The A-Z of Eating
You know that feeling, when you arrive in the door, and you’ve got a craving for a particular meal, but you’re stumped for the perfect recipe?
If you’re a moody eater like me then you will find The A-Z of Eating, food writer Felicity Cloake’s latest book, a joy in your kitchen. It’s a book that provides inspiration and will also take away the daily grind of cooking.
Subtited A flavour map for the adventurous cook, it’s not laid out like a more traditional cookbook – instead the book categorises food ingredients for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. So the book is laid out perfectly for that moment when you’re really craving some blue cheese and don’t want to go hunting for blue cheese recipes, just flick to the letter B, because B is for Blue Cheese. Likewise, J is for Junk and naturally, T is for Toast.
One of the reasons I’m already a fan of Felicity is because her recipes run to the unusual. She’s excellent at finding food and flavour combinations you might not have though of – so the book features dishes like Roast Duck with Miso Caramel and Roquefort and Honey Cheesecake with Walnut and Pear.
This book is a beauty for both the food and the photography and will have you cooking up a storm of fantastic recipes in your kitchen. Check out some of the recipes here:
Peach and mozzarella salad with crispy lemon zest and basil Serves 2 (easily scaled up)
1 large unwaxed lemon
6 tablespoons olive oil
2–3 fairly ripe peaches or nectarines
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella 4 sprigs of basil
Frying something as fresh and aromatic as lemon zest may sound counter-intuitive, but in fact it only enhances the flavour, releasing all sorts of lovely volatile oils and rendering it deliciously crisp in the process. I love the combination of creamy, lactic mozzarella with sweet, slightly acidic fruit – for a more robust dish, swap the peaches for ripe tomatoes and serve the lot on sourdough toast.
1. Peel the zest from the lemon in strips, keeping them as thin as possible to avoid the bitter white pith. Scrape any pith off the peel with a sharp knife, then cut the strips into long thin lengths. Put a plate lined with kitchen paper by the hob.
2. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and, when hot, fry the zest for about 30 seconds, until just beginning to crisp and colour. Use a slotted spoon to scoop on to the paper to drain, and allow the oil in the pan to cool.
3. Juice the lemon and whisk the cooled oil into 2 tablespoons of the juice. Season to taste. 4. Slice the peaches and divide between two small plates in a circle. Sprinkle with a little dressing, then tear the mozzarella over the top. Spoon over a little more dressing, season, and sprinkle with the lemon zest strips and torn basil leaves to serve.
Lamb ‘porchetta’ with salsa verde Serves 6
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1⁄2–1 tablespoon red chilli flakes (I use mild pul biber, or Aleppo pepper, but if you use another chilli, you may want to err on the side
of caution) 3 tablespoons fennel seeds 1.5kg boned lamb breast
(probably 2 or 3) 6 garlic cloves, crushed 4 tablespoons chopped thyme
and rosemary 1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate
For the salsa verde:
1 large bunch of basil 1 large bunch of flat-leaf
parsley 6 anchovies (rinsed if
packed in salt) 2 tablespoons capers
(rinsed if packed in salt) 1 garlic clove, crushed Juice of 1⁄2 a lemon 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard Olive oil
You don’t see a lot of lamb breast around, so if you’re not familiar with it, the best way to think of it is as the ruminant equivalent of pork belly – fatty, yes, but cooked right, utterly melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
As this recipe shows, pretty much anything you can do with belly you can do with breast, and actually, I think the garlicky, herbaceous flavours of a classic rolled porchetta work even better with the sweet mellow flavour of lamb, especially when offset by a zingy green sauce. It remains extraordinarily good value, and any decent butcher should be able to get you some without too much trouble.
1. Between 16 and 48 hours before you want to eat the lamb, depending on how long you have to marinate it, put the peppercorns, chilli flakes and fennel seeds into a hot dry frying pan and toast for a minute or so or until aromatic. Allow to cool slightly, then crush in a pestle and mortar. 2. Lay the lamb breast or breasts out flat on a board, fat side down, and salt generously. Spread over the crushed garlic (unfortunately, fingers are the easiest thing to use – rub them with lemon juice afterwards to help neutralize the smell), followed by the crushed spices and chopped herbs. Roll up tightly from one of the short ends and tie with string in several places. Rub the skin with bicarbonate of soda and a little more salt, then refrigerate overnight, or for up to 48 hours. 3. Take the meat out of the fridge an hour or so before you want to cook it, to bring it up to room temperature. Heat the oven to 240°C/ fan 220°C/gas 9 and roast the lamb for about 30 minutes, until golden, then turn down the heat to 170°C/fan 150°C/gas 3 and roast for a further 2–21⁄2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Rest for at least 20 minutes in a warm place.
Green herb cauliflower ‘tabbouleh’ Serves 2–4
1 smallish cauliflower
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sultanas
1 tablespoon barberries
(or dried sour cherries or cranberries if unavailable)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
4 slim spring onions
25g tarragon, leaves picked
25g mint, leaves picked
25g flat-leaf parsley
A squeeze of lemon juice
Those ridiculously flavourful leaves we single out as herbs are the star of this dish. Inspired by both the Persian sabzi, or herb ‘salad’, and Middle Eastern tabbouleh, the bland, creamy sweetness of cauliflower makes it the ideal base for a plethora of zesty green flavours and sweet dried fruits. This is an incredibly moreish addition to a selection of mezze, or a side dish for lamb or chicken, and looks even lovelier scattered with pomegranate seeds.
1. Cut the cauliflower in half and cut out the core. Discard the woody base from the core and roughly chop the rest, then break the head of the cauliflower into florets. Put it all into a food processor and pulse briefly until chopped into couscous-size pieces.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan over a medium- high heat and fry the cauliflower with a little salt for a couple of minutes until just tender. Scoop into a large salad bowl. 3. Melt another tablespoon of butter in the pan and fry the sultanas and barberries for a minute until plump, then tip into the bowl and toast the pine nuts in the remaining butter. Tip into the bowl.
4. Trim and roughly chop the spring onions, then put into the food processor and whiz until more finely chopped. Add the herbs and whiz again until it’s all fairly finely chopped, then tip in with the cauliflower and toss everything together with a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
Felicity Cloake’s book, The A-Z of Eating, is published by Penguin, and is available from all good bookshops, priced €32.