Move over, Nigella ... here comes Norman
He was famous for his hard-boiled politics. Now Lord Tebbit is joining the ranks of celebrity chefs with his first cook book (and there's lots of red meat)
Monday 18 May 2009
He may lack the sultry looks, seductive pouting, and fingers-in-the-chocolate-bowl cooing of Nigella Lawson, daughter of his former Cabinet colleague. But, aged 78, Norman Tebbit is about to bring his own particular brand of no-nonsense fearlessness to the kitchen – relaunching himself as a chef.
After the IRA bombing of the 1984 Conservative Party conference left his wife, Margaret, permanently wheelchair-bound, one of the many pressing questions in their household was: Who will cook?
Fortunately, Lord Tebbit's mother had taught him how to skin a rabbit and he had always held a keen interest in his wife's culinary ways.
After two years of fervent kitchen activity, the peer is set to publish The Game Cookbook on 25 July, celebrating his love of shooting. It will feature 50 recipes, from rabbit, woodcock, pigeon, venison, pheasant and grouse to salmon, spider crab and scallops.
"I've always been a food man. My wife was a jolly good cook and I basically learnt to cook from her," Lord Tebbit said yesterday. What will make this book different, he added, was that his love for food, rather than a cult of his celebrity' would be all important.
There are no images of Lord Tebbit posing over the stove in his kitchen in Horsham, Kent, or digitally enhanced photographs of the dishes themselves. Instead, the tome will feature black-and-white drawings of the animals by Debby Mason, a Devon-based illustrator, .
"For the last 25 years, since she [Margaret] has been injured, the cooking fell to me," he said. "I like game and I'd been shooting for 30 years or so.
"There is no personality cult in the book. It is about the animals. I don't see myself as a celebrity cook. I don't swear enough."
His repertoire ranges from English classic to truly international gastronomic dishes, bearing his own idiocyncractic twists. Readers can learn how to prepare sumptuous feasts of rabbit with mustard and cream, partridge hot pot with pears and cheese, Highland pheasant stuffed with Haggis, and Moroccan pheasant with apricots and spices. The Indian influence is obvious in one curried pheasant recipe; another draws from Majorcan cuisine.
If the book succeeds, other popular dishes from the Tebbit family table could follow.
In the heyday of Lord Tebbit's political career as the MP for Chingford, Essex, and a player in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, his views became synonymous with those of the archetypal "Essex man". In 1990, he famously coined the "Cricket Test" as a means of deducing immigrants' loyalties to Britain.
Speaking of his passion for cooking, Lord Tebbit said that the idea for the book arose out of a conversation with his local butcher.
"I was shooting a lot and often organised game for my butcher. I asked him him why people pay more for a rubber-boned chicken than a good pheasant. It's because they don't know how to cook a pheasant. I thought, 'I can't have that.' So I ran off a few of my favourite pheasant recipes on a printer and I put them on the butcher's counter. People took them and bought the pheasants. So I thought I'd write a book.
"Anything you can do with a chicken, you can do with a pheasant better. My recipes are all quick and things people really make. If you want a relaxing dinner with friends, you can cook a casserole and sit around drinking until you are sure it has cooked."
Lord Tebbit has almost finished writing his first children's book, to be published at the end of the year. It tells the story of a young boy, Sam, who is left wheelchair-bound and low in spirits after a car accident until he embarks on an adventure with his dog, Ben. They discover that Sam's father, who died in the same car crash, was murdered.
"Children love action and this boy is part of a broken family which adds to his difficulties," said Lord Tebbit. "His mother moved out of home to live with a schoolteacher. His father had been a TV crime reporter who was on the track of a big drugs cartel. The boy and the dog participate in a sting against the drug dealers at the end of the book."
Partridge with pears and cheese: Lord Tebbit's no-nonsense recipe
*Partridges, one per person.
*Pears, if small (like Rocha), one per bird. If large, (Conference), half per bird.
*The remaining ingredients are sufficient for four birds: 2oz butter, fat bacon (2 streaky rashers per bird), 4oz blue cheese, vegetables for gravy: small onions or shallots, a carrot, stick of celery.
1. Heat oven to 200C.
2. Tidy birds: rub butter on the insides and outsides. Cover legs and breasts with bacon pinned by cocktail sticks
3. Stuff birds with a piece of pear each. Place on a rack in a steel roasting-tin.
4. Cut up vegetables for the gravy and put them under the rack in the tin with enough boiling water to cover the floor of the tin.
5. Cover the lot with aluminium foil and put in oven.
6. After 30 minutes, remove the foil to let them and the bacon crispen for a further 10 minutes.
7. Bring the juices in the pan to the boil, add red wine and thicken.
8. Slice the rest of the pears. Melt the rest of the butter in an oven dish. Turn the slices in the melted butter and put them in the oven with birds for the last 10 minutes.
9. Serve the partridges and the bacon with the thickened sauce and the pears with blue cheese shavings on top alongside them.
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