Friday, 16 January 2015

7: Nigel Slater–The Kitchen Diaries–Cooking the Books

Starter:      No-tears Onion Soup

Main:        Pot-Roast Pheasant

Dessert:     Double Ginger Cake

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I was so upset to realise I had overwritten my last Nigel Slater post, that I thought another foray into the simple yet flavoursome depths of his recipes was needed immediately! I'm going to really ensure this post is saved...I might even have to start writing in Word and transferring to the blogging platform so this doesn't happen again. At least I've still got the actual book and know which recipes I tried! I've even used the beef and cheese pasta one since, making it even better with added mushrooms. 

I have another of his books left to attempt but this one is named The Kitchen Diaries. The recipes are set out rather like his musings rather than a formal 1,2,3 method and I'm always one to value his comments and opinions. It's more complex than 'Eat', both in terms of quantity of ingredients and method itself, but still not over complicated.

Starter: No-tears Onion Soup

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: Cheddar not Gruyere

This simple onion soup recipe is made even more tasty than usual by roasting the onions also, as Nigel says, doesn't fill the house with the smell of fried or boiled onions and makes it less likely to have watery eyes! The recipe follows la typique French idea of adding cheesy croutons, or you could even do little 'make it yourself' dippers with small crusty rounds, grated cheese and Dijon mustard on the side for guests to create their own 'boats'.

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Simply halve and roast some white onions with a little oil, then pop into a pan with a glass of white wine and reduce until it’s nearly disappeared – you want the flavour, not the alcohol! Add stock, salt and pepper to taste and simmer. Serve with the cheesy croutons. I made mine in the sandwich toaster! I cut little rounds of baguette and sandwiched them together with cheddar, then toasted.


I wouldn't necessarily make it again, although it did have quite a lot of flavour for such a simple recipe. I prefer creamy soups rather than brothy ones!

Main: Pot-Roast Pheasant

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: White wine instead of vermouth

Onto the main course. I've used my large cast iron pot many times since it's purchase late last year but the best use I found was a one-pot chicken recipe. This idea is on a similar theme but uses a pheasant instead.


Before cooking, pluck any remaining feather stubs and give the pheasant a wipe. Don’t forget to check inside too to make sure all gibletty bits have been removed! In a hob to oven lidded casserole, brown off the pheasant in a large slice of melted butter. Meanwhile, chop the celery into short lengths and halve some baby new potatoes. Once the pheasant is browned, remove from the pan and wipe clean all the excess burnt butter, taking care to leave the gooey stickiness at the bottom! Add and melt another chunk of butter and add the potatoes until slightly browned. Tip in the celery, some celery leaves, sage leaves, salt and pepper. Pour over a large glass of white vermouth – I used white wine which gave a similar flavour – and leave to simmer for a couple of minutes. Return the pheasant to the pan, pop the lid on top and leave in the oven at 180 degrees c for around 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of the pheasant.


This did have a really lovely flavour and was very easy, but the pheasant was quite tough – I don’t know if that was due to the bird itself or the overcooking of it. Nigel says he doesn’t always want the extra flavour of covering him in bacon first, but I do think this might have helped keep him more moist. We rarely have pheasant, in fact, I don’t think I’ve cooked it at home before today, but really enjoyed the flavour of it – not too gamey or rich. I would do it again, but play around with the cooking times a little more.

Dessert: Double Ginger Cake

Easiness: 8/10 – it’s weighing, mixing and tipping

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: 0 – but next time I’d use all ginger instead of sultanas

No biscuits this week, as I'm sure you'll all be pleased to hear, but a rich ginger cake instead. Now, I'm not going to cheat, but if you can’t use the Kitchenaid for cake batter, when can you?! I do feel a flex-edge paddle may be of use to ensure all the mixture is removed from the edge, although this would mean, of course, less mixture for F and me to lick from the bowl once we'd finished!


This double-ginger cake is perfect with a late afternoon cup of tea. Use the link to get to the recipe (it’s too long to post here) and enjoy! When Nigel says ‘the mixture should be sloppy’ read ‘liquid’! I was a little concerned at this point that, after having poured it into the tin with little need for scraping, but it rose beautifully in the oven and ended up the perfect texture, especially after a couple of days! I served it warm with custard the first night, then we just sliced and ate it piece by piece. I had a problem keeping the sultanas evenly distributed: They all sank to the bottom and didn’t add any taste or texture to the final cake. If you wanted to include them, rather than adding to the melted butter mixture, I’d pop into the flour to give them a good coating in the hopes they might stay afloat more happily! It also wasn’t quite gingery or sticky enough for me. Next time, I’d add more ginger powder, more crystallised ginger instead of the sultanas and more ginger syrup too!


I think it’s really the combination of thought, prose and food ideas I like with Nigel Slater…the fact he makes everything seem so simple and easy. And I love the fact all the food comes out of his fridge wrapped in waxed paper!

The Kitchen Diaries volume i

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Merlotti x

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