The clocks changed today and the sun is beginning to set at 4:27. The winds have been wildly blowing a gale through the gaps in the house all day so raking leaves was not an option, unless of course you enjoy futile efforts. Instead we put away hoses and cleaned gutters, put away screens and washed windows. The rapid descent into winter and the need for the nest to be ready to get us through the long, cold months ahead has begun.
This weekend I also accepted a challenge from Mary at The Sour Dough, our intrepid co-host and Sara at I Like to Cook our hostess with the mostest, to participate in The Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This month the challenge to cook a recipe using a rarely used cookbook in your collection is being wrapped around the theme of 'using a neglected cooking gadget/appliance'.
A long time ago after many, many apartment moves and kitchens with barely any cabinet space, I began to ascribe to the Alton Brown philosophy that a tool better multitask or it isn't welcome in my kitchen. I allow a few exceptions to that rule and I would be using two of those items for my project.
My beloved Chinois and my Food Mill. The Chinois was a request on a Christmas list many years ago that my mother thankfully fulfilled. I knew I would not use it all the time, but there are occasions when it is invaluable. If you desire silky sauces you really do want one of these babies. The food mill spends most of its life wrapped in a ziploc bag in the basement, but occasionally when the tomatoes are plentiful it comes out to extract the pulp without the seeds and skins, and again in apple season to make a glorious applesauce. Today I would be using it to make silky mashed potatoes. Most days I would use my ricer, but Tamasin Day-Lewis (yes, related to that Day-Lewis) mentioned in Good Tempered Food, her preference for using a food mill for making mash and with language like this how could you ignore her?
..."Mash is both a vehicle, background , and food in its own right. It should be cooked as carefully and with as much attention as whatever else is going to grace your plate, which it often isn't. There is absolutely no excuse in my book for watery, lumpy, slack, or under-seasoned mash, even less for butter-free mash, unless you are being ersatz Provencal and pouring in a glug of olive oil...You will realize when you begin to stir, just how smooth this precious kitchen gadget renders your potatoes. If you do not have a food mill, might I suggest they are invaluable? Soups have more texture and body when put through a food mill than if you swirl them into oblivion in a blender, and your mashed potato will be peerless. Enough said..."
Who was I to question an Irish Irish cookery writer who makes a romance novel sound more like a scientific journal in comparison to her food prose?
What I had in mind was making my husband a nice homey Fish pie. I had purchased some Hake at Whole Foods on Saturday during the monsoon in anticipation of making him this for Sunday supper. I will admit that my cookbook library is pretty large, but the English shelf had been quite neglected lately. I fingered through Delia Smith's Complete Illustrated Cookery Course, Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies, National Trust Recipes, Paul and Jeanne Rankin's Irish Cookery and the Grand Dame of all foods British, Jane Grigson's English Food seeking ideas. I took a bit from here, a bob from there, splashed on a dash of cooking school knowledge and a swirl of, Ah what the hell, and whipped this up for tea Sunday night.
The Brit responded with mouth full that, "this was a quite pie", as he took a second helping. I will likely still tweak it a bit next time, but I too was pretty chuffed myself.