Food is a really big thing for me here in England. First of all, there is no take out or delivery service nearby so you have to cook. This was a problem for me when I first started coming here age 23 because I hadn’t yet progressed much beyond college cooking. With my future husband unable to prepare anything other than eggs, baked beans and toast I had no choice but to go down to the local bookshop and get inspired. That first summer I cooked my way through The River Cafe cookbook, and then onto Nigella Lawson the second summer, Tamasin Day Lewis the third, Jamie Oliver the 4th, and so on. This past summer, along with the rest of the world, I made my way through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty (much to the delight of my vegetarian daughter), and am now moving onto Hugh Fernley-Whittenstall’s “Three Good Things” which is delightfully simple, easy and delicious. You can see I like a cookbook trend. Anyway, this is the way I learned to cook, and mostly only in the summers when I was in England. Every year I managed to convince myself that I would cook more when I went back to New York, but I was always too busy, too stressed or too disorganized.
So now that I am here, my cooking is inspired by my beloved cookbooks, but it really centers around three things: meat, eggs and fresh produce. Where we live in Oxfordshire there are three excellent butchers all equidistant from our house, but in opposite directions from each other. So whichever way I am driving to or away from home, there is always a convenient opportunity to buy an excellent piece of meat. Pork with crackling, leg of lamb, and organic free range chicken are my most frequent purchases.
Then there are the eggs. In addition to our own chickens, my husband’s brother and sister, who also live on the farm, have their own laying chickens too. So we are constantly trying to think of new ways to use the eggs. There is no shame about having fried, boiled, or scrambled eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner here. My cholesterol must be through the roof!
And finally, the produce. While we won’t be able to get our own vegetable garden going until the spring, there are two other kitchen gardens on the farm, and each one could probably feed all three families on its own. So I am always thinking about what is fresh and what needs to be eaten quickly or in great quantity. When I have an abundance that proves too much to cook, I relieve guilt by squeezing them into juice. And if that doesn’t happen then the pigs get it, which is fine with me too. But we do have lots of fruit in our garden – pears, apples, all kinds of berries – which has prompted me to search for a baking cookbook. Any suggestions?