Mirepoix (cuisine),Vegetable,Simmering,Poaching (cooking),Wine,Pasta,Tomato,Cooking,Recipe,Fish

Rachel Roddy’s recipe for fish poached in tomato and wine

January 10, 2017

“It is not a recipe, but a way.” It must be 10 years since Vera said this to me. We were making pasta and chickpeas in her small, organised kitchen, which was on the other side of the wall from my not-so-organised small kitchen. We were just about done and drinking coffee, the soup at a simmer. I was writing things down and asking questions, to which she was responding more with handfuls and tastes, rather than grams and minutes. Then she said it: “This is not a recipe, but a way.” It wasn’t a new or revelatory idea, we all know that most of the time cooking is not guided by exact recipes or precise measurements, but her words summed it up well, and the expression stuck. Her way stuck too, a template for the thick bean soup with pasta variations of which I have written about many times: fry aromatic vegetables in olive oil for a soffritto, add a herb and cooked beans, then liquid, simmer, add pasta and cook until ready. Of course, when we make something, we may look to a specific recipe from specific places or people, to give something an authentic name. But most of the time we are cooking by “way” rather than recipe, following sketched rather than detailed maps; letting experience, taste and smell lead us. Baking is a different matter, which is possibly why it is not my strength. I have been thinking of Vera a lot these last few days, because she passed away a week ago at 90 years old. We said goodbye to her in a church on the Gianicolo hill. It was extremely cold but sunny, and the church was full of diffused light, her large family and many friends. I kept thinking Vera should be here; she would have loved seeing everyone turned out smartly for her. She would have laughed at the tubby nun rushing to turn off the Christmas tree lights which had just short-circuited the heater. Vera was always direct, elegant and precise – which she put down to being a quarter German – and truly kind. She was my first neighbour and friend in Rome. Looking back to those early days, it was quite something that we managed to communicate: I spoke barely any Italian and she had just a few words of English. But we did communicate, and spent many hours...

Read the full article here

Comments