too Little too late….

There was a time, not all that long ago, when quantity and quality were unlikely bedfellows. It would be rare indeed for them to be seen together, even just holding hands, let alone snuggled up together under the duvet where it would seem that they now spend most of their time making the two backed beast…both hard and soft covers. Quantity and quality are now an item. After years in the shadows they have sashayed from their closet screaming that they are remaindered, and proud of it. But above all, they are cheap, which word was once a pejorative and is now the grail. I speak of  the tsunami of books that has been created by the seismic upheaval created by the internet which has given us all the chance to be authors, diarists or journalists and by so doing has mightily augmented the creation of books whilst reducing their value  to that of  flotsam and jetsam. Luckily the internet has not yet encouraged us to be amateur surgeons or airline pilots. The upshot of this  may well not be politically correct but because of this surfeit and the consequent reduction in value, I can now buy, and indeed have just bought from that mighty on line river, a very good cookery book by one of my culinary icons for the sum of 1d…that’s one penny, one denarius, one pee or not a lot at all. The icon in question is Alastair Little, who is well worth a pee or two, but probably not directly after eating asparagus, and the book of which I speak is his “Italian Kitchen”, which was published in ’96, some years before Rush replaced Potato after Yukon Gold. In that era, Alastair, together with Rowley Leigh and Simon Hopkinson, formed a trinity of brilliant cooks (I dislike the word chef and have less and less respect for it) who were able to produce masterfully simple and flavour filled food without the need to pair obscure ingredients nor to decorate their dishes with smears, foams or other beastly goo gahs. I knew Alastair a little in the late 80’s when he was going up the mountain and I was beginning my dizzy slide down. At that time he prepared the food at the Zanzibar, an infamous Covent Garden watering hole, where we would talk of food and his plans to open a restaurant until the martinis brought gravity into play and I would fall off the bar stool. I still have a memory of him saying that he was a Bolton supporter, whatever that meant, and at those moments I could certainly have done with Bolton’s support myself.


I used the book to make dinner last night which consisted of an asparagus risotto followed by a raspberry and frangipane tart. That which is impressive with his writing, as with his cooking, is the detail which is neither padding nor decoration. His advice that it would be a waste of time to make his recipe for asparagus risotto if one could not be bothered to make the recommended asparagus stock from vegetables and the asparagus peelings could easily have  appeared as overbearing and pedantic but in his  safe hands it read as good advice which I happily followed and because of it this butter rich risotto was packed with a sublime asparagus flavour, which simplicity is so often crushed by intemperate seasoning and over generosity with the Parmesan.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2016, Alistair Little, asparagus, Asparagus risotto, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, friendship, Humour, Martini, Parmesan, Photographic Prints, Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to too Little too late….

  1. Mad Dog says:

    I remember eating in 192 and not even knowing who he was, but by the time he opened Alastair Little in Soho, he’d become quite a star. My group of friends all loved the food in Firth Street, but we all thought the potions were too small. Nevertheless he is a brilliant chef and I’m all for “Keep it Simple” (his first book) as a philosophy for many things in life.
    Great asparagus recipe – I noticed, yesterday, that I’m surrounded by it in the Boqueria (white and green) and I’ve not been served it on a menú del dia – obviously I’m going to have to buy some and cook it my self for breakfast!

  2. Francesca says:

    An excellent stock is the basis of a good risotto and this one looks very good indeed.
    As for the penny/drachma/ 1 lira books, I often find the added postage a huge deterrent, living down here at the other end of the globe, which is just as well, as I have a few too many cookbooks. I love them all and they all have their day in the sun.

    • I recently bought 5 books, each for !d, from an Amazon book seller. They were all delivered in one package, one postage which made for a very good deal….my pictures sell on Photo Libraries for as little as 50centimes owing to the mass of food pictures so I don’t feel too guilty. About 12 years ago I could have nearly lived on my quaterly picture library payments…now, with 10 times as many pictures I earn a pittance…:(

      • Francesca says:

        A photographer friend made a handsome living from his photos and those of his stock library around the same time and then things changed radpidly. He then had to rethink his business and moved into art prints. He purchased huge printers and inks, paper from Japan, and now does prints for artists, which pays him well enough. They are shown in galleries and the like and are huge.

      • Love that idea…I just don’t have the capital..

  3. Well said! There is plenty of green asparagus here in California but I rarely see the white variety which I prefer.

  4. My very favourite risotto from a cook I admire. And what a bargain. …I once bought a new front door for 99p which I was pretty pleased about!

  5. Eha says:

    After a brilliantly written beginning which will soon land in other boxes I received another piece of advice: looking up my beloved AbeBooks no, no 1d price on that one: but with a one dollar ticket and less than five for postage to the Antipodes, I am not particularly upset 🙂 ! Still only 10% of Ottolenghi, Stein et al . . .Love asparagus and ours IS green and adore risotto . . . thanks as yet again!!!

  6. Beautiful photo of the Asparagus.

  7. As have been living in Germany the first 37 years of my life, I got used to white asparagus, and it would be available only for a short time in the year. Here in California there is none of the white, only green, but I find it more pleasurable by now, it’s softer and has more of a nutty flavor and I can get it almost all around the year. Roger while reading I was wondering why you dislike the term of a chef, what would be the difference to a cook in your view of sensibility?

  8. Sally says:

    Smears, foams and other beastly goo gahs show no sign of going away anytime soon. ‘Pearls’ are another detested item. Where did you get the book from for 1p (1d or 1 pee)?

  9. Mary Frances says:

    Seems to be an extremely well balanced risotto, love the photos.

  10. I love Simon Hopkinson’s books, so this is an excellent recommendation from that oeuvre and culinary era – thank you, Roger!

  11. Asparagus is such a beautiful, yet simple ingredient not all people have acquired a taste for. I myself am not a fan of the flavor, but their appearance is stunning. From purple, white, green, to jumbo varieties, they come in handy when styling an entree or appetizer.

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