Last year I was given signed copy of Sophie Dahl’s cookbook, Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights and quickly found myself whipping up the cardamom rice pudding for my children one weekend. Dahl, the granddaughter of children’s author Roald Dahl, was famously discovered by fashion icon Isabella Blow, and despite being a luscious, curvaceous figure of womanhood soon took the modeling world by storm.
But although contracts included being the face and body of Tom Ford’s YSL Opium, Dahl soon joined the family business by penning the well received Playing with the Grown-ups and the illustrated love-story The Man with the Dancing Eyes (rumoured to be inspired by her dalliance with Mick Jagger).
Now married to jazz singer Jamie Cullum, her first cookbook is as much an autobiography of her life through food, as it is an enjoyment of cooking, with recipes borrowed from friends and family all relayed in Dahl’s informal chatty narrative. Dahl’s book is also divided by the seasons which makes finding a quick starter for a spring dinner party a breeze – the buffalo mozzarella bruschetta is perfect for right now.
So while Nigella won’t be toppled from her throne just yet, the recipes are easy to follow, offer a number of options for a Meat Free Monday and all the ingredients are easily available in Hong Kong.
Buffalo Mozzarella Bruschetta
* Thick slice of sourdough bread
* ½ small fennel bulb, herby tops reserved
* ½ small yellow courgette
* Small bunch of mint
* ½ orange, skin cut off and thinly sliced into rounds
* ½ lemon, squeeze the juice
* Extra virgin olive oil
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 garlic clove, cut in half
* 125g buffalo mozzarella
* Heat a griddle pan until smoking hot.
* Toast the bread well on both sides so it has the griddle pan marks on it.
* While it is toasting. Using a speed peeler – thinly shave the fennel and courgette into a bowl.
* Pick off some small mint leaves, tear the big ones and add to the bowl.
* Pick off some of the fennel tops and add to the bowl.
* Add the thinly sliced orange and the juice of half a lemon.
* Add some extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
* When the sourdough is ready put it on a plate. Rub with the cut side of a piece of garlic and drizzle over some olive oil.
* Tear the mozzarella in half and place on the bread.
* Pile the fennel and courgette salad on top, drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle over a few more fennel tops and serve.
Cardamom Rice Pudding
*1.4 litres milk – semi skimmed
*1 cinnamon stick
*300g basmati rice
*1 tbsp vanilla extract
*8 cardamom pods
*100g golden caster sugar or 175g maple syrup
*50g flaked almonds
*Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed pan with the cinnamon stick. Bring it to the boil and stir in the rice and vanilla extract
*Simmer on a very low heat for about 30 minutes, making sure that you keep stirring so the rice does not stick to the pan
*Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and extract their seeds. Throw the pods away and add the crushed seeds to the sugar
*When the rice looks like a soupy milky risotto but still has a little bite, stir in the raisins, almonds and cardamom sugar or maple syrup and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes on low adding more milk if it starts to get dry.
* Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights by Sophie Dahl is published by Harper Collins