Delia Smith’s Winter Collection, BBC, 1995
I was given this book as a Christmas gift, when I was living in the UK in 1995. I didn’t see the TV programme and I am not very familiar with Delia Smith, however I know she has been very popular in the UK. Although I remember enjoying cooking from this book when I was first given it, Delia hasn’t been heavily used. From the state of p229, I have made the iced lemon curd layer cake at least once. On the evidence of splodges on p132, I may have made autumn lamb braised in Beaujolais. I’m pretty sure I’ve made a traditional Sunday lunch, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce, although it’s probably not something I would make today.
I revisited the book with some trepidation and was pleasantly surprised. The recipes are meat heavy but there is plenty to delight. I recommend that you do not approach the recipes purporting to be authentic Italian. Carbonara with cream? Bolognese ragù with tinned tomatoes and chicken livers? However, the recipes are certainly straightforward and delicious.
I started with grilled chicken served with Puy lentils on p82. This meal was a delight. The recipe had the chicken cooked on skewers which I did not do. My adaptation worked perfectly well. I made the marinade as described but left the chicken breasts whole. When I was ready to cook the chicken, I laid the vegetables from the marinade on the grill tray under the chicken and used the marinade liquid to baste the chicken during cooking. Cooking the lentils in red wine was inspired and I will do this in the future.
I made the venison sausages braised in red wine on p87. This had the added benefit of using up a jar of redcurrant jelly which has been lurking in the fridge for a while. One of the things I realised when cooking this meal was that these days, I am used to recipes that make a complete meal. This was just a meat dish. Delia suggested serving with mashed potatoes. A kind of elevated bangers and mash, which would be nice, however I like my dinner to be more vegetables with meat on the side. Delia didn’t let me down completely. On p159 I found a recipe for oven roasted cauliflower and broccoli. I had some broccoli in the fridge, and I adapted this recipe to roast the broccoli with potatoes. I put the potatoes in the oven with a little oil for about 10 minutes first then tossed through the seasoned broccoli. This was a great success. I also served with sauteed leeks just because I love leeks. The sausages were nice and I will definitely use the roasted broccoli method in the future for both broccoli and cauliflower.
On p47 I found a lovely mid-week supper of warm poached egg salad with frizzled chorizo. The idea of frizzling the chorizo, or actually anything, really appealed. What else can I frizzle? This recipe used sherry and sherry vinegar, both if which I happened to have on hand, but don’t always. I like Delia’s note that you could substitute red wine and red wine vinegar or white wine and white wine vinegar which seems obvious but it sometimes helps to be guided down the obvious path. In regard to the salad leaves, this would be really nice on a bed of watercress. Also, as Delia does in the website version, I might substitute bacon or pancetta for the chorizo.
Foil baked salmon with English parsley sauce on p64 really appealed, partly because I have rather a lot of English parsley in my garden, about to go to seed. This was really delicious, served with roasted potatoes and peas. You might have gathered that, when in doubt, I always turn to potatoes and peas. You can’t go wrong. The salmon was lovely but if you find it a little rich, you could use any firm white fish. I had some parsley sauce left over and it was excellent added to a macaroni cheese later in the week. I also noticed in this and other recipes, Delia advocates finely chopping herb stalks as well as the leaves. I use the stalks in stocks and soups but now I use them in everything.
Next up was Moroccan baked chicken with chickpeas and rice on p74. This is very much my type of cooking, one pot and middle eastern flavours. I have recently given up tinned beans and gone back to cooking them from scratch. The beans are much nicer, however the drawback is that you must remember to soak them the night before. I often forget but Delia reminded me that you can put them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes and soak for three hours so as long as you remember in the morning or at least four hours before dinner you’re fine. I also substituted preserved lemon for the lemon slices and as you know I do not eat coriander, so I always substitute Italian parsley which I love. This meal is definitely a keeper.
My final meal from the book was an oven baked wild mushroom risotto on p101. As I mentioned earlier, do not come to Delia for authentic Italian meals. This is not a risotto but rather a baked rice dish, similar to a Ligurian riso arrosto, traditionally made with meat, however this meal is extremely flavourful and very easy to make.
One of the things to note is that I went into Delia week just as New Zealand went into a two-week Level 4 lockdown to combat the Covid-19 Delta variation. I hadn’t done my shop for this meal plan. Most of the ingredients were already in my store cupboard and my local butcher offered a meat delivery service along with eggs, milk and bread. Delia week involved more meat meals than I usually have, and I was very grateful to Bill and the team at the Gipps St Butchery.
My verdict is that Delia Smith writes delicious recipes which are easy for the home cook to make, and she shares extremely useful information about cooking techniques. The recipes I made were intensely flavourful and I suspect that every recipe in the book is a winner, even the “Bolognese” ragù with chicken livers. I didn’t attempt any of the puddings, but I am sure they are all wonderful. You probably noticed every one of the recipes I tested is available on the Delia Online website. I now have the website bookmarked in my laptop and while I have really enjoyed getting to know Delia’s Winter Collection, this book is going onto the pile looking for a new home.