March 31 2012

A Rose who needs no other name

Bath’s wonderful Vegetarian Cookery School is thrilled to announce the return of cult UK food hero Rose Elliot for a full day of cooking, discussion, learning and tasting on Thursday 23 May. You can read all about Rose (and book a day in her company) here – if you’re interested, I urge you to Do It Now, because this is a day you really don’t want to miss…and neither do I; here’s why:

One of Rose Elliot’s original vegetarian cookery books ‘Not Just a Load of Old Lentils’ (she’s since gone on to create dozens more) cost my mum £1.50 in 1972. ‘Fun, practical, easy, delightful!’ reads the strapline on the faded orange cover, the words running around an etched sketch of pulses, cheese, vegetables and wine. There’s a photo of Rose herself on page two; demure, but smiling encouragingly, with a subtle twinkle of fun in her eyes. This is the only photograph in the book – it’s left to the reader/cook to decide how Rose’s recipes should be styled.

‘NJaLoOL’ lived by the cooker in all the kitchens I grew up in, and – in between the covers of this lovingly battered relic that today lives on my own bookshelf – my family remains totally intact. On page 179, buttery stains from childish fingerprints make a flapjack recipe almost indecipherable, while a hundred dinner party preparations have left their mark on the stuffed pancakes recipe on page 94. Potato cakes: served hot, with crumbly Cheshire cheese and a glass of Ribena, they were manna from heaven. Dhal, p108: my goodness, weren’t the Lurve generation ahead of their time? Perhaps the butterbean curry on the previous page windpowered us along. But why the purple stain on the Spaghetti with Aubergines page? I don’t remember ever eating this dish. Maybe mum tried, but failed – oh Rose, you let her down! Not so me.

Rose nursed me through my very first soufflé. She taught me how to make a croustade, stuff a marrow, handle pastry. This weekend, I’ll be making her vegetarian stroganoff; last week, I made her banana bread. And as I go, I’m adding my own indelible stains to a cookery book that brings back more memories than Proust’s Madeleine ever could; 35 years worth so far, and many flapjacks still to go. I can’t wait to meet her.

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