Food stylist Nikki Walsh gives us an excuse to revive our Book Club gatherings. Pick a book (see Orna Mulcahy’s suggestions below) and invite the club to start reading. Their reward – a chilled supper at yours…
Photography by Nigel Brand; Styled by Nikki Walsh
Has the Book Club had its day, gone underground or god forbid, “exclusively online”? Do small groups of readers still gather once a month under the pretext of discussing the book they may have/have not read? Do they still drink wine, eat pasta and get louder and louder, straying off topic to partners, children, work, parents, politics, recipes and relative exhaustion levels? Yes, some do, and it actually sounds quite nice …
Food stylist Nikki Walsh gives us an excuse to revive our Book Club gatherings. No competitive cooking required – just something hard-hitting in an ice-filled glass and a simple main course. Afternoon Book Club? How about Earl Grey tea and madeleines?
“Oh, I adore to cook. It makes me feel so mindless in a worthwhile way,” says Truman Capote’s character Grady McNeil, in Capote’s first novel, Summer Crossing … Pick a book (see Orna Mulcahy’s suggestions with each recipe below) locate your old WhatsApp group and invite everyone to start reading. Their reward – a chilled supper at yours.
A MINT JULEP WELCOME COCKTAIL
Book: This minty fresh cocktail will start the shimmering evening, and inspire next month’s read… F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
10 mint leaves
12.5ml 2:1 sugar syrup
Ice cubes, crushed
For the garnish
Big mint sprig and a straw
Shake the bourbon, mint leaves and sugar syrup with ice and strain into a highball glass or julep tin filled with crushed ice.
Churn gently with a long-handled spoon and top with more crushed ice.
Garnish with a big mint leaf and serve with a straw and a Gatsby smile.
ANTIPASTI TO SHARE
Book: Start your book club supper with a bang with Nikki Walsh’s delicious sharing platter featuring rolled aubergine parcels, olives, buffalo mozzarella and pair it with Sarah Gilmartin’s exciting latest novel; Service. The fiery atmosphere of a restaurant at the top of its game is the setting for Gilmartin’s latest novel. Chef Daniel Oswald Costello, hardscrabble, handsome, holder of two Michelin stars, father of two boys, husband of his childhood sweetheart, rapist? Told from the perspective of Daniel, his wife Julie, and Hannah, who, a decade earlier had waitressed at T, a fabled Celtic Tiger Dublin restaurant, the book opens as a court case looms…
Rolled aubergine parcels
Sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper
Cold meats or fish of your choice
Flat leaf parsley
Azouro extra virgin olive oil (Sheridans, Dunnes Stores, Lotts and Co, Ardkeen, Fallon and Byrne, The Counter Deli online, and other stockists around the country)
Parsley pesto (Rachel Allen recipe from Soup Broth Bread)
Preheat the oven 200°C
For the aubergine parcels, slice thinly length ways. Sprinkle with sea salt and allow the strips to draw moisture for 10 minutes, turn over and repeat on the other side. Wipe the excess moisture with kitchen paper and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
Remove the aubergine slices from the oven, sprinkle some feta on each piece with rocket, a few chopped sundried tomatoes, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Roll up and place on the platter. These can be served warm or at room temperature.
Break up the mozzarella and place the cold meats or fish, olives and other ingredients of your choice on a serving platter. Garnish the board with parsley and olive oil.
Serve with Rachel Allen’s parsley pesto and crunchy sourdough bread
For Rachel Allen’s Parsley Pesto
Book: Rachel Allen’s parsley pesto fits in deliciously with this sharing platter and Emma Cline’s The Guest, introduces a sense of intrigue. This is a Hamptons summer story with an edge. Alex’s wealthy older boyfriend provides a haven from her sketchy New York existence but summer is coming to a close and he is getting tired of her ways. He sends her packing after she misbehaves once too often in front of his friends he sends her packing. Alex insinuates herself into other people’s lives, living by her wits and designer clothes. Like a modern-day Lily Bart, Alex looks the part and plays the part, but she’s not prepared to live by the rules and ultimately pays the price.
Makes about 150ml
25g flat leaf parsley (weigh with stalks removed) (substitute with basil if you prefer)
25g grated parmesan cheese or vegetarian version
25g pine or cashew nuts
1 clove garlic crushed
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Put all the ingredients except the olive oil and salt into a food processor and blend until almost smooth.
Add 75ml of the olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Pour the mixture into a sterilised jar, cover with 1cm extra virgin olive oil, using more oil if necessary, and store in the fridge.
SPICY CHICKEN WITH YELLOW PEPPERS AND ROASTED CORIANDER AND BALSAMIC DRESSING
Book: Add even more spice to this flavourful main with Sarah May’s gripping novel Becky. This succession-style saga in which orphan Becky wriggles into the newspaper-owning Crawley family and doesn’t stop until she reaches the boardroom. Set in the 1980s and 1990s, it rattles along very enjoyably, as talented Becky sucks up to celebrities and royalty then exploits them ruthlessly for her own ends…the club will love it!
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Red chilli pepper
1 Green chilli pepper
Salt and pepper
6 chicken fillets
Extra virgin olive oil (I use Azouro)
1 bag fresh egg tagliatelle (enough for 6)
1 yellow pepper, sliced
Preheat the oven to 190°C
Fry 1 crushed clove of garlic, 1/2 of the red fresh chilli pepper, 1/2 of the green chilli pepper and salt and pepper in a pan for a minute or two.
In the same pan sear the chicken on a high heat in olive oil, on both sides. Put the chicken with the garlic and chillis in the oven for 20 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, add the pasta to boiling salted water and cook until it is al dente (about 4 minutes).
In a separate frying pan, fry the other 2 cloves of garlic, sliced yellow pepper and remaining chilli peppers in olive oil. Stir and cook for a few minutes with no lid. Remove it from the heat and toss the baby spinach through.
Remove the chicken from the oven, rest for a few minutes and slice.
Toss everything into the pasta, sprinkle it with grated parmesan, and drizzle the dish with the coriander dressing and a few coriander leaves.
For the coriander dressing
1 tsp roasted and ground coriander seeds
150ml Azouro olive oil
1 large clove garlic
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
50ml balsamic vinegar
Pinch sea salt and pepper
Heat the coriander seeds on a dry pan for a few minutes, allow to smoke slightly. Put all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar or electric grinder and blitz for a minute.
Book: No book club supper is complete without a sweet treat and madeleines are always a crowd pleaser. Another crowd pleaser; Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld. The overarching question of the book is that beautiful women often end up dating average men but does it ever happen the other way around? Sittenfeld introduces Sally Milz, an Emmy-winning script writer on a late-night TV show at the height of her comedy powers, and the go-to person when guest-host Noah Brewster, a scarily handsome pop idol, needs to sharpen his shtick. There’s instant chemistry but, wait, doesn’t he only ever date models? Sally gives him the brush-off just as Covid descends. When Noah reaches out from California, their email conversations turn serious and Sally sets out across America to see if Noah is really as good as he reads.
Fallon and Byrne madeleines www.fallonandbyrne.com