St Edmund- One cool dude.

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Our current patron saint of England, St George, is a Roman soldier who slew a fierce dragon. Our former patron saint, St Edmund was a former East Anglian King (crowned aged just fifteen) whose decapitated head was reunited with its body with the help of a talking wolf. The wolf is now commemorated on Southgate Roundabout in Bury St Edmunds, complete with Bury Town Rugby Club scarf proudly tied around its furry (wooden) neck as it guards the crown of St Edmund. The wolf is the work of Halesworth-based wood sculptor Ben Loughrill.

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Photo by Bury Free Press

Both have been patron saints, and both have supporters who passionately promote their chosen one to be awarded the title of patron saint of England. However the admirers of St Edmund have embarked upon a reinvigorated campaign to have him reclaim the title from good old St George. A previous attempt in 2006 was rejected by the then Labour government after a petition was raised in Parliament.

One of the prime reasons for the reinstatement of St Edmund is that for many, St George has been spreading himself a little too thinly being the patron saint of seventeen other countries. Whilst St George is not subject to the vagaries of a manager and agent having been dead for quite some time now and therefore not having to juggle a packed diary of public events and appearances, there does exist a feeling that we would like our saint to be a little more exclusive. On a more serious note, in these multicultural times, our celebrating a man who will be forever associated with Richard the Lionhearts successful and murderous campaign against Muslims during the Crusades could be seen as hostile to other faiths and especially the Muslim faith. Indeed Richard The Lionheart credited his battle success to his prayers to St George- not quite the peaceful and tolerant image of Christianity as espoused by Christ and one we need more than ever in these turbulent times.

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In the meantime, the good town of Bury St Edmunds is a living testimony to St Edmund  with the Abbey, which dates back to 633, renamed in his honour and a recently commissioned contemporary artwork designed by Emmanuel O’Brien and constructed by Nigel Kaines of Designs on Metal in 2011. This can be seen on the parkway Roundabout

Bury St Edmunds is also famous for being the site where In 1214 Cardinal Langton and 25 Barons swore an oath which changed the history of England. Seven months later, they compelled King John to sign the Magna Carta. Not a bad legacy for such a small market town!

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Browns Cafe – Restaurant in Mundford- Review

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An absolutely fabulous cafe-restaurant discovered quite by chance en route to North Norfolk and completely family friendly.

The proprietor has made the decision to maintain an airy, spacious interior with plenty of space to move around in and decent sized family tables placed in a sunny room. There are squishy leather Chesterfield sofas underneath the front windows with well stocked bookshelves nearby and free Wifi. Conveniently, the WiFi code has been displayed on a chalkboard saving customers the bother of having to ask for it. 

We sat outside on wooden benches it being a sunny warm day but there is also a large covered outside area too. The parking area surrounds the restaurant but is sufficiently separate so children (under supervision of course) will not be near reversing vehicles. 

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The test of a home cooked menu is its length- the longer the menu, the less likely it is to be freshly prepared. Browns clearly home cooks fresh food to order with its well chosen A4 side of options. Breakfast includes a full English with eggs from local producers John Allen (two days old!) and bacon and sausage from Scotts Field rare breed large black pigs. We ordered scrambled eggs on toast(photographed below) and a bacon roll with the aforementioned bacon (which was eaten too fast to be photographed!). 

They were superb- bacon that actually tasted of pig, with perfectly rendered crispy fat in a fresh and home baked bread roll- three large rashers too. The eggs were creamy, just set on excellent quality hand sliced bread. Prices are very good for such high quality food – just £3-95 for the roll. 

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Service was swift, friendly and discreet. Bathrooms are very clean, spacious and there are baby changing and disabled facilities easily found too. 

We will be back to try out the Mature Norfolk cheddar, broccoli and red onion tart with caramelized onion chutney and beetroot salad and the glazed Norfolk blueberry and almond tart with homemade (HOMEMADE!) vanilla ice cream. Or the fresh whitebait from Kings Lynn spiced Spanish style with home made bread and the Fresh fish cooked in Peroni beer batter and thrice cooked chips from Adrian Garrett potatoes.

The proprietor Mark Clayton deserves thunderous praise for his lovely restaurant and amazing food. Check out their coming website- browns-kitchen.com and follow them on twitter @brownskitchen.

Browns restaurant did not solicit this review and we paid for our own food.

