editor's choice



I have, in recent times, realised I enjoy a good crush. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to the subject. I don’t discriminate on the grounds of sex, age, race, even species – I am an equal-opportunities bestower of my affections – something that has sadly led to ridicule by certain friends and family.

Of course, the word ‘crush’ means different things to different people. A common factor is that the ‘crush-ee‘ has to be someone who makes one’s adrenalin soar, for whatever reason, and I do share that belief, truly I do, but that’s just one tiny thing in a list of far more important criteria. The object of my affection has to provide a pair of safe arms, be someone whose embrace I can happily walk into and snuggle up while I watch, read or just spend time in their company; someone who makes my heart skip a beat as I watch them do whatever they do best with great anticipation and joy. That’s how I feel about Nigel Slater. And it’s been like that for years.

Everytime I see Nigel Slater he makes me smile. He’s like a piece of perfectly ripe cheese on a slice of very thin, very crisp toast. And everytime, I see a Slater book, I have to buy it. This dates back to Real Fast Food (1992), of which I still have a battered, old copy. Today, my cookery shelves are overflowing with Slater titles, many of which I don’t actually cook from, but just delve into for a thoroughly good read, a bit of inspiration for my pantry or garden – or just for some comfort on a dreary London morning, like today.

The Kitchen Diaries, though, turned me from a mere Slater fan into a Slater lover – and I type this with its black cloth-bound, apple photo-loveliness staring up at me as it perches precariously on top of my copies of Tender and Real Food. On the other side of my laptop eat: The Little Book of Fast Food, the book that this review is actually about, sits waiting patiently for my attention. And it is so worthy of attention.

eat is, indisputably, a beautiful book, the kind of volume that would make me pick it up and buy it, even if I wasn’t a Slater fan. And that’s the sign of a good design and finish. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing, ‘I’ve thrown money at this’ tome. Cloth bound with ribbon, a board wrap-around, good weight paper, lovely fonts and a clear design with lots of white space – oh, and a great photo of a beardy Slater in a roller neck*. A roller neck… Enough of that.

Nigel SlaterThis is a lovely book, with Slater doing pretty much what he does best, providing simple, but interesting recipes, using good ingredients, that can be whipped up by even the most inexperienced of cooks. There are no fancy titles or pretentious names to put off the would-be cook. These recipes do what they say on the tin – salmon with roast garlic and cream; basil prawns; a beef sandwich; slow-cooked rabbit with herbs; potatoes with spices and spinach. What makes them stand out though is that Slater cooks as he writes, with passion, with joy, with colour – and the thing I like most about his books, apart from them being beautiful and a joy to read, is that the recipes speak for themselves. In this age of expensive photoshoots and styling, the recipes themselves are King: the food is what counts.

Sometimes we cook purely for the pleasure of it,’ he writes in the Introduction to the book, ‘understanding the provenance of our ingredients, choosing them with great care, thoughtfully taking them on the journey from shop to plate … But sometimes we just want to eat. This little book is for those times. The days when we have barely an hour to cook. The times we just want something delicious on a plate at the end of our working day.’**

And in all of this, Slater is true to his word. These recipes may sound simple, but the writer weaves his spell, making their ingredients sing and our mouths, in turn, water. We, as the reader, simply must recreate them.

eat takes us on a journey of the kitchen and the book is constructed to be as user-friendly as possible. The recipes are carefully carved up into soundbite, self-explanatory sections – ‘in the hand’, ‘in a bowl’, ‘in a frying pan’, ‘on a plate’ – making it easy for the reader to select his or her particular food, depending on mood, time and what’s in the fridge. And the food’s only ‘fast’ in the sense of time and effort.

Slater’s book is suitable for both accomplished cooks and novices alike. It’s a great present and it has a very good and comprehensive selection of recipes for quick bites and slightly more time-consuming foods, the kind of dishes that you could comfortably serve up at a lunch or supper party.

More than that though, it’s Nigel Slater on a plate, doing what he does best, with love, with passion, with joy.

It really doesn’t get better than that. Really.


eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater. Published by Fourth Estate, 2013.


*a ‘roller-neck’ is a bit more rock ‘n’ roll than a normal ‘roll neck’ jumper (also referred to as a ‘turtleneck’ by our North American cousins).

*** quote from Introduction, p9; image of lovely Nigel Slater (www.theguardian.com)

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