This book was, appropriatly, a gift from a friend for Christmas a couple of years back. A Table Full of Love reminded me of it when I was planning food for mothers day last week and so I had a browse through. Everything I did from it proved a massive hit which was extremely gratifying, not least because everything I did from it was really simple - the sort of low effort high reward cooking that's always good to have at the back of your mind.
It's also further convinced me that somebody really needs to pout together a collection of not really even recipes (although please for the love of god don't call them hacks) in one handy place. New to my list is the concept of a roasting tin of fruit, in this case grapes, but also mentioned were apples and plums, in the oven with whatever else is cooking to use as an accompniment.
I had grapes, so in they went, and then came out with everything turned up to 11 from the rich purple of their juice to the flavour of a normally not very interesting supermarket bunch. No seasoning necessary, just heat. It's a great alternative to a jelly, much lower in sugar and a happy partner for all sorts of things. Apples (which I've just had with sausages) do the same thing - an excellent stand in for an apple sauce when I wouldn't have bothered to make one, that used up an apple which was on the verge of going wrinkly.
Another almost none recipe was red onions cut into chunks roasted with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. I love onions like this but forget about them as a possible side dish. I won't now. A salad of blood oranges, black olives and red onions dressed in olive oil with a handful of basil torn over it was only marginally more elaborate, and another hit. Fresh, colorful, excellent with the chicken we had. I'd assumed there would have been left overs of it which I'd planned to finish with some feta cheese. No chance.
There are much more formal recipes in McAlpine's books, lots of things I want to make and eat, but what's really caught my imagination is her genius for these really simple extras. I've just had a quick look online at her Venice book and see that she does an excellent looking cheat version of an almond croissant with ready to roll puff pastry, which again sounds perfect for anyone who doesn't have the time to make croissants from scratch (instructions for those also given in another recipe) or who doesn't have enough people to feed to make the effort worthwhile. Obviously I'll be buying tat book tomorrow.
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