Friday, April 4, 2014

IHCC: A Welcome Toast to Nigel Slater!

So, I Heart Cooking Clubs is doing Nigel Slater this time around. And what I really don't need right now is yet another cooking project. (This year I started on a big one to read and cook from all the books of the Time-Life Foods of the World series. If you're interested, a few people have joined me in a little Facebook group.) But it's Nigel Slater, for pete's sake, who can resist.

Many years ago I found my first Slater book, Real Fast Food, on a sale table somewhere and picked it up on spec. I didn't know his name, but the book looked liked something I might like and be well worth the 20 guilders I paid for it. It definitely was.

To welcome Slater, I had a look to see what needed to be used in the freezer, found some lamb chops, and found the recipe for Lamb Sirloin Chops with Yogurt and Mint (p240) in my first Slater book. This is vaguely Indian, with the lamb rubbed with a mix of yogurt, garlic, fresh mint leaves, ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Not sure if mine were sirloin chops as the recipe asks, but they did quite well. Following some of Slater's accompaniment suggestions, I served the chops with "a cucumber salad dressed with white wine vinegar and chopped fresh dill" (that's the whole recipe) and Fragrant Brown Basmati Rice (p203).

The lamb chops were good, and the same sauce could be used for grilling chunks of lamb on a skewer perhaps. The rice was disappointing, but I'll try it again before I write off the recipe. Interestingly, he has you parboil the rice, then drain it and add it to a pan of fried spices for the final cooking. A bit more complicated than similar recipes. But, he has you toast ground turmeric with whole spices (cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, and bay leaf), for the same time. I had burnt turmeric before the other spices were smelling brightly. I dumped the contents of the pan, gave it a swipe with a paper towel, then started again. This time I added the ground turmeric with the rice. The final dish had an odd taste, either there were remains of some burnt turmeric or the turmeric really wanted to be toasted for a little bit, just not as long as the whole spices. (The recipe says it serves four. I made a half recipe for two, but it was still too much. I think the recipe as written will serve six.)

I started by getting the lamb chops rubbed with the yogurt sauce and letting them sit to marinate. Then I made the cuke salad, which also didn't complain about a chance to marinate. Then I started the rice. When that was off the fire, I zapped the chops under the broiler. A nice meal, real food, pretty fast, even if the rice was a bit off.

Some people criticize Slater's books because the recipes are a bit vague, sometimes they are only ideas for dishes rather than a finished product. But I find that the whole point of the thing. It's up to me to match the idea with my own experience, taste, and pantry content. I'm looking forward to trying more of these ideas in the coming months.

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see how other people have welcomed Nigel Slater to their kitchen.


  1. Nice choice to welcome Nigel...a good, comforting, family-type meal. Sorry the rice was a bit off. I admire your willingness to give it another go though!

  2. Indeed! Nigel encourages one to take his rants and recipes and make them fit the kitchen ingredients one has on hand and the cooking style that fits well ... as for the rice being off a bit ... at least you tried to make amends! Good on you!59852953 159

  3. I like Nigel's 'loose' recipe style appealing--he reminds me of Mark Bittman in that way. ;-) This looks like a great dinner, even with the rice being not so great, and like an excellent way to welcome Nigel to the IHCC fold.

  4. A real cook just needs an idea! Looks great.

  5. The lamb looks delicious! Even though the rice is not what you expected it to be, nevertheless, this meal looks wonderful!

  6. What a delicious looking meal! It's unfortunate about the rice, but I'm very curious about this "parboiling" method.

  7. Nice pairing. I know what you mean when you say people complain about his books being vague./ I love his books. They are like no other cookbook, just diaries and foodie stuff mixed in.
    Loving lamb dishes the way we do this will be on the menu soon.

  8. Hi Kaye, nice to have you cooking with us again, and let's face it who could resist the opportunity to do a little cooking with Nigel :-) I agree with you about his rather "loose" take on recipes - this is what I find particularly enjoyable about his food - it's inspirational rather than instructional and gives you the confidence to use his recipes as a springboard.

    Sorry you were a little disappointed in the rice dish, but great that you can see ways for perhaps doing it a little differently. Interesting thoughts on the turmeric, and when I think back to many of the MJ dishes I made, the turmeric was usually added after the other spices had been toasted.