It’s a good Autumn for mushrooms, almost too good. On occasion we have looked at our “bag” (more correctly, basket) and thought, What the hell? Let’s freeze them. I have also broken with the habits of a lifetime and not cooked all of the ceps that we picked, keeping some for the next day (in the fridge, where they store pretty well).
It has been years since I cooked ossobuco Milanese, that most comforting dish, partly because you need a hearty appetite to tackle it but mainly because cross-cut veal shanks are not readily available in our part of the world. So, when I found some in Fallon & Byrne in Dublin (where the meat counter is delightfully different), I grabbed them.
Around the time when I was finding my feet – two left ones, as it happens – in secondary school, my sister Cathy brought home a copy of the Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book, co-authored by a fresh-faced Mary Berry.
I’ve never been in Catalunya at the right time of year to feast on calçots, the local onion delicacy. Actually, maybe “delicacy” isn’t quite the right word; calçots are a form of robust spring onion (or as we Irish and the Americans would say, “scallions”).
Note the “crisp”. Not “crispy”. This is in deference to one of my food heroes, Simon Hopkinson who shared with Elizabeth David (I think) a very fierce aversion to the terminal and - he would argue – redundant “y”. And so, it’s crisp chicken because, well, that’s what it is.
I must confess to a weakness for puddings. I am using the word “puddings” not as the catch-all for sweet stuff eaten after savory (as used habitually by the very well brung up), but in its original sense.
I suppose the reason I object to a lack of authenticity in restaurant dishes is because there’s generally no warning. At home, it’s different; I’m happy to adopt what it would be kind to call an eclectic approach to cooking, taking an element from here, a hint from there, a soupćon from God knows where. It’s my version of confusion cuisine and I don’t force it on anyone.
Watching Rick Stein prepare köfte on television the other day, I was reminded of how this dish, in all its geographically diverse variants, never fails to have a very positive effect on my gastric juices.