Lavender Flower Shortbread

10314546_654301108016473_6590393387550468511_n Sometimes the everyday and the romantic meet and become something more than the sum of their parts and this recipe, for lavender-infused shortbread, definitely qualifies.

Nobody would deny that a typical shortbread recipe with its short list of ingredients- butter, semolina, sugar, flour- is anything other then neat and practical, seemingly an embodiment of its homeland, north of the English border. Yet the Scottish heart is also a deeply romantic and sentimental one, proud of its history and a slow burn of a cuisine, now gaining its rightful place as a great one (and far removed from the lazy stereotypes of deep fried this and that).

Shortbread’s inception came from this place of practicality and economic necessity-no food was wasted and leftovers were often turned into something new to make them more palatable or to render them suitable to pop into a pocket and take to work. Said to originate from the medieval ‘biscuit bread,’ leftover dough from bread-making was dried out in a cool oven until it hardened into a rusk, somewhat similar to the Italian biscotti as the word ‘biscuit’ means twice cooked. The leaven in the bread was replaced by butter, and this biscuit bread became shortbread.

Historically an expensive luxury reserved just for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Year for many, customs grew alongside its popularity and this is particularly apropos for me seeing as this recipe for lavender shortbread was served to arriving guests at our own wedding reception. In Shetland it was traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride as she crossed the threshold to her new home. The Pagan ‘Yule Cakes,’ symbolising the sun, begat the new custom of eating shortbread at the dawn of each New Year and is traditionally offered to First Footers– the first people to enter a house after midnight in Scotland. In the middle of the sixteenth-century, Mary Queen of Scots was said to be rather partial to petticoat tails, the thin, crisp, buttery shortbread originally flavoured with caraway seeds. although they are often made without this spice these days.  Scored with a knife whilst still warm and soft from the oven, the shortbread is cut into triangles that fit together into a circle, echoing the shape of the pieces of fabric used to make a gored under skirt or petticoat during Elizabeth the First’s reign. The name for the dressmakers pattern was tally and so the biscuits became known as petticoat tallis.

In my version, fresh lavender petals are mixed into the shortbread dough, resulting in an evocation of summer; delicate in fragrance and buttery. The semolina adds snap and crunch but the shortbread still keeps its rich, damp crumb. Romantic in taste and appearance with a scattering of flowers baked into the crust, this shortbread was delicious served with a glass of asti or prosecco and was scarfed down by guests in five minutes flat. Don’t be tempted to add more lavender and do make sure you reduce the quantities if using dried lavender instead of fresh or it’ll taste more like Jane Austen’s laundry.

Recipe-

60g of caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling over the baked shortbread 120g plain flour 60g semolina 120g cubed unsalted cold butter 2 tsp chopped fresh lavender flowers- remove stalks and seeds

Method- 

Butter and flour a 22-25cm springform cake tin or tart tin. Preheat oven to 180C / Gas mark 4. Place all the ingredients in a mixer and using a paddle, mix until they form a sticky and fine crumb. Or you can add all the ingredients to a bowl and rub in by hand. Tip the dough into the tart tin and press out lightly with fingers or the back of a spoon until even and flattened out. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until just turning a light golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little caster sugar and cut into wedges whilst it is still warm and in the tin. Let cool completely then remove wedges.

The cutest little macarons- honey & lavender.

10356201_10154225043515386_9005479957984793109_nPerfect little local mouthfuls these. Scented with East Anglian Lavender and flavoured with local honey, the two ingredients in these macarons go together perfectly, giving you a plate of the prettiest little cakes. So pretty you will want to name them and take them home as pets.

A light hand with the lavender is needed so you don’t end up with something reminiscent of Miss Havisham’s knicker drawer and don’t worry about a few cracks or imperfections- their charm is in that homespun look. They are a lovely match for afternoon or high tea, weddings and christenings or kids birthdays- children do love these because little children love little food! Can you imagine how great these would look in an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party too?