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More unctuousness from Browns

Using Wild Garlic in a simple pasta dish

 

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Wild Garlic growing at Arger Fen

Out walking at Arger Fen, the early May air was filled with the glorious scent of bluebells mingling with the more gastronomically interesting wild garlic. Properly named allium   ursinum and known as ramson in the UK and ramps in the USA, the upright leaves of these alliums can be eaten cooked and uncooked, having a gentler, more mellifluous flavour. I grow both kinds: the American allium tricoccum  lives on my allotment in a sheltered, frost-free spot and ursinum is happy unsheltered in the garden, where it constantly threatens to take over the entire space.

Lately wild garlic has benefited from a culinary renaissance of sorts, being much heralded by urbanite food-lovers, the kind of folks who will happily pay £5 for a bare handful in complete ignorance of its undemanding growth and easy availability. Wild picking is allowed but I am wary of encouraging foraging because there is always going to be one fool who razes supplies to the ground, ripping up whole roots instead of taking a few leaves from each plant. However if you know where to look and don’t get greedy, avoiding protected areas such as Arger Fen (which is a Special Site of Scientific Interest), a few stems can perfume your cooking with that familiar alliaceous tang. 

I like to serve this herald of spring with a simple but unctuous pasta made from egg yolks rather than the whole egg. Known as Tajarin by the Piedmontese who make tagliarini pasta noodles in this manner, my favourite recipe for egg-yolk pasta is inspired by the pasta served at Dei Cacciatori near Alba. A tiny little restaurant, it is owned by chef patron Cesare who has become known as a master of the Langhe cooking style. These tagliarini are usually made with unbleached white 00 flour instead of semolina because the latter has a higher gluten content which can make hand-rolling rather an arduous process. Using 00 flour to make this sunny yellow pasta is far easier on the forearms. The recipe presumes the ownership of a pasta machine to thin the dough which is then hand-cut by knife. Don’t worry if you don’t have a machine; a rolling pin will produce good results and if you prefer to buy ready made pasta, the dish will still taste great although it will lack some of the unctuousness that hand made pasta brings to the palate. I don’t know of a shop-bought source of egg-yolk pasta but you will need to buy the highest-quality pasta you can find.

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Like all simple recipes, this depends on the very best of everything: Italian unsalted butter, fresh farm eggs with deep-golden yolks and a well-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano  with a good tyrosine-rich crunch. The sauce is a simple brown butter which coats the ramps without rendering them unassertive and  limp. It will taste as luxurious as the butter you choose and its nature will change accordingly because, as you know, good butter is the result of the cow’s seasonal diet. I was lucky enough to be given some Delitia Prmiagiano Reggiano Il Burro last year which is made with the same cows milk that Parmesan cheese is made from. Being a cultured butter, the Delitia infused the pasta with a pronounced nutty flavour, balancing the wild garlic beautifully. Lescure Beurre des Charentes from France would be a suitable choice too, because it browns well in the pan, giving a subtle caramelised flavour. It is more easily available in the UK, from specialist food suppliers.

Don’t waste the wild garlic flowers either. Keep a few stems in a vase on the kitchen shelf and snip the pretty white star-shaped blooms off to scatter over dishes. The flowers are especially handy if you don’t like stronger garlic flavours because they are milder, with a lovely crunch at the base of each blossom. Strew them over salads, especially those of the Caesar type or mix into salads made heartier with quinoa, couscous, ebly or bulgur. Scatter them over pasta, roast chicken and lamb (in fact any meat will benefit) or dry the flowers in a warm, humid-free place, then add to jars of rice, pulses or your favourite olive oil so as to infuse them all with a gentle garlicky taste and aroma. So versatile.

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Recipe for 3-4 people.

1/2 Lb unbleached white flour / salt and fresh ground black pepper / 10 yolks from extra large eggs / 1/2 tbsp grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese/ 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened at room temperature / a handful of wild garlic, at least two stems per person / unsalted good quality butter for the sauce

Put all but 1/2 cup of the flour on the counter, sprinkle with 1/4 tbsp salt, make a depression in the centre and pour in the egg yolks. Stir the yolks with a fork, gradually incorporating all the flour until you have a sticky mass of dough. Using the reserved 1/2 cup of flour, powder your hands and the work surface liberally and knead the dough, adding more flour as needed until you have a smooth soft ball that no longer sticks to your fingers. Cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes. You can also use a food processor to mix the dough and then knead by hand.

