I’ve got every single book that Elizabeth David ever wrote, in my library. She was unquestionably one of the most superb cooking writers of all time and if I had to choose just one book from the close to 2,000 volumes I have in my library it would have to be French Provincial Cookery. The original paperback is in a seriously distressed state but I also have a hardback copy in slightly better ‘nick’,
Elizabeth David lived and cooked in France, Italy, Egypt and India, learning the local dishes and experimenting in her own kitchen.
He first book Mediterranean Food was published in 1950 followed by French country cooking in 1951 and in 1954 after a year of research in Italy, Italian Food arrived on the shelves followed by Summer Cooking in 1955, French Provincial Cooking in 1960 and Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen in 1970. For thirteen years she had a wonderfully stylish kitchen shop on Elizabeth Street in London but in 1973 she severed all connection with the business trading under her name and concentrated on study, research and experiments for English Bread and Yeast Cooking for which she won the 1977 Glenfiddick Writer of the Year Award.
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a selection of her journalistic work, was published in 1984. She died on 22nd May 1992 and was justifiably honoured with many awards including an OBE. Several books have been published posthumously and if you haven’t already got at least one of her books on your kitchen shelf look out for the new attractively priced hardback editions published by Grub Street Press.
Summer Cooking might be just the one to choose – gorgeous, simple, timeless recipes – here are few to whet your appetite.
Elizabeth David’s Cream of Green Peas Soup
3lb green peas,
a few lettuce leaves,
a small slice of ham,
2 or 3 spring onions,
Put the shelled peas in a pan with all the other ingredients except the butter. Cover with 3 pints of water. Boil until the peas are quite soft and sieve. See that the seasoning is right, heat up and before serving stir a lump of butter and a scrap of fresh mint into the soup. A little cream added to the soup while it is heating is an improvement.
Elizabeth David’s Pork And Spinach Terrine
Pates and terrines have become, during the past decade, so very much a part of the English restaurant menu as well as of home entertaining that a variation of formula would sometimes be welcome.
At Orange, that splendid town they call the gateway to Provence, I once tasted a pate which was more fresh green herbs than meat. I was told that this was made according to a venerable country recipe of Upper Provence. The pate was interesting but rather heavy. I have tried to make it a little less filling.
Here is the result of my experiments:
1lb (450g) uncooked spinach, spinach beet or chard,
1lb (450g) freshly-minced fat pork,
seasonings of salt, freshly milled pepper, mixed spices.
Wash, cook and drain the spinach. When cool, squeeze it as dry as you can. There is only one way to do this – with your hands. Chop it roughly.
Season the meat with about 3 teaspoons of salt, a generous amount of freshly-milled black pepper, and about ¼ teaspoon of mixed ground spices (mace, allspice, cloves).
Mix meat and spinach together. Turn into a pint-sized (550ml) earthenware terrine or loaf tin. On top put a piece of buttered paper. Stand the terrine or tin in a baking dish half filled with water.
Cook in a very moderate over (170°C/ 330°F/ Gas Mark 3) for 45 minutes to an hour. Do not let it get overcooked or it will be dry.
This pate can be eaten hot as a main course, but I prefer it cold, as a first dish, and with bread or toast just as a pate is always served in France.
The interesting points about this dish are its appearance, its fresh, uncloying flavour and its comparative lightness, which should appeal to those who find the better-known type of pork pate rather heavy. You could, for example, serve a quite rich or creamy dish after this without overloading anybody’s stomach.
Elizabeth David’s The Quintessential Summer Dish Poulet a l’Estragon
A simple version of chicken cooked with tarragon, one of the nicest of chicken dishes, and essentially a summer one, as it can be successfully made only with fresh tarragon.
Work a tablespoon of chopped tarragon leaves with 2 oz of butter, season with salt and pepper and stuff a 3lb roasting chicken with this mixture. Cook the chicken in butter in a thick covered casserole. The bird should be laid on it’s side, not breast upwards, and should be turned over half-way through the cooking and basted now and again with the tarragon flavoured butter which comes out of it.
When it is tender remove to a serving dish and stir into the juices in the pan a walnut of butter worked with a teaspoon of flour. When this has amalgamated, add ¼ pint of cream and 2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon. Bring to the boil and when it has thickened pour it over the chicken. Serve with Piperonata and new potatoes.
Elizabeth David’s Mushrooms Cooked in Vine Leaves
Many people who have a vine growing in their gardens will be glad to know of this excellent dish.
Blanch about a dozen vine leaves in boiling salted water. Drain them and arrange them in a heavy, shallow baking dish which has a well fitting cover. Pour a film of olive oil over the vine leaves and fill the pan with cleaned whole flat mushrooms (the great point about this dish is that the vine leaves make cultivated mushrooms taste like field mushrooms) Add a little salt and pepper, 3 or 4 whole cloves of garlic, a little more olive oil and cover the mushrooms with 2 or 3 vine leaves. Put the cover on the dish and cook in a slow oven for about 35 minutes to an hour, according to size of the mushrooms. Remove the top covering of vine leaves before serving.
Tinned plain vine leaves (not to be confused with rice stuffed vine leaves – examine the tins carefully before you buy them. The ones containing stuffed vine leaves usually have a picture showing the little rolls or parcels, while the plain leaves bear a label showing a branch of the vine) in natural juices or a very mild brine are imported from Greece. They are to be bought in many delicatessens. For the above mushroom dish they do very well. No blanching is necessary. Simply rinse the requisite number under cold water. The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days
Elizabeth David’s Iced Strawberry Fool
¼ pint double cream.
Sieve the hulled strawberries. Stir in the sugar. Add this puree gradually to the whipped cream, so that is quite smooth. Turn into a shallow chrystal or silver dish and put in the refrigerator for several hours, if possible underneath the ice-trays, so that the fool gets as cold as possible without actually freezing. It is important to cover the bowl, or everything else in the refrigerator will smell of strawberries.
Elizabeth David’s Cream Cheese with Angelica
To 1 lb of cream cheese add 3oz of sugar, the beaten whites of 2 eggs and as much chopped angelica as you like.
Put into a muslin and leave to drain in a cool place for a few hours. Turn out onto a dish and serve with fresh cream.
A cool and fresh looking dessert for the weeks before the fresh fruit comes in.
Body & Soul – the ‘Best New Festival of 2010’ – returns this June 18th and 19th in the gardens, winding pathways and woodlands of Ballinlough Castle, Co Meath. An eclectic mix of live electronic, world music and acoustic acts, holistic arts, green crafts, a secluded Soul Kids garden, art installations and bubbling hot tubs in the forest. Along with Ted Berner of Wildside Catering, the Queens of Neon will create the most magical of dinner dates celebrating Irish wild foods and will cater for two hundred people in four sittings with an impeccable five-course meal including bubbly and wine for €55. The enchanted forest setting of Ballinlough Castle will act as a dining room for a lavish setting with crisp white linen, porcelain, silver table-wear under the Midsummer stars. To book festival, camping and banquet tickets www.bodyandsoul.ie
Feel Good Food for Summer with Debbie Shaw 1 Day Course Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 18th June 2011 from 9:30am to 5:00pm for anyone who would like to feel more energetic, youthful, healthy and happy. Learn how to make simple, satisfying and energising recipes with fresh, mouth-watering flavours from the Mediterranean, Asian and Middle Eastern kitchen, and can be easily introduced into any daily cooking routine. 021 4646785