Because of my job, I have bought an incredible number of cookbooks over the years...in fact, my love of food began so early that I used to spend my pocket money on them, too. I remember the cover of the Penguin edition of the first volume of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' piquing my interest (I think it was the red of the lobster, alongside a beautiful copper pan full of bright green mange touts!) I still use it...the same copy that I bought, aged 12, for £1.95...my name carefully biroed on the first page in case anyone doubted that it was mine! It set a pattern because even today I gravitate towards cookbooks with lots of written content...in fact some, like Nigel Slater's original 'Fast Food', contain no illustrations at all. I think that some of the choices I've made for this first of a two-part post reflect that...although I didn't realise it when I chose them!
I've decided to post in two halves, because the next part will focus on some of my vintage books...those passed down by my grandfather, who was an award-winning Master Baker...some date back to his
grandfather's time...(pictured below outside his shop in 1884)
...and they are beautiful and fascinating, so I thought you'd like me to share them with you. But this time, it's contemporary books. Some of the ones that I turn to time and time again...not always for complete recipes, but for the inspiration they give me..here goes!
First is the newest addition...Honey & Co
by Itamar Srulovitch and Sarit Packer...a truly beautiful book, one that I actually (sadly...) walked around hugging when I first got it! I have cooked so many recipes from it already, all to acclaim...including the Cherry, Coconut & Pistachio Cake three times in various guises...
the Pomegranate Molasses Chicken...
which has a meal-in-itself bulgar wheat salad to accompany it...and so many more. The writing, too, is funny and, at times, incredibly moving...I can't recommend it highly enough. If you want a real treat, then do buy it (& visit the restaurant too, if you can...it's a joy!)
Russell Norman's Polpo
...which was published a couple of years ago and continues to delight me. It is so beautiful & yet practical too...the recipes are eminently 'do-able' and the photography whisks me back to many happy times spent in unforgettable Venice...his love for the city shines from the pages and adds to my own. Also another (group of) restaurants that are fab to visit...
is an incredible writer in many different genres....'The Woman in Black' is now a classic chiller of course...I really enjoy her 'Simon Serrailler' series of detective novels...and there are so
many more (thankfully, she's prolific! Always a good thing in a favourite author...) Her countryside books may be less well-known (The Magic Apple Tree, Through the Garden Gate...) and are now very sadly out-of-print...but they are no less wonderful.
'Through the Kitchen Window', with gorgeous paintings by Angela Barrett, is really lovely. A collection of small essays, anecdotes, observations and recipes on subjects from marmalade to rhubarb to quinces...arranged in seasons.
I actually find it hard to choose just one of Nigella's
books...or Yotam & Sami's
....all three ('Ottolenghi', 'Plenty' & 'Jerusalem' with a new one - 'Plenty More' in the offing, yay!) Ottolenghi cookbooks are brilliant and beautiful. Of Nigella Lawson's, I always turn first to the big, wordy ones...'Feast', 'Kitchen' and her first 'How to Eat'...great writing again, accessible recipes, stunning inspiration...
Vegetarian cookbooks can be a bit 'hit or miss' for me...I need big flavours and interesting ideas (like those in 'Plenty' mentioned above, which is exclusively veggie) rather than the older style 'whole food' books which used to be the only real choice. Catherine Mason's 'Vegetable Heaven' is perfect...
doesn't that recipe title just make you want to cook and devour?? It's full of all sorts of delights from many cuisines...and has something for wintery days when you want something hot, cheesy & comforting as well as those fresh, zingy meals that you crave in summer. The vibrant ink paintings by Elda Abramson really make the book, too..
And finally...for this post...'Home Cooking'...such a special book. Laurie Colwin died 22 years ago, tragically young...and this, together with the second collection 'More Home Cooking' and her novels, make one mourn her loss all the more. A collection of essays, written so beautifully with humour and sparkle and truth...as well as recipes interspersed throughout. Her voice shines through and makes me so wish that I'd met her. Just a jewel. 'Home Cooking' is available in the UK but my copy is American, as she was.
So...do you want some good news?? I have giveaways! To celebrate the launch of Sugar Moon Brownies
I will be sending two blog readers a wonderful gift.
The first (open to UK readers only
, I'm afraid) is one box of 12 Sugar Moon Brownies
- a tasting box containing 3 flavours which you can choose yourself - sent to any address in the UK. I'll let you know how to let me know what and where after the draw.
I'm so very sorry that I can't offer this giveaway to everyone, everywhere. But the second one is open to all
and will be sent anywhere in the world, so I hope that makes up for it! I have a copy of both
Susan Hill's 'Through the Kitchen Window' AND
Laurie Colwin's 'Home Cooking'
(US edition) to give away!
I'm very pleased and excited to offer these lovely prizes!
To enter, please just leave me a comment on this post
...if you could indicate your country of residence at the end of the comment (just UK, AUS or whatever) it will enable me to exclude those ineligible from the first draw. But everyone will be included in the second!
The draw will be made in two weeks time...there will be another opportunity to enter by commenting on Part 2 of this post as well...but do be sure to check back on Monday 28th July to see if you've won!
Good luck...and thanks so much for reading!