Divide the dough into roughly 6 pieces and roll each one 8/9 times through pasta machine set at the widest setting, folding the dough and turning it after each pass. Thin each piece of dough at increasingly narrow settings until you have sheets a tad thicker than ordinary pasta sheets (about setting 5) and approx 20 inches long. Place sheets flat on floured table top, dust with more flour (lightly) and let them dry out until their surface starts to look like leather but don’t let them get brittle. Turn them over to dry the other side then, total drying time will be between 15-30 minutes.

Working with one dough sheet at a time, fold from one short end to another several times into a compact shape 3 inches in length; trim any ragged edges then cut into 1/8 inch strips. Unfold the pasta noodles and let them dry further for about half a day.

To cook-

Put a full pan of salted water on to boil. Wash and dry a handful of the wild garlic (two stems per person) and slice into thin strips, slicing the bulbs too. When the water comes to a boil, add all the pasta at once, stirring until the water comes back up to boil. Cook the pasta at full boil until they lose their ‘rubbery’ texture but retain resistance to the bite -‘al dente’.  This may take 5 minutes but after 2 minutes start testing them every 30 seconds or so. When they are ready, drain them in a colander.

Whilst the pasta cooks, cook the wild garlic.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small fry pan of skillet over medium heat and when it stops sizzling, turn the flame to low and add the wild garlic. Stir fry gently, keeping it moving and coated in the butter. You may need to add a little more butter to the pan but don’t let it burn. When the garlic strips wilt, becoming knife-tip softened; they are ready. Cover and keep warm while you prep the pasta.

Place the pasta in a large bowl. Pour the garlicky buttery cooking juices over the pasta and strew the garlic strips over the top. Thin slice the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and dot over. Grate parmigiano-reggiano cheese over the garlic strips and butter, add a good grind of black pepper and serve.

 

 

 

 

Little Oliver, our local cook book writer!

Oliver’s Kitchen’ and ‘Oliver’s Kitchen -Seconds’

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Both of these lovely books feature the cooking adventures of Oliver and his sister Mia and in doing so, raise vital funds for the Neonatal Unit at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and the Stroke Association.

Oliver experienced a neonatal stroke and the first book tells the story of his progress alongside recipes and photographs. Oliver’s Kitchen-Seconds is 150 pages of recipes and cooking fun. Simple, child and family friendly meals that you will all enjoy. 

There is also a website packed with more features. 

www.olivers-kitchen.co.uk/

 

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Cook Books- World Cuisines

 

‘Essential Cuisines of Mexico’ by Diana Kennedy

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Three classic books about Mexican cooking in one volume, you will find the purest distillation of regional and national cuisine in here with an updated ingredient, technique and terminology glossary. Diana Kennedy is an American who went to live in Mexico and like Julia Childs, sought to understand her adopted country through its food. Don’t expect Tex-Mex (as delicious as this is) but instead, an authentic journey through the complex regional specialities to be found in this much misunderstood land. 

There is a glorious Pico De Gallo made with peaches that justifies the purchase price alone and by home cooking, you can eliminate the more fattening oils that characterise some of the dishes. Drinks are covered too but there are no glossy food porn photos- this is a cooks book.

‘The Little Paris Kitchen’ by Rachel Khoo

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Written by a ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ trained chef (with all the guarantees this offers regarding recipe construction and accuracy), this is a beautifully designed book backed up by a TV show. It was one recipe from this show – Croque Madam Muffins- that sent us out to buy this. Money well spent. Giving lie to the idea that you need a dramatically large kitchen and John Lewis stock levels of equipment, Khoo cooks up a storm in a kitchen the size of an under stair cupboard and her recipes reflect this economy of space in their simplicity married with classical French underpinnings. 

Fig & chicken liver salad uses an inexpensive meat with fruit that isn’t expensive when in season. The sweet tart of figs cuts the soft fattiness of the liver. Balanced and elegant. Warm potato and apple salad with black pudding crumbs is similarly rustic, inexpensive (Black Puddings are 99p each our my local butchers) and has that same sweet/salty motif. 

We have made the Shepherd Pie with three colour mash countless times. The pumpkin, parsley and potato topping is an excellent method of getting vegetables into yourself (and kids) and it is fun too. Recipes such as this help less confident cooks to experiment too with different toppings and Khoo doesn’t leave you stranded should you not have access to every ingredient. 

