Gill Meller is a chef, food writer, author, food stylist, and cookery teacher. He lives and works near the small fishing town of Lyme Regis, in Dorset. He has been part of the River Cottage team for eleven years, working closely with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall across the breadth of the business. Time: a year and a day in the kitchen is his second cookbook.
Making time to cook has become one of the most important things I do in my life. When we stop for a moment and do it, even in the simplest sense, it makes us feel good inside. Not only does it nourish our bodies and sustain our minds, but it’s vital for our happiness and wellbeing. Cooking has opened my eyes to change. I feel closer to my past, but equally I feel closer to the present and to the environment in which I live, because the things I love to cook and eat are so intrinsically connected to my surroundings. It has enabled me to see how one season turns so gracefully into another. It has inspired the way I think about food every day, and it inspired me to write my first cookbook, Gather. Cooking can be a brilliant way to establish gentler, healthier rhythms in the way we live, as families and as individuals. It is a way to mark the passing of time; it is a way to celebrate it, but also remember it. I believe that every time we make something good to eat, we make a memory.
There are recipes in this book that I’ve been cooking for many years. When I sit down and eat the dishes, they take me back to an exact point in my life. Back to the kitchen of our little townhouse or back to a particular night’s work at River Cottage. They can remind me of conversations I’ve had, and things that, over time, I’ve learned. People say that when it comes to recipes, everything’s been done before – that there is no such thing as a new recipe and, if a dish is different, it’s just a spin on something from the past. That could be true, but there are recipes in this book that are new to me. They are ideas and combinations that, up until now, I haven’t thought of or heard of before.
On the whole, my new recipes are inspired by the seasonal ingredients I have to hand, and by a love of simple cooking. But I’m sure there’s something else involved, too; something special that inspires. The alchemy of memory, perhaps? A moment in time, I’ve kept somewhere in my mind? The fragrance of melting sugar at a funfair, wasps in a plum orchard, catching shrimps in Cornwall, even something I read or overheard once. Perhaps I’ll never know quite what. There are recipes here that have personal meaning to me – something my mum made, or one of the dishes I cooked in my first home with my young family. These are recipes I want to preserve, but also share. And not just at my kitchen table with my lot, but with you at yours. Among all this, there are recipes that I simply enjoy cooking; recipes that make me feel at home. Many of these will be as familiar to you as they are to me. Roast pork with apples, for example, or homemade baked beans – as timeless as they are delicious. I’ve divided this book up into three chapters. Each represents a different time of day – morning, day and night, the moments we nearly always find ourselves in the kitchen. Each chapter flows gently through a year too, marking it in the way I love, with simple seasonal recipes and delicious things to eat. This book is an ode to the kitchen and all it represents. It’s a thank you to the kitchens of my childhood, but it’s also a letter to the people I’ve met in them and a menu of the things I’ve cooked.
It’s a portrait of a year through the lens of a day. It is a dedication to, and celebration of, time.
mushrooms baked on toast with garden herbs, butter & garlic
This all-in-one Autumn breakfast takes minutes to prepare. Everything goes into the one tray and gets popped in the oven to bake – it’s completely fuss-less. There’s a sort of magic that happens as it cooks, which doesn’t happen with conventional mushrooms on toast. Essentially, the bread soaks up everything the mushrooms have to offer, so you end up with this wonderfully crunchy-around-the-edge toast with a soft buttery, garlicky centre. What could be better?
5 slices of good country bread or sourdough
10 large open-cap mushrooms, such as Portobello
50g (13/4oz) chilled butter
5 or 6 thyme sprigs
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
½ small bunch of chives, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, skin left on, bashed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to finish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 6 ½.
Arrange the slices of bread over a large baking tray. Place the mushrooms on top of the bread; it doesn’t matter if they overhang.
Slice the butter thinly and place a few pieces on each mushroom.
Scatter the thyme sprigs and chopped herbs over the top of the butter and mushrooms, along with the garlic. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Finally, trickle with the olive oil.
Place the mushrooms in the oven and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are collapsed and tender and the toast is crunchy around the edges. Serve at once.
smashed swede with fried sausage, green peppercorns & parmesan
Every time I make this, Alice says: ‘Oh my god, I think that’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.’ This is exceptionally good press, particularly for swede, as usually it’s a hardknock life for this middle-of-the-road root. Bringing out the best in anything takes love and encouragement. In this recipe that comes by way of double cream and aged Parmesan. I like to use a nice, fatty, garlicky sausage, but any well-flavoured, free-range sausage will do. Green peppercorns in brine are essential – and they need to be in brine, not dried. They are full of punch and pep and go absolutely perfectly with swede.
1 swede, cut into large cubes
dash of extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Cumberland sausage
50g (2oz) butter
100ml (31/2fl oz) double cream
50g (2oz) Parmesan or hard sheep’s cheese, grated
2–3 teaspoons green peppercorns in brine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large pan of salted water over a high heat and bring to the boil. Add the swede and cook for 30–40 minutes, until the swede is tender.
Meanwhile, set a medium frying pan over a medium heat. Add the dash of oil, followed by the sausage and let it gently sizzle away, turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through – this should take a good 20 minutes or more. (Cooking the sausage slowly actually helps to tenderise the pork inside and stops it splitting.) Don’t be tempted to prick the sausage with a fork – this just lets out all the fat and juices, which are far better kept inside. Keep the sausage warm once cooked.
Once the swede is tender, remove the pan from the heat, drain the swede and leave in the colander to allow the steam to evaporate.
Meanwhile, return the pan to a low heat and add the butter and cream. When it’s bubbling away, tip in the cooked swede. Use a potato masher to smash and bash the swede into the butter and cream (you could use a potato ricer, if you prefer). The result should be relatively smooth. Stir in all but a smattering of the grated cheese and season well with salt and pepper.
To serve, spoon the swede out over a plate or platter. Top with the sausage, then sprinkle over the green peppercorns. Finish with a sprinkling of the remaining cheese and bring to the table.
Time: a year and a day in the kitchen by Gill Meller (Quadrille, £25) Photography: Andrew Montgomery
Time is published 20th September 2018
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