Cookbooks from British Isles invade colonies

June 26, 1996|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Due to an electronic transmission error, the recipe for roasted tomato salad from "Delia Smith's Summer Collection," printed in this section on June 26, was incorrect. The correct version follows.

Roasted tomato salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings as a first course

12 large tomatoes

salt and pepper

2 large or 4 small cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

12 large fresh basil leaves

DRESSING:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

12 large fresh basil leaves

24 black olives

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

First, skin tomatoes: Pour boiling water over them and leave them for 1 minute, then drain, and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Cut each tomato in half, place halves in shallow, oiled roasting pan (about 16 by 12 inches), cut sides up, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. After that, sprinkle on the chopped garlic, distributing it evenly among the tomatoes. Follow this with a few drops of olive oil on each one, then top each one with half a basil leaf, turning each piece of leaf over to get a coating of oil.

Place roasting pan in top half of oven and roast tomatoes for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until edges of the tomatoes are slightly blackened. Remove pan from oven and allow tomatoes to cool. All this can be done several hours ahead.

To serve tomatoes, transfer them to individual plates, place half a basil leaf on top of each tomato half, then beat oil and balsamic vinegar together and drizzle over tomatoes. Finally, top each one with an olive. Lots of crusty bread is an essential accompaniment to this dish.

Cookbooks from and about the British Isles can be exasperating for American cooks, but three recent ones have taken some very small steps to address the culinary vagaries of the colonialists.

Described as the "Martha Stewart from across the pond," Delia Smith is a hot number in England, where cooks have snapped up more than 8 million copies of her cookbooks, and since 1975 followed her every move on television.

The Americanized "Delia Smith's Summer Collection" (Viking, $22.95), has recently arrived on these shores.

Among the 140 recipes are all-American hamburgers; Mexican tomato salsa; a number of Thai and curry dishes; hot and sour pickled shrimp; fish and crab cakes; warm potato salad with lemon and chive vinaigrette; "Pile-It-High" orange and rhubarb meringue pie, and ice cream sodas.

"Summer Collection" is an attractive book that works well, despite the rather stilted recipe writing and one or two oddities, such as calling for lumps of sugar when teaspoon measures would have been better.

A quick mention of the two other works worth examination:

"The New Cooking of Britain and Ireland" by Gwenda L. Hyman (Wiley, $18.95 paperback) is a culinary guide to the countryside of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, as well as a presentation of some 200 recipes found there, including one for lamb poached in hay.

Hyman writes extensively and lovingly of the land and its bounty. The recipes may seem a little odd and difficult to duplicate, but anyone bent on "discovering" the British Isles and its food should tuck this one under an arm.

"The Complete Book of Irish Country Cooking" is by Darina Allen (Penguin Studio, $27.95). Although Americanized by Jane Garmey, the demands of some of the more than 300 recipes may be too great for American cooks. Who, for instance, would prepare "pig's head and cabbage" or Galway black pudding requiring a half-gallon of sheep's blood? It's not likely Allen cooked either for President and Mrs. Clinton, as she did on St. Patrick's Day a year ago.

While not every recipe can be duplicated in this country, you won't find a better exploration of Ireland's culinary heritage than this one.

Distinctive cheese

Blue Cheshire cheese, from England's Midlands, is a distinctive blue cheese that may be difficult to find. Your favorite blue cheese may be substituted. This recipe is from "The New Cooking of Britain and Ireland."

Spinach and blue Cheshire cheese tart

Makes 6 to 8 servings

pastry for 9-inch pie plate

4 cups spinach, stems removed and tightly packed

3 to 4 tablespoons light cream

salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, to taste

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup bread crumbs, toasted

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 cup blue Cheshire, crumbled

1/4 cup pine nuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Steam spinach briefly until wilted. Drain and press to exude liquid. When cool enough to handle, chop, return to pan, and heat gently with cream, seasoning and nutmeg. Set aside.

Break eggs into a bowl. Take 1 tablespoon of egg white and place in a small bowl. Place pastry in pie plate. Brush pastry with egg white. When dry, brush again with Dijon mustard. Sprinkle pastry with toasted bread crumbs and top with spinach, spread in an even layer.

Beat eggs with sour cream and chives. Stir in blue cheese, season, and pour over spinach in tart shell. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set. Serve warm.

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