We’d definitely buy this for beginners. And for those Croque Madam Muffins which are the bomb.

‘Curry Easy’ by Madhur Jaffrey

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Everything that some cooks find intimidating about Indian cookery- long lists of ingredients, unfamiliar ingredients- is ironed out in this easy to follow and accessible book by an undeniably great cook and food writer. Over 175 recipes, regional specialities both lesser and well known make this THE book to buy as an introduction and fundamental guide to this eclectic cuisine. 

How can anybody resist the romance of a recipe called Perfumed Almonds? Just three ingredients- Cardomom, Sugar and Almonds. Love it.

‘Creole’ by Babette De Rozieres (Translated by Nicola Young)

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Creole is a lively cookbook featuring food from the Caribbean, where influences from Asia, Africa, India, France and Spain blend in a refined and colourful cuisine. It includes 163 recipes by Babette De Rozieres who learned the complexities of Creole cooking from her Grandmother and from there began her love affair with West Indian cuisine. Now a celebrity TV chef in France, she is the owner of the famous restaurant Le Table de Babette in Paris, where she offers her customers the delights of Creole cooking.

The recipes look complicated but they are not and are characterised by the big flavours, bright colours and seasonality of Caribbean food. However many of the ingredients are not easily found outside of large towns and cities with groceries that cater to Caribbean cooks. So it might require a cook with some understanding s to how best to substitute the more obscure ingredients.

Books for Cooks from the USA

I am a particular fan of American food writing and here are some of my favourite books by authors from the U.S, some well-known, some less so.

 But Mama Always Put Vodka In The Sangria by Julia Reed

 

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Mississippi born, New Orleans resident and often writer for US Vogue, Julia Reed has written several books all soaked in Southern charm yet cognizant of its underbelly of oft-unpleasant history and torpid heat soaked Summers that can make people act a little crazy. 

Julia Reed takes the reader on culinary adventures in places as far flung as Kabul, Afghanistan alongside her native Mississippi Delta and the Gulf Coast. Along the way, Reed discovers the perfect Pimm’s Royale at the Paris Ritz, devours delicious chuletons in Madrid, and picks up tips from accomplished hostesses ranging from Pat Buckley to Pearl Bailey and, of course, her own mother. Reed writes about the bounty – and the burden – of a Southern garden in high summer, tosses salads in the English countryside, and shares C.Z. Guest’s recipe for an especially zingy bullshot. She understands the necessity of a potent holiday punch and serves it up by the silver bowl full, but she is not immune to the slightly less refined charms of a blender full of frozen peach daiquiris or a garbage can full of Yucca Flats. And then there are the parties: shindigs ranging from sultry summer suppers and raucous dinners at home to a Plymouth-like Thanksgiving feast and an upscale St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

LA Son- My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

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From twice cooked duck fat fries and Chile Spaghetti in Koreatown; Horchata in Grove St through to Carne Asada and fried ribs in South Central and the Borrego Springs Desert, Roy Choi takes us on an autobiographical wild trip on the food side through culinary Los Angeles. 

This is the story of Choi’s love of food and his evolution from LA Low Rider to chef. Choi returns to his childhood afternoons at his parents’ Korean restaurant, his nights in L.A.’s illegal gambling halls, and his pizza-fueled studying at the Culinary Institute of America before making his way into some of the best restaurants in America. These recipes punctuate his life story and symbolise the great cultural melting pot that is modern USA at its best.

The Glory Of Southern Cooking by James Villas

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One of our favourite ever Southern food writers is James Villas who has had a long and esteemed career ranked equivalent to his peers- James Beard, Craig Clairborne and MFK Fisher (who were all his friends). This is THE definitive guide to Southern cooking by a Tarheel (Northern Carolinian) who is bursting with pride over his roots and heritage and whose writings teem with Southern vernacular, history and traditions. It includes traditional favorites, delicious regional specialties, and new recipes from some of the South′s most famous and innovative chefs, like Louis Osteen and Paul Prudhomme. Comprehensive and authoritative, the book features favorites like buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken, grits, cornbread, and pecan pie. Carolinian Low Country seafood are strengths as are his knowledge of Kentucky Burgoos and the regional ‘debates’ surrounding what a true Brunswick Stew is comprised of. And like all good Southern boys, James loves his Mama whose culinary legacy grounds his often amazing life experiences (crossing the Atlantic with Dali and his pet Ocelot on the Queen Mary) with a dose of down home. 

