‘SOMETIMES we just want to eat.” So says Nigel Slater in “Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food,” his latest cookbook to reach the United States. Sometimes there is not time for full-on artistry, or to surrender into the meditative process cooking can be. But, says Slater, “by ‘fast,’ I do not mean thoughtless or careless,” nor is takeout his proposed solution.
The charmingly fat little book, humbly bound in cloth, was just released by its American publisher this fall, about a year after it was issued in the U.K. (Enter at the bottom of the page to win a copy.)
Don’t let its smaller trim size fool you: There are 600 ideas inside.
Forget arranging the recipes and variations in predictable chapters like “Entrees” or “Chicken,” though. “Eat” organizes the way we cook and eat, such as “In a Bowl” or “In the Hand,” or “In the Frying Pan” or my favorite section: “Under a Crust.”
Yes, Slater admits, making proper pastry dough may be too time-consuming for weeknights–but what about tucking dinner under torn corn tortillas, or “a cloud of yellow mash” (parsnips), or a bit of ready-made pastry, or just turning it into a gratin to make it slightly more special and finished?
The recipes in “Eat,” including fish and meat and also lots of vegetable-based things, are written simply—“in the style of an extended Tweet,” says Slater, most ending with a fun, sometimes-sensual little description.
“Cheerful, singing flavors,” is the punchline of Eggplant Paneer. Lentil Bolognaise? “Earthy, frugal and filling.” Spaghetti Bake is, “a savory tangle.” Quick Spiced Rice: “a little lifesaver,” and alive with flavor, too, from Thai red curry paste, edamame, carrot, vegetable stock, eggs and cilantro.
Potatoes with Spices and Spinach got me at, “ Hot, cool, crisp, soft.” And it is:
potatoes, cayenne, red pepper ﬂakes, turmeric, cumin, garlic, spinach, shallots, yogurt, cilantro
Cut 1¾ pounds (800g) large starchy potatoes into big pieces and cook in a large pot of salted water for about 15 minutes, till approaching tenderness. Peel 5 large shallots and halve them lengthwise. Drain the potatoes, then put them in a bowl, add the shallots, and toss with half a teaspoon of cayenne, a teaspoon of red pepper ﬂakes, a teaspoon of crushed garlic, and a teaspoon each of ground cumin and turmeric. Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt ﬂakes and 4 tablespoons of peanut oil, then transfer to a roasting pan and bake at 400ºF (200ºC) until crisp. Wash a couple of large handfuls of spinach. Put them in a pan over moderate heat, cover with a lid, and leave for a minute or two to wilt. Toss with the crisp potatoes, a little yogurt, and torn cilantro.
Enough for 2 to 3. Hot, cool, crisp, soft.
(From “Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food,” [affiliate link] copyright Nigel Slater; photo copyright Jonathan Lovekin)
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enter to win the book ‘eat’
I’LL BUY A COPY of “Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food,” for a lucky reader, and all you have to do to enter is answer this question in the box at the very bottom of the page, after the very last comment:
What is “fast” food to you (assuming we’re talking dinner)? Takeout; letftovers quickly reinvented in minutes; a half-hour from-scratch; or more? Any fast favorites to recommend? (I always have corn tortillas on hand to wrap something in; various bean concoctions cooked and frozen in portions; and I cook up a pot of brown rice every Sunday as another underpinning.)
No answer, or feeling shy? Just say, “Count me in” or something like that, and I will, but a reply is even better. I’ll pick a winner at random after entries close at midnight Tuesday, October 21, 2014. U.S. and Canada only.