Yesterday evening I caught up with Nigella Lawson’s programme about Anna del Conte, The Cook who Changed our Lives. Anna del Conte is ninety one and still cooking! Her book The Gastronomy of Italy influenced countless chefs yet she has never become a household name.

Portrait of Pasta (see above) is dated 1976, which must be when I bought it. Half the book is a history of pasta and instructions on how to cook it; the other half, recipes. These begin with ‘Recipes from the Past’. My copy has many pencilled annotations where I’ve commented on recipes I tried and I see that one was the old Roman dish ‘Horace’s chickpea, laganelli and leek soup.’ There’s a bookmark for Bucatini alla Carbonara.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara became a very popular dish in Italy after the second world war. This is presumably because it was loved by the Allied Troops since it combines their old favorites (sic) bacon and eggs.’
I seem to remember that a bean and pasta dish was a favourite during our vegetarian phase. Over the years I amassed quite a library of cookery books. There have been many purges but I’ve always held on to Portrait of Pasta.

By the end of the TV programme we didn’t really know much more about Anna del Conte. I’m grateful to her for her excellent, totally reliable recipes and glad she’s getting public recognition.

Our library currently has a small display representing an olde tyme kitchen. It caught my eye at once because when I was a child we had a kitchen cabinet very similar to this one; ours was pale yellow. They were very useful. You have two cupboards at the top with glazed doors. In the middle, a flap lifts down like a desk top to make a work surface. ISTR ours had an enamel inlay so that you could roll out pastry on it. More storage at the back. Underneath, two drawers and two more cupboards. When I asked permission to take photos, I was told that there’s a bigger exhibition at our local artsy centre, so I must find time to get down there. People love all this stuff now, and seek it out. When I told the librarian that ‘we used to have one’, she replied, ‘so many people have said that!’
I’m expecting some glad cries of recognition.
more pics )
Kitchen Gadgets, from [personal profile] rosathome
"Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicize the ones you have and don't use, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of. And (my suggestion) add any items that you have that aren't on the list":

pasta machines, breadmakers, juicers, blenders, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers, sandwich makers, pastry brushes, cheese knives, electric woks, miniature salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic crushers, martini glasses, tea strainers, bamboo steamers, pizza stones, coffee grinders, milk frothers, piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers, rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers, spaetzle makers, cookie presses, gravy strainers, double boilers (bains marie), sukiyaki stoves, ice cream makers, fondue sets, healthy-grills, home smokers, tempura sets, tortilla presses, electric whisks

I don’t seem to be wasting much cupboard space on unused gadgets. This is the result of moving house and having a very small kitchen. I couldn’t do without my Kenwood mixer (over thirty years old), and who doesn’t have a tea strainer? Make real tea, people!

Blueberries were ridiculously cheap at the market on Saturday. I stewed one punnet to eat with yogurt. The other I decided to use to make blueberry muffins, which are useful because they freeze so well.
Once, I had an enormous kitchen with room to leave all gadgets on the worktops and lots of big cupboards. Now I don't, so baking goes like this:
Heave trusty Kenwood out of cupboard. It's made of cast iron or similar and weighs a ton.
Get out steps to reach down flour from tins which live on top of fridge.
Use steps again to reach baking powder, vanilla etc.
Wish I were taller.
Go into another room for baking tray and muffin cases.
Get out ingredients and put every single item away just as soon as the substance is in the mixing bowl.
Mix cakes.
Put Kenwood back in cupboard to make room for doling out cake mixture.
Put tray in oven.
Wash up immediately.
Wait thirty five minutes et voilà, as Raymond Blanc would say.

The cloth was a present from ramblingfancy. It's far too pretty to use as a tea towel.

Has anyone else tried Matt’s Terrific Bread, which Cornflower has been baking? No-knead bread, left for twenty four hours and then baked in a Le Creuset casserole. It works! Another time I’d add more salt and sprinkle less flour on the top.

I’m really fed up with Amazon, and not just for the reasons Jane Badger gives here. It’s their insistence on having packets signed for which is bugging me. It’s not too bad when they use Royal Mail; you know roughly when the delivery will be and the postman knows you and your house. City Link is another matter. Yesterday, I put a large notice on the door announcing that I was IN yet later found a card thrown down outside the front door saying that I was out. What are you supposed to do; spend the whole day sitting watching for them? I complained to Amazon, who responded quickly but didn’t get it. I said I’d stop buying from them if they continued to use City Link. None of these problems with The Book Depository, which I think will be getting my custom in future.

ETA The package was redelivered today and out of the blue Amazon emailed to say they wil refund me £10.00 because of my poor experience. No more than I deserve for the inconvenience :-)

Easter eggs
[Poll #1545602]

A year ago I’d just moved in, the kitchen was barely usable and we had Christmas dinner at the pub. Now I have a spiffy new kitchen but it’s very small. The faithful inherited Kenwood mixer (made c.1970 and still working perfectly), the bread maker (also inherited)

and blender all have to be stowed away in a cupboard and taken out for use. I’m ashamed to say this has put me off cooking but now I’m getting used to the idea that that’s what you have to do. I’ve made a Christmas cake

Ha ha, still sekrit

and yesterday made bread for the first time since moving. We have a wonderful organic bakery in town; absolutely delicious bread and I wish you could try the olive and rosemary. Trouble is, it costs £2.50 a loaf, which I would once have found incredible. If I were to make a new year’s resolution it might be to get back into the bread making habit.

More surprises in my garden. This lovely rose is on the gable end of the cottage, under my bedroom window. I think it must be ‘Buff Beauty’? Love it. The round beds (will they stay?) are a haze of pink and purple at the moment, mainly from aquilegias. When I looked close, this appeared:

The name tells you how I missed it: Thalictrum aquilegifolium. Pottering around the border before flowering time, I would have taken it for yet another aquilegia.

It’s getting really summery and I’ve even been cooking )

Surprising thought it may seem, some people are enjoying the recession. 'Reminds me of my childhood.' is a typical comment. There's a grisly relish in all those articles in the press telling us how to save money; articles written by people who have jobs and are not about to have their homes repossessed. We've been here before, of course, in the seventies, which was also the age of self-sufficiency. Richard Mabey's book Food For Free (1972) is such a classic that it's been reissued. In 1975 The Good Life burst on to our screens, with Tom Good attempting self-sufficiency in Surbiton. Funny how when I watch the programme now, I much prefer Margot and Jerry. The daddy of grow-your-own was John Seymour, whose The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency (1976, also reissued) was so influential that people are now writing books about the book.

I don't have to look far for free food as the grass is covered in apples which I don't have the time or the energy to pick up. I used to put them outside the gate with a 'help yourself' notice but people would take the whole box until I ran out of boxes, so I gave up. I feel guilty if I make no use of them and my current plan is stewed apples the easy way.

Peel and core 1lb apples (not that I weigh them). Chop quite roughly; no need for fiddling around with neat slices. Place in a large glass bowl with two tablespoons sugar and one tablespoon water. Microwave on high for six minutes.

You can eat it hot or cold (delicious with Greek yogurt) and you can freeze it for later. Cheap, easy, good for you!
I finished knitting and sewed up [profile] cybersofa's pullover.

The cheap plant man at the market sold me a lovely bowl of white hyacinths for the kitchen windowsill plus an unusual cyclamen which was only 50p!

I made a cake, opened a tin to put it in and found two mince pies which had been made before Christmas. They looked good as new but went down the waste disposer.



January 2017



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