21 MAY 2020 19
P R E S E RVING
P O T T I N G
& P I C K L I N G
E L I S A B E T H LUARD
Potting & Pickling
“Preserving food used to be absolutely
essential,” says Elisabeth Luard. “In the days
before refrigerators and freezers, it was vital
to find ways to preserve the gluts of produce
you would get in summer and autumn to use
during the cold winter months.”
Since pre-industrial societies across Europe
all experienced this same need to put down
food for the winter, there are allied but distinct
preserving traditions to be found in each
country on the continent – something the
Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award-winning
writer found out first hand during her travels
to research what would become her 1984
classic, European Peasant Cookery.
“Preserving, Potting & Pickling was a
companion volume,” says Elisabeth. “It
originally came out in 1988 under the title The
Barricaded Larder.” This beautiful reissue is
adorned with the author’s own watercolour
sketches of ingredients – before finding her
forte in food writing, she was a botanical artist.
As a compendium of the preserving
expedients practised throughout Europe,
the book features recipes for bottled sauces,
relishes and chutneys, flavoured oils and
vinegars, potted meats and cheeses, jams,
syrups, cordials and a whole lot more.
There are breads, for instance, such as
fougasse – the crackling-studded loaves made
by the bakers of France and Switzerland as
a way of using up every last bit of pig skin.
And there is plenty to tempt the sweet of
tooth, from Scottish tablet, a fudge made to
preserve cream, to Spanish sugared almonds.
Given the resourcefulness we’ve all been
forced to display in the kitchen recently, it’s a
timely reissue. “Everyone has been working
out how to make the most of their food,” says
Elisabeth. “I’ve been encouraging people to
share pictures of the dishes they’ve made with
food they might otherwise have thrown away.
There have been some rather good results.”
From the many ways to optimise your larder
itemised here, Elisabeth is particularly partial
to the cheese recipes, such as the one for potted
Stilton, in which bits of leftover blue cheese
are pounded together with butter, brandy
and Worcestershire sauce, before being
sealed under a layer of butter. “I always hope
people won’t finish off the Christmas Stilton,
so I get the chance to make it,” she says.
“Adding salt to
the water when
cooking dried beans
actually helps them
because it breaks
down the pectin.”
Partner & chef tutor, Waitrose
& Partners Cookery School,
200g pack lemon
230g pack Greek
3 Duchy Organic
Blend the chickpea,
spinach and quinoa in
a food processor with 3-4
tbsp of houmous until
just coming together as
a stiff paste. With damp
hands, roll the mixture
into 10 balls, then flatten
slightly. If you’ve time, chill
for 30 minutes. Fry in 2-3
tbsp oil in a hot nonstick
frying pan over a high heat
for 5-6 minutes, turning
occasionally until golden.
Meanwhile, halve the
tomatoes in the side salad,
then dress and toss the salad.
Ready in 15 minutes
Griddle or warm
the pitta under
the grill. Swirl
2 plates and
top with the
salad and falafel.
Serve with the
pitta on the side.
OVER THE TABLE
Making the most of what we’ve got isn’t a
new concept – but it’s an admirable one
I recall visiting a chef one morning and watching horrified
as he prepared onions for stock. They were beauties – huge,
bronze and glossy. With an easy lunge, he cracked away the
skin and outer third of each onion – and tossed it in the bin.
The remainder (by now the size of a golf ball) was daintily
sliced and arranged in the stockpot.
Now we all know that peeling the skins off onions is a fiddle,
but how wasteful! You don’t need to be a mathematician to
understand that the outer rings of an onion are far bigger
(and juicier) than the inner ones. All chucked, just to save a
few seconds. And, in any case, why peel an onion at all? Its
skin gives a lovely golden hue to homemade stock. I keep a bag
in the freezer of other savoury odds and ends to pop in, too –
tomato cores, mushroom stalks, parsley stems.
I have noticed good cooks have this in common: they dislike
waste. It’s not meanness – we happily splash a king’s ransom
on new-season asparagus, salt flakes or unrefined rapeseed oil
– but respect, for ingredients and, increasingly, resources.
I learnt a great deal in this line from my late ex-mother-inlaw,
who was the daughter of a sea captain in South Shields,
and raised in an atmosphere of financial insecurity. Saving
money was a lifelong obsession – along with cooking. We
used to tease her that everything she made was finished with
‘Good cooks have this in common: they
dislike waste. It’s not meanness but
respect: for ingredients and resources’
cream and brandy (it was!), but she cooked like an angel.
It was Jean who tipped me off, some 30 years ago, that
preheating your oven is in most cases unnecessary, and a waste
of energy. When fan-assisted ovens arrived, manufacturers
said the same. So why are we still preheating them?
It’s partly habit, partly us recipe writers. We can only ensure
a perfect result by giving accurate measures, temperatures and
timings. It’s bad enough that most domestic ovens are poorly
calibrated (or so we are told) without throwing in another great
unknown – how long it takes for those ovens to come up to heat.
Jean applied common sense to the problem. She would
preheat for dishes she considered ‘sensitive’ – soufflés,
Yorkshire puds, biscuits, éclairs – but anything else she would
stick in a cold oven, switch on, add five or 10 minutes to the
cooking time, and use her judgement. By the way, she also
turned the oven off before time was up. “That’s your residual
heat, duck. Never waste it.” I use residual heat on the hob to
cook pasta (plunge into boiling water, turn off, leave covered
for 20 minutes) and hardboil eggs (ditto, for 10).
Like everyone else, I’ve been baking sourdough recently. It
sounds counterintuitive, but the crustiest crust is achieved
by placing the dough in a cold lidded casserole, which is then
started in a cold oven. If you doubt me, check out my favourite
sourdough guru, Elaine Boddy, at foodbodsourdough.com.
Orlando Murrin is president of the Guild of Food Writers
and hosts the BBC Good Food Podcast with Tom Kerridge.
Spinach & chickpea falafel