrooms with tarragon mustard butter, Tomato curry
October: Carrot salad, Ham and butter beans, Roast eggplant with tahini
November: Roast squash with thyme, Baked onions with parmesan and cream, Blackberry and apple pie
December: Sauteed chicken with spices, fennel and cream, Bean sprout salad with cilantro and mint, Passion fruit roulade



I decided on an Herb Butter for Grilled Chops which comes from the January section. The recipe calls for blue cheese, which is taboo when one is pregnant, so I had to forego it in place of feta. Next time I would try substituting and herbed goat cheese. But, I'm also going to try it again sometime when I can eat the blue cheese! Being winter, I didn't want to grill my pork, so I seared it in a pan and then transferred it to the oven to finish cooking.

Here are Nigel's exact words:

"I make a quick herb butter with equal amounts of blue cheese and butter (I use 1/2 cup of each), mashed with a tablespoon each of fresh thyme leaves and Dijon mustard, then stir in a couple of Tablespoons of heavy cream and a grinding of black pepper. It sits in the fridge till supper, when I lay thick slices of it on grilled pork steaks. The cheese butter melts over the charred edges of the chops, making an impromptu sauce to mop up with craggy lumps of sourdough bread."