One of my favorite books is Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. Part cookbook, part, well, diary, longtime Observer columnist Slater takes you through a year in his life food-wise. He doesn’t give an entry for every day (and some days he doesn’t even cook at all), but each one is a beautiful little snippet of real life lived well.
I love Slater’s writing voice, which seems to be a reflection of his cooking: honest and personal. He has had some training, but is not a chef per se (neither was Julia). That doesn’t mean that his food suffers; Slater is a good eater who appreciates food, and loves to share generously. Who can’t respect that?
His recipes are dead-simple, but they are made with the assumption that you know your way around the kitchen. Sometimes, they are a little skimpy on details, but they do all work (at least the ones that I have tried).
His tastes are also very, very British, which — forgive me — might be construed as a somewhat dumb statement to make, given that he is British. That being said, there are some things to note:
1. The Brits eat a lot of gooseberries, and drink a lot of things flavo(u)red with elderflower.
2. They like desserts named “fool” and “mess,” and collectively dessert is referred to as “pudding.”
3. There is a lot of smoked fish.
4. Chili is spelled with two l’s.
5. Curry powder is common.
6. Parsley sometimes seems bizarrely interchangeable with cilantro.
7. Cilantro is called “coriander.”
8. “Medium-rare” can infuriatingly mean “medium-done.”
As for Mr. Slater himself, he has:
1. A kick-ass garden.
2. A beautiful wooden-plank farm-house table.
3. A lot of chipped dishes.
4. A kick-ass neighborhood deli.
This recipe adapted from Slater’s is a terrific way to take advantage of the blueberries currently in the market. It comes together quickly, and looks beautiful. Though Slater makes no mention of it in his Diary, my dining companion did suggest that a little jug of crème anglaise on the side would be a nice addition.
1 1/4 cups of flour
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of good butter, softened
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
1 large pint of blueberries
About 2 more tablespoons of sugar
How to prepare:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter the bottom and sides of the spring-form pan. Line just the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Sift or stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs slowly to the butter/sugar mixture. While continuing to beat everything together, add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time until they are fully incorporated. The resulting batter will be a little thick.
4. Pour (or spread) the batter out in an even layer over the lined bottom of the spring-form pan. Scatter the pear pieces and the blueberries evenly across the top of the batter. Sprinkle the fruit with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
5. Bake for about 55 minutes to an hour. The top should be golden, and a skewer or knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean when it is done. Let cool before removing the spring-form pan’s outer ring.