Blogging food recipes has become a bit of a mind-game of late, and I’m fully blaming radio 4’s brilliant comedy ‘In and Out of the Kitchen’, about a food writer, Damien Trench, who lives in Queen’s Park with his partner Anthony, and who basically wants to BE Nigel Slater. His voice, when reciting his recipes is a completely and perfectly crafted amalgam of all the food writers whose cook-books we started taking to bed and reading for pleasure way back when; that nonchalant ‘just toss it in a large, shallow pan and anoint liberally with very best olive oil’, peppered with sentences like ‘You can, (and should) add lashings of best butter’ etc. etc…
It is only when confronted with stuff like this that I realise how derivative my writing really is, and I look back and laugh, not at what I wrote, but the way in which I wrote it…not cringing exactly, just metaphorically patting my younger self on the head, telling her she was sweet to try, but look, you have your own voice you know.
Mark Diacono is one writer who doesn’t suffer from copy-cat tendencies. His new book could only be crafted by him, and I am greedily gobbling it up. Quite apart from all the recipes, it is a treat to get inside Otter Farm, and really understand how it is laid out (there is a beautifully illustrated, useful map to show you where everything grows), and the story of how it all began.
Once again, I have gooseberries galore, from a bush, coincidentally bought from Otter Farm a couple of years ago. We like them raw in this family – even the small baby seems to relish the tartness, but there are always loads. Last year I did this relish, which was truly scrumptious, and I recommend it to anyone, but to celebrate this year’s harvest, I made Mark’s salsa…a recipe of which he claims he is ‘indecently proud’.
Being me, I rushed the whole thing and read the ingredients of the salsa recipe and the method for the ensuing one, (for Gooseberry Sauce), directly underneath it, which begins with the always welcome words ‘Put all the ingredients into a large pan’….this I did, getting rather excited about photographing the thing in its raw state, in the pan (i.e. thinking about the BLOG, rather than the actual recipe).
It did look very pretty indeed, but then I realised that half the ingredients are of course, supposed to be raw (it being a salsa and all). Hey ho.
So the result is NOT Mark’s salsa at all, but a sort of half-cooked relish of sorts. The shallot is translucent rather than crisp and opaque. The lovage, mint and spring chives are a rather sludgy green rather than the emerald that they should be. The gooseberries are rather too squishy but my goodness it is bloody delicious. I’m having a hard time leaving it be until it can be paired with some smoked mackerel and a salad, like wot it tells me in the book…sorry Hunk.