I ate probably the most scrumptious and unique dinner of 2021 on the Black Bull in Sedbergh, Cumbria: mackerel flavoured with sudachi; cod with smoked roe and seaweed; sticky toffee pudding (in fact). Not that I used to be precisely stunned by any of it. I knew I’d died and gone to heaven after we have been served scorching guinea fowl croquettes with our preprandial sidecars. Miraculous.
Difficult, however I feel the dish I beloved most was the buttermilk fried hen with caviar and brown butter at Skosh in York, the place I managed to bag a desk twice in 12 months. How I shunned ordering a second serving to – I’ll imply a 3rd – I’ll by no means know.
The coldest dinner of the 12 months was at Saint Jacques in St James’s, London, chosen for its terrace in these odd weeks when eating places have been nonetheless solely allowed to serve outside. My fingers have been as blue because the steak some red-trousered kind was devouring on the following desk.
In 2021, I cooked fairly just a few good issues myself, weary although I continuously was on the sight – even the thought – of my kitchen. Take it from me, then, that Felicity Cloake’s recipe for fish pie is the best possible, although I gild the lily and throw in mussels, too (preserve a bag of frozen ones from Picard on standby for this emergency).
I used to be additionally cooked for, which is by far the lovelier factor. I nonetheless consider the pakoras my buddy Arifa served up one night in Might, quickly after we’d been launched from captivity (once more). These birds’ nests of deliciousness, grease and spice in good stability emerged from her kitchen in munificent and unceasing waves, which meant that I used to be additionally cunningly in a position to disguise my greed for them as politeness (probably).
I advised myself: no extra new cookbooks. However then I clapped eyes on Crave by Ed Smith, which arranges recipes by temper, and it referred to as to me, what with the pervasive longing, anxiousness and many others. It has taken me some time to just accept that whereas I’d aspire to moods which can be “contemporary and aromatic”, I’m really a “tacky and creamy” type of one that self-medicates with unsalted butter.
In 2021, I purchased no new swanky knives or every other kitchen package. However I did take supply of my mom’s Wedgwood Sterling stoneware in wealthy chocolate brown. It’s very Seventies; I find it irresistible virtually as a lot as she has at all times hated it. So trendy is it, in reality, I’m ready to tolerate the terrible sound it makes at any time when it comes into contact with a knife. Whether or not my mates will really feel the identical is but to be seen.
My survivor of the 12 months award goes to Maison Francois in Duke Road, London, which had barely opened when the primary lockdown started. It provides me nice pleasure – and but it provides me no pleasure in any respect – to announce that, as I write, it’s inconceivable to bag a desk. It is going to be 2022 earlier than I can eat (extra self-medication) these comte gougeres once more.
This 12 months was the one after I came upon that tinned grapefruit is basically not dangerous, a discovery ensuing from a sudden lockdown-induced need for a lodge breakfast buffet (not that I ordinarily eat the grapefruit at a lodge breakfast buffet, tinned or not).
The most effective edible current I acquired: chocolate embellished in suffragette colors and the phrases “braveness calls to braveness in all places”, delivered to me by a member of a sure WhatsApp group, all of whom have been in my kitchen on the time. What incredible ladies, I believed, as we ate it – and, sure, right here comes the slushy bit. Nothing on this listing would imply something in any respect have been it not for these we love (together with the tinned grapefruit, with its suggestion of holidays, and strangers on unfamiliar landings). Food connects us. It’s a sacramental factor: each cook dinner a priest, each desk an altar. I’m not grateful to the pandemic for something save for my ever-rising consciousness of my nice luck at having so many wonderful (grasping, hungry, chocolate-loving) individuals in my life. No matter occurs subsequent, it’s this (and a fish pie) that I’ll cling to.