Month: March 2017

what is “a cook’s bookshelf”?

A friend recently stood in the middle of the kitchen and exclaimed: “Wait – these are all cookbooks?” Swivelling in place, he took in the numerous bookshelves and stacks, seemingly seeing a new book with every turn. He seemed surprised enough; I didn’t mention that this is just the kitchen. Books – cooking and otherwise – have free and full reign over the whole flat. There are currently three book stacks on either side of the bed, another on my desk chair, two on the desk. There are piles in corners. On (and under) coffee tables. Hiding in the wine rack. There are little ones perched on scrappy-thin surfaces. Big ones squatting, happily, waiting. New ones, old ones, all jostled up next to each other, brimming with beautiful ideas, flavours and places. Cookbooks are windows into other worlds. They show you how people eat on the other side of the planet. How they ate in the past. How I want to eat in the future. They tell stories, and show places. They’re made by people …

chapter 4: of marmalade and madness

“I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.” DH Lawrence My blues at the start of 2017 weren’t forward-looking (that came later) like DH Lawrence’s. They were defiantly fixed in the present, conjuring memories of the past. I lost someone I loved dearly in January. It was unexpected. And it carved out a hollow space in my heart. Around the same time, I smashed my knee on an icy patch of pavement, making it hard to walk, stand or hobble. It was dark, it was gloomy, it was the deepest patch of winter and I cleaved to it. Wintry Glasgow was a solace. An ever-present, but patient friend. The air was sharp, blustery, harsh. The city didn’t ask anything of me; it practically begged me to stay inside. The winds and rain hit at my window, reminding me it was out there, but telling me to stay put. My world, understandably, became a …

seville orange marmalade

Okay, it might be a little late in the Seville Orange season to be taunting you with marmalade. Actually, it’s passed. But taunt I must. It’s just that good. After all, you can always ignore me now and come back next January and February armed with kilos of those marvellously golden-orange globes. I got so excited when I saw them in the market that I gathered them up by the armful. I think I made it home with around 4kgs, not to mention a few blood oranges and ruby red grapefruits for good measure. I love making marmalade. I’ll just say that now – it will explain everything that is to come. There’s just something so soothing about peeling oranges. The bright, sunshine-scented oils mist in the air, making everything smell hopeful and happy – including me. When making the Seville batch, I wafted about on a orange-scented cloud for days. And then there’s the slow, meditative process of boiling, and stirring. It’s just the perfect activity for when it’s freezing cold, with flurries of …

bread baking

More often than not nowadays, there is a smudge of flour somewhere on my person. Usually it’s on the cuffs on my favourite baggy blue cardigan. Sometimes it’s on my face. I’ve gone out with it splashed down my front, like a walking Rorschach test, and with handprints on my butt from where I’ve hastily brushed off the snowy white dust before dashing off a few lines on my laptop, or darting to the oven to check on whatever is currently making my kitchen smell like heaven. You see, I’ve been baking a lot of bread. I’ve made bagels and wheaten bread. Challah and cornbread. And one of my happiest achievements to date – sourdough. Sourdough is a tricksome beast. The first time I tried, it was completely off. More like a dense wholemeal loaf than the chewy, crispy, airated bread I was aiming for. All was not lost, however; the brown doorstop made a pretty decent bread salad (once liberally doused in olive oil and introduced to the grill). The problem – I surmised, …