This Tuesday our Natasha Oakley is here to share her addiction to cookbooks ....
Dust free corners and lemony fresh toilets may be desirable but they don't fire the same enthusiasm for me as cooking does. I find the whole process theraputic. When the going gets tough, I hit the kitchen. Just as well, really, since I have five children to feed.
Okay, I confess the reality rarely matches up to the fantasy I hold of myself as the living embodiment of Ma Larkin in the 'Darling Buds of May' but there is something so very comforting about food. Eating it. Reading about it. A quiet afternoon, a mug of hot chocolate made with real chocolate and topped with those little marshmallows and a virgin cookbook is my idea of heaven.
Anyone not happened upon Nigella Lawson's 'How to Be A Domestic Goddess'? I'm reminded of that one because my kitchen is filled with the aroma of her Banana Cake as I type. Since I know many of you prefer your recipes to refer to sticks of butter and cups of flour you'll be pleased to know it's been translated! Her 'How to Eat' is well splashed in my house, too.
If you haven't succumbed to the Nigella phenomenon yet here's a little 'You Tube' temptation. And I'm cooking these eggs this second ....
I also used her cupcake recipe to make my mother-in-law's 80th birthday cake. Mind, I only managed to get ten out of her quantities. Twelve is a bit tight.
Then there's 'Rachel's Favourite Food at Home'. Can I just say her Lemon Sole and cheese gratin in this book is wonderful?
In 'Rachel's Food for Living' the 'Slow Roast Spiced Lamb with Roasted Root Vegetables' is a must try.
Ingredients - Serves 12-15 Although in my opinion you need more vegetables and can half the raita.
For the lamb
1 x 3kg shoulder of Lamb
2 tbsp Cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 tbsp Coriander seeds, toasted and ground
60ml Olive oil
900ml lamb or chicken stock, for the gravy
For the roasted root vegetables
1 large sweet potato
60-75ml Olive oil
For the raita
500ml plain natural yogurt
1/2 Cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 tsp Cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp Coriander seeds, toasted and ground
large bunch mint or Coriander, chopped
1. For the lamb: preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7.
2. Using a very sharp knife, make long but shallow incisions into the shoulder of lamb all over the skin. In a small bowl, mix the ground cumin and coriander with a few good pinches of sea salt, pepper and the olive oil. Spread this spicy oil over the lamb, rubbing it in with your fingers, then place the lamb skin-side up on a roasting tray. Sprinkle the skin with salt.
3. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160C/gas 3 and roast for 4 hours. Baste it every 15 minutes or so by spooning the juices over the meat. The cooking time will, of course, depend on the size of the shoulder, but when it's cooked the meat will be very tender and almost falling off the bone in the most gorgeous way.
4. For the roasted root vegetables: about 20 minutes before the meat is due to come out of the oven, peel the vegetables and cut into 2cm cubes. Dry the cut vegetables with kitchen paper, then put them in a bowl and toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. The vegetables should all be coated with a thin layer of oil.
5. Spread them out in a single layer on one or two roasting trays and cook in the oven for 25-35 minutes, until golden on the outside and soft on the inside. Do not try to turn them while they are cooking as they will only lift off the tray when they are fully cooked.
6. When the lamb is ready, transfer the meat to a serving platter, cover and keep warm while you make the gravy.
7. To make the gravy, put the roasting tray on the hob on a medium heat, add half the stock and bring to the boil, whisking to release the sweet juicy bits that have stuck to the tray. When it comes to the boil, pour it into a mais-gras or a small bowl or heatproof jug. If using a jug/bowl add one or two ice cubes to draw the fat up to the top, then you can spoon the fat off and discard. If using a mais-gras, degrease the juices in the usual way.
8. Pour the degreased juices into a small saucepan, add the remainder of the stock, bring to the boil and season to taste. If it's a little watery, boil it for another couple of minutes.
9. For the raita: mix all the ingredients and season.
10. To serve, cut the meat into slices and pour over the gravy. Spoon on the roast vegetables and serve the raita on the side.
Cook's notes: to toast spice seeds, fry them in a dry pan for 30 seconds over a medium-high heat until deeper in colour and smelling fragrant (keep moving them around).
If you have any leftover meat, reheat it in an ovenproof dish covered in gravy so that the meat doesn't dry out.
She seems to be living a dream of a lifestyle, too. You can find her online diary here.
And then there's James Martin's 'Eating In'. He's always good to watch on Saturday Kitchen as well I find ...
And how about Tamasin Day Lewis? Her 'Tarts with Tops On' is guaranteed to tempt one to serious calorie overload. Tamasin, remember, is Daniel Day Lewis's sister. Want a peak???
So, what's your favourite cookbook indulgence? Anything I really ought to add to my Amazon basket??
Natasha's latest Harlequin Romance 'Wanted: White Wedding' is available in the UK here and in NA here!
Romantic Times Magazine says: 'Natasha Oakley's Wanted: White Wedding (4.5) has its share of deeply touching moments, but what makes it stand out are the humor and the wonderful characters.'
And look out for 'Cinderella and the Sheikh' in shops January 2009, but available for pre-order now!