Recently I found the most enchanting little cookbook written in catchy prose by Daisy Garnett. It documents how she ‘Came to cooking’ and for me it was a real page turner. Her delicious journey, took her on a small sailing boat, took on her from New York where she had been a staff writer on Vogue for 12 years to the Azores and then onto Lisbon.
At first it was a question of survival. She roasted her first chicken somewhere off the coast of Florida in a small oven that swung on hinges in the narrow galley kitchen, that was after one of her companions showed her how to light the oven. It was the first night of a 20 day journey across the Atlantic Ocean from America to Portugal. Daisy had never sailed before so her four male companions assumed that she would be chef. It hadn’t even occurred to her to tell them that she’d never cooked before!
After the initial frustration and befuddlement over the oven, and the tears of panic, she realized that cooking isn’t exactly ‘trigonometry’, once you can actually turn on the oven and pop the chicken in, it will cook – if it is not done – you just put it back in for longer. The biggest hurdle was over.
This was the beginning of a long adventure where Daisy determinedly learnt bit by bit how to cook for her friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Rose Grey of River Café was a huge inspiration as was Mark Hix and Simon Hopkinson. She even persuaded her Mum, Polly Devlin, to part with the recipe for her one star turn Pasta Puttanesca. She even learned how to sprout seeds on the deck.
She heard about Rory O’Connell’s one to one cooking lessons, so she sent her wish list and added some of her now ‘bestest’ recipes to her repertoire. In Tangier her friend, Gordon’s Moroccan cook, Hafida shared her meatball recipe, a Buddhist drag queen friend showed her how to cook great lentils and so it continued. Now just a couple of years later Daisy regularly rustles up feasts for family and friends with ease and delight.
Daisy adores cooking, a love that now borders on obsession. Here is a little taste of the book which is full of hilarious food and family related anecdotes, her adventures are diverse and heart warming and will also give hope and inspiration to those who currently don’t know how to turn on the oven.
The following are extracts and recipes from Daisy Garnett’s book, ‘Cooking Lessons – Tales from the kitchen and other stories’
SPROUTING SEEDS, GROWING SHOOTS, AND WHY BOTHER
This is much easier than you might imagine from the bewildering amount of kit that you see for sale. You don’t need any of those three-tiered contraptions that look like budgerigar cages – and could they be any more off putting?
All we did on the boat, as per Jeremy’s instructions, was put some seeds in a jam jar (each type of seeds gets its own jar, as their sprouting time varies), filled it about half way up with filtered water, punched holes in its lid, so that it didn’t get too stuffy in there, and then waited – for about 3 days. Keep the jar away from direct sunlight, change the water and give the seeds a rinse using a sieve twice a day, which takes about thirty seconds.
We were skeptical at first. Mung beans? Sprouted red lentils? What was the point? The trick is not just to chuck the sprouts at other things – they are pointless, lost in a leafy salad – but to handle them as delicacies in their own right. A bowl of seed sprouts mixed together with seaweed flakes and a slug of tamari is a deliciously salty little snack. It satisfies the potato-chip type of craving, but, unlike crisps, it is, actually, satisfying. Or mix them with some cucumber, cored and cut into chunks, or slivers of raw fennel and Parmesan, then dress them with alight vinaigrette of just a little peppery olive oil. Maldon salt and pepper.
A word about sprouted chickpeas: we ate them raw on the boat and they were good, but they are even better if you blanch them for a few seconds in boiling water.
We sprouted Mung beans, green lentils, chickpeas and sunflower and alfalfa seeds on the boat (the latter take longer, but you are rewarded with leafy little shoots rather than just sprouts), but you can sprout pretty much any seed, grain or legume.
I have now learnt a little bit more about sprouting, but all I’ve done is refine the process slightly. I still sprout things in a jar or pint glass rather than in a germinator, but after soaking the seeds overnight in plenty of water, then draining them, I now just keep them wet, rather than sitting in water for the rest of the sprouting time. I still rinse them in the morning and evening. And instead of punching holes in the top of the jam jar, I use a piece of muslin as a lid, secured on to the jar with a rubber bank. It makes the rinsing and watering quicker and easier.
Spaghetti with Squid and Courgette
From River Café Two Easy by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
500g (18ozs) squid
400g (14ozs) courgettes
400g (14ozs) spaghetti
3 tbsp good olive oil
Dried red chili, crumbled
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely sliced
Juice and zest 1 lemon
2 tbsp marjoram
Finely slice the squid from the body and separate the tentacles so that they are in tiny bite-sized pieces. (Make sure that the fishmonger prepared the squid for you be scraping off its pulpy membrane and squeezing out the beak etc. This is pretty standard practice when buy fresh squid, and squid must always be very, very fresh. Don’t buy it unless you are going to use it later the same day.)
Wash the courgettes and grate them at an angle on the large side of the grater. Sprinkle with a salt and drain in a colander for fifteen minutes.
Start cooking the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water, according to packet instructions.
Wash the salt form the courgettes and pat dry. This will get rid of some of the moisture that they carry around with them,
Heat a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat, add the oil and when it is smoking hot add the squid. Stir briefly, then season with Maldon salt, freshly grounded black pepper and the chili. Add the courgettes and garlic. Stir-fry to just brown the squid and soften the courgettes. Add the lemon juice and zest and the marjoram and stir well. Remove from the heat.
