But books have their place too. In search of inspiration for what to do with a bag of peppers that were reaching their sell-by date at the bottom of my fridge, I reached for my dog-eared copy of Claudia Roden's Mediterranean Cookery, published to accompany a BBC TV series in 1987. The first item in the index for peppers was pepper relish - a Tunisian dish called slata méchouia nablia. So that was what I made.
3 red peppers
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons of chilli sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
- Wash the peppers, cut them in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and roast in a hot oven (225oC) for half an hour. Roughly chop them.
- Peel and roughly chop the tomatoes. Peel the garlic and chop it finely.
- Put all of the ingredients except the black pepper in a food processor, whizz so that it is finely chopped but not pureed, and transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and grind some black pepper over it.
The revolution will be televised
British food has changed almost beyond recognition in the last 50 years and continues to do so. Because the change is ongoing, it is tempting to assume that it is also recent - so people talk about the 1980s as if they represent the bad old days of British cooking. Having learnt to cook during that decade, I remember it as an exciting time when lots of new ingredients, cuisines and cooking styles were being introduced to the UK (a bit like today). And a lot of the credit must go to the BBC, which produced shows presented by the likes of Delia Smith, Keith Floyd, Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden, and the books that accompanied them.