Should you wish to explore the wonders of local Lavender some more, we can highly recommend a visit to Norfolk Lavender, near Heacham with its patchworked fields of blue, children’s playground and cafe for visitors.

This recipe is by Adam Coleby and Laura Wheeler @purpleted_88

Ingredients-

To make the macarons– 110g egg white /  55g caster sugar  / Natural food colouring in light lavender or violet / 110g ground almonds / 200g icing sugar /  1 Tsp lavender flowers

To make the butter icing– 75g butter /  250g icing sugar  / 10-15ml milk (add more if too firm) /  1tbsp honey

Method-

Pick the Lavender flowers and check over them for bugs if you are using fresh. If using dried, halve the quantity otherwise you’ll get too much of a floral hit. Sun dried lavender is intensified in flavour, you see.

Infuse the ground almonds and icing sugar with the lavender flowers for a minimum of 1 hour in a covered bowl left in a warm spot- aim for at least an hours infusion. Whisk the egg whites, sugar and natural colour to the consistency of shaving foam but do not over mix! Sieve the icing sugar/almond mix to remove any lavender seeds and ensure there’s no clumps.

Fold the dry ingredients into the meringue mix and keep turning until the correct consistency is achieved (shaving foam) and it is beautifully incorporated. Draw a ribbon of meringue on top of the mixture and it should settle back into the mix after a short time- that’s your test.

Pipe into a baking mat with a small plain nozzle, leave to stand for a minimum of 25-30 mins, they should form a skin on top the doesn’t stick to your finger when you touch it.

Bake at 150c for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool and pair up on the cooling tray, ready for sandwiching together.

Honey buttercream method –

Soften butter by beating well in a bowl and then add in the rest of the ingredients, beating well until you have a soft honey scented cream. You may need to add in more milk, tiny drip by tiny drip to slacken the consistency if its too stiff to spread inside the macaron. But don’t let it get too sloppy, it needs to hold the two halves together.

Pipe a small blob of the honey buttercream into the inside of the macaroon and sandwich together. When you’ve done them all, you should have some leftover filling. Add a couple more drops of milk to this until it is runny enough to drizzle decoratively over the top of each macaron.

 

Gooseberry & Elderflower Muffins via Thursday Cottage

These light, easy to make muffins are a great way to use the gorgeous Gooseberry and Elerflower jam from Thursday Cottage. Click on the link at the bottom of the page to find out more.

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Makes 12

250g self raising flower
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of sea salt
75g caster sugar
250ml buttermilk or 125ml plain yoghurt mixed with 125ml milk
2 medium eggs
100g butter, melted
150-200g Thursday Cottage Gooseberry jam
25ml Elderflower cordial

To finish
125g icing sugar, sieved
2 teaspoons Elderflower cordial

Equipment
12 hole muffin tray, holes about 6 cm in diameter lightly greased or lined with paper muffin cases.

Preheat oven to 190/200C/Gas mark 5-6.

Sift the first 4 ingredients into a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar and using a spoon or spatula, mix until well blended.

Next put the buttermilk, the eggs, melted butter, jam and elderflower cordial into a large mixing jug or bowl. Beat together until well combined and the mixture is a thick batter. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir very lightly, scraping the sides down, until just combined -over beating won’t improve your muffins! Divide the mixture between the muffin cups, filling each tyre-quarters full (approximately 1 large tablespoon per cup).

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until well risen and the tops are golden. The muffins should spring back into shape when lightly touched. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the sieved icing sugar with 2 teaspoons elderflower cordial and a drop of water to a thick smooth consistency. Trickle over the muffins when cool.

VARIATION – replace the elderflower cordial with freshly squeezed orange juice and the
zest from one orange.

Click here to buy Thursday Cottage products

 

A Step Back in Time – Boiled Fruit Cake

Being lucky enough to be blessed with a good set of grandparents meant I also learned to cook and bake at their elbows- timeless, stick to your-ribs, homely cooking based upon what they grew in their garden and bought locally (alongside M&S apricot roll cake- a particular weakness of my grandmother). Evening meals were strictly rotated- the Sunday roast provided a mini roast on Mondays and Wednesdays with meat leftovers being added to freshly cooked vegetables. Tuesdays and Thursdays were beans or cheese on toast and Fridays were the day for fish and chips in the evening, eaten at home in the winter and in the summer, on our laps in a nearby beauty spot, Rodbridge Corner.

