New Skye McAlpine Recipes We Love
Every cookbook is fundamentally a manual – a ‘how-to’ intended to help you with the practical business of cooking, and this book is no exception. However, the emphasis here is on why we cook as much as it is on how to do it. You’ll find recipes to comfort, seduce, nourish and spoil your loved ones, as well as yourself, and recipes to weave joy into every day.
Mostly, cooking is habit. It’s just something we do, with little thought as to why, though often with much thought as to the what and the how. For me, it’s something that has been an immense source of comfort and pleasure over the years. But not everyone loves cooking and certainly, there are aspects of the process that even I’m not too fond of. I loathe chopping, for example, and I’m hopeless at it; I don’t much like peeling either, and I definitely don’t enjoy washing up. But at times, it can be nice to have the excuse to use my hands and switch off from the world around me.
Life is busy and rushed, and cooking can often feel like something we have to do. Too easily and too often we find ourselves dreading having to make dinner, rather than looking forward to eating it. My hope in writing this book is to prompt you to want to cook more often, especially for people you care about. The act of making a plate of food for someone can reap real rewards: appreciation, friendship, sometimes admiration and even – on occasion – infatuation and love. And of all the friends I have made over the years, of all the relationships that I treasure and that make my life what it is, so many of those have come about over lunch, over dinner, or – best of all – over the kind of really good meal that starts off as lunch, lingers on through tea and morphs happily into supper.
Lemony Chickpea & Walnut Salad
I must admit that I use chickpeas from a jar in this recipe, which are perhaps a little less tasty, but only marginally so, and on balance, I’m happy to make a quasi-imperceptible compromise on flavour in exchange for the instant gratification I get out of throwing supper together in a matter of minutes. The secret is to buy the kind that come in a jar rather than a tin and to make sure you wash them thoroughly under running cold water to do away with any of the gunk which makes them turn gloopy as you cook them. To the buttery-beige chickpeas, I add extra lemon, a shower of verdant parsley and a handful of crunchy walnuts. And if I’m craving something more substantial, I’ll add a tin of meaty tuna (drained, of course), or a boiled egg – the yolk still sunshine-yellow and jammy in the middle – to the dish. Store in an airtight box or glass jar for two or three days in the fridge. As well as a welcome doorstep gift, this makes a lovely dish for picnics or packed lunches.
Pasta Con Panna E Piselli
Pasta cooked this way, swimming in a sauce of cream, juicy almost-sugar-sweet peas and freshly ground black pepper, is one of my strongest happy memories from childhood. And I still love to eat it now. It’s one of those effortless dishes that everyone loves: effortless in the sense that it’s quick and easy to make of course, but effortless also in the sense that the flavours are innately comforting, intuitive to enjoy at all stages of life. If you wanted, you could fry some cubed pancetta with the onion and add it, salty and dripping with fat, to the white creamy sauce. Or you might want to add a dash of ground saffron to the cream to give it extra warmth, colour and a punch of flavour, so evocative of dreamy holidays in a far-off land as much as of familiar nursery food. One word on pasta shapes: this is one of those sauces that works well with all shapes, though convention would stipulate a short pasta of some kind, be it penne or fusilli or rigatoni or what have you, rather than spaghetti or linguine (though if that’s what you have to hand, use it). I have a soft spot for farfalle, the little butterflies, if only because it’s such a joyful, playful shape.
I can’t tell you how much I love this recipe. It’s simple really: a pool of melted chocolate mixed with just a dash of cream, with fresh fruit for dipping. You could of course adopt the same principle and make this with plain dark – or indeed even milk – chocolate, and that would be very fine thing indeed; but melting Toblerone instead gives the fondue an especially velvety texture, with shards of chewy, toffee-like nougat, honeyed and sweet, in the dipping sauce. The sauce is perfectly fine at room temperature, but especially nice warm, so if you want to make it in advance (and I probably would) you can leave it resting in its pan on the hob, then just before serving set it over a low heat for a few minutes, just long enough to warm it through like hot chocolate, then pour into a bowl. Serve with fruit for dipping: strawberries and other berries, of course, but also physalis and even sliced, peeled citrus, chunks of white peach in summer, and – my particular favourite – sweet crisps of dried apple, mango or fig.
A Table Full of Love: Recipes to Comfort, Seduce, Celebrate & Everything Else in Between by Skye McAlpine is available to buy here.
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