Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood [epub | 1,94 Mb] ISBN: 0393249506

  • Full Title: Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food
  • Autor: Ann Hood
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition
  • Publication Date: December 4, 2018
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393249506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393249507
  • Download File Format | Size: epub | 1,94 Mb
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In this warm collection of personal essays and recipes, best-selling author Ann Hood nourishes both our bodies and our souls.

From her Italian American childhood through singlehood, raising and feeding a growing family, divorce, and a new marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman, Ann Hood has long appreciated the power of a good meal. Growing up, she tasted love in her grandmother’s tomato sauce and dreamed of her mother’s special-occasion Fancy Lady Sandwiches. Later, the kitchen became the heart of Hood’s own home. She cooked pork roast to warm her first apartment, used two cups of dried basil for her first attempt at making pesto, taught her children how to make their favorite potatoes, found hope in her daughter’s omelet after a divorce, and fell in love again―with both her husband and his foolproof chicken stock.

Hood tracks her lifelong journey in the kitchen with twenty-seven heartfelt essays, each accompanied by a recipe (or a few). In “Carbonara Quest,” searching for the perfect spaghetti helped her cope with lonely nights as a flight attendant. In the award-winning essay “The Golden Silver Palate,” she recounts the history of her fail-safe dinner party recipe for Chicken Marbella―and how it did fail her when she was falling in love. Hood’s simple, comforting recipes also include her mother’s famous meatballs, hearty Italian Beef Stew, classic Indiana Fried Chicken, the perfect grilled cheese, and a deliciously summery peach pie.

With Hood’s signature humor and tenderness, Kitchen Yarns spills tales of loss and starting from scratch, family love and feasts with friends, and how the perfect meal is one that tastes like home.


Editorial Reviews


“Ann Hood is a gifted storyteller… [Kitchen Yarns is] perfect holiday season fare, but be forewarned: You’ll want to keep both kitchen and Kleenex close at hand.”

“These tales of ingredients, recipes, and meals will lift your spirits.”
Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

“Written in a series of deliciously digestible essays, the wistful and wonderful Kitchen Yarns is a feast for the heart, mind, and senses.”
USA Today

“In this cozy read, Hood shares recipes that shaped her…and the poignant life lessons about loss, love, and friendship she learned in the kitchen.”
Real Simple

“Hood connects food with memory in delicious ways.”

“Eminently readable, Kitchen Yarns, Ann Hood’s tender, witty, and funny voyage through a life of food, reminds us that the visceral taste memories of our past are essential benchmarks of our life, and that the stories of a family are always best felt and expressed through those dishes.”
Jacques Pépin, world-renowned chef and author of Heart & Soul in the Kitchen

“Moving…Hood’s sharp essays emphasize food as emotional nourishment, bringing family and friends together―both to celebrate the joys and heal the wounds of life.”
Publishers Weekly

From the Back Cover

Praise for Ann Hood

“Hood is larger than life, living, loving, and grieving on an operatic scale.”
New York Times Book Review

“Ann Hood is a captivating storyteller.”
Lily King

“I can think of no better guide than Ann Hood, whose generosity of spirit, courage, humor, gumption, and grace are a powerful reminder that language and story have the capacity to heal, to instruct, and to change our lives.”
Dani Shapiro

“Ann Hood’s writing is an unusual combination of the delicate and the fierce.”
Meg Wolitzer

“Hood never for a paragraph or a page loses control over the story that suffuses her, the sound of the words, the impact of images.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Hood’s words…pull you along, like a knitting pattern, one mesmerizing, settling click at a time, stitch by stitch, row by row, until you find yourself with something solid and real.”



ws Building

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

First published in Great Britain by Fourth Estate in 2015

Text copyright © Nigel Slater 2015

Photographs © Jonathan Lovekin 2015

except Nigel Slater portrait on image 1 © Jenny Zarins

Instagram pictures © Nigel Slater

James Thompson picture © Christina Solomons

Nigel Slater asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Source ISBN: 978-0-00-753680-1

Ebook Edition © July 2015 ISBN: 978-0-00-815370-0

Version 2015-08-28

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

For James

A note on the type

Monotype Haarlemmer was originally designed by Jan van Krimpen (1892–1958), but never finished. Working from van Krimpen’s original drawings, Frank E. Blokland completed the family for the Dutch Type Library in 2002.

