Cooking lessons from a book: photos do the teaching
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"Ears and feet are easy to find in the markets," he said, "and they're inexpensive and don't suffer from freezing. The English are as bad as the Americans for freezing things, he said. He got pig's ears, heads, trotters very cheaply, for 5 pence each, he said.Skip to next paragraph
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The French approach to cooking is so different. American and English buy cookbooks to cook from and the French buy them to read as glamour cookbooks, as beautiful books. He wants the series to be acceptable to the professionals and at the same time not to be intimidating to home cooks.
Working as the purist he is, Olney lets nothing interfere with the food -- no confusing background; you see only the ffod and hands. He uses a specially designed table for taking pictures, a white curved surface -- grill beneath -- a big slab of marble for pastry, also various wooden boards to fit the table.
He uses all white dishes -- very simple silver, old and classic. "I think it's essential to work with anonymous good taste, he said. He usually cooks with copper and uses large black skillets. For a rustic dish he uses plain earthenware.
All knives are classical -- nothing eccentric or quaint to attract attention away from the food.
Olney grows his herbs in his home in France. He picks thyme in april, oregano in July.Marjoram and savory are dried in bundles -- although he says he doesn't use too many herbs.
An American artist who has lived and worked in France for 30 years or so, enjoying and assimilating the lore and techniques of the cooking and foods of Provence, Mr. Olney is author of The French Menu Cookbook (1970) and the award- winning, Simple French Food (1974, Atheneum).
Olney, who is highly regarded in France, as an authority on food and wine, agreed to leave his Provencal home, somewhat of a retreat, and commute on a monthly basis to London to work with photographers and staff in the Time-Life Kitchens.
The combination of Olney's sensitivity and knowledge and the resources of Time-Life have proved to be an agreeable collaboration, with the result a series of cookbooks that are exceptionally complete and instructive.
Not only are they tremendously popular in several countries but they have also won the approval of the French as well.
Here is the recipe for creamed spinach that is pictured in the accompanying photographs. The eggs are placed in depressions in the bed of spinach, and partly submerged by the cream, which also provides a sauce for the cooked eggs. A puree of peas, mushrooms or tomatoes would also make a good base for the eggs. Here, several eggs are baked together in one large dish; you could equally well bake the eggs on a vegetable base in individual serving dishes. Creamed Spinach 2 to 2 1/2 pounds spinach, stemmed 1 ounce butter 1/2 cup heavy cream Salt and pepper Grated nutmeg
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, plunge in spinach and parboil for 2 minutes. Drain spinach in colander, running cold water over it to stop the cooking. With your hands, squeeze out excess moisture. Chop spinach. Over medium heat, melt butter and stir in chopped spinach. Stir until any excess moisture has evaporated. Reduce heat. Stir in cream. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.
Placed creamed spinach in a buttered gratin dish. With the back of a spoon, form 4 shallow, evenly spaced pockets in the spinach. Break 4 eggs into each depression. When all eggs are in place, spoon a tablespoon of heavy cream over each of the tops. Set the dish in a moderate oven, preheated to 350 degrees F.
After about 8 minutes, check eggs to see if whites have set. If not, cook a few minutes more. Serve immediately onto a warmed plate, placing each egg on its own bed of spinach. Season to taste.