Anyone who's been reading this blog for awhile knows how much I adore Sophie Dahl. I'm convinced that every person who comes into contact with her falls in love immediately and that she has trained herself to think of dilated pupils and goofy smiles as a part of normal human interaction in order to get through her day. She's been contributing to British Vogue and has even made reading about perfume - something I appreciate for its olfactory features and historical significance (and sometimes lovely vintage bottles) but otherwise couldn't care less about much less read about - an experience that was far beyond what any reasonable person would expect from a fashion magazine, even one as well written as Vogue. In the end it's not about the subject matter; it's the art of her story telling and how it leaves you feeling content and breathlessly inspired when her last words are left to settle gently into your brain. Rather like one of her homecooked meals I would imagine. But instead of words, fennel. And instead of brain...you get the picture.
(I know some will ask "Who is she?" In a nutshell, she's English, was discovered by Isabella Blow in the 90s and became a model, is now an author and is the granddaughter of the late Roald Dahl. If you don't know who he is then you're on your own!)
Last night on BBC Two her new cooking show The Delicious Miss Dahl debuted at 8:30 and now mine and the Tuesdays of many others just got a lot more enjoyable. This isn't yet another celebrity jumping on the cooking bandwagon - food and cooking have always played a meaningful role in her life as part of family ritual and simply as a very satisfying indulgence. And the show is beautifully produced, a treat in itself with gorgeous imagery and music, bite-size tales from history and literature courtesy of Miss Dahl herself, and even a little trip into a vintage shop to choose a 1920s art deco cocktail shaker.
The first episode is called Selfish - Sophie likes to cook according to her mood and this is her favourite breakfast, lunch, snack, cocktail, dinner and dessert as she would make it on a day that is all about what she wants, and doesn't have to share (she's honest like that).
Every Wednesday I'll feature some images from the show along with a few of the recipes. To see for yourself you can watch here - and be careful not to fall in love!
Arnold Bennett omelette - prep time: less than 30 minutes; cooking time: 10-30 minutes
100g/3½oz undyed smoked haddock fillet, skin on, pin boned
100ml/3½fl oz milk
knob of butter
2 fresh bay leaves
8-10 black peppercorns
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 lemon, zest only
55g/2oz parmesan, finely grated
small bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large free-range eggs, beaten
knob unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
small handful fresh watercress
1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Place the haddock fillet into an ovenproof dish, pour over the milk and add the butter, bay leaves and peppercorns.
3. Transfer to the oven and poach for 10-12 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
4. Meanwhile, mix the crème fraîche with the lemon zest, grated parmesan and most of the chives. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Heat the butter with half of the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat, and pour in the eggs, stirring slightly as they cook to loosen them from the sides of the pan.
6. Flake the haddock from the skin while the eggs are cooking, taking care to remove any remaining bones.
7. When the eggs are still slightly runny on top but have started to set, spread over the crème fraîche mixture, then scatter over the haddock and transfer the omelette to the oven for 4-5 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly risen. Remove from the oven.
8. To serve, drizzle the remaining oil over the watercress in a small bowl and add the lemon juice, turning to coat the leaves. Slide the omelette onto a serving plate, sprinkle over the remaing chives and arrange the dressed watercress on the side.
½ small fennel bulb, herby tops reserved
1 small yellow courgette
small bunch fresh mint, torn into pieces
½ orange, skin removed, thinly sliced into rounds
½ lemon, juice only
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 thick slice sourdough bread
1 garlic clove, peeled, cut in half
125g/4½oz buffalo mozzarella
1. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, thinly shave the
fennel and courgette into strips. Place into a bowl with the mint and
half of the fennel tops.
2. Add the orange slices and lemon juice and stir to combine.
3. Drizzle in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until smoking hot.
5. Toast the bread well on both sides for 2-3 minutes, or until scorched with griddle pan marks. Remove from the pan and place on a plate.
6. Rub the chargrilled sourdough bread with the cut side of the garlic and drizzle over another tablespoon of olive oil.
7. Tear the mozzarella in half and place onto the toasted bread.
8. Pile the fennel and courgette salad on top, and drizzle over the remaining olive oil. Scatter over the reserved fennel tops.
Tip: Serve with a glass of chilled Mersault or White Burgundy wine.
Sophie goes to an antique shop and comes to a photo of a 'ballsy old broad,the sort of woman with a deep, throaty laugh like Ava Gardner or Katherine Hepburn." She goes on to quote Hepburn:
"The average Hollywood actress' ambition is to be admired by an American, courted by an Italian, married to an Englishman and have a French boyfriend."
As an ode to the screen sirens she chooses the aforementioned 1920s art deco cocktail shaker and takes it home to make a dirty martini. You can find the recipe for 'delicious, olivey rocket fuel' here.
While making it she tells another story about 1920s writer Dorothy Parker:
"She had a rule about martinis: 'I love to drink martinis, two at the very most, with three I'm under the table, with four I'm under the host.' Be very careful unless you know your host well."
Oooh, the rich chocolate pots with brandy-soaked cherries. See the recipe here. Delicious indeed.