ITC Johnston was designed by Richard Dawson and Dave Farey in 1999 and is based on Edward Johnston’s lettering for The Underground Group, London (introduced in 1916 and still in use today).



Title Page







Spring eats




Summer eats




Autumn eats




Winter eats

Recipe Index

List of Searchable Terms


About the Author

Also by Nigel Slater

About the Publisher


We are not here for long.

So let’s at least make ourselves something good to eat.

A lovingly kneaded loaf; a casserole of beef, garlic, thyme, stock and onions you have left to its own devices in a slow oven; a salad that crunches and crackles with young, spring leaves and sprouted seeds. A sandwich maybe, its hot filling of roast pork and crackling peeking tantalisingly from between two pieces of bread. A fool. A tart. A sticky rib. The possibilities are infinite.

I have been cooking, on an almost daily basis, for five decades. I have eaten the great, the good and things I rather wish I hadn’t. As a cook, and indeed as a cookery writer, I have got things right, wrong and somewhere in between. But what never changes is my curiosity and my appetite. That, and the endless delight I get from giving people, loved ones, friends, complete strangers, something good to eat.

Just as with music or literature, there are the classics of which I never tire, yet the excitement of finding new works never dims. For me, it is the same with food. You know how it is. There are old favourites you make over and over, recipes that become part of the rhythm of your life, and then there is the stuff of fresh thinking, cooking that is spontaneous and spirited.

What has always mattered to me is that we enjoy not just the end result, but the hands-on craft along the way, the act of making ourselves and others a meal. Cooking has, for this cook at least, never been purely about the end result. It is the small, joyous details of cooking that have made it a lifelong pleasure.

The recipes

I enjoy my work more with each passing year. And never more so than when I hear or say the words ‘What shall we have to eat?’ The point in my working day when food is no longer something on the page or the screen, but becomes something on a plate.

Between the pages of this, the third volume of my kitchen diaries, is a collection of good things I have eaten over the last few years. Recipes, moments and ideas I would like to share with you.

Does the world need more recipes? I like to think so. Cooking doesn’t stand still, at least not for anyone with spirit, an appetite and a continuing sense of wonder. No one is exactly re-inventing the wheel in cookery nowadays, no matter what they might think, but there is still much fun to be had.

A cookery book can open a door to a world of delicious possibilities. As I hope this one will. Discovering a new way with a familiar ingre­dient; a reworking of an old friend; a twist, a turn, a whim or even just a simple reminder. The recipes are here to follow word for word or simply to spark your imagination, as you wish.

There are new things here: sausage fried with sauerkraut and mushrooms; the cheese, gherkins and ham of an alpine raclette turned into a tart;
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Abbinamenti in base allo iodato: alcuni esempi


Abbinamenti in base all’affumicatura: alcuni esempi

Persistenza e intensità gusto-olfattiva

• La valutazione del cibo: analisi e sintesi

Premessa alla scheda descrittiva del cibo

Capitolo 8 La degustazione del vino

• L’analisi visiva



Fluidità (o viscosità) e archetti


• L’analisi orto-olfattiva

Profumo (bouquet)

Qualità (franchezza, finezza, personalità)


• L’analisi gusto e retro-olfattiva


Morbidezza e rotondità




Sapidità e mineralità

Stato evolutivo


Intensità e persistenza

Armonia ed equilibrio

Struttura, corpo, rotondità

• La valutazione del vino: analisi e sintesi

Premessa alla scheda descrittiva del vino

Parte terza L’allenamento dei nostri sensi

Capitolo 9 La palestra dei sensi

• Conoscere e allenare i nostri sensi

• Primo gruppo

Esercitazione 1 – La percezione gustativa e gusto-olfattiva (il dolce)