‘Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi and David Chang and Momofuku by David Chang

The phenomenon that is Momofuku and the Milk Bar in New York City comes to your home in the form of these two amazing books. In Momofuku, David Chang (who is behind the steamed pork bun resurrection) makes sexy recipes out of much berated and neglected ingredients. Roasted Brussel Sprouts? David Chang. New wave Korean quick dishes? David Chang. You will need to have access to some Korean ingredients so unless you either live near a city or are happy to shop for them online, some of the recipes may not be for you. But confident cooks can use his techniques and adapt his recipes or substitute other ingredients.

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The Milk Bar features Tossi’s insanely good and mindblowing sweet confections- cakes and patisserie, drinks and ice creams. Tosi is at the vanguard of new Wave Patissieres resurrecting what was considered to be an expensive and Cinderella speciality and combining low brow with high end turning out fresh interpretations of old diner favourites. 

Recipes combine Pretzels, potato crisps, cereal flavoured milk, marshmallows, apple crumble- you name it, in towering Southern style layer cakes, plate pies and giant cookies. Ice creams made from cereal milk are both nostalgic and fresh. Sweetcorn or crack pie anyone?

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O’Connor 

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We bought this book quite a few years ago and it is quite the most indulgent orgy of chocolate, sweet and unctuous you will ever read. When the most minimal recipe you can find is called Giant Coconut Cream Puffs you know you are in for a blood sugar Roller Coaster ride. The author is a skilled Patissiere and cook (although her assertion that us Brits traditionally eat Sticky Toffee Pudding on Christmas Day is a bit way off the mark) meaning the text is sprinkled with how-to’s on classic techniques such as Ganache making. Your Chocolate Caramel-Pecan Souffle Cake should turn out perfectly under her guidance. Just make sure you have a good dentist. 

Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More from NPR’s the Kitchen Sisters by Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson

 

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Now for something a little more offbeat for those of you who enjoy pure food writing. NPR (American radio) broadcast an appeal for stories about kitchens in unusual places and this book is an anthology of the many startling and sometimes heartbreaking stories that flooded in. What makes a hidden kitchen? For George Foreman (of the grill fame) it can be found through memories of childhood deprivation, of  hiding below the windowsill of a friends house, watching them eat. For a homeless man turned cooking equipment guru, the knowledge that homeless people use his grills by connecting them to street side power supplies is almost unbearably poignant. A hidden kitchen might be the San Fransciscan Cioppino cooked in a bay side hut for members of the local open water swimming club. Or it could be secret civil rights kitchens or the famous Chile Queens of San Antonio who sold their bowls of red in large tents catering to locals. If this book leaves you hungry for more, check out the original recorded oral testimonies on NPR’s archives. 

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More Cook Books Reviewed

Sweet Eats for All: 250 Decadent Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes–from Candy to Cookies, Puff Pastries to Petits Fours by Allyson Kramer

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If you have food allergies or have to cook for somebody with them, it is extra useful to be able to make classic recipes as opposed to some esoteric concoction that sets the allergic person even farther apart by dint of weird and spooky ingredients.

In ‘Sweet Eats for All’ Allyson Kramer keeps the promise of the title by offering safe alternatives to classic recipes such as Key Lime Pie, German chocolate cake and puddings such as pots de creme, albeit made with fashionable chocolate butternut. The person with allergies can once more enjoy the cakes, candies and puddings they always saw as denied them.

No food lover likes to be out of gastro-fashion and Kramer nods to the current ur ingredients such as Matcha and the canny use of vegetables to add moisture and texture. Clever techniques and substitutions, cool ingredients (smoked salt topping!) plus childhood nostalgic favourites such as lollipops and ice creams are included and all are underpinned by Kramers fifteen years of experience in cooking and recipe development.

A great book that belongs on the shelf of anybody with a food allergy or those seeking a new way of eating.

Juniors Cookbook by Marvin & Walter Rosen

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Famous for its classic American Diner food and bakery, Juniors is one of NYC’s most famous and iconic restaurants. The cheesecake recipes alone make the cover price worth it; we have baked probably hundreds of these over the years and the Juniors cheesecake has been voted NYC’s best. Baked on a classic sponge base, flavoured with a little lemon peel and a whole lot of vanilla, we have never eaten better. The recipes are interspersed with the history of the restaurant and Brooklyn with downhome Jewish cooking well represented. Recipes for cheese blintzes, the classic Black n White cookies, Macaroni Cheese, all manner of cookies and mains are all easy to follow but you will need to buy USA style measuring cups.

