‘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 with spices and spinach
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)
more about nigel slater
NIGEL SLATER is a prolific producer of award-winning books, exceedingly popular BBC cooking series and documentaries, plus other television endeavors, and his food columns for “The Observer.”
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.
Fast food to me is bean, potato or minestrone soup made in an electric pressure cooker, so quick and tasty. Also like taco night (everyday?) with unfried beans.
Salads and soups are what I use as fast food!
At this time of year, I like to cook soup and a casserole (and a couple of pies) once a week, then enjoy them for the rest of the week, interspersed with sandwiches, home-made yoghurt with fruit or jam, eggs, marinated tofu, or other quick-to-prepare foods. Last week it was French Onion Soup and and Indian meal: moong dal, cauliflower, basmatti rice and paratha, and a couple of pumpkin pies. This week it is French lentil soup, cornbread, lasagna, and a couple of apple pies. This allows me to enjoy the warmth, depth, and substantial qualities of well-cooked food, and saves a lot of time during the week. I will try the potato recipe. Count me in on the book drawing!
AND THE WINNER (who has been notified by email) is Emmie Seaman.
Thanks to all for great fast food suggestions.
A fast meal at our house is scrambled or poached eggs served with whatever veggies look good in the fridge or garden. Add some cheese or salsa. Done.
always keep tiny tomatoes, basil, garlic, pancetta – when in a rush, a quick pasta – not very inventive but quick