Ducks from the nearby river crowded around our feet as we threw the odd chip at them and licked our salt-encrusted fingers before getting back into the car, chip wrappers neatly stored away in one of the many plastic bags stored in the glove compartment. In those days, Getting The Car Out was a big deal and woe betide any greasy fingerprints smudged onto the Ultrasuede seat covers but the day came when the car met its end at the hands of a long drive after two strawberry ice creams and a bout of travel sickness. No amount of valeting eliminated the lingering perfume.

Doctor Who dictated Saturdays- we ate around the TV with our salads balanced precariously on our knees or we’d move the table into the sitting room. Daleks rained death and destruction upon the good Doctor and his sidekick as I peered through my fingers or around the cluster of bottles on the tabletop- salad cream, Branston Pickle and great grandmothers picalilli. The crowning glory of these meals were what I found in the cake tin; a retro Bakelite beauty stored in the highest wall cupboard, or inside the fridge-freezer. Great slabs of home made pastry were baked off and frozen on a weekly basis to be thawed out later and popped back into the oven until they were golden and crisp. They were served with stewed fruit (or in today’s middle class terminology, a compote) or a scoop of macerated strawberries in the summer and my grandfather liked his berries liberally dusted with black pepper.

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The glories of the Be Ro Baking Book gave grandmother the inspiration for her boiled fruit cake and this slim narrow volume with time-torn, food-stained pages was THE cookbook of the sixties, packed with day-go bright drawings of battenburg cake, rock Cakes, victoria sponge and other ageless British cakes and breads. I have no idea what happened to the original copy although the Bakelite cake tin and child-sized knife with pale green bakelite handle are safely stored away. Boiled fruit cake recipes are thankfully not hard to find in other cookery books either; I have tried Julie Duff’s version and it is a decent replacement for the recipe of my childhood, giving a cake that is slightly smaller and not so moist. If you like a drier fruit cake then it will suit you.

This is THE Uber recipe though, the one used by my grandmother and provider of a darkly tanned and rich sugared crumb and retaining its juiciness via a generous hand with the dried fruit. It is large enough to keep a family fed for several days.

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Boiled Fruit Cake

Ingredients

225g / 8oz sultanas

225g / 8oz currants

225g / 8oz raisins

50g / 2oz  mixed peel

175g / 6oz butter

175g / 6oz soft brown sugar

350g / 120z self raising flour

Generous teaspoon of mixed spice

pinch salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 150c/300f/Gas mark 2. Place the peel, fruit, butter, sugar and spice into a large saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Boil very gently for two minutes and keep an eye on it then remove from heat, stir and let it cool down.

Sift flour and salt into another bowl and making a well in the centre, pour the lightly beaten eggs into the well of flour. Now pour the fruit mixture onto the flour and eggs then beat them with a wooden spoon until this mixture is thoroughly combined.

Spoon into a greased and lined 18cm/7 inch round cake tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 2- 2 and a half hours or until the cake is firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly.

Cover with a clean cloth and allow to cool in the tin.


Lovely with Wensleydale cheese and an apple.

If you want to soak the dried fruit overnight in rum or brandy don’t let me stop you. The cake tastes great with that hit but it isn’t the cake that I made as a child and it is this which I wanted to celebrate.

 

 

Woodbridge Tide Mill and The Cake Shop Launch Collaborative Cookbook

Woodbridge’s iconic working Tide Mill has collaborated with the town’s much loved bakery, The Cake Shop, to create an informative book filled with delicious recipes and fascinating facts.

