This past Sunday we finally got around to hosting a new Cookbook Club evening. It was, in truth, four friends meeting for dinner but cooking from the same book – this time, Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food but it was super amounts of fun, laughter and excellent food. Everyone made two dishes, because (we thought naively), the dishes seemed small and the whole point of Cookbook Club is to get a taste of everything. (We made lunchboxes for Monday with the leftovers).
Collectively we made: pancetta-crumbed mozzarella salad (which I used bacon for as I couldn’t find pancetta); pork ribs with honey and pomegranate molasses; tomato foccacia with ricotta; summer herb rolls; rice cakes; lentils, peas and grilled salmon; and to finish: mango and passionfruit mess. Micky proved her foccacia dough in her car, driving to her grandparents in Gloucester in the morning. And her tomatoes came from her mum’s garden! (None of the rest of us was quite that cool.) I made the meringues from scratch, as I had frozen egg whites that needed using.
Brown Sugar Meringues
120g egg white
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
160g golden caster sugar
40g demerara sugar
40g light brown sugar
Whisk the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks. Add in the cream of tartar and whisk briefly. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time until glossy, thick and stiff.
Preheat the oven to 100C. Line a baking tray with a silpat mat or baking paper. If using baking paper, use teaspoons of the meringue to secure the corners of the parchment to the tray.
Scoop the meringue onto the tray using a dessert spoon. Bake for two hours then switch off the oven and leave overnight.
Combine with cream and fruit!
Next month we are cooking from the Hairy Biker cookbooks.
I made this ‘set’ (I think ‘deconstructed’ is a more accurate term but who am I to argue with Ottolenghi and Honey & Co?) cheesecake for our inaugural Cookbook Club last month, which is an exciting new activity I’m participating in! I’ve been wanting to set one up for ages and finally organised a first meeting. Our first evening turned out to be a few friends with whom I regularly share dinner, but it was so much fun all cooking from the same book and sharing a meal. We all cooked from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, which I chose because I love the book but hardly ever cook from it. We ate the cannelini bean puree with pickled mushrooms (and fried pitta pieces – dear god, what a moreish concept that is), potato cakes with mint that paired excellently with the aubergine pahi. I made the tomato tart and the ‘set’ cheesecake with plum compote which was a perfect balance of sweet, tart and crunch.
The cheesecake was so moreish that I made it again last week. Andrés accused me of not fully explaining that the cheesecake would not materialise as a cheesecake as such – he was apparently waiting for me to put it together while I was sneakily portioning it up and eating it when he was at work, totally oblivious to the fact that he hadn’t actually had any. (Which was obviously my secret plan).
The key thing here is the cheesecake mixture – cream cheese, mascarpone, double cream, caster sugar and some citrus. The rest is infinitely adaptable, depending on your mood. You just have to be organised enough to make the cheesecake mixture the night before so it has time to ‘set’.
My mood was raspberry/almond/lime this time but really, I suspect any citrus and fruit compote combo will work here. Cherry compote perhaps? (Also with lime?) Blueberry compote with lemon? I changed up the crumble/base a little as I am an oat girl when it comes to crumbly-things-randomly-scattered-amidst-decadent-sweet-cheesy-things and so I added oats (and used almonds rather than hazelnuts because store cupboard!). I procured black sesame from the Asian supermarket near my ballet class. (I also found birthday cake Oreo’s! Which, come on! Birthday cake Oreo’s!)
You can find one version of the recipe here. The recipe in the book uses regular plums in the compote instead of greengages. I used the zest of one lime instead of a lemon and also made half the cheesecake amount – which was enough for four or five after a large meal. When I made the cheesecake the first time I followed most of the recipe to the letter (apart from scaling down the cheesecake side of things) and the leftover crumble kept fine (I found it went really well with yoghurt and the leftover compote as breakfast food). When I made the crumble this past week, I used the same flour/butter/sugar/black sesame measurements but then added in a handful of oats and a handful of almonds (toasted and slightly bashed up). For the compote I heated a handful of frozen raspberries with a tablespoon of caster sugar and a squeeze of lime juice. I made half the cheesecake mixture again too.
The best thing about Cookbook Club was the way it forced me to actually use a cookbook I’d had on the shelf for ages. (Resolution anyone?) We’re meeting up again this month and are going to do Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food. I am already excited at the prospect. (There’s a recipe for Marmalade Chicken which sounds a) fascinating and b) like an excellent way to use up some of the marmalade stores!)