Esercitazione 2 – La percezione gustativa e gusto-olfattiva (il salato)

Esercitazione 3 – La percezione gustativa e gusto-olfattiva (il dolce, il salato e l’acido)

Esercitazione 4 – Le mappe della lingua

Esercitazione 5 – I tempi di percezione dei gusti

Esercitazione 6 – Il condizionamento della vista nella valutazione olfattiva e gusto-olfattiva

Esercitazione 7 – La sequenza dei cibi e dei vini secondo l’intensità di sapore e la persistenza aromatica (PAI)

• Secondo gruppo

Esercitazione 1 – Il riconoscimento del sapore degli sciroppi di frutta rossa

Esercitazione 2 – Conoscere e riconoscere le erbe aromatiche

Esercitazione 3 – Conoscere e riconoscere le spezie

• Terzo gruppo


Esercitazione 1 – Limpidezza, colore e viscosità dei vini bianchi passiti

Esercitazione 2 – Effervescenza nei vini bianchi

Esercitazione 3 – Profumi dei vini aromatici

Esercitazione 4 – Percezione gusto-olfattiva e persistenza dei formaggi erborinati

Esercitazione 5 – Percezione gusto-olfattiva delle mele

• Quarto gruppo


Esercitazione 1 – Abbinamenti di formaggi e vini

Esercitazione 2 – Abbinamenti di salumi e vini

Esercitazione 3 – Abbinamenti di prodotti affumicati e vini

Esercitazione 4 – Abbinamenti di dolci e vini

Esercitazione 5 – Abbinamenti di dolci al cioccolato e vini

Esercitazione 6 – Abbinamenti con il criterio di territorio


Appendice 1 Le schede di valutazione dell’abbinamento

• Importanza e limiti delle schede di valutazione

• Presentazione delle principali schede di valutazione

Il metodo Bernardo – Enrico Bernardo

Il metodo Vaccarini – Giuseppe Vaccarini

Il metodo Piccinardi – Antonio Piccinardi

Il metodo Mercadini – Pietro Mercadini

Il metodo Sicheri – Giuseppe Sicheri

Il metodo FISAR – La FISAR

Appendice 2 Scegliere i vini in base al menu

Appendice 3 Piatti e bicchieri nell’abbinamento cibo-vino



Indice delle ricette

Informazioni sul Libro

Circa l’autore


L’abbinamento cibo-vino può apparire un argomento che appassioni persone raffinate, cultori che amano disquisire su ogni dettaglio dell’enogastronomia o professionisti del settore.

L’esperienza quotidiana ci indica come il cibo e il vino abbiano un legame profondo e antichissimo; il loro legame è duplice perché il vino è un compagno abituale a tavola, ma è anche un ingrediente importante in cucina. Impossibile elencare tutte le ricette in cui il vino rappresenta un elemento indispensabile alla realizzazione di piatti che spaziano dall’antipasto al dolce. La presenza del vino a tavola e il suo accostamento al cibo risalgono alle grandi civiltà del passato. Basti citare l’ultima cena descritta nel Vangelo, dove il pane e il vino sono indicati come il mezzo di comunicazione dell’uomo con Dio, o il banchetto greco sempre seguito dalla libagione simposiale, o il pranzo romano ove non mancavano le numerose libagioni.

Percorrere la storia di questo duplice legame del “vino nel cibo” e “del vino in accostamento al cibo” è di grande interesse e ci permette di conoscere come i modi e i significati di quest’abbinamento siano cambiati nel corso dei secoli facendone un argomento non di mera erudizione, ma di grande interesse culturale. Per questa ragione, nella parte iniziale di questo testo si è voluto trattare questo tema anche dal punto di vista storico.

