British cook Nigel Slater often states that he's not a chef, he's a cook. I would go further and say that he is a cook's cook. He somehow manages to be charming yet authoritative, comforting yet elegant. His approach is casual but he gets the job done. He is well-known and beloved in England where he recently topped Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith as Britain's favorite celebrity chef (er, cook) and his star continues to rise as more and more people outside of the U.K. discover his delicious recipes and beautiful cookbooks.
We're very happy to feature these short, charming essentials from one of our favorite cooks!
This short but practical list of essentials is not as detailed as our usual Expert Essential offerings, but if you take a look at a typical week for Mr. Slater, as outlined in this Observer article, you'll understand how happy we are that he found time to send us these five! Maybe they were written on one of those many train trips crisscrossing the British countryside?
Yes, he has an assistant who helps him develop recipes but he writes them himself and, even more importantly, he does all the shopping himself as well. (And not supermarket shopping either, but stops to the butcher, baker and greengrocer.) He understands what happens when your shop is out of an ingredient or you cannot pass up those gorgeous pork chops at the butcher's, even though you were really just stopping in for a chicken.
So even in their short form, these 5 essentials aren't short in wisdom or practicality. They reflect a life lived in the kitchen, devoted to food, cooking, gardening, and all things delicious. Mr. Slater is the real thing: his guidance is reliable and his choices are always inspiring.
Nigel Slater's Short and Charming 5 Essentials for the Home Cook
1. When entertaining, it is probably best not to attempt a recipe for the first time. Better to go for something you know. Maybe have a little rehearsal.
2. When making a stew, casserole or curry, prepare them the night before, to give them to time to gather their thoughts. Their flavours will mellow and settle down.
3. Never neglect the bottom of a roasting tin. There is much flavour in those crisp bits and pieces and roasted meat juices. Unleash them with a little stock, wine or a favourite fortified wine such as Marsala.
4. Don't shop for food on an empty stomach. You will over buy and come back with things you will never eat.
5. Once a week, buy an ingredient you have never used before. You never know what you might discover.
While it's not officially released in North America, it is possible to find Nigel Slater's newest book Eat here and there. (Try specialty cookbook stores like Omnivore Books in San Francisco or Book Larder in Seattle.) I managed to get my hands on a copy (super geek that I am) and I must say, despite the fact that I was a little skeptical that he could produce yet another great cookbook, it really is quite wonderful. Beautifully designed with its yellow cloth cover and thick, short dimensions that feel almost bible-like in my hands, Eat has already become a favorite in my kitchen.
Thank you, Nigel!
More on Nigel Slater at The Kitchn
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(Image credits: Harry de Zitter; Dana Velden)