It has been an unremittingly grey and gloomy day – not the thing at all for the 1st of June and the sort of day that calls for something cheering at the end of it. My quest for cheeriness took me straight to Sarah Raven’s new book –‘Food for Friends and Family’, published by Bloomsbury just (I like to think) to help me through days like today. (As a bit of an aside I’m carrying something of a torch for Bloomsbury at the moment, I love this book and I am unbelievably excited about the upcoming ‘Hedgerow’ river cottage handbook – and that’s only the tip of the books to daydream over iceberg.)
And talking of daydreams – how much do I want Sarah Raven’s lifestyle? Well quite a lot really which is probably pretty clear to anyone who follows this blog. Not just a gardener, but a gardener with a sitting tenancy of Sissinghurst, a place I find unbelievably magical (and I have just a little crush on Vita Sackville-West). Her husband owns a handful of Scottish Islands (I like those too) and she’s an inspirational sort of cook. (Even my blonde friend felt inspired and she hates cooking.)
There is a particular satisfaction in being able to open a recipe book and think ‘yes, no problem – I can do that’, an even bigger satisfaction in not being able to resist starting on something straight away. The first recipe I’ve tried from ‘Food for Friends and Family’ had to wait 24 hours though – it was Strawberry and Basil ice cream and the ice cream maker had to go in the freezer first.
This ice cream recipe, ahh, it’s not just an ice cream recipe, it’s the one I’ve been waiting for, the one that’s made me think of Sarah Raven as my friend and ally in the kitchen, it’s also the recipe that’s stopped my ‘hmmph it’s okay for her attitude (envy – it’s not pretty, but it’s true). I love to cook, and once I’ve got something down pat I’ll experiment a bit with it, but I’m the sort of cook who needs instructions. I don’t in the least trust the ‘Oh I just chuck in a bit of this and a bit of that and never measure anything’ approach. When I cook like that everything tastes the same and it gets dull pretty quickly, plus I never learn anything. This is just one of the reasons for a medium large collection of cook books.
My issue with ice cream is that every recipe I’ve found up until now has involved eggs, specifically egg yolks, so every ice cream I’ve made has tasted like custard. I’m sure if I’d have looked properly I would have found one I liked earlier, but another of the pleasures in a new cookbook is that previously overlooked ideas suddenly jump out of a new format. This strawberry and Basil wonder is a very simple (and amazing coloured) mix of fruit, cream, basil and sugar. The Basil makes the Strawberry flavour really sing – I loved it, the blonde loved it, and the Scottish one – well he loved it till he noticed the green bits at which point he accused me of trying to poison him with mint (there was an incident with some new potato’s – he’s not allergic or anything but I now know he doesn’t like mint added to things. Oh how I know it.) Assurances that it wasn’t mint came too late and I ended up eating the rest myself.
Next I plan to introduce some Rosemary Cherry scones and see how those go down. The rosemary won’t be visible so I might just get away with it... and I have to get some rose geranium for jam making, and lemon curd cup cakes sound wonderful, oh and pea pesto – got to make that too, and well, you probably get the idea. This is a delightful book, times better than many I’ve seen come out this year and really, really, worth a look.