I’m inclined to love Hopkinson, not just for his simple, delicious recipes and easy, eloquent style, but for the fact that he’s a northerner born in Bury in 1954. What a good year that was. Plus, his definition of a good cook is someone who cares as much about eating as cooking. We could’ve been separated at birth.
After years of cooking in various cracking establishments he ‘retired’ from Conran’s Bibendum to write. ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ appeared in 1994 and was voted the most useful cook book of all time by Waitrose Food Illustrated. ‘The Prawn Cocktail Years’ followed, and then ‘Roast Chicken – Second Helpings’. Disciples will be tuning in to his first telly series starting on 8th July on BBC 1 at 7.30pm.
The Good Cook is a gorgeous looking book and, like its predecessors, completely accessible. Hopkinson above all is a cook, not a chef, and he comes across as someone who would happily throw together a supper in your kitchen if you invited him round; for him, cooking is a pleasurable part of daily life. I love the fact too that he’s not snobby about ingredients; he shops anywhere – he’ll occasionally ‘splash out’ at a farmer’s market, but is just as happy in Lidl. Like I say, we could be family.
His recipes are equally un-fussy; a firm favourite is ‘my mother’s Lancashire cheese & onion pie’, and in the chapter ‘Lovely Lamb’ is ‘grilled lamb cutlets with minted hollandaise’ which is simply the easiest and one of the best looking dishes around – wow your dinner party guests with this one. As for afters, his northern roots betray him, with the likes of sticky toffee pudding, apple and mincemeat suet pud and a rice pudding so creamy I defy you not to polish off the lot in one sitting.
But the dish I chose to make – again, straightforward and tasty is the ‘warm prawn salad with flageolet beans, onion, parsley and olive oil’ – it just reeks of a sun-drenched Italian hillside. Squint your eyes a bit, eat it in your back garden and pretend.
Cooked, shell-on prawns are the ones to use here. Peel them and remove their heads. Put the tail meat in a bowl and set aside. In a baby processor, whiz together 2 tbsp passata, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, a crushed clove of garlic and some seasoning. Add about 80ml of olive oil slowly, til the mix is creamy. Tip into a shallow pan; add the drained tin of beans and 2 small chopped tomatoes. Warm through. Decant into a shallow serving dish, arrange the prawns and a small finely sliced red onion on the top and scatter parsley liberally over it all. Trickle over some extra oil and quietly mingle. Serve with chunks of grilled country bread.
You can buy a copy of The Good Cook here