I have been a fan of Nigel Slater’s cookbooks for about 20 years, since I first bought Real Fast Food and Real Fast Puddings. I haven’t kept up with his excursions into food-themed autobiography (Toast, The Kitchen Diaries etc.). But when I saw a copy of his latest book at The Vicar’s Wife‘s vicarage, I decided it was just the thing.
Slater is at his best when combining no more than a handful of ingredients into quick, delicious meals for one or two people. He has a section on sandwiches, which may seem unnecessary, but includes such delights as: Vietnamese prawn baguettes, fishfinger sandwiches, tomato caesar bruschetta, fig and goat’s cheese foccaccia, and Gorgonzola burgers. Recipes are classified according to how they are eaten: in the hand, in a bowl, on a plate, or how they are cooked: on the grill, in a wok, under a crust. There’s also a section of ‘little stews’ for those of us who don’t need casseroles to feed 15 people every night.
Slater is not for everyone. The tagline is ‘over 600 ideas for dinner’ and that’s right. They’re ideas, not detailed recipes with neat lists of ingredients to add to your shopping list, precise quantities, temperatures and measurements. If you like the safety of Delia Smith, you may well find his style frustrating. There are photos of some recipes, but not all and not of method. He assumes you basically know how to cook. He’ll often give you suggestions of possible substitutions, some of which will result in a totally different dish and others which will only make minor alterations to flavour. He’ll encourage you to try it with whatever happens to be in your cupboard, rather than buy new bottles of things specially. It’s not about getting it ‘right’, it’s just about making something lovely to eat.
I’m going to try to cook two or three things inspired by the book most weeks. I’ve got into boring, lazy ruts with cooking lately and I’m hopeful that Eat will jolt me out of them. So for this week, I’m planning: One Pan Sunday Lunch (chicken with bread sauce, which is the best thing ever), Artichokes and Cannellini, and Prawns, Noodles and Spring Carrots. Yum.