England has Delia and Australia has Stephanie. They are the women each country is on first name terms with as their cookery books have become veritable bible’s of the kitchen. However there is no reason the world has to be so insular when it comes to matters of cooking and just as a lot of Australians could learn from Delia I think the rest of the world could probably benefit from having one of Stephanie Alexander’s books in their kitchen.
Finished Nicoise salad
Stephanie made her name with The Cook’s Companion, but her latest hefty tome is Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion. The book is aimed at those who grow their own food and includes gardening and harvesting tips. It is divided into sections such as mint or apples so if you have a glut of one type of produce in your garden or allotment, you can find plenty of inspiration for what to do with it. For those (like me) who are limited to a couple of pots of herbs on a window sill there are still lots of great recipes in the book which should make it worth a purchase even if you plan on cheating and buying the ingredients.
The book with its great fabric cover
Quadrille has brought out a new version of the book specifically for the British market and all the seasonal advice has been adjusted for the Northern hemisphere. However I do wonder whether some of the sections in the book are relevant for cooler climes as, for example, I doubt that many people in Britain grow kiwi fruits.
Lots of photographs which is something The Cook’s Companion is lacking
Generally the conversion seems to have been pretty successful. I tested out the recipe for Nicoise salad, that classic French recipe which always makes me think of the first time I ate it sitting at a sea side restaurant overlooking Nice’s pebbly beach. This recipe is all about the quality and seasonality of the ingredients so if (like me) your only home grown inclusion is the basil, try and make sure you buy the best and freshest of everything else that is possible.
Grilling the tuna steaks
1 x 200g tuna steaks
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
8 black olives
1 tbsp torn basil
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 free range eggs
40ml extra virgin olive oil
6 baby potatoes
1 handful green beans
2 handfuls cos or iceberg lettuce
2 anchovy fillets
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparing the tomato, olives and basil
1. Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water for 20 mins or until tender, then drain, cut in half and toss with a little of the olive oil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
2. While potatoes are cooking put the tomatoes, olives and basil in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil then season with salt and pepper.
3. Boil the eggs for six minutes so the yolks are still soft boiled then peel once they are cool enough to handle. Cut in half lengthways.
4. Cook the beans in boiling water for four minutes or until barely tender and tip onto a plate and drizzle with a little of the olive oil.
5. Heat a char grill pan or BBQ until hot, brush the tuna steaks with olive oil and grill briefly for 1-2 minutes on each side. Once it is cool enough to handle, tear into small chunks.
6. Divide salad leaves between the plates then toss with all the ingredients and top with the eggs. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve.
Serves two. This recipe is delicious served while the potatoes, tuna, eggs and beans are still warm but it is also fine made in advance.
Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion: Dig, Plant, Water, Grow, Harvest, Chop, Cook (£30 Amazon). I received a review copy of the book.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my post on a moules marinere recipe from Stephanie’s The Cook’s Companion book.