Short Order: Gift or loan, this one's a winner

My young Russian friend, who is also my neighbor, showed up on my doorstep the day before a trip to Moscow to surprise his parents, whom he hadn't seen for a year and a half.

chicken and peppers 88 (photo credit: )
chicken and peppers 88
(photo credit: )
My young Russian friend, who is also my neighbor, showed up on my doorstep the day before a trip to Moscow to surprise his parents, whom he hadn't seen for a year and a half. Reaching into a cloth carrier bag, he pulled out a weighty tome and handed it to me with a little bow. "I was hoping to present this to my bride," he explained with a shy smile, "but she has not yet appeared. So I am giving it to you." "It" turned out to be Mary Berry's Complete Cook Book, one of the most alluring cookbooks I have ever seen, printed on shiny paper in a clever combination of regular and italic type, with step-by-step instructions and what seemed like thousands of full-color photographs spilling out of its 512 pages. A wonderful gift indeed. However, I got my friend to agree that I would keep the book on loan only, until his bride showed up. Here are some recipes, the first for a dairy meal, the second for a meat one. CHILLED CURRIED APPLE & MINT SOUP 30 gr. butter 1 onion, coarsely chopped 1 Tbsp. mild curry powder 900 ml. vegetable stock 750 gr. green apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped 2 Tbsp. mango chutney juice of half a lemon 7-8 sprigs fresh mint salt and black pepper to taste 100 gr. plain yogurt a little milk, if needed Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until soft but not golden. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock and apple and bring to a boil, stirring. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Puree the apple mixture, chutney and lemon juice in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Strip the mint leaves from the stalks, reserving 6 small sprigs. Finely chop the mint leaves. Pour the soup into a large bowl, stir in the chopped mint and season to taste. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Whisk in the yogurt, then adjust the seasoning. If the soup is too thick, add a little milk. Garnish with the mint sprigs. MARINATED CHICKEN WITH PEPPERS 1.7 kg. chicken, giblets removed 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 large red pepper and 1 large yellow pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips 125 gr. pitted black olives Marinade: 4 Tbsp. olive oil 2 Tbsp. clear honey juice of half a lemon 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (e.g. parley, thyme and basil) salt and black pepper to taste Put the chicken into a roasting tin, rub the breast with oil and cook in a preheated oven at 190 for 20 minutes per 500 grams. Spoon off the fat and juices and add the peppers. Return to the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and peppers from the tin and leave until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Remove the chicken from the bones and cut it into small, bite-sized pieces. Toss them in the marinade, stirring gently to coat them evenly. Cover and leave to cool completely. Spoon the chicken onto a serving platter, arrange the pepper and the olives around the edge and serve at room temperature. Serves 4-6. A RICE DISH I have enjoyed a number of times at a friend's house is delicious and versatile. It originates with Jerusalemite Miriam Erez and is simply made by cooking a cup of rice and setting it aside; then grating a carrot or two and cutting up a stick of celery. Heat a little oil in a pan and add up to a tablespoon of curry powder. Stir this around for a moment, and then add the vegetables and saute them until they are soft. Throw in some pine nuts, and salt to taste. Finally, mix with the rice. LAST TIME I wrote about the courage needed to serve a bowl of peas completely unadorned. It takes a different kind of courage - or perhaps faith - to buy bright green tomatoes. Our family are great tomato eaters, and if we buy all red ones, some will go squashy before we get to them. Recently I marveled at the extraordinary color contrast between ripe and unripe fruit in my tomato bowl. The effect was like an artist's wild imagining. It was hard to believe that the green ones would ever redden. But they did.