Friday, June 17, 2011

In Defence Of Gwyneth

Gwyneth Paltrow is one of those actresses that I kind of grew up with - you know what I mean? She was a real, proper glamorous star before all of that celebutard lunacy kicked in and Lindsay Lohan et al made the gossip mags week after week with their dramas and meltdowns. I always though that she was really elegant and understated - even though she was in madly 'sleb-ful relationships with Ben Affleck and Brad Pitt, it never got undignified. She does a mean English accent (Sliding Doors is a SUCH a great comfort watch), I thought that she made a great joy of portraying Sylvia Plath and, more recently, it was really entertaining to see her more fun side in Glee. Sure, she has a fair few turkeys on her CV, but don't most actors? People seem to see her as a smug celebrity who is quite irritating with her lifestyle website thingy and her kids' trendy names and that whole macrobiotic diet business, but I think that the Gwyneth-bashing is pretty snide and to some extent also quite mysoginistic. It's so easy to slag her off, and when it comes to her new cookbook, Notes From My Kitchen Table,  I find that really irritating. The main criticism of the book that I have been able to discern is that she is just too annoyingly perfect. This comes through so much more than any reference to the actual recipes in the book, and then there is a video on youtube where someone reads extracts from the book in a hammed-up poetry reading-style to highlight the pretentiousness of it. Yeah, yeah, ha ha ha, etc etc - but there are so so many cookbooks/food writers that you could do that with. And, having seen her on the Graham Norton show last month, I reckon that she probably laughs all of that stuff off. Check it out - here she actually does a mean version of Gangsta Gangsta, with the help of one of my favourite comedians, Jason Byrne. If you still think she's prissy and po-faced after that then there's no pleasing you. Anyhow - to the book: I love it! It was part of a cookbook-binge that I indulged in when I got a birthday voucher. It's simple, straightforward, unfussy cooking; very American, very family-oriented, full of healthy recipes while still not being preachy-preachy. There's a whole chapter on burgers and sandwiches that I'm particularly excited about tucking into.  I have it covered in sticky tabs and there's a ton of things that I want to try out - I started with grilled salmon teriyaki and polenta with fresh corn.

The main appeal of this, for me, was that I could just prepare the marinade early on in the day, leave the salmon marinating in the fridge and then just throw it on the grill when I got home. The marinade is just 4 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, 3 tablespoons honey, 5 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon grated ginger and 2 sprigs coriander - in the saucepan over a high heat until it comes to boiling point, then lower it to a simmer for two minutes. 

It should become quite thick and syrupy.

Then it just needs to cool and then it goes into a ziplock bag with your salmon fillets, which, of course, goes into the fridge.

There's a lovely chapter on side dishes in this book. I'm always stuck for sides; I find that I get so caught up in the main course that the accompanying offerings can become sidelined. The recipe for polenta with fresh corn looked just perfect to go with the salmon - tasty and filling without creating a big flavour clash with the teryaki sauce. It calls for fresh corn; I unfortunately couldn't get my hands on any, so I made do with not-quite-the-tinned-variety pre-cooked corn. 

I was actually quite entertained by taking the corn off the cob (sad, but true). I only used one of them in the recipe, the other didn't last for too long as I was absolutely starving. To make the creamy polenta put one litre of water on the boil, slowly whisk in 170g polenta with a pinch of salt, bring the heat down to a minimum and cook it (stirring frequently) for 40 minutes. Then add the corn (from one cob), 125ml milk and 4 tablespoons cream and cook it for another five minutes. Just before those final ingredients go in is a good time to put the salmon on the grill.

Snip a load of chives over all of that loveliness and there you have a delicious, comforting, minimum-effort meal. Watch this space for further adventures in me attempting to convince you all to ignore the Gwyneth-dissing, recipe by recipe.


  1. I really enjoyed her book and was thoroughly surprised by how much I got from it... her 10 hour chicken is to die for and I reviewed it on my blog:

  2. i love the sound of the polenta with the corn- i'll definitely have to try that! the whole meal looks lovely though