Stylish Mediterranean In Minutes

A nagging dilemma of contemporary times is how, with composure, to manage an increasingly hectic schedule combing a sleek, efficiently run home and effortless cosmopolitan cuisine. We all seem ludicrously pressurised from many directions to attempt even elements of this lifestyle, but few of us have the stamina or capacity to achieve this, whilst retaining some semblance of sanity.How often we utter the mantra, either as a heartfelt whisper or even screamed out loud as a frantic plea:

“Stop the world and let me get off …even just for a breather…, please!”

These thoughts echoing in mind, be revitalised with the discovery of a jewel, glittering between the masses: Stylish Mediterranean In Minutes, Sophie Baimbridge’s latest book which is precisely as the title describes, sophisticated food in (almost) an instant – 30 minutes or less, to be precise.

Encapsulating seasonal and readily available ingredients, Sophie tempts us to a Mediterranean extravaganza, which is hardly a surprise given her solid culinary roots; trained by the Roux Brothers, then cooking at some of the world’s leading restaurants - the Gavroche, Sally Clarkes, the River Café and Chez Panisse in San Francisco. A plethora of cookery books and a successful cookery school to her name, Sophie Baimbridge embraces fine food and is adept at fine tuning her recipes to suit today’s hectic lifestyle.

The upshot for us is that Sophie prepares authentic dishes using top quality ingredients, requiring only simplest of preparation techniques. The dishes speak openly and honestly for themselves, liberating us from any unnecessary time spent in the kitchen.

The Mediterranean emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients, minimal preparation and simple cooking methods sums up my style of cooking: light, easy recipes that will delight friends and family, weekdays or weekends. My task is to prepare and cook traditional and unusual dishes in less than 30 minutes. It’s not difficult to keep within this time limit – just follow my method for preparing ingredients while you cook.” Sophie Baimbridge, Stylish Mediterranean In Minutes

Beginning with an historical perspective, Stylish Mediterranean in Minutes describes the eclectic mélange of past conquering cultures and how their influence remains and still flavours today’s Mediterranean cuisine. Conquering nations bring unique specialties with them – French flavours abound in Morocco, aromatic Arabic spices dominate southern Spain and Sicily, and see the influence of Italian cuisine in central European countries such as Croatia and Slovenia. What binds them all together is, of course, the sea and its fruitful bounty giving rise to colourful, thriving costal communities.

Needless to say, fish and seafood are important components of Sophie’s book, and she teams them beautifully with an array of fresh salads, vegetables and grains. Be seduced and find new favourites.

With chapters organised around Mediterranean principles, the book is easily navigated with heaps of vegetable and salad dishes to be served warm or cold and oodles of smaller dishes as starters or combined for substantial mezze, tapas or antipasti. Discover mouthwatering morsels such as Smoked Aubergine Purée, Marinated Octopus Salad, Frittata with Bottarga and Asparagus, and Deep-Fried Sage Leaves with Anchovies….

But, it doesn’t end there. Move through to light but substantial Meat, Poultry and Fish courses. Delicious bakes and grills, not forgetting steaming stews for the cooler months too. Desserts are fruit based and decadent: Baked Figs, Sautéd Peaches with Almonds, and Caramelised Blood Oranges with Marsala are all divine.

Whilst a recipe may tingle a thousand taste buds, a picture can whet a thousand appetites, and here I must confess to an extraordinary amount of time gazing at the beautiful photography of Manos Chatzikonstantis. In particular, the most evocative image of teeny tiny, crisp fried fish. The catch of the day – prawns and anchovies, tender squid and quite literally whatever else is found in the nets. I close my eyes and can taste the fine, delicate batter coating succulent, juicy, tiny pieces. I have been transposed with vivid memories of last summer - a balmy lunch at Ristorante Jeri whilst we watched frolicking flotillas of starched, white-sailed yachts on the cobalt waters of Lerici, set in the rugged gulf coast of northern Italy. Heavenly.

Cooking from Stylish Mediterranean In Minutes has been utter pleasure in the kitchen as the results are without a doubt, fantastic. My selection of recipes to share with you is courtesy of Kyle Cathie (publishing) Ltd and Deborah McKenna Ltd. These dishes are equally comfortable set upon fine china for friends or plated on rustic chunky kitchenware for midweek dining.

Baked Mushrooms with

Prosciutto & Goat's Cheese

Pork Tenderloin with

Pears & Sweet Sherry

Published by Kyle Cathie Ltd., price GBP 14.99

Photography by Manos Chatzikonstantis