Negli ultimi due secoli, da quando la borghesia nascente ha preso il sopravvento sulla nobiltà (penso alla Rivoluzione francese), l’abbinamento fra cibo e vino si è trasformato da un semplice segno di prestigio e di potere a un elemento di piacere personale suggerito dai propri sensi, un’occasione di godimento quasi edonistico. Parallelamente, soprattutto dal secolo scors
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Include legumes, such as dried beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts, on your shopping list. Look for unsalted nuts and seeds for snacks or to add to salads or homemade whole-grain breads or muffins.

Include HEALTHY FATS AND OILS in your eating plan. Vegetable oils provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Shop for canola, corn, olive, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils. Use these oils along with nonstick cooking sprays and light tub margarine as healthier choices. Avoid buying stick margarine, butter, and shortening.

eat less of nutrient-poor foods

Cut back on SODIUM. Be mindful that most of the sodium you eat comes from packaged and processed foods, including restaurant meals. Even many popular condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce, are full of sodium (and added sugars). Compare the food labels of similar products to find the ones with less sodium; choose low-sodium or no-salt-added products, and be cautious of typically high-sodium foods such as soups and sandwiches when you dine out. When cooking, use little or no salt.

Limit ADDED SUGAR. Keep your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 450 calories, or 36 ounces per week. (If you need fewer than 2,000 calories per day, avoid these beverages altogether.) Also, avoid sugary foods that are low in nutrients but high in calories. Buy them as occasional treats rather than including them as staples in your shopping cart.

Cut back on foods high in SATURATED FAT, TRANS FAT, AND DIETARY CHOLESTEROL. A diet high in these fats increases your risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found primarily in foods from animals, such as meats, poultry, and full-fat dairy products, or in tropical oils, most commonly coconut, palm, and palm kernel. Trans fat is present in many manufactured foods that include partially hydrogenated oil. Cut back on trans fat by carefully reading labels when choosing snack products, cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, muffins, and fried foods. Common high-cholesterol foods include whole milk, full-fat cheese, egg yolks, and shellfish, so eat these foods sparingly.

look for the heart-check mark

With so many products available on store shelves and all the marketing hype and health claims on packaging vying for your attention, making wise food decisions in the grocery store can be a challenge. Even when you see a front-of-package icon or wording that signals a health claim, you should still evaluate the information in the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list before you make your selection. However, when you see a product with the American Heart Association’s red-and-white Heart-Check Mark on the package, you can be sure that the product meets the certification program’s limits for total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It also must include a minimum level of one of six beneficial nutrients.

read the nutrition facts labels

To know what’s really in the foods you buy, make it a habit to check the nutrition facts panel on the packaging. Be sure to compare among products to help you make the best choice.

1. SERVING SIZE is the basis for determining the number of calories, amount of each nutrient, and % Daily Values of a food. If you eat double the serving size listed, then you must double the number of calories and amounts of all the other nutrients shown.

2. If you want to manage your weight, CALORIES is an important section to note. The key is to balance how many calories you eat with how many calories your body needs. A calculator on the American Heart Association website,, can help you determine your personal calorie needs.

3. Look for low numbers for SATURATED FAT, TRANS FAT, CHOLESTEROL, and SODIUM. Remember to check the serving size and calculate them accordingly.

4. Look for high numbers for FIBER, VITAMIN A, VITAMIN C, CALCIUM, and IRON to help you get 100 percent of the healthy nutrients you need each day.

