The kitchen is my favourite place, the heart of the home. A place of warmth and nurture where different members of the family can come to sit round the large, scrubbed table to talk about their day, to craft, do homework, help to chop vegetables or grate cheese while I stand at the stove stirrring a pot of something fragrantly simmering.
Who am I kidding? Other people in my kitchen while I'm cooking! You've got to be joking! Husbands, fathers and fathers-in-law please don't come and stand in the kitchen and talk to me, you are IN THE WAY. Children you will know what's for tea when I give it to you. Go away and let me get on with it in peace and take your glue, paint and homework with you.
Luckily I don't have a table in my kitchen so people are not encouraged to linger.
I do consider my kitchen to be the heart of my home despite my less than welcoming attitude towards the rest of my family being in it. The things I create in my kitchen are what make my home a home. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Nigella Lawson in her new book Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home agrees.
It's a substantial book.
Plenty for family cooks.
Witty and practical.
I love it and don't regret its purchase one bit. My only criticism is that I was unable to find many recipes I could make without a shopping trip. Nigella does seem to use a lot of ingredients I don't routinely stock. I'm not sure if this is a a shortcoming of mine or hers. I don't really see it as a hindrance to my using the book though. I've already been inspired by her risotto bolognese to try an orzotto bolognese making use of the barley I always have in instead of the risotto rice which I rarely have. If you like to shop for a specific recipe then you will like this book, if, like me, you like to cook with what you have then you will be inspired by this book.
To christen the book I made these blondies. Yes, they required two ingredients I didn't have -condensed milk and chocolate chips- but I was shopping anyway.
Very easy to make. Nigella's instructions are always so clear and detailed.
Oaty, chewy, chocolatey and dense. Filling but delicious.
Nigella has a recipe for blackberry vodka in her new book which she makes in exactly the same way as I make my damson gin.
My damsons were from the freezer. I stabbed each one with a skewer once they'd softened a bit. This lets the juice flow into the gin.
1 lb of damsons, 8 oz of sugar and a 70 cl bottle of gin.
Cheap gin is absolutely fine and do remember to keep the empty gin bottle to decant the finished gin back into. I made twice this much because if one bottle of damson gin is good two is better.
I threw in a couple of cinnamon sticks and a few cloves. I'm told they work well with damsons.
Shake it up to dissolve the sugar a bit. Put it somewhere coolish and darkish. I put mine in the garage. Give it a shake as often as you can -at least once a week. I walk past mine often so it is easy to remember to do this.
It will be ready to drink by Christmas.
If the place in which you are keeping the gin gets very cold make sure you let it come to room temperature before you strain and rebottle it. If you don't it will explode while you are in the middle of cooking Chinese pork with peas causing you to shriek with fright and burn yourself on the frying pan. Purple liquid will spread itself all over the top of the fridge (where you put the bottle), drip down onto your CD player and speakers, and cover the ENTIRE kitchen floor with sticky. You will be really really furious because you only managed to sample the 50 ml of gin that wouldn't fit in the bottle. Then you will cry.