Tuesday, October 13, 2009

favorite cookbook: nigel slater's real food

nigel slater's real food made a cook of my sister. until that fateful day when she made his fabulously simple pasta with spicy sausage, basil and mustard (p. 118), she didn't think she could cook. it was a transformative recipe for her. and happily, she was at our house at the time, so we got to be there to witness her transformation. and sop up the last of the creamy, mustardy goodness with a crust of garlic bread.

the simple alchemy of a few good sausages, separated from their casings and browned in the pan until they get a bit caramely, a glass of white wine (two if you count the one you get to drink while you make it), a pinch of chili flakes, a good dollop of tangy dijon mustard (we use a fantastic one with tarragon from a local supermarket called Irma*), and a quarter liter of double cream turned together with your favorite pasta is magical. a few fresh basil leaves strewn over the mixture before serving and you've reached nirvana.

this book is full of the kind of cooking that's easy, yet feels luxurious even on an everyday basis. you can do this pasta from start to finish in 20 minutes and it will turn out perfectly every time (if your sausages are good ones - that's key). it's become a standard dish at our house and we eat it pretty much once a week.

the book is divided into eight chapters, each one focusing on the good things in life: potatoes, chicken, sausages, garlic, bread, cheese, ice cream and yes, chocolate. what could be better than that?

another favorite that gets made regularly at our house is nigel's coq au riesling (p. 76)

that's garlic bread - photo merely for the sake of showing the stove where i cooked all last summer

a year ago, when i was without a kitchen all summer and had to do all of my cooking on the old stove above in the middle of our construction site, i made this recipe again and again. it is best slow-cooked for several hours in a big heavy cast iron le cruset pot. it was perfect, as it didn't require me to watch over it the whole time.

here's nigel's original:

50 grams butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (he likes that combo too)
100 grams streaky bacon or pancetta, diced
2 small - medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 joints of free range chicken on the bone.
200 grams small brown mushrooms, halved
500 ml medium-dry white wine such as riesling
300 ml double cream
3 tablespoons chopped parley

start the bacon in the pan with the butter and olive oil, then add the onions and garlic. remove. then brown the chicken pieces. add the mushrooms, continue browning, then add the bacon and onions back in, then pour in the wine and allow it to simmer.

nigel says to simmer for 25 minutes or so, then remove the chicken pieces and add the cream, cooking the sauce down til it begins to thicken, then add the chicken back in heat to serving temperature.

however, i've never done it like that (i'm no good at following instructions, you see). instead, after browning the chicken, i add the wine and allow it to simmer over the old stove for an hour. i've used chicken thighs. i've used a whole chicken (which i don't bother to brown). i've added potatoes or jerusalem artichokes (i normally don't like those that much, but they're great in this dish so in they go when they come in my organic box). i've generally put in a handful of thyme (it's my favorite with chicken). i don't always put in the mushrooms nigel suggests. sometimes i use a chardonnay not a riesling. i do add the cream in about 30 minutes before serving. and because it has a quite a soup-like consistency, i often serve it in bowls over rice. i've been known to put a few spears of asparagus on top during the last 5 minutes before serving.  it's a versatile dish. i actually made it for blog camp 2.0, so it's even good enough to serve to guests.

these are just two samplings from this wonderful cookbook. it's the second of my top five and one i definitely wouldn't want to be without.

* i'll draw a name next weekend from all who leave a comment on this post and send one of you lucky people a jar of the heavenly tarragon mustard from irma.

* * *

and do be on the lookout for a guest post from the lovely christina later this week! she's so fantastic, we just had to invite her to share some of her deliciousness with all of you. 


Elizabeth said...

This one I'm gonna try without a doubt. It looks delicious. Each time I stopping by here I just want to be in my kitchen. Thank you for this inspiration.

Bee said...

Even though I'm a big fan of Nigel Slater's writing, I don't have this cookbook. WHY? I love those categories!! Both of these recipes sound delicious, and I'm already rethinking my week's dinner menus.

BTW, the stove was definitely worth a picture.

I'm not good at following directions, either. Funnily enough. Have you ever done it entirely his way?

Unknown said...

My favourite cook book is also a Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries! I love it for the stories and the recipes, and I've even tried some of them! :)

christina said...

i love, love that stove! i really do. i adore nigel slaters, cookbooks. honestly, it is one of those cookbooks, you brows through, even when you aren't looking for a recipe.

MissBuckle said...

I´m hungry for a pot of that mustard, and a big bowl of that pasta. This cookbook I must get.

Bee said...

If I leave two comments may I be entered into the mustard give-away twice?

I couldn't resist making the coq au riesling tonight . . . although mine was coq au chardonnay, as we didn't have any of the former. A few comments:
It was absolutely delicious. Very tender chicken and a gorgeous sauce.
I went with your suggestion of rice and asparagus as accompaniments. The rich sauce definitely needs the blandness of rice.
Also, I followed Nigel's method . . . but I used single cream instead of double, and only about 150 ml of that. (My husband isn't supposed to eat cream.) It was still really rich and creamy. Another thing: this dish really benefits from a good handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Don't leave it out unless you really, really have to!

Great post. You have really raised the ante on favorite cookbook posts!

Nimble said...

That stove is adorable. I'm sure you have a more commonsense attitude towards it after using an entire summer rather than merely gazing upon it.

I will try the chicken recipe in one form or another. Thanks!

Anne said...

Nigel Slater was the first cookbook author whose books really spoke to me in some way. I bought Appetite years and years ago, and it remains one of my favorite cookbooks. I just love the way he writes about food. I'll have to add this book to my library, and soon! I'm also going to see if I can fit both of these dishes into the next week's menu.

Magpie said...

I love that iron stove. And the mustard sausage pasta sounds divine. And I don't have any Nigel Slater. May need to remedy that...

kristina - no penny for them said...

such a fun-to-read, inspirational post. i'm a huge nigel slater fan as well.

Michelle said...

did I recycle my Nigel Slater's fast food book during the last move? arrgh... I'll have to check! thanks for the reminder! Michelle in Madison!


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