The winter break was not all the librarycook had been hoping for, given that she certainly hadn’t been hoping for three weeks confined to her LGA, or to 10km from her home, whichever is the greater when you add the number you first thought of and triple it. Or whatever the increasingly alarming warnings now specify.
But three weeks* confined to quarters did allow for two of the librarycook’s most favourite activities, reading and cooking. Equipped with both a tower of books, and the July issue of Delicious, the librarycook was ready for anything Covid could throw at her.
In what might be a first for the librarycook, all three recipes she cooked were taken from the same feature article, which focussed on Parmesan, always a magnet for the librarycook.
First up was the Parmesan Risotto with Rocket Pesto and ‘Nduja. Well, the librarycook didn’t have any ‘nduja**, but she did have some cacciatore which, in the spirit of thriftiness, needed using up. The risotto had the usual drawback of risotto, in that it needed regular stirring, a practice which interferes to an annoying degree in any reading the librarycook might wish to engage in. The resultant risotto, which featured a swirl of rocket pesto and was topped with the crispy cacciatore, was OK. Not brilliant, not terrible – whether it would have been better if actual ‘nduja had been employed is moot, but for the librarycook, its almost total lack of time available for reading makes it unlikely that it will return to the librarycook’s table.
Next off the rank was a recipe for Sage & Parmesan Veal Cotoletta, essentially crumbed veal cutlets served with a (delicious) salad of bitter leaves dressed with Parmesan and lemon, and a fine meal it was too. Again, though, it was essentially a hands-on cooking experience – sure, there was 15 minutes resting time in the fridge, and 10 minutes in the oven, but it hardly provided adequate time for literary pursuits – not even a chapter or so of Bri Lee’s excellent Who Gets to be Smart, which the librarycook had promised to finish quickly in order to pass it on to its next keen reader.
And finally. The recipe that not only provided a good hour for the librarycook to bury herself in Anita Heiss’s Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams), but also resulted in a crispy, cheesy, flavourful dish of goodness – Parmesan & Cavolo Nero Gnudi with Lemon Butter. Both the book and the gnudi are highly recommended – the book is a wonderful tale of a young indigenous woman set in the second half of the 19th century, in Wiradjuri country around Gundagai and Wagga Wagga. And the gnudi needed an hour in the fridge, and were beyond delicious.
Rounding out the librarycook’s July reading was Robert Goddard’s The Fine Art of Invisible Detection, a wry, charming and exciting detective story set in Japan, England and Iceland.
*stretching now to – well, who knows? But if we can all stay home, cooking and reading, it will pass more quickly, and end sooner.
**’Nduja – a soft, spreadable fermented pork salume, spiked with fiery Calabrian chilies. Sounds pretty good to the libarycook on a chilly Friday morning.