The book will launch at The Local Seasonal Food Market: What’s Tasty in Woodbridge on Market Hill in Woodbridge on Saturday 24th May from 10am.  The recipes have been created by Christine Wright from The Cake Shop and Anne Barratt from the Tide Mill – who will be signing copies of the book at the market between 12 noon and 1.00pm.

The book uses interesting recipes and facts to dispel the myths around wholemeal flour.   Not only does it explain why wholemeal flour is the healthiest option, but it also demonstrates the remarkable versatility of wholemeal flour through the variety of tasty recipes.

Nigel Barratt, Miller and Trustee of the Tide Mill Living Museum said; “Many people may think that that all you can really do with wholemeal flour is bake heavy, stodgy bread, but it’s far more versatile.

“Most flour produced in modern roller mills has all the bran and most of the nutrients in the wheat germ removed in the process.  Our stone ground wholemeal flour uses 100% of the whole grain. The slow and gentle milling process leaves all the goodness in the flour and makes it the healthiest and most natural of all wheat flours. It’s tasty too, with a characteristic nutty flavour that works really well in bread, cakes, pastry and biscuits!”

We have been able to see a sneak preview of the recipes and they appear accessible, family friendly and clearly explained. Tide Mill Wholemeal Onion & Herb Bread, Chapatti’s and Paratha’s are all accompanied by bakers tips to help you trouble shoot any problem areas and teach you some of the tricks of the trade too. In the meal section, Stuffed Mushrooms on Tide Mill Croutons offers what looks like a delicious and sensible way of using up any stale bread. Unlike supermarket bread which is stuffed with preservatives which tends to make it get soggy and mouldy as it ages, home baked bread merely dries out. This offers great scope for further cooking, an important consideration in these times of austerity and furthermore ingredients are in the main, accessible and affordable.

Bread can also make great puddings and it won’t be long before we are into the fruit season and able to make the delicious sounding Blueberry & Nectarine Crumble with its lime spiked fruit base and almond enriched crumble topping. Cakes also celebrate fruit from the recipe for Christines fruit cake through all manner of banana breads, Date Slices and the Tide Mill Carrot Cake. Sections for recipes suitable for children- pizza bases for one and even a dog biscuit recipe round off this useful and local cook book.

The Little Norfolk Book of Baking

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The Little Norfolk Book of Baking has been born! Originally conceived as a competition entry by ten girls from the Norwich High School for Girls for ‘Young Enterprise’ a competition designed to give young people an insight into running their own business, the book fills a gap in the market for a Norfolk baking book that celebrates both local talent and our rich culinary heritage. We contacted  Katie Bates, a member of their fledgling business ‘The Saffron Enterprise Company’ who wrote,

 “The popularity of home baking in Britain has seen a huge surge in this decade thanks to programmes such as the Great British Bake Off, and today the British baking industry is worth an estimated £3.4 billion. It was this huge evolving market combined with a shared passion for all things baking that led us to create our cookbook”

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Keeping it regional meant approaching Norfolk’s stellar culinary talent and the students received a highly positive response from all those they got in touch with, quickly acquiring enough recipes to fill the 44-page book. Contributors include 2010 MasterChef finalist Tim Kinnaird, and celebrity chefs Galton Blackiston and Mary Berry. We at Mumsnet Norfolk & Suffolk are particular fans of Dr Kinnaird’s macarons and other delicacies having sampled them in the past. Interspersed with these are the girls own favourite recipes, resulting in a cook book that appeals to young adults – those starting out as cooks who might be intimidated by some of the more complicated and less realistic baking tomes out there. 

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The students have recently won the Norfolk county finals, and since then have been trying to sell as many books as possible before the regional finals in Cambridge in June. The book retails for £5.99, and can be found in Jarrolds’ book department and at Blickling Hall, as well in restaurants and cafes in Norfolk, such as The Box Tree Cafe. They recently appeared on the new local station, Mustard TV to promote the book, and have also previously featured in The Norfolk Magazine. We at Mumsnet wish them the very best of luck and will most certainly be using this gorgeous little book. 

The Little Norfolk Book of Baking can also be brought from the school– http://goo.gl/0gJLXu

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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.