The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes From the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman

 

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One of our favourite ever chefs, recipe creators and cookbook writers, Rebecca Rather is a distinguished pastry chef and restaurateur in the Texan Hill Country town of Frederiksburg. Rebecca was proprietor of ‘The Rather Sweet Bakery’ and ‘The Pink Pig’ and her books are packed with stories and photographic essays that act as testimonies to just how good and reliable her recipes are. Who would have thought that adding fresh mashed potato to Jailhouse Cinnamon Rolls would make them light and airy?

Her Tuxedo Cake has been requested for every child’ birthday we know- three layers of luscious chocolate sponge drenched in chocolate and frosted with Creme Chantilly. The giant PB&J cookies are the size of dinner plates (everything is bigger in Texas) and chicken pot pies made and baked in pastry topped dishes look and taste superb. We have made nearly all her recipes and they range from super indulgent cakes ‘Mexican Tres Leches Cake, to yeast baking such as Kolaches- pillowy sweet yeast buns stuffed with either savoury or sweet fillings. Main courses and snacks are well provided for too with King Ranch Casseroles and vividly coloured bowls of soup packed with Tex Mex flavour.

The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman 

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One of THE best and original Christmas baking and cooking books, jam packed with table dressing and serving ideas, this book is undoubtedly what gave Nigella some of her ideas regarding her own Christmas book. Rebecca Rather is a trained pastry chef, caterer and restaurateur and her recipes always, always work without being faffy and cheffy. She is fond of family style meals, eschewing individual portions and you will find wonderful tall layer cakes spiked with alcohol, fruit and inventive flavourings. Cocktails and party drinks are a strength too. 

Our favourites? Whiskey Glazed Eggnog Cakes, In-the-bag Chile Frito Pie, Cranberry Margaritas, Cowboy Coffee and Olive Beef Tenderloin. Oh and don’t forget to try the Warm Pear Ginger Upside Down Cake with Amaretto Whipped cream.

Classic Spanish Cooking: Recipes for Mastering the Spanish Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard 

 

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Elisabeth Luard is an ‘insiders’ choice. Not backed by a mega bucks publicity campaign, her books sell steadily to people who appreciate beautifully understated, knowledgeable food writing underpinned by accurate recipes that work. This is a trans-regional ‘Greatest Hits’ of Spain with foolproof recipes for Gazpacho, Tortilla, Albondigas and Paella. Luard once lived in Andalusia and knows of what she writes, speaks and eats.

Best Food Writing edited by Holly Hughes (2000-2013)

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One of my favourite food writing anthologies, Hughes collates and edits the best food writers from around the World in each yearly collection. The latest edition features NYC chef and restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton (Guess who’s coming to dinner), Jonathon Gold on Hawaiian food trucks, Carole Penn-Romine on ‘Coke and Peanuts’ and a very moving meditation on feeding ice cream to her dying Mother by Sarah DiGregorio. Previous editions feature well known British food writers too but the stories told are of events and emotions common to all nationalities. Everybody eats!

Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater

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Returning to the format of his first books and updating it for the Twitter generation, Slater has produced reams (over 600) of user friendly non faffy recipes that I think parent and other time pressed cooks will find both invaluable and intelligent. The book alone is a joy to possess being chunky and beautifully designed with its cloth covers and text-economical recipe descriptions. Yes it presupposes that you have some cooking experience; I wouldn’t buy it for a teenager who did not know what ‘braise’ means for example. But for those cognizant of the basics and keen to experiment, this book would make a great gift or leaving home present.

A Tale of Twelve Kitchens by Jake Tilson

 

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Infused with the artists sensibility of its author, this is a book about living, travelling and cooking as you go. An inveterate collector, Jake Tilson’s book has something of the scrapbook about it but it is not scrappy. Moving in a linear fashion from his English countryside youth through London and marriage which led him to Scotland and then kitchens and cooking in far flung places – Santa Fe, Tuscany and LA, this book is filled with achievable recipes with a sense of place. Try Dominican Black beans, Secret Garden Mulberry Sauce and Butteries. 

