Oliver Rowe's Food For All Seasons

'Kevin! I am a very busy man!'
If you ever need a good reason or excuse to wrangle out of an awkward conversation, I think I have finally found the ultimate response:

'Listen, I would love to carry on talking to you but I am actually in the middle of chargrilling some courgettes right now. So I have to stop you there and get back to them.'

Admittedly, this is going to be difficult if you are standing in the street and if you've bumped into an ex or a long lost school friend; one you have absolutely nothing in common with any more (if you ever did). Although, I suppose you could always then go completely silent on them, and start to stare downwards, miming and flipping imaginary slices of squash in front of you. That would get rid of them, pretty damn tout suite.

In my case, I used it recently to bamboozle a Talk Talk 'technician' called Kevin. Who was speaking to me from India and telling me that my 'internets' was under attack and that if I didn't listen to him and do exactly what he said, then my 'internets' would be in 'terrible, terrible trouble.' I get these sort of calls all the time and if I am in the mood, I will play along with it, pretending to go through the procedure of letting Kevin actually hack into my system, before screaming - 'MY COMPUTER! YOU'VE BLOWN UP MY COMPUTER! KEVIN! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!' The line normally goes dead after that and Kevin disappears. For a while.

I should change my service provider really but in the meantime, at least I know that I have one more string to my bow. For fielding malicious phone calls. Chargrilled courgettes, who'd have thought, eh?

This book contains words
The reason for my urging intent to get back to my courgettes was real enough though. I was trying out a recipe from Oliver Rowe's Food For All Seasons and didn't want them to get burnt. Well, not too much anyway. I was just after those neat black lines.

Having cut his teeth at the acclaimed Moro in Exmouth Market, Oliver has been on quite journey; spending time cooking abroad, featuring in his own television series 'The Urban Chef' and opening (and sadly closing) his restaurant Konstam. As a result, his prose-rich debut reads in part as memoir, with astute observations about food and life in general, and perhaps a dash of therapy thrown in for good measure. Not that it sufferers for that. Regarding the recipes inside, the onus is obviously on seasonality, given the actual title of the book. And by and large, they are all fairly straightforward and simple; with very little 'cheffy-ness' on display. Harmony, balance and flavour, maaan, seems to be the key to Oliver's cooking. Although there are few clever nips and tucks in there. Porter ice cream is a new one on me and I quite fancy trying his braised lamb belly with oysters. As well as nibbling on some of Jansson's frestelse. If Jansson will let me.

Food For All Seasons has been out for a few months now and it's been refreshing to actually read a cookbook for a change. One that is woven with proper stories. Opposed to simply gorping at styled plates, on weathered bark and paired with cutlery, all tied up in furry string.  I've spent a good while flicking through the pages, picking up and putting down frequently. A big dipper of a book in other words.

Given that Oliver's month of choice starts with October - 'Not everything starts with a bang' - you'd do well to buy a copy before it that hallowed time arrives, with a cool swoop of dead leaves and spiders, to prepare tummies for Christmas feasting.

Coming back to the courgettes for a second though, I do have kind permission from the author to reproduce it here on the blog. It's very good, especially with lamb chops. But with summer passing, if you this feel like it is already too late that sort of thing, try barking to Kevin that you are too busy making 'cinder toffee apples' or 'parsnip and apple soup with gin' instead.

Oliver's recipes will give you excuses all throughout the year.

Chargrilled courgette salad with ricotta, mint, honey and lemon dressing - serves 4

2 or 3 courgettes - more if they're small. It's nice if you can get a mixture of green and yellow.
5-6 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of half a lemon
100g good ricotta
1-2 tsp honey to drizzle
25g flaked almonds
A good pinch of black onion or nigella seeds
1 small handful of mint leaves.

Scattered mint and nigella seeds

Thinly slice the courgettes lengthwise. When your charcoal or griddle pan is hot, toss the courgette slices in a tablespoon or so and season them with salt. Grill them to colour each side and remove to a bowl.

As they're cooling, crush the garlic and put it in a bowl with the lemon juice and zest. Season with salt, check the balance and then add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. A dash of muscatel vinegar is a nice addition if you have it. Check for acidity, adding a squeeze of lemon or dash of oil if needed.

Toast the almonds in the oven at 160C until light brown (about 10 minutes) or in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Don't let them burn.

Toss the courgettes with the dressing while still warm, but not piping hot, leave to cool and serve on a platter, with the ricotta dotted over the courgettes, the honey drizzled on top, the almonds and nigella seeds sprinkled over, and the torn mint scattered.

Just add lamb (or eat by itself)


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