Drain the spaghetti when it is al dente and add the squid mixture. Toss together and serve at once.
Tomato and Basil Lasagne
Adapted from Living and Eating by Annie Bell & John Pawson
This is a wonderful recipe, because instead of a béchamel sauce (which I’m not mad about, it being white and floury) you use mozzarella and a really good tomato sauce. Not that I sought out a béchamel-less lasagne on purpose. God forbid I shy away from and ingredient. I made this just because it sounded good, and was vegetarian (I first made it when I was giving a dinner for a vegetarian from New York). I’ve never cooked any other lasagne since discovering it, and everyone I’ve ever made it for, except the New Yorker (who doesn’t cook) has asked me for the recipe, which isn’t mine, its Annie Bell’s.
1.3kg (3lbs) beefsteak tomatoes
4 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
And onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2tbsp tomato puree
75ml (3fl ozs) red wine
A bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1tsp caster sugar
250g (9ozs) dried egg lasagne
3 buffalo mozzarella cheeses (350g in total), diced
75g (3ozs) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
8 large basil leaves, torn in half
First make the tomato sauce by coring, peeling and coarsely chopping the beefsteak tomatoes. Remove their skins by putting them in as small a container as they’ll fit in (I often use a measuring jug), pouring boiling water over them and counting to 10 slowly – the skins should slip off easily.
Heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the onion and let it sweat for a few minutes until it is soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and stir around with the onion for a moment or two before adding the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, red wine, bay leaf and sprigs of thyme. Bring everything to a simmer and cook over a low hear for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove the thyme and bay leaf before beating the sauce to a slushy puree using a wooden spoon.
Add the caster sugar and season with Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper. That’s your sauce and it’s very good basic tomato sauce for anything from eating very simply over pasta to using in dishes like aubergine Parmigiano.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5 and use a 28cm by 20cm by 6cm baking dish. Cover the base of the dish with some tomato sauce, then add a layer of lasagne, cover that with tomato sauce, scatter over some mozzarella and parmesan and dot with a couple of torn basil leaves. Repeat these layers using the remaining ingredients. You should have four layers of pasta in all. Finish with tomato sauce and cheese, omitting basil from the final top layer. Instead drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the surface and cover with foil. You can prepare the lasagne to this point in advance and chill it for up to twelve hours until you need it.
Bake the lasagne in the oven for twenty minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another twenty-five minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Serve straight away.
Lemon Pound Cake
By Daisy Garnett
Pound cake gets its name because it was originally make using equal weights (a pound, unsurprisingly) of each key ingredient. This is a slight variation on the traditional recipe and produces a richer, more buttery cake.
Make about 12 slices
3 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
1½ tsp vanilla extract (the good stuff)
170g (5¾ozs) plain flour, sifted
170g (5¾ozs) of caster sugar
3 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)
1 tbsp lemon zest, grated
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
195g (6¾ozs) unsalted butter, softened
For the syrup
60ml (2½fl ozs) fresh lemon juice, strained
6 tbsp caster sugar
For the lemon icing
3 tbsp double cream
220g (7ozs) icing sugar, sifted
Zest and juice of one lemon
Have all your ingredients at room temperature and preheat your oven to 180ºc/350ºF/gas mark 4. Grease and sprinkle with flour a 22cm (8½ inch) long loaf tin, or line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a largish bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk with the vanilla extract. In another, larger bowl, whisk together the plain flour, caster sugar, poppy seeds (if you are using them), lemon zest, baking powder and salt.
Add half of the egg mixture to the flour, mixture along with the butter and beat on a low speed in a mixer, if you’ve got on (on the boat, by hand, the speed was certainly low), until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to high (or try to) and beat for exactly one minute. Scrape the side of the bowl and gradually add the remaining egg mixture in two parts. Beating for twenty seconds after each addition.
Scraping around the inside of the bowl transfer the batter to the tin and spread out the mixture evenly. Bake until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre comes away clean – about sixty-five minutes.
Just before the cake is ready, make the syrup to drizzle over it. This is an essential component. Place the strained lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven place it (still in its pan) on a rack and poke it all over with a wooden skewer and brush with half the lemon syrup. Let it cool in the pan for ten minutes, and then slide a slim knife around the cake to loosen it from the pan, and invert it onto a greased rack. Peel off the parchment paper lining if you used one. Poke the bottom of the cake as you did the tip and brush on some more of the syrup over the sides of the cake. Let it cool, right-side up on the rack. The cake is best if wrapped and stored in an airtight container for 24 hours before serving.
The lemon icing
To dot the i’s and cross the t’s, I also paint on a thin lemon icing made by gently heating the double cream and beating it together with the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the lemon zest and juice and a pinch of salt and mix together until smooth. You can always add in a bit more icing sugar or lemon juice if you think the consistency needs thickening or thinning, but bear in mind that the icing tends to thicken anyway, once it is left to settle
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To download the workshop programme, please click here: Exploiting the nutrients of fruits, vegetables and herbs