The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill

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Across the UK and beyond, thousands of home bakers have been meeting covertly in hidden locations with the same simple mission: bake, eat and gossip about cake. These are the members of the phenomenally popular Clandestine Cake Club and here are their recipes. From Smoked Chile Chocolate Cake to the lovely Citrus section, these cakes are reliable. They work, they look good but do not require Peggy Porschen levels of expertise in the decorating department and they taste superb.

The Clatter Of Forks And Spoons by Richard Corrigan

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Based on the dictum that ‘everything should taste of itself’ Corrigan creates recipes that are hearty, earthy yet simple in he does not expect you to use thirty ingredients from far flung corners of the globe. This is a big read of a book full of memoir and stories of his youth reflected in reinterpretations of meals from those times. We love the Bentley’s Fish Pie, the Eight Hour Lamb and wonderful crab dishes.

Made In Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli

 

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Companion volume to his ‘Made In Italy’ and both books are huge, all encompassing tomes. This volume focuses on the regional cooking of Sicily, an Italian island with a cuisine bearing the imprint of its many invaders. Locatelli intersperses memoir and food writing with intelligently compiled recipes base upon a love for the island kindled in him aged ten. Simpler in ingredient and preparation than his previous book ‘Made In Italy’ which is reflective of the Sicilian way, this book should be used in tandem with seasonal produce where possible. Broccoli, Chile and Almond Salad, Lamb with Broad Beans and Cassatta (Ricotta Cake) are all favourites of ours. 

 A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

images (20)Molly’s blog ‘Orangette’ was one of the earliest and exists to this day. This book is both food memoir, an account of life and family and full of excellent modern recipes. Her writing is poignant, sharp and never strays into food hyperbole. Favourites? Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges and Creme Fraiche and Doron’s Meatballs with PineNuts, Coriander and Golden Raisins. The titles alone make us swoon. Molly now has her own restaurant in Seattle called ‘Delaunay’ and a new cookbook due out this May 2014. We await this eagerly and encourage you all to follow her wonderful blog http://orangette.blogspot.co.uk/

How To Eat by Nigella Lawson

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Is it hyperbolic to describe this as a seminal food and cooking text? We don’t think so and are proud to declare ourselves as very early Nigella adopters, being fans of her early ‘Vogue’ food columns that went onto become this book. Nigella’s first book is written with such love, warmth and longing for memories of past meals that it will resonate forever. This is the kind of food book to hunker down with and read as you would a work of fiction. You will be guaranteed to want to cook from it too as it is jampacked with useful achievable advice for everyone. Personally we found the weaning and infant feeding chapters full of useful advice- like having a Health Visitor, Mother, friend and champion cook rolled into one and standing by my side whilst we agonised over what to feed our children. For us the cover price alone is justified by Nigella’s tip on how to prep large amounts of kids party Marmite sandwiches. Simply beat butter and Marmite together in a bowl until soft and incorporated and then spread the bread with it. Amazing. Simple.

A Girl Called Jack- 100 delicious budget recipes by Jack Monroe.

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Her writing is superb, she is socially and politically moral and her recipes are not runners up in taste and style. Jack is a cash-strapped single mum living in Southend. When she found herself with a shopping budget of just £10 a week to feed herself and her young son, she addressed the situation with immense resourcefulness, creativity and by embracing her local supermarket’s ‘basics’ range. She created recipe after recipe of delicious, simple and upbeat meals that were outrageously cheap. Learn with Jack Monroe’s A Girl Called Jack how to save money on your weekly shop whilst being less wasteful and creating inexpensive, tasty food. Recipes include Vegetable Masala Curry for 30p a portion, Pasta alla Genovese for 19p a portion, Fig, Rosemary and Lemon Bread for 26p and a Jam Sponge reminiscent of school days for 23p a portion. We loved the Gigantes Plaki- tomato-ey Greek style large Butter Beans scooped up with whatever bread you have or versatile accompaniment to grains, rice or pasta.

Xanthe Clay calls her sassy and was an early champion of Jack Monroe’s blog. Xanthe Clay knows her stuff.

Go forth and buy this book. Unlike Jamie, she hasn’t priced her ‘budget meal’ book at a ridiculous price (Jamie ended up being shamed into donating large quantities of his book to libraries) nor does Jack Monroe make rude, disparaging remarks about poorer people in order to generate publicity.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Bremzen 

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In 1974, when Anya was ten, she and her mother fled to the USA, with no winter coats and no right of return. These days, Anya is the doyenne of high-end food writing. And yet, the flavour of Soviet kolbasa, like Proust’s madeleines, transports her back to that vanished Atlantis known as the USSR in this book with its wide ranging writings covering seven decades of Soviet Russia seen through a prism of one families meals.

