Not going to lie, I thought I knew a lot about cooking already before I started the Ballymaloe course.Oh, sure wine goes with food.. yadda yadda. An omelette is a omelette, right?
Ya, no. I learned very quickly that there are incredible intricacies to making these 'every day' dishes that much better. I hate to use the word 'better', though. It reminds me how we use words like 'organic' to imply that the food is 'alternative'. Organic, well made food with care and with good quality ingredients was and should be the norm. Store bought and highly processed should be the 'alternative'.
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (1984) by the late Elizabeth David is a collection of David's cookery articles she wrote for magazines all over the world. In the title article she talks about making a 'simple omelette' to perfection. She suggests the pan used is very important. Cast iron? Washed or unwashed? If you're wondering.. David uses an aluminum pan, washed up like all other utensils.
David's cookbooks are also part History of English Cookery. In her book Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (1970), David recounts the gradual progress and integration of spices and herbs in Northerly cooking. The thing that popped into my mind was sustainability. Spices were originally some of the highest priced commodities! Since the poor couldn't afford the luxury of importing such expensive spices and exotic ingredients, they substituted local fare for an attempt at a similar taste and flavour. Some who couldn't afford copious amounts of oil for pickling and canning presumably had to ferment instead. That's where Sandor Katz comes in, right?
Ok, now I'm just picturing a time travel device and am getting really excited.
All in all, Elizabeth's David's cookbooks are "beautifully written, they are full of information allied to inspirational recipes" - Terence Conran's 2006 forward in David's Third Printing of Italian Food (1954).
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (1984) as transcribed by Leslie Blythe Miller
1 Tbs Parmesan, finely grated
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs gruyère
1 Tbs heavy cream
Beat 1 tablespoon of finely grated Parmesan with 3 eggs. Heat the pan on the stove for about a minute. Put a tablespoon of butter in the pan. When the butter bubbles, and is about to change color, pour in the eggs.
Add one tablespoon of gruyère cut into small dice and one tablespoon of heavy cream. Tilt the pan towards you so that some of the mixture from the far edge runs into the middle. Then tilt the pan away from you. In the time it takes to do this twice, the gruyère will have started to melt, and your omelette is ready. Fold it over in three with a fork, and slide it on to the plate. Serve instantly.
Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (1970) Serves 3
6oz/180g button or closed cap mushrooms
3 tbsp lemon juice, separated
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
salt and black pepper
Brush mushrooms with a soft, dry pastry brush and cut into quarters. Toss in a bowl with lemon juice. In a heavy frying pan, warm olive oil. Cook the coriander seeds for a few seconds over a low heat. Add the mushrooms and bay leaves. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. After a minute, cover the pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Pour the mushrooms with their cooking juices into a serving dish and sprinkle them with fresh olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Serve chilled, or hot with veal or chicken.
Coffee Granita - Granita al Caffe
Italian Food (1977)
6 oz., 170g coffee
3 oz, 80g castor sugar
2 pt, 1 ¼ L water
¼ pt, 60mL cream (optional)
Put the finely ground coffee and the sugar into an earthenware jug, pour the boiling water over it, and put the jug in a saucepan of hot water. Leave it, with a very gentle flame underneath, and let the coffee infuse for 30min.
Leave it to get cold, strain it through a very fine muslin, and freeze in a non-reactive tray. Stir it every 30min as ice crystals form. It will take 21/2 to 3 hrs to freeze. Fresh cream may be served with it.
The addition to the granita of ¼ pt of cream, after it has been frozen, produces the best and simplest made iced coffee I know.
And - YES I DID! Mmm. How wonderful to be transported back into time when recipes weren't a dime a dozen and to hear a real passion for where food comes from and why. A discussion on Elizabeth David's works is on May 18th at 11:30am. Do you have a favourite cookbook from the 1950s?