My favourite cook & food writer Nigel Slater is now on Twitter! I must say I adore him (in a completely un-romantic way) & he would be my dinner guest of choice. I could talk to him all night. He is the reason for my passion for food. Real, good un-pretentious food focussing on good ingredients & fabulous flavour combinations. His style of writing is also delicious & I urge you to read his portrait of the important role food played in his early life “Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger“. If you enjoy reading cook books in bed (one of my guilty pleasures anyway), I recommend “The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen” or “Tender Volume 1: A Cook & his Vegetable Patch“. One day I will have time to tend to a veg patch as great as his. His passion for food & how it is interwoven with life experience & provokes nostalgic memories draws me (& many others) in. His recent documentary “Life is Sweets” is a perfect example.
I got into his food & writing long before he became a TV personality & was introduced to him through his longstanding memoir-style column in The Observer which he started in 1993. Then he appeared on “Nigel Slater’s Real Food Show” in 1998. I scoured You Tube & the Food Network’s” listings for re-runs of this series. Then, to my delight he returned to our screens in 2006 with”A Taste of My Life”. Since then he has become a TV personality. Whilst I am pleased for him, I’m a little disappointed. He used to be my undiscovered guilty pleasure but now I have to share him with others who don’t appreciate what he’s about. People mock him – who has a handful of freshly grown tarragon or homemade chicken stock casually to hand? But he represents an ideal for me. Something to aspire to. A food hero.
Before this turns into an ode to Mr Slater, I had better get down to what this blog post was initially meant to be about; a recent baking exploit of mine.
I usually make Nigel’s lush Christmas cake every year in November. Even if you’re not a fan of fruit cake I defy you to not like this. It’s very moreish owing mainly to the cherries, nuts & treacly/butterscotch flavour provided by the muscovado sugar. This was last year’s effort. I iced mine differently to his (maybe the subject of a post next Christmas). If you want the recipe for the cake, buy The Kitchen Diaries (referenced above).
It signals the start of the festive season for me & the aromas that it releases when cooking start to get me excited for Christmas. I hope to begin a tradition with Mabel this year of making this together so that she can start to form special food memories of her own like the ones I had making trifle with my Mum every Christmas or making the batter for my Nanny’s Yorkshire puds.
I didn’t have the time to make the fruit cake this year, but I did get my festive Nigel fix on Christmas Eve by making these super easy cheese puffs featured on the first instalment of his latest offering “Twelve Tastes of Christmas”. My mouth watered at the sight of them & I found, which happens rarely, that I did actually have all the ingredients to hand to make these straight away.
First you mash up some blue cheese (Stilton natch) in a bowl then roll out & cut puff pastry (shop bought is perfect here, but just make sure it’s the “all butter” version).
Next place spoonfuls of the cheese in the middle of each square, brush the sides with beaten egg & seal.
Brush the tops with egg so that the get a lovely brown colour, put a hole in the top of each to let the steam escape & a little of the cheese to ooze out then sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.
Pop them in the oven for 12(?) minutes until golden brown & bubbling & you have Christmas on a plate. Serve with cranberry sauce or a tomato based chutney & a glass of Port. These would also be perfect as a pre-dinner canapé.
I tweeted Nigel my efforts. He didn’t reply. Perhaps I’ll have success with next year’s fruit cake?