A Slice Of Cherry Pie by Julia Parsons.

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The first book by a well regarded food blogger, ‘A Slice Of Cherry Pie’ melds food with beautifully compositions of the places, people and memories underpinning her recipe creations: a mix of modern rustic dishes inspired and inflected by a love of eating and sharing. The stylish scrapbook effect, mixing text, photographs, family memorabilia and montages makes this book a visual and tactile pleasure. From chocolate cakes to more unusual risotti, the recipes work.

How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

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Rarely has a book title been more (wilfully) misinterpreted. The original tongue in cheek intentions of Lawson when she named the book have been distorted into an anti Feminist ‘Get back in the kitchen’ edict far from the original intention. Indeed what this book suggests (as do all of Lawson’s) is that the kitchen can be another source of pleasure and comfort in the multi faceted like that many women today lead. 

This is one of our favourites of Lawson’s books being published just after ‘How To Eat’ when she still felt like a relatively undiscovered treasure. Her narrative is impregnated with all five senses, evoking your own memories through the recounting of her own. Lawson sets the scene before each recipe often crediting others for their creation. Rosebud Madeleines, Granny Boy’s Biscuits, Schnecken, Boston Cream Pie, Cheese Blintzes and Joe Dolce’s Cheesecake- Lawson journeys through France, Ireland, North American and her beloved Italy bringing a combination of faithful adherence and culinary reinterpretation. One of our favourite ever baking recipes is found in this book – Mini Lime Syrup Sponges. They are super cute and tiny mouthfuls of sharp sweet heaven.

The Hairy Dieters Eat for Life: How to Love Food, Lose Weight and Keep it Off for Good! – Dave Myers & Si King

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These guys came into Mumsnet Towers for a webchat in January and gave great chat about this book and their escapades of late.

The feedback was positive from the many Mumsnetters who have cooked from this book with comments along the lines of ‘tasting not like diet food’, ‘easy’, ‘family friendly’. Their motto is ‘Flavour has no calories’ and these recipes certainly pack the former in full of fruit, vegetables and lean meat and fish. Traditionally high fat and sugar foods such as Cornish Pasties, pancakes, Pork Schnitzel and chicken Bhuna are reformatted as low fat versions sacrificing none of the pleasure. Warm Nectarine Tart got our attention.

Roast by Marcus Verbene

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From the award winning restaurant in London’s Borough Market comes this sumptuously designed but down to earth book. Making full use of QR technology with its embedded film clips of culinary techniques and step by step photo guides, this book will guide you through each meal of the day using British and local ingredients and time honoured techniques brought up to date. From Anchovy rubbed roast mutton to wonderful fish and shellfish recipes as befits a former chef at J Sheekeys (the famous seafood and fish restaurant), this book captures the best of modern British cookery. 

One of the great recommendations by Harris & Harris books in Clare- http://www.harrisharris.co.uk/

Low Carb Revolution by Annie Bell

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Reducing your carbohydrate intake is proven as not only the fastest way of shedding those unwanted pounds, but keeping them off in the long-term. Here is a book that shows you how to achieve that without giving up any of your favourite dishes. Award-winning food writer Annie Bell approaches the Low Carb diet as a food lover and passionate cook, which is reflected in her approach to this way of life throughout the book. 

Annie Bell is a favourite of ours and probably bears some responsibility for a few extra poundage because of her amazing and seductive looking baking. This book is packed with creative savoury recipes such as salt and pepper duck (not something that tends to be seen as ‘diet’ food) that won’t make us feel deprived plus some puddings- a crustless mango cheesecake has been earmarked for making sooner rather than later!

Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater

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Includes over 250 recipes, many from his BBC TV series Dish of the Day, Simple Suppers and Simple Cooking. From Nigel Slater,  one of our best-loved food writers, a beautiful and inspiring companion volume to his bestselling Kitchen Diaries. Slater has maintained an eating & food diary for years and this is the second anthology of entries- a composite of a year of eating. From grilled things in juice and cooking fat smeared rolls to pork rib ragu (worth the cover price alone) this book is rammed with simple and delectable ways to eat.