5. The % DAILY VALUE section shows you the percentages of nutrients in a single serving based on a 2,000-calorie diet. For healthy nutrients, a higher number is best, but the lower the better for nutrients that should be limited—5 percent or less is low; 20 percent or more is high. When it comes to sodium, make sure that you read the milligrams (mg) of sodium and skip the % Daily Value, which is based on 2,400 mg. The American Heart Association recommends less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day for all Americans.

meal planning

Creating your own meal plans gives you control over what you eat. Three major factors of a heart-smart eating plan are: (1) finding the right balance of foods to provide your body with adequate nutrition, (2) maintaining the right calorie count to meet your body’s needs, and (3) limiting your intake of unhealthy nutrients. Use the following two sample meal plans as guides to create your own based on your pref
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happiness feel achievable. He helped me realize it’s all about the here and now, that happiness happens on a freezing winter night or in the garden when the weather’s warm, often with a good bottle of wine, and always with the people you love. You just need some good ingredients and a few simple recipes, maybe a couple of jokes, or a “topic to dissect” at the table, the way they do at Nora Ephron’s house.

And there it is. It’s what I believe in. In these pages you will find recipes for simple, (mostly) healthy, delicious food. This is the food I cook for my family and friends, over and over again, the food that never fails me. This book is meant to channel the ethos of my father by sharing the greatest gifts that he imparted to me. Invest in what’s real. Clean as you go. Drink while you cook. Make it fun. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It will be what it will be.

why i don’t eat red meat

I was raised a red meat lover; I lived for brisket, ribs, meatballs, and especially Bolognese sauce. When I was twenty-one, a friend gave me a book called Diet for a New America by John Robbins, which exposed the brutal practices of American factory farms. Reading this book gave me a whole new perspective on what I was eating. That, coupled with a lecture I got from Leonardo DiCaprio (when he was nineteen and I was twenty-one) about how such animals are kept and processed, made me lose my desire for factory farm pork and beef right there. I do, however, eat poultry. I always try to buy birds that are from farms where they are raised cage-free and organic. Chickens are victims of some of the worst factory-farming practices, so if it’s not naturally raised, think twice.


Including my children in all aspects culinary is very important to me and always has been. When my daughter, Apple, was born in 2004, I always had her strapped to my chest in one of those BabyBjörn things and later on my hip in the kitchen while I stirred and chopped, one handed at that! Soon she was sitting up and I had fantasies of an extra-high high chair on wheels so she could be out of harm’s way but privy to the action as I steamed and pureed her baby food. She was always trying to get a glimpse inside the pot, fascinated by the sounds of simmering and frying, or reaching to hold the big wooden spoon, mystified by its meaning (drumstick? teething device?).

Children are inherently curious about the process of cooking—it’s mysterious and vaguely threatening, and seemingly for adults only. Fire and knives, no wonder my son is obsessed with it all. He, like my daughter, loves nothing more than helping me cook a meal. The trick is to let them participate as long as they are interested; eventually they wander off and busy themselves with something else, but lately they’ve been staying with it.

I believe it is the fact that I am carefully letting them do things that seem beyond their level that keeps them so interested. Whenever I am holding my son so that he can add salt to a sauce or stir something (with a long handle from a safe distance), I regularly think of some parenting advice my father gave on one occasion. His theory was that children positively respond to being trusted with something that they don’t expect you to trust them with. And when they are trusted and complete something successfully, not only is their self-esteem buoyed but so is the connection between parent and child. Thus is my willingness to allow them to partake in some of the more adult tasks, with very careful supervision.

The three of us regularly engage in cooking together and doing this is one of my all-time favorite activities—all immersed in a project together, having fun, and making dinner! It is a multitasker’s dream, genuine quality time spent while checking something off the list.

It is my belief that children should know about food, should learn how to handle and prepare it. I think of it as a life skill no less important than any other… maybe more so as it will enable them to take control of their health as they get older. They have become well versed in their own likes and they often have opinions about how things are done.

a handful of great tasks for kids

1. Turn the pepper grinder.

2. Add pinches of salt and other spices.

3. Stir batters and doughs in mixing bowls.

4. Spread butter on toast.

5. Grease cake pans.

6. Line muffin tins.

7. Crack eggs.

8. Whisk dressings.

9. Press the start button on appliances (with supervision, of course).

10. Add items to a blender, mixing bowl, etc.

11. Level off flour, sugar, etc.

12. Crush garlic in a press. (Watch their fingers!)

Here are some of the ways that I include them in the process, ways you might be able to incorporate into your routine.

