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Now available in a new edition, Forgotten Skills of Cooking (Kyle/Canadian Manda Group, $55) is a large, user-friendly book from Ireland’s celebrated cooking teacher Darina Allen, covering every conceivable basic kitchen skill. It even includes a recipe for making your own compost.
Based on Allen’s extensive experience as head of the Ballymaloe Cookery School near Cork, the book — with beautiful photographs by Peter Cassidy — makes this claim in the subtitle: “700 recipes showing you why the time-honored ways are the best.” Those include how to smoke food (both hot and cold methods), how to salt or brine food, how to make yogurt, how to forage for wild greens, how to raise chickens and how to grow organic vegetables.
The topics are endless, the book a superb read, the recipes easy to follow. For example, this simple fish dish with classic flavored butter, which also goes well with steak. Allen uses a mixture of measurement systems — and sometimes no measurements at all — but her instructions are easily understandable.
Forgotten Skills of Cooking may inspire a visit to the school, a class with Allen, or could see you making your own haybox for transporting a picnic. This is a landmark cookbook.
Pan-Grilled Fish With Flavored Butter
Maître d’hôtel butter (see recipe below)
8 fillets of fresh fish, skin on
Flour seasoned with salt and pepper
Lemon cut in segments
Make the flavored butter first and chill it.
Grease a large, heavy, clean frying pan or grill pan lightly with a little olive oil or butter.
Dry the fish fillets with paper towels, then dip in seasoned flour. Spread each floured fillet with soft butter on the flesh side, as if you were buttering a slice of bread.
Heat the pan over high heat. When pan is hot, add two or three fillets of fish, buttered side down, the number depending on the size of the pan.
Fry until the color of the fish shows that it has cooked halfway up its width. Turn each fillet with a spatula to cook the other side, and continue to cook until fish is golden and crisp. (Approximately 10 minutes per inch / 5 minutes per cm thickness for the first side, half that time for the second side.)
Transfer fish to a warmed platter and keep warm. Clean out pan, grease it again lightly, and cook the remaining fillets.
Serve hot with some of the flavored butter and a piece of lemon.
Maitre d’Hôtel Butter
1/2 cup (125 mL / 110 g) soft butter
2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
fresh lemon juice
Cream the butter, then cream in the parsley. Season to taste with a few drops of lemon juice.
Form into a sausage-shaped roll and wrap in aluminum foil, plastic wrap or wax paper, sealing the ends tightly. Store in a plastic bag. Refrigerate to harden. It will keep up to five days in the refrigerator, six months in the freezer.
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