Monday 14 July 2014

Cookbooks to cherish...Part 1

Because of my job, I have bought an incredible number of cookbooks over the 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 £ 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 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 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'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...

 Susan Hill 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 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. 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!


  1. Dear Rachel, what a lovely collection of cookbooks you have! Your passion for baking delightfully inspiring. I love the wonderful pictures, too! Keep up the good work. Janis from Oklahoma USA

  2. Rachel, what a lovely kitchen library collection; looking forward to seeing your vintage heirlooms. Having read yummy reviews of your famous brownies, my mouth waters from across the pond and longs for personal satisfaction! Your giveaway books sound wonderful; I especially like the cover illustration of Through the Kitchen Window ... somewhat reminiscent of Gladys Taber and Susan Branch {smile}. Thank you for including me in your drawing.

    Sharon in Alabama (USA)

  3. You have an amazing collection, and I cannot wait to see part two now! I know what you mean, I went around hugging my very first Crank's cook book {I was so thrilled not to have to live on eggs and cheese any longer after becoming vegetarian} and agree that a well written cook book makes good reading. I love how one recipe starts {in an old~ish book of Mum's} with "First catch your chicken! !!! Oh, and I have just secured a copy of the Susan Hill book on Amazon! Thanks for the recommendation. Always looking for more books.
    Waving from wet and windy wonderful west Wales!

  4. This is an amazing collection of cookbooks, Rachel! You have chosen well! So much deliciousness all through them! Wish I lived where I could access those wonderful brownies! xo

  5. Thank you for sharing some of your favorite cookbooks! Like you, I have been collecting cookbooks since I was in grammar school!
    Congratulations on your new venture--only wish I lived in the UK, so I could order some Sugar Moon brownies! :)

    Carina (USA)

  6. Here we have too many, we barely use any of them.

  7. Thanks for sharing your wonderful cookbooks. I also love Laurie Colwin's books but am not familiar with Susan Hill -- Through the Kitchen Window looks lovely!

    Your brownies sound delicious -- I shall dream of them here in Virginia. . .

  8. Thank you for sharing this lovely post. It has complemented my morning coffee perfectly! As you know, I have a passion for food and cooking also and it is a delight to learn about your favorite inspirational food books. I own several of Nigella's cookbooks, but not "Feast". I purchased Yotam's "Plenty" a few years back (recommended by you) and it is wonderful!. I also have a copy of Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking". It was recommended to me by a friend. I have not yet heard of Susan Hill's "Through the Kitchen Window". It sounds like a beautiful book. What a wonderful giveaway! Good luck to all! xx

  9. Deeply enraged! I want the brownies. Really want them. Your brownies always look so amazing and it's so tragic I might never taste them. I say them as opposed to one for reasons you already know. That's not to say I don't adore cookbooks. I have more of them than anything else. I read them cover to cover like novels, although in truth I don't love the modern trend of cookbook story telling because it's devolved into having to come up with a story about every single recipe. It seems to devalue the food. I meant to tell you--this weekend I was in Williams-Sonoma and took a pic of one of Yotam's books, prominently displayed. Thought you'd like to see it, but of course I forgot. Will try to post it so you can send to him so he knows that Chuck's minions are doing their work on his behalf. In any case I'm very thrilled for you about your brownie business and wish I lived in England and could eat them.

  10. Rachel, your blog is an inspiration. Thank you for being so generous sharing your love of baking and cooking which nurtures the soul. Whenever I'm tempted to buy another new cookbook I always try and rationalize that I've run out of shelf space, but always seem to find room for another gem. My own cook book collection that has grown with me since childhood is a constant source of joy. Many thanks for the introduction to Susan Hill as I'd never come across her before. Happy times and lots of love, Alison x

  11. Rachel, such a generous gift to give some lucky persons! Do so wish I could sample your yummy brownies! I love seeing that picture of your grandfather outside of his shop! What a treasure for you to be carrying on his passion for baking. Your cookbook collection is fabulous, especially Through the Kitchen Window as I'm all for gorgeous illustrations to enhance the text. Thank you for sharing this with us today. --- Karen (USA)

  12. Hello Rachel!!! I am so excited for you and the new venture of brownies with suitcases!! ( a little food joke of them traveling around to various locations!! lol ) The cookbooks are so inspiring..I will be looking to find several of them as they sound so intriguing! You know how much I love to cook and your collection is top drawer my dear. The books that you love would be a welcome addition to anyone's collection. I'm thinking of you dear friend and just blessing this venture with huge success and great new memories made! xx Love, Joann

  13. Dear Rachel,
    Like you I love cooking and collecting cookbooks and it would be fantastic to win one of yours. I don't know Susan Hill and Laurie Colwin but I am eager to discover them.
    You know, English cooking really improved these past years and we must be thankful to people like you who do a great job.
    Good luck to your new business Sugar Moon Broonies !.
    Sylvie from France

  14. Hi Rachel, I have just discovered this blog. I don't know why I have not seen it before as I follow your Mozart's Girl blog which I discovered through Susan Branch's lovely blog several years ago when she was over here researching A Fine Romance. I will now be going through all your past posts and am looking forward to reading about some lovely cakes etc. I am a keen cook but because my family used not to like baked goods, I never did very much baking. SInce my 17 year old daughter Victoria discovered The Great British Bake Off she has becoma an avid baker and she and I have had great fun in the kitchen making yummy treats for family and friends. I will definitely be ordering some of your lovely brownies and will make sure I sign up to follow you on email. Best wishes from Anne Hamilton from Chesham Bucks.

  15. Hi!! I love your blog here. I found you through Susan Branch. I would LOVE to win the giveaway! I am from the USA

  16. Hi Rachel,
    Gotta love a gal who loves cookbooks. I am writing from the USA and it's reassuring to know that England also loves brownies.
    Fondly, Patricia

  17. Hi Rachel!
    'Sugar Moon' is off to such a sweet start! I've always loved reading about your wonderful friendship with Susan Branch. Last summer, when I met her, I asked her how your friendship began. What a wonderful story! I have a dear friend in Germany and our friendship began the very same way! If only we could enjoy your brownies here… Wishing you sunny summer days! ♡Dawn (USA)

  18. Hello Rachel! You inspire me to want to bake some delish brownies! I LOVE your blog...very beautiful and well done! Thanks for the gorgeous pics. Have a great day!
    ~Kim, USA

  19. I just found Sugar Moon through M. Girl. I loved this post and especially part two. My great grandfather was a baker too. Sadly, I have nothing of his but a beautiful jug, used in the bakery. I don't even know what the jug was used for, but doesn't matter, I still cherish it. Judy-USA

  20. Your brownies look so delicious! I seem to be on a never ending diet, so they do look very tempting indeed! I am in the US, so no brownies for me (my hips thank you), but would love to be entered for the cookbook drawing. Xoxo


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