Truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own homes - Eliza Acton

Pertelote is learning to be an Eastender... [more]
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Sunday 9th November

Ok, I admit I haven't actually cooked very much from I want chocolate cake and I want it now. I want to be tempted by recipes subtitled I want to go home but I don't want to live there and my favourite soup was cancelled and replaced with football highlights, but as they are for meatloaf and a toasted cheese sandwich respectively, we just don't click. It is a sweetly entertaining little book, though, and I have certainly been cooking in this spirit... Lentil soup: because it's bonfire night but I have a stinking cold and can't go out? Apple whisky custard: because my boyfriend went to Paris without me? Yeah yeah - self-pity cooking.

Friday 31st October

I can thoroughly recommend this book. The pics are gorgeous and the recipes are sensible and easy. Since the potatoes, I've made a very sound caesar salad, and some very well-behaved Spanish meatballs with a lovely tomato sauce full of peppers and olives. Finally (though to be honest I could stick with this one for weeks) caramel salmon which was a resounding hit. The salmon is caramelised in small pieces in brown sugar with chilli, ginger, lime juice and other Thai-things - astonishingly this didn't turn into jam - and tossed with spring onions, hand(s-)ful of coriander and roughly chopped peanuts (deviant version: cashews).

Monday 27th October

Ah, after fiddling with finger food and struggling to decipher the great classics of French cuisine (two of my very favourite kitchen-based activities, don't get me wrong) it is something of a relief to stroll back into to the sweet, modern, loudly-illustrated simplicity of Jill Dupleix. Today we had skate with warm potatoes with capers - waxy potatoes tossed while warm in a mustard vinaigrette enhanced with spring onions, dill and capers. I love brown butter and caper sauce, but this was just as sharp and tangy, while being less time-critical and probably (these things do cross my mind occasionally, believe it or not) less artery-hardening.

Saturday 25th October

We had a bit of a party - C's off out into the real world - so I plundered Le Cordon Bleu: Régions de France, and made canapé-sized quiche lorraine (puffy) and clafoutis aux cerises (boozy). And madeleines. But they wouldn't let me make teensy-weensy croques-monsieur. Nothing went drastically wrong (unless you count the puffiness) so I must have understood most of what I was reading... I have learnt a lot of new words, though. For some reason school lessons never covered 'tamiser la farine', and 'fouetter les oeufs'.

Sunday 12th October

We can't leave Italian food without visiting pasta. We had lovely wild mushrooms so salsa di funghi alla Veronese. It starts as you'd expect, onion, garlic, mushrooms fried in oil so that they soak it up and sweat out their water. ED adds a little flour and then loosens with butter. Finish with flat leaf parsley (and if you could get that in the fifties...)

Thursday 9th October

Everyone, says ED, should try the 'highly original' spinach and cream cheese stuffing. It is, of course, the lovely light spinach and ricotta we are nowadays so familiar with - a little nutmeg, a little parmesan, one egg to bind them... ED doesn't permit cannelloni to be covered in tomato sauce before baking, but I felt it was too well-established a convention to ignore. It does keep the pasta much nicer - it takes more butter and cheese than our ration cards allow to prevent school-dinner-type chewiness, otherwise.

Tuesday 7th October

Skipping quickly over Classic Mediterranean by Jacqueline Clark (boring), and promising to return to Real Chocolate by Chantal Coady (expensive), we find ourselves at the Blessed Elizabeth David's Italian Food. It is wonderfully readable, for the period detail as much as the recipes: she was writing in the early Fifties, when pasta came in tins and olive oil, notoriously, from the chemist. Today we had costa di maiale alla griglia - grilled pork chops. The idea of marinating meat in oil was novel: as she says, it does not 'as might be supposed, make the meat greasy'. But nothing new, as they say; pork with garlic, fennel and juniper may be old enough to be my mother, but it tastes as modern as you like: specifically, it has a distinct touch of the Jamie Olivers about it.