Unsurprisingly I have a unsatiable love of cookbooks – ‘Food Porn’ as my husband calls it. The spare minutes that are dotted around my day are spent delving through cookbooks or surfing the net hunting for ideas, pictures, reviews and just knowledge in general. The first cook book I owned was given to me as a child, I don’t recall it being a huge success, no pictures, and frankly aged 10 that was pretty uninspiring. Fast forward a few years and I was introduced to Delia, ‘The Summer Collection’ , and swiftly after that ‘The River Cafe’ Cookbook, since then I now have shelves of books spilling over, piles of magazines I can’t bring myself to get rid off, lots of newspaper cuttings, menus pinched from restaurants, and worryingly an endless appetite for more of all of the above!
I think the interesting thing about cookbooks is that some of the books I refer to most are ones that have not had as much publicity as those that frequent the bestseller lists with celebrity chef authors. I was rattling on last week about how good ‘mackerel tartare’ is, the only reason I know this is that I found an interesting recipe by ‘Anthony Demetre’, my chum swiftly pointed out she had never heard of him or his restaurants, and realistically I think the same can be said for many of the books I use on a regular basis. So here is a bit of a plug for some books that you may not have heard of. If you like some of the recipes that I have scribbled down over the last few months, I think there is a good chance you will enjoy these suggestions too. As a snapshot of what I am using now here are my ‘Top 10’ from the well thumbed pile:
‘Today’s Special – A new take on Bistro Food – Anthony Demetre
‘A Season in My Kitchen’ – Skye Gyngell
‘Pasta and Ravioli’ – The River Cafe Pocket Books – Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers
‘Ottolenghi’ – The Cookbook – Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi
‘Plenty’ – Yotam Ottolenghi
‘Bocca’ – Jacob Kennedy
The Sugar Club Cookbook – Peter Gordon
Salads – Peter Gordon
Food from Plenty – Diana Henry
Exploring Taste and Flavor – Tom Kime
There are some ‘must haves’ in the kitchen, for me it is a cooking bible. I have a war torn ‘Leiths’, the spine has long since disappeared and I am embarrassed to say it really is in a very shabby state, I have not included this on my list as I feel it is a staple as important as flour, butter and eggs! Beyond the bible, I also have countless books on bread, preserves, baking, fruit, vegetables, noodles, the list is endless, but all essential in their own specific way. I never want to stop buying cookbooks, I adore them, I love the pictures, I love the ideas, I love the excitement of opening one and thinking ‘ooh what I am going to cook today, tonight, this weekend!’ I am also fascinated in old books and often look back to Mrs.Beeton and a few other oldies to see what and how food was cooked in times gone by. Clarissa Dickson-Wright has just written a fascinating book on the history of English food which is quite revealing and certainly worth a read if you are a glutton like me. So before I get carried away with more reading lists let me leave you with a delicious recipe from the vibrant and innovative Yotam Ottolengli – if you have not already come across his first book ‘Ottolenghi’, I highly recommend you invest in a copy. The food is truly inspirational and quite unique. As for his second book, ‘Plenty’, it is a vegetarians heaven a must have for any herbivore.
This recipe works perfectly for a mid-week dinner, quick, easy to prepare, a ‘taste sensation’!
Mackerel with Green Olive, Celery and Raisin Salsa (with a little variation from myself)
4 fillets of mackerel
2 very finely chopped celery stalks
60g of finely chopped green olives
3 tbsp of chopped capers
70g of chopped golden raisins
1 1/2 tbsp of sherry vinegar
4 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of honey
1 handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
1. Mix all the ingredients for the salsa together and season with a little salt and pepper. It should taste sweet and salty, this will balance with the fish and remove that occasionally very fishy taste of mackerel. Leave the salsa to stand for 30 minutes.
2. Pan-fry the mackerel for a few minutes on each side until just cooked. It can also be popped on the bbq or under the grill. Like all fish it is really important to use really fresh mackerel.
3. Serve the fish on top of the salsa with a few crushed new potatoes and a little samphire if you