Jane Grigson let us down, a bit. She’s such a reliable cookery writer and so I trusted her, even against my instincts. I’d bought a squid. Too much for us to eat at one meal, so I cut off the tentacles and stir-fried them with vegetables and we decided to stuff the body of the thing for another time. Jane had several recipes and we decided on one with rice, pine nuts and raisins, cooked in a tomato and wine sauce. Jane said to use a small amount of water and, when the rice had cooked enough to soak that up, bung it in the squid. I’d have felt safer cooking the rice completely, but maybe it would have become soggy, so okay. And then cook it, uncovered, for about 35 minutes. Well, that soon wasn’t going to work as the sauce didn’t cover the squid and it was reducing too much, so on went the lid.
Squid needs to be cooked very quickly or very slowly, or else it’s tough. After 45 minutes, the rice was still too firm and so was the fish. Cephalopod, I know, but sort of fish. Anyway, it got microwaved for ten minutes, or else we’d still be waiting. If ever I do that recipe again, the rice will be cooked completely and the whole thing will go in a gentle oven for two hours.
Delia gets it wrong occasionally too. Her redcurrant jelly, for instance, has you cooking the redcurrants, then measuring them, adding sugar and boiling – and only then putting it in a jelly bag to strain off the seeds. That is clearly absurd. It’s setting almost as soon as it comes to the boil and you would get no jelly at all from the pulp. If you sieve it before adding sugar, it’s fine and, luckily, I knew that and ignored her instructions. Also, her yoghurt recipe has you adding the starter when the milk is far too hot. It took me about two years to twig that, now I never have any whey to drain off because I leave the milk to be lukewarm and it doesn’t separate.
I often read recipes for ideas, rather than follow them exactly but, when I do, they should work. I’ve a very nice recipe, now I’ve tweaked it, for courgette and apricot chutney. It gives a list of ingredients, including an apple, but it never mentions chopping it. It also has a list of spices, but not how much of each and it says to put them in a muslin bag and remove them at the end of the cooking time. I tried that and couldn’t taste any of them. Now, having heavily annotated the recipe, I put the spices straight in and it’s lovely. And, in the summertime, it’s really helpful to have a good way of using quite a lot of courgette.
Tomorrow, I’m going out for lunch for the first time this year (apart from a picnic when it wasn’t so cold as it has been for the last few weeks). I’m looking forward to it hugely.
In other news, I had nineteen pieces of china to value for someone’s probate today. She’d bought several of the pieces from me, I’d known this nice woman for many years and I’m sorry she has died. I’ll miss her. The daughter of another long-time client phoned last week, to say he’d died and I’m really sad about that. He used to call in here every year, when visiting friends in Suffolk from his home in Northumberland. All in all, I feel a bit sombre, so I’m relying on a convivial lunch to cheer myself up.