1. Go to the farmers’ market or supermarket together. Give your children their own baskets and ask them to pick out vegetabl
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hat is used casually in and around the brewing of beer.

Some recipes out there are quick and easy and some are a little more involved. Even if you don’t have a prior understanding or much experience, by the time you finish reading you should have enough understanding to improvise upon or alter recipes you find elsewhere.

This book works best if you read it in order.

Skills build upon each other and the resources in this book make the most sense in the order that they are presented, even if you already think you have a specific interest further in.

Bolded words in the text appear with accompanying definitions along with their first appearance but if you run into a word that you can’t remember the meaning of, you can also reference the glossary in the back.

Useful diagrams and charts in this book:











Now let’s get some ideas brewing!

In consideration of the life most common….


This is among the most common for the noncommercial, non-professional home brewer. It involves, more or less, the same four ingredients as its more complicated associates: malt, water, yeast, and hops. The essential difference is that the primary malt source is an extracted syrup, liquid, and/or a dry powder. Malted barley or other grains can be added for enhancing the flavor profile or beefing up the body, however most recipes ordered or purchased through home brew shops or online will consist of a malt extract.


This is the preferred method of a more involved home brewer. There is more room for creativity and potential freshness since there is no malted extract to profile the beer. Your grain profile hinges on the combination of malts you choose.


The advent of commercial micro-brewing created a surging industry of small batch beers occupying a water source near you. The brewing method differs predominantly in the volume and capacity of the tools used in the process of all-grain home-brewing.


Typically in American Lager format:

Budweiser, Coors, Pabst, Miller… Again the major difference is, you guessed it, size. The brewing methods are utilizable in the smaller home-brewing capacity.


The two most commonly utilized methods of home brewing are typically referred to as all-grain and extract brewing. The two are comprised of nearly the same ingredients and equipment, and yield what some would say are similar results. As you read on, we’ll look at the subtle and not-so-subtle differences to understand what’s best for you.

Chapter 1


Ok, did you go out and buy the tools and read all the right book on home brewing? Before you do or in case you haven’t, this chapter will introduce you to all the things I wish I knew before I put together my first home brew.

First, we’ll deal with extract beer.

What exactly is being extracted? Malt.

The beauty of making extract beer is that you don’t have to:




A concentrated malt extract is a sweet-tasting concentration of sugars from mashing, the process of heating a mix of milled grain and water. What results is the wort, the liquid extracted from the mashing process. Either by applying heat or by using a vacuum, the concentration is made; the result is either a thick, liquidy syrup or a dry powder, depending on how much water is removed. Most home brewers prefer to use the liquid extract, as it is said to provide a fresher-tasting beer, however the freshness of the beer depends on the freshness of the extract. The liquid extract has a shorter shelf life, so it is often fresher. If you intend to brew right away, liquid makes sense. If not, a dry malt with a longer shelf life may make more sense.

If you’re making an extract beer, it’s likely to be packaged with a recipe already put together by your local home brew shop or by the manufacturer. More sources for recipes can be found online.

A typical package has a container of your malted extract. The amount will vary from brew to brew, but you can expect about eight pounds, more or less, for dry or liquid extract. Depending on the recipe, you might have some specialty-malted grains to add for your mash, or steeping process. Varying ounces of hops, a flavoring and stability agent for the beer, will be included. Hops come in different forms as well. The most common in home brewing is called a hop pellet. They look like a large bright-green fish-food pellet or rabbit food pellet. There’s also fresh or whole hops. The differen
tems with the back of a knife – their mineral scent is worth inhaling – then put them in a pan with the stock and bring to the boil. As the stock boils, turn the heat down to a low simmer. Finely chop the parsley leaves.

Peel and very finely chop the shallot and let it cook in the butter in a saucepan, without taking on any colour. Add the rice, turn the grains briefly in the butter till glossy, then pour in the wine and let it cook for a minute or two. Add a ladle of the stock. Stirring almost constantly, add another ladle of stock and continue to stir until the rice has soaked it all up. Now add the remaining stock, a ladle at a time, stirring pretty much all the time till the rice has soaked up the stock, the grains are plump and the texture creamy.

Stir in the chopped parsley, a thick slice of butter and a couple of handfuls of grated Parmesan. Season carefully.

For the Parmesan crisps, simply put heaped tablespoons of the grated Parmesan into a warm, non-stick frying pan. Press the cheese down flat with a palette knife and leave to melt. As soon as it has melted, turn once and continue cooking for a minute or so. Lift off with the palette knife and cool briefly. They will probably crisp up in seconds. Place on top of the risotto and serve.

Enough for 4


A crisp salad for a winter’s day

There are some pears and cheese left from Christmas, a couple of heads of crisp, hardy salad leaves still in fine fettle, and a plastic box of assorted sprouted seeds in the fridge. I put them together almost in desperation, yet what results is a salad that is both refreshing and uplifting, clean tasting and bright.

A salad of pears and cheese with sprouted seeds

Crisp, mild, light and fresh, this is the antidote to the big-flavoured salad. I prefer to use hard, glassy-fleshed pears straight from the fridge for this, rather than the usual ripe ones. Any sprouted seeds can be used, such as radish seeds, sunflower or mung beans. The easy-to-find bags of mixed sprouts are good here, too. The cheese is up to you. Something with a deep, fruity flavour is probably best, though I have used firm goat’s cheeses on occasion too. Rather than slicing it thickly, I remove shavings from the cheese with a vegetable peeler. A sort of contemporary ploughman’s lunch.

crisp pears: 2

bitter leaves such as frisée or trevise: 4 handfuls

firm, fruity cheese such as Berkswell: 150g

assorted sprouts (radish, alfalfa, sunflower, amaranth, etc.): a couple of handfuls

For the dressing:

natural yoghurt: 150ml

olive oil: 2 tablespoons

herbs, such as chervil, parsley, chives: a handful

Put the yoghurt into a bowl and whisk in the olive oil and a little salt and black pepper. Chop the herbs and stir them into the yoghurt.

Halve the pears, remove the cores and slice the pears thinly, then add them to the herb and yoghurt dressing.

Put the salad leaves in a serving dish. Pile the pears and their dressing on top. Using a vegetable peeler, shave off small, thin slices of the cheese and scatter them over the salad with the assorted sprouted seeds.

Enough for 2


Twelfth Night

The day that precedes Twelfth Night is often the darkest in my calendar. The sadness of taking down The Tree, packing up the mercury glass decorations in tissue and cardboard and rolling up the strings of tiny lights has long made my heart sink. Today I descend further than usual.

The rain is torrential and continuous. I clean the bedroom cupboards, make neat piles of books and untidy ones of clothes ready for the charity shop and make a list of major and minor jobs to do in the house over the next few months.

The local council collects discarded Christmas trees and recycles them for compost. I keep mine at home, cutting every branch from the main stem with secateurs and packing them into sacks. Over the next few weeks, the needles will fall and end their days around the blueberries and cloudberries in the garden. There is much that appeals about this annual cycle of the tree going back into the earth.

You would think that this day of darkness would be predictable enough for me to organise something to lift the spirits – dinner with friends or a day away from home. But the consequences of evergreens left in the house after Twelfth Night is too great a risk, even though this superstition is quite recent. So a day of dark spirits it is.



After yesterday’s darkness and self-indulgence, I open the kitchen door to find the garden refreshed after the rain. The air is suddenly sweet and clean, you can smell the soil, and the ivy and yew are shining bright. The dead leaves are blown away, the sky clear and white. There is a new energy and I want to cook again.

Today is an important day for those who grow their vegetables bio-dynamically, when the Three Kings preparation – a stir-up containing


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