I once brought a copy of Elizabeth David's book about Mediterranean
food to Ibiza and gave it to two ex-Blackpool landladies who shared an apartment
and rented me their other one.
They specialised in doing buffets
for ex-pats and the highlight of their culinary wisdom was to serve up cold Heinz
beans in The Londoner.
Quite what they made of the founder
of Domestic Goddestry I cannot imagine, but at least they liked the lap dancing
ex-wife and I even took them for a seafood dinner at Rias Baxías in San
Antonio which I see has been all done up. With any luck, the entire LiveIbiza
team is going there next week and I imagine some poor lobster is swimming towards
the island right now and doesn't realise we'll be eating her come Thursday.
missed the book some years later and couldn't remember what I had done with it
for ages, so it came as a great pleasure to me to see that there's a new one out,
called "Is There a Nutmeg in the House," which is described on
the Penguin paperback cover as a sequel to "An Omelette and a Glass of
I used to have that book, too and cannot
remember to whom I must have given it, but no doubt it's in some finca up a mountain
somewhere in Ibiza.
Meanwhile, I've been devouring the
Now you have to understand that it
feels to me as though Elizabeth David died years before Delia Smith was a twinkle
in anybody's eye and started praising food from the nether regions of the Med
before even I was born.
That's why the line on the lovely
blue cover sporting two quinces reads: "The best food book I have read
in ten years," which is allegedly from someone on the Spectator.
I clearly have to come up with a one-liner here to replace
that for the reprint. Here goes: "This is the finest food writing from
beyond the grave I have ever seen."
keep the press office at Penguin at bay, though I don't think it compares with
Paul Levy who has written: "Elizabeth David was the original domestic
goddess... her descriptions can be mouth-watering. She was a woman of intellect,
passion, and - when she chose to turn it on - charm. Those traits are evident
in this collection."
It is an anthology of her
occasional writing, rather like the Sober Life column on LiveIbiza,
really. But she had already published nine books and it is astonishing that there
were 150 unpublished recipes remaining.
I suppose that
if you scrabbled about in my kitchen you might find the occasional culinary novelette
here and there. But you wouldn't find anything like the vignettes in this fabulous
yet posthumous collection.
Here's one for fresh tomato
sauce, which would be perfect to accompany an Ibicencan barbecue.
of ripe tomatoes, 30g butter, salt, sugar and (dried) basil (these days it would
have been fresh from any supermarket) and, optionally, a tablespoon of port. I'll
pass on that.
Chop the tomatoes and put them in a wide,
shallow pan in which the butter is melting. Add a teaspoon each of salt, sugar
and dried basil. Cook over a moderate heat until most of the moisture from the
tomatoes has evaporated. Sieve, and return the resulting puree to the cleaned
pan. Reheat, and - just before serving - add the port. Or not, as the sober case
may be. She does say it is not essential, but has a softening and mellowing effect
on the sauce.
Then she says: "Made in this simple
fashion, without the thickening of flour so often and so mistakenly recommended
by professional cooks and cookery teachers, tomato sauce is delicious, fresh,
appetising in colour and of the correct consistence. It is the perfect food with
fried food such as potato croquettes and fish cakes; good with grilled fish such
as mackerel and grey mullet; and combined in various ways with eggs, cream and
cheese makes some of the most delicious and attractive dishes ever invented."
That simple receipt remained unpublished since the 1960s
until Jill Norman, an author in her own right (She's just done The New Penguin
Cookery Book) became her literary executor having been her good friend and compiled
this lot. Thanks, Jill.
Not long ago there was an auction
of Elizabeth David's kitchen paraphernalia and I saw that someone paid £100
for one of her old wooden spoons. I think it was a bargain and if it were mine
I would give it to the chef at Rias Baxías.