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Keep It Simple: A Fresh Look at Classic Cooking

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I believe the original recipe for Tarte Tatin uses sweet shortcrust pastry, but I like puff pastry and find the bought, frozen variety good enough for domestic interpretations. Anyway, since it will be drenched with sugary juices, the quality of the pastry is by no means the most significant part of the finished dish. Cooking: Put about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a large heavy pan, set over a medium heat and cook the onions, stirring. They must not colour. As they soften and go translucent, add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the contents of the pan to a colander placed over a bowl.

A classic taste of late summer, this is one of the few dishes that uses sliced white bread to advantage. It is also one of the few English desserts admired by French and Italians alike. You should only make it when berries are both abundant and cheap (a proper summer pudding should never include strawberries). It has to be made at least the day before it is needed and is better for two or three days in the fridge. Preparation: Make the compote the day before: use a potato peeler to scrape off the zest from the lemon.By 2002, however, he had left the restaurant partnership. For most of the previous decade he had spent his summers running a cookery school near Orvieto in Umbria where, in 1995, he met Sharon Jacob, an Australian marketing manager whom he married in 2000. Simply printing recipes different in tone to those that had characterised food for a generation however would not, in all likelihood, have garnered Alastair Little the critical acclaim that he received though. This book is self-consciously polemical. Beginning by telling you what you should have in a kitchen (an unusual move for a chef not known from TV appearances) he preaches simplicity and seasonality in cooking. It is these points that people most probably mean when referring to the book's influence. The last of them was developed to a greater degree by another Glenfiddich Award winner: the thoroughly British The River Cottage Year. He eventually became assistant manager at Small’s before moving in 1974 to the Old Compton Wine Bar, where he took over as head chef when the previous one quit. With no professional training, he kept the menu simple and it was here that he began his practice of sourcing ingredients from the small shops and produce markets in Soho. He was educated at Kirkham Grammar School, where he found himself longing for “something more than school food, which I couldn’t stomach. By the age of 12, I was obsessed with what we were having for dinner.”

Alastair Little, who has died aged 72, was a leading figure in a new movement in London restaurants in the 1980s known as Modern British cooking, whereby intelligent, educated chefs employed French techniques but looked elsewhere for ideas and inspiration and featured simple, seasonal ingredients. Serving: Put a scoop of the ice-cream in the middle of each plate and arrange 4 figs around it, or put a spoonful of the ice-cream in the middle of each fig with the rest of the ice-cream in a bowl for people to help themselves. He read archaeology and anthropology at Downing College, Cambridge, where the food was “horrible” but the wines “revelatory”. He spent much of his time there, Elizabeth David to hand, making lavish dinners for student friends – including Rowley Leigh.

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Prepare the broccoli: first put a large pan of lightly salted water on to heat - you need very little salt in the cooking water, as the florets retain salt and intensify the seasoning. I once had a review that said everything was lovely except the broccoli, which tasted as if it had been cooked in sea water. Point taken] Split the broccoli into florets and cut out the woody stems and discard. You can find caterpillar infestation, so watch out. Wash and leave to soak in a bowl of cold water. This will freshen the vegetable.

Cooking: Over a medium heat, saute the apples in a heavy pan with the butter and sugar, tossing to coat and cooking until just tender (which will take between 10 and 15 minutes). They should be golden brown. Stand the bowl in the Swiss-roll pan and put the plate or round board on top. Weight this down with about 1.8kg/4lb of cans and chill in the fridge for 24 hours, removing from time to time and pouring over any remaining fruit syrup. The bread should be amalgamated with the fruit. I serve these seasonal fruits poached in a spicy red wine syrup with a slice of Sauternes and Olive Oil Cake to give a textured contrast. Make this compote at least a day ahead of serving; it will keep for a week or more in the fridge. This book won the Glenfiddich Award in 1994 and I still sometimes hear it referred to reverentially as the godfather of modern British cooking. It is, and it isn't: it clearly marks a break from the French dominated nouvelle cuisine & cuisine classique that had lorded British gastronomy in the 1970s and 1980s; it equally clearly has influenced developments in British dining culture since then as well as in food writing and home cooking. What some people might have forgotten is that British cuisine, as it is today, did not emerge miraculously in its present form from under the tyranny of heavy sauces - there was the rebellious phase of fusion food marking the journey.Serving: Dust the cake with icing sugar and cut into wedges. Serve with seasonal fruit, or a Compote of Winter Fruit (recipe overleaf). After graduation, he flirted briefly with a career in film editing, but his much more lucrative evening job as a waiter at Small’s, a Knightsbridge cafe, took over. When nearing the end of the churning, drain the peaches. As the custard starts to freeze, add them and continue to churn until set. I don't worry about what sort of potato, though they should be slightly waxy. No cheese is necessary, for the amalgamation of the potatoes and cream produces a cheesy effect. It is vital not to have the oven too hot or the cream will curdle. Preparation: First, the crumble topping: sift the flour into a bowl with the brown sugar and almonds and combine them using your fingers. Add the butter and continue to work for several minutes until the ingredients are thoroughly blended in and the mixture is very crumbly. Leave to rest for about 20 minutes.

Preparation: Well ahead, make (or buy) some good-quality vanilla ice-cream. Melt the honey in a bowl set over boiling water until liquid. Pour all but a couple of tablespoons of the honey into the ice-cream mixture and churn in the ice-cream maker or sorbetiere until frozen.

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Preparation: Prepare the vegetables, keeping each vegetable separate: only peel the onion and garlic, but top and tail the aubergines and courgettes. Destalk and deseed the peppers. Scald the tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for 60 seconds, then refresh, peel and deseed. Cut all the vegetables into bite-sized chunks. (If using baby courgettes, leave them whole.) The tart is characterised by the use of halved apples baked in caramel with the pastry lid becoming the base when the cooked tart is inverted to be served still warm. It is one of those dishes that sounds simple and is actually difficult to get right. On average it takes a cook in my kitchen a week of trying before he or she produces a saleable tart. In the restaurant we use a frying pan rather than a cake pan, and I prefer crisp English apples such as Worcester Pearmain or Braemar to Le Golden, which the French choose as a matter of national honour. Serving: Serve hot or at room temperature. If chilled, return to a pan and warm gently in its own juices. Just before bringing to the table, stir in plenty of chopped dill. A Provencal vegetable stew best served at room temperature, ratatouille should be a very basic preparation and not over-refined. Bad variations (vegetables diced too small, too much tomato, using dried herbs and so on) often debase one of the finest possible combinations of Mediterranean flavours.

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