Friday, February 17, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers in Food - #35 - Delia Smith

Would you cook with this woman?  Meet Delia Smith.
In North America, we might argue over who taught us to cook.  While Julia really was on tv, I'm sure I learned to cook from a. my mother, b. James Beard, and c. SILVER PALATE.  (We all teach ourselves right in our kitchen, don't we?)  But in the UK, there's no question about who taught you to cook; Delia Smith, #35 in Gourmet's 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, did.  (photo courtesy BBC)

Way back in the '70s (was it that far away?), you only had to tune in to the telly to learn how to make pastry (or lots else) with Delia in London or Edinburgh. For grins, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the video and see what the buzz was about.  Could you bake a blind tart shell after watching that television program? I admit I missed Julia a bit as I watched!

After a couple of false starts as a hairstylist and travel agent, and without much education, Delia began reading cookbooks in the reading room at the British Museum.  Not long after, she was cooking and writing for the Daily Mirror starting in 1969, where she met her husband, Michael Wynn Jones.

Many television episodes, newspaper articles,  books (21 million sold), a website, and even a soccer club later, Delia continues to deliver basic, commonsense, always-trusted cooking advice, recipes, and technique.  She's so successful at delivering the goods that, within the world marketplace, there's now something called "The Delia Effect."  Which means it'll sell like the proverbial hotcakes, as her stamp on anything makes product fly off the shelves in the UK. Reportedly, egg sales in England rose by 10% after her book How to Cook was published.

Delia's Complete How to Cook can be ordered through, as can other volumes, though some appear to be more available overseas than here in the States.   Time for a few days in London, I'd say.

 Reading through recipes and trying to decide which to try for this blog, I found no shortage of tasty and wonderful-sounding things to cook.  Oven-Baked Smoked Pancetta and Leek Risotto caught my eye, as did Grilled Venison Steaks with Red Onion, Grape, and Raisin Confit, a selection from Delia's website under the banner, "What Should You be Cooking This Month?"  There's also a tab for ingredients and the available recipes to use them.  Special diets, Under 30 minutes, Freezing, and Cooking for One are just a few of the sections you might want to peruse on the site.   I especially enjoyed "Recipe of the Day" and "Competitions."  At the very bottom are links to lists of recipes like, "French," "Pasta," and so on.  While it might not be true, the website has every indication of containing a good portion of her thirty-plus years' recipes and information, which makes it a treasure trove, to say nothing of a great value.

You could make "Italian Baked Fish" (and who doesn't want more baked fish recipes) as did I, and give Delia a whirl:

First:  Make a little marinara with mushrooms.
 italian baked fish  serves 4  (recipe courtesy

4 thick pieces of cod or other white fish (MN cooks:  try our Lake Superior white fish here.)
2T olive oil (no need for extra virgin oil)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
1# ripe tomatoes or 400g tin of Italian tomatoes
4 oz (110 g) sliced mushrooms
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 T capers, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
12 black olives (I opted for kalamata.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Start by making a good, thick tomato sauce:  heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Now add the garlic and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a simmering point and cook gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next add the sliced mushrooms, making sure they are well stirred in.  Simmer for a further few minutes until it looks like a thick sauce.  Lastly, stir in the fresh basil and chopped capers.

Next, season the fish with lemon, salt, and pepper
 Now place the fish in a shallow baking dish or tin, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little lemon juice on each piece.  Next spoon an equal quantity of the sauce on to each piece of fish and arrange a few olives on top.   Cover the dish with foil and bake on a high shelf (in upper 1/3 of oven) for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Serve with new potatoes or brown rice and a tossed green salad.  

Last, top with marinara, and bake.

 I sometimes cook fish right down in a chunky tomato-onion-garlic-etc bath either on top of the stove or in the oven; you might try that idea if it appeals to you.  Here's my fast snapper in tomato sauce.  Get your vegetables, honey.

Next week, join us when we'll feature #36, Edna Lewis. "The granddaughter of an emancipated slave, Lewis, another Judith Jones protégée, brought sophisticated Southern dishes into the spotlight." 

If you'd like to cook a few other gorgeous Delia Smith (or other) meals, click on the blogs of the food bloggers featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game-Changers in Food this (or another) week:
Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan - The Spice Garden, Heather - girlichef, Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette - Healthy Living  Mary - One Perfect Bite, Kathleen - Bake Away with Me, Sue - The View from Great Island Barbara - Movable Feasts , Linda A - There and Back Again, Nancy - Picadillo Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen Annie - Most Lovely Things, Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce - More Time at the Table, Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades
What's on Alyce's blog about cooking for one, Dinner Place?
Pork Tenderloin Salad with Berries and Oranges and a Sherry Vinaigrette
 Thanks for stopping by.

just for fun, here's the early video of Delia teaching pastry-making  in the late '70s.  courtesy BBC                              Bake a new tart, Alyce


  1. I really enjoyed watching the video, how we have all matured. Love this fish dish too. I am definitely moving over to healthier!

  2. I thought, with the marinara, that it would be great with some parsleyed rice. We skipped that this time, though, and stuck to a big green salad. Just watching the "L-Bs."

  3. Beautiful fish! This is definitely a dish I would love with those rich flavors atop gorgeous white fish. I'm salivating! AND, I'm up for a couple of days in London ;)

  4. Girlichef..I'm on the plane to London when you are!

  5. I can just taste the capers, lemon, black olives and tomatoes...we eat a lot of fish and I don't often cook it this way, so I'm glad to hear about this recipe. It looks amazing, I only wish I could get some of your lake-fresh white fish!

  6. I haven't made fish like this in a while - love how easy and light this recipe is.

  7. I'm glad you chose this recipe. I'm always on the lookout for great fish recipes. Great idea to post a video too.

  8. Great healthy fish recipe. I like your idea of cooking fish right in the tomato sauce on top of the stove or in the oven.

  9. Love the fish and love doing it in chunks. It's very similar to one my mother made. The video is just great fun. Cooking on TV has grown up quite a bit - but it is fun to look back and remember.

  10. Her website is really a dream for menu-planning, she makes it so easy with the wonderful categorization :) I'm not that fond of fish but I'm glad you enjoyed the baked fish! :)

  11. She's amazing all right. It was fun writing this one! Love your choice to feature, Alyce. It looks delicious!

  12. This was so nicely thought out. I love the recipe you chose and think you did a fabulous job with your research. I loved the video. I'm so glad you've joined our group. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  13. Another really healthy dish ... easy and basic. Loved your write-up. You have obviously done a ton of research for this week's post!

  14. I love light and flavorful dishes, this looks like it fits the bill. Thanks for sharing this one.


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