Friday, July 04, 2008

Recipe books...

"Sometimes I watch them and see they are counting each bite to make their ice cream or chips last as long as possible, And they separate the food into groups on their plates and save, just like I did, the best for last..." from Tessa Kiros, Apples for Jam

Do you like recipe books?

I happen to love them, although I must admit I like pouring over the books more than slogging it out in the kitchen.

Some books are sensuous delights, aren't they? Full of beautiful pictures of not just food, but the landscapes and seascapes from which the food has been produced, or the markets where it is sold, as well as pictures of kitchens, cooks, cooking utensils -- and happy people gathered around kitchen or dining tables.

One of my favourite cook book authors is Tessa Kiros. I discovered her first when I bought Falling Cloudberries one Christmas, as a possible gift. Sadly, no one else received that gift -- I kept it for myself. But I have given Tessa's books as gifts since then. And a year later, my daughter Emma gave me Apples For Jam.

What I love most about Tessa's books is that while they are packed with yummy and interesting food from a wealth of ethnic backgrounds, and of course there are beautiful pictures, they are also peppered with snatches of her evocative writing. In Apples for Jam there are many nostalgic memories...

I could hardly wait to spring out of bed in the mornings, onto my two-wheeler down the drive. We played circus over Dixie's kennel and brushed Sumpi till she shone. Later were water-drinking competitions and just about anything else that came into our lush minds. Sometimes it was just such a drag to come in for a meal... we far preferred to take our plates to the shelter that the tree made into a cave for us -- or under the weeping willow. We didn't really mind if it was real parmesan -- it was the shapes and flavours that could carry us away and link arms with our fairies. I watch that same energy in my children, their days just filled with trust and newness and full of spontaneous wonder, and flowing along with whatever is happening. Sitting on hilltops and dreaming of being kings in other places.

Each recipe comes with her friendly discussion about the dish and how she came across the recipe, as if she was there with you in the kitchen chatting, while leaning on the bench and scribbling notes down on a piece of scrap paper.

Here is one of my favourite Tessa Kiros recipes:


Serves 6

2 RED ONIONS, roughly chopped
1.2 kg (2 lb. 12 ozs) POTATOES, cut into large chunks
1 kg (2lb. 4ozs) LAMB, cut into chunks
125 ml (1/2 cup) OLIVE OIL
4 or 5 ripe tomatoes, CUT INTO THICK SLICES
50g (1 3/4 oz) BUTTER

This is so simple. It's a very typical Cypriot all-in-one meal -- you just need time to prepare the lamb and vegetables, then you can fling them in the oven, go out for a (Greek) coffee and come home to a ready meal. You could use lamb chops and leave them whole instead of cutting them into chunks, which makes it even simpler. And it doesn't need much by way of accompaniments -- perhaps a salad or some simply steamed vegetables.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 F Gas 4). Put onion, potato and lamb into a 5 litre (20 cup) casserole dish or a deep baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley, cumin and olive oil and mix through very well with your hands. put the tomato slices on top in a single layer and season lightly with salt. Dot with butter over the top and pour 125 ml (1/2 cup) water around the sides of the dish. Cover with foiland bake for two hours, tilting the dish from side to side a couple of times and spooning some of the pan juices over the top. the lamb should be very tender and the potatoes soft.

Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 200 c and cook for another 45 minutes or so, turning the lamb halfway through, or until the meat and potatoes are a little browned and the liquid has reduced. Serve hot or at room temperature.

N.B.: I don't actually use quite as much oil as Tessa does and my oven tends to be rather hotter than most, so I reduce the times. And if we have a glut of cherry tomatoes, I use them unsliced. The flavours in the dish are wonderful -- winter or summer.

What are your favourite recipe books?

1 comment:

2paw said...

I love recipe books, I like to read them in bed!! My favourite at the moment is A Year in a Bottle by a local cook. She is often on our ABC radio. I bought it for my mum for Mothers' Day!!! You can't beat The Central Cookbook, or Stephanie Alexander's Bible, and I love Pie in the Sky. I wish they had a recipe book!!!