I don’t go all Zen after Christmas, but I do like to take stuff to the charity shop, rifle through the food cupboards to see what’s gone and what remains. My my body and my gut need a rest. Above all, I crave greens. Platefuls of greens.
So eating a vegan diet in January – Veganuary – serves me well, psychologically and physically. It recalibrates the way I think about food and it challenges me to eat more carefully. I always feel better at the end of January having done it.
Today – after two weeks of mass catering for SistemaNorwich curry night then a week of guests arriving, staying, leaving, and extra lovely people turning up unexpectedly – the fridge is back to its normal content level and I am particularly pleased that no food was wasted – we have two spare butternut squash and a bag of kale, that’s all.
Today, himself is pottering in his workshop doing a bit of welding and I’ve been to Myhills to pick up my Christmas present to myself – a quince tree and a robin pear tree. The rest of the day will be taken up with browsing through my favourite books looking for something lovely to add to my list of vegan recipes. I’ll be posting a few over the next four weeks.
Some favourite books in my bookcase(s) …..
Absolutely anything by Claudia Roden. Especially her books on Spanish and Jewish cuisine. What’s great about them is she is not only the best food writer ever (in my opinion) but she takes care to include the origin and history of the development of flavours and cuisine along the trade routes. Similarly, Clifford A Wright takes this approach in his massive tome ‘A Mediterranean Feast’. I first encountered it on the bookshelf of Guy Hunter-Watts’ house Dar Hajra in Montecorto. It entertained and delighted me for a full week in the rainy Grazalema mountains.
Of course, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tammimi are legends – if a little repetitive – and Sam and Sam Clarke’s Moro collection, again championing Spain and North Africa, along with Argo der Haroutunian, have the Spain and North African themes covered. They are well thumbed, tomato and turmeric spattered masterpieces, earmarked, tagged and with notes in the margins, and taken to bed again and again to savour and to comfort.
Denis Cotter is also a hero of mine. We accidentally fetched up in Cafe Paradiso in Cork about 15 years ago. In my view it is the best vegetarian restaurant we’ve encountered and that first meal was the most memorable too. His recipes are a bit complicated but they are delicious and consistent. All his books are in my ‘special’ bookcase in the kitchen, whilst the also-rans are on the reserve boockcase in the den!
A relative newcomer to the shelf is The Ethicurean – not strictly vegan to be honestl – but has particularly wonderful soup recipes, for example roasted courgette and cobnut soup with ginger, turmeric and mint, and roasted tomato and liquorice basil soup. Strangely, Mark and Linda moved to Wrington, just down the road from The Ethicurean, just a few months ago. It is on my ‘to visit’ list.
Other relatively new arrivals to my shelves were selected from Kitchen Arts and Letters in New York. If you’ve never been and are in NY, then I recommend. If you can never go, then choose a day when no one else is at home, and lose yourself in its website. You won’t be sorry. Crossroads written by LA vegan restauranter Tal Ronnen is a vegan cook’s blessing – how about butternut squash purée on flatbread with charred greens and Brussels sprouts, or chives & vegan fettuccini with asparagus and morels? Tempted? And then there is Veganomicon by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero. I mentioned this last year and have tried practically every recipe since then, especially lovely are black beans in chipotle adobo sauce, banana-nut waffles and lost coconut custard pie. Although every one is a winner! Only today I was inspired by Veganomicon to transform a standard ‘vegetable drawer’ soup by making a sage and walnut pesto to drop into the middle of each bowl.
Now, to my old stager. I think it’s out of print now. I bought it in Jarrolds remainders box (the flyleaf tells me in 1991). The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi. I promise you, you will not go near any of the popular curry tomes if you own this. The living outcome of its influence is the number of times curry is on the menu in this house and the relative ease in which curry for up to 70 at one sitting can be organised!
And finally I come to the fermenting bible which is Fermenting Vegetables by K&C Shockey. This, along with cold smoking, is my 2017 project.
So, good friends, I wish you a healthy, happy and peaceful 2017. Keep reading, and please share the blog with your mates too and get them to sign up for blog updates (you could do the same). There’s a cookbook in here somewhere!