Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club
Even just the title of Gill Meller’s second book, Time: A Year and a Day in the Kitchen, tells you that it is a book about an idea as much as it is about good food. That idea is not just time, but the experiences that happen in all our lives over time. For Gill—as for many of us—the kitchens we’ve known are the backdrop to so much of life, and it is that which Gill urges us all to think about at the beginning of this gorgeous book.
He quickly takes us from that idea—via super-stylish photography and the lyricism of his writing—to some absolutely delicious food. Loads of it, in fact. All of it woven through with the feeling of a rural idyll.
In no particular order, here are the top eight dishes from Time as cooked, shared, eaten, enjoyed and discussed by the Cookbook Club at our two gatherings (it’s a list that could have gone on and on).
Croquettes of joy
I’ll take any excuse to deep-fry at the Cookbook Club, and Gill’s mussel croquettes were a joy. Mussels make for a more subtle-tasting filling than expected (in a good way), which makes it quite hard to stop eating them as soon as they come crunchily golden out of the oil.
Two of our cooks tried the roast chicken, parsley and mustard pie—both were a total hit. One batch was indistinguishable in look from Gill’s own on the page. It’s as good at room temperature as it is hot, which is handy in a pie. A stew of pork, bacon and mushrooms saw great ingredients prepared well. After two hours of hassle-free time in the oven, it emerged a classic. I had every intention of taking the leftovers home for my husband, but it was so good I just couldn’t stop eating it.
Homemade baked beans were like no tin of baked beans has ever tasted, with gorgeous depth of flavour, while a dish of squash, chicory, hazelnuts and rosemary is set to become a winter staple in my kitchen—and I suspect many others’, too. In it, pureed squash becomes a bed for charred chicory halves, topped with hazelnuts toasted in rosemary and salted. Fabulous.
Light, zesty, sweet, punchy
A crayfish salad with radishes, apple and poppy seeds was light, zesty, sweet, and punchy. In Gill’s recipe this appears with a soured cream dressing. Puddings included fudge, raisin and hazelnut brittle parfait, which our cook chose based on the name alone—it turns out she didn’t really know at that stage what a parfait was, so it is surely testament to Gill’s recipe (and her skill) that this was divine—and treacle tart with thyme and orange. Need I say more?
Both groups of Cookbook Club-ers liked enormously the way in which the book is structured: initially by parts of the day and then by season within those distinctions. There was much love, too, for the handy way it clearly notes at the foot of the page if a recipe is vegetarian. One of our gang felt this was a book she would d look forward to taking time on a Sunday morning to read, seeking inspiration for what to cook that day and week. If that isn’t a great recommendation for a cookbook, then I don’t know what is.
Tuesday 8th October / Saturday 19th October: Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain
Saturday 2nd November / Tuesday 12th November: Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford and the Caucasus by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford