I moved out of home at the age of 21, and I wasn’t a very good cook; I could make ‘Bolognese’ (brown meat, add tomatoes, boil), pasta (overcooked), a fry up, and was an expert at dicing a selection of things from the fridge and putting them in a pan, possibly with a few whisked eggs poured over the top but, beyond those utilitarian actions, I didn’t really know what I was doing.
When I wound up in a tiny flat in Hackney with my girlfriend (now wife) who was a good cook herself, I felt it was time to expand the repertoire a little. I popped into the Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town and, after a brief flick through a few titles, alighted upon the book that best fitted my criteria of ‘cheap as possible, with lots of recipes, written by someone you’ve heard of’: Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’.
My love for the book was instant; it revealed the secrets to all those questions you felt you couldn’t possibly ask anyone, for fear of being laughed at. I learned the best way to boil rice, how to grill chicken without under or over cooking it, how to make a risotto, how to test potatoes for done-ness and all sorts of other ‘obvious’ things. Like all beloved recipe books, I quickly ascertained my favourites, and prepared them again and again. Nigel Slater had become to me what Delia Smith was to my parents’ generation; a kitchen confidante for whom no question was too simple, who could always provide just the thing you were after.
The book gave me the confidence to cook more and more and, before too long, far from restricting myself to quick, half-hour meals, I was giving over whole afternoons to putting together dinners that excited, interested and educated me.
Around ten years later, my wife and I live in Stockholm, and our second child has just arrived. Throwing together an interesting dinner with a toddler running around is one thing, but with another child in the mix, I began eyeing my well-worn copy of ‘Real Fast Food’ with a renewed interest. Once again, I’d reached a time in my life where preparing quick, easy, tasty meals was a priority.
“Maybe I should work my way through the whole book”, I thought, “and then make a blog about each recipe”. This idea is obviously absurd: the book contains 350 recipes, and the idea of typing them all up in any kind of entertaining way is, at best, rather hopeful.
And yet, here we are…
Buy your own copy of the book HERE and cook anything you see on this blog yourself. I heartily recommend it.