I promised myself that one of the things I would do once the Columbo book was finished was this.  Treat myself to two celebrity related dishes from my chum’s Tonight at 7.30 cookbook and watch an appropriate movie while I ate them.

I know Kristen Frederickson through the Guild of Food Writers.  We have never met in person, but we are avid pen pals, emailing each other about bell ringing, Penzey’s Chili 9000, chicken bricks and a million other things.

Kristen wrote this fabulous cookbook which is illustrated with beautiful photos taken by her daughter Avery.

When I first got this book, I sat in one of my favourite pubs, Tapping the Admiral in Kentish Town looking through it page by page with Mr Rathbone over a few beers.

Here’s an extract from the email I sent to Kristen about her book…


“Tonight at 7.30” arrived and when I took it out of my backpack and put it on the table in the pub Mr Rathbone (the boyfriend) said, “Another cookbook?!”
I explained why this was a special cookbook and started flicking through it, showing him the fabulous photographs and drool-worthy recipes and suddenly he jabbed a pointed finger at a recipe title, abruptly stopping the pages turning, and said: “I want to have THAT.” (slow-braised leg of lamb with umami rub and puy lentils).  He looked through the ingredients and concluded: “I don’t think there is anything about that, that wouldn’t be nice.”
I went off to the bar, and when I came back said: “Anything else there that you fancy?” his reply was: “There’s so much here that sounds effing delicious!”  He carried on looking through, declaring “I’m going to make that for you” (red-cooked Szechuan shrimp).  After a long look at the photo for beef fillets with duxelles and Madeira, announced: “That looks so much like something you could reheat for a lovely snacky-snack.”
Later at his flat, I caught him looking through it again.  He said: “Every time you open it there is something nice.”  Then: “I like this woman!” and finally, upon closing the book announced, “This book and me are going to be friends.”  Ha ha – you have TWO new fans Kristen!


Going through my emails to find that one has reminded me that I must cook MORE from Kristen’s book.  But the very first thing I wanted to make was the Dashiell Hammett Spinach because it was this that brought us together.

Back in July 2016, I sent a photo to another Guild chum, Orlando Murrin, with a photograph of a haul of great cookbooks I’d just bought in the Black Gull secondhand bookshop in Camden.

Note the book second from the top, and the one fourth from the top.  I told Orlando that I was excited about the Laurie Colwin book as I’d never read Home Cooking.  His response was, “My friend Kristen Frederickson (a fellow Guild member) worships at the shrine of Laurie Colwin – I am copying her in because she will be so pleased we have a new (potential) recruit for our fan club. Love, Orlando” and thus began a fabulous correspondence between all three of us.

                                                                                    Laurie Colwin

Kristen’s chicken recipe is based on one on the back of a Hellmann’s mayonnaise bottle, hence the punning recipe name of “Lillian Hellman’s Chicken”.

It seemed only fit and proper to call the spinach dish Dashiell Hammett’s Spinach as the two were lovers,

and Kristen often serves these two things together.  I don’t blame her!  They are a perfect fit and both are super delicious. The spinach recipe is inspired by one of Laurie Colwin’s in Home Cooking.  So you see, wheels within wheels!

I cooked myself both these things for a special spinster supper and settled myself on the sofa to watch Bette Davis strutting her stuff in Watch on the Rhine (adapted from a play written by Lillian for the screen by Dashiell).

It is the first time in living memory that I have watched a film without doing something else at the same time.  I am now so in the habit of having my laptop in my lap at all times, it’s terrible.  I heartily enjoyed the movie and got so much more out of it than if I’d only half watched it.  A lesson learned.  It seems weird that as an ex-film studies student I have totally forgotten how to give beautifully crafted cinematic works of art my full attention.  Naughty.

So what about that stack of books, bought almost 2 years ago?  I read Orlando’s book cover to cover of course.  It’s such a fun and fascinating read.  I learned about the importance of Bake O Glide and fantasised about staying at Orlando’s boutique B&B in France.  I want Maria Callas blaring out while I sample the “towering crumples of featherlight, snap-in-the-mouth pastry dusted with icing sugar” that is Pastis du Quercy!

I’ve cooked quite a few things from the Smitten Kitchen book and the fabulous mustard book.  I love that book.  Read HALF of the Mrs Beeton book (I was really enjoying it, then got distracted by something else and it went in the “to read pile”) but haven’t even opened the M.F.K. Fisher.  It’s a big book.

But I absolutely LOVED the Laurie Colwin book and am so glad I thought to pick it up in that bookshop that day, for now, through Orlando, I have Kristen in my life!

Even if it is just in my virtual reality life…

Here’s a link to Kristen’s website and her book on Amazon – go get it!  Oh and Orlando’s too!

If you can’t wait for your copy of Tonight at 7.30 to turn up, you can find the recipes for Dashiell Hammett’s Spinach and Lillian Hellman’s chicken in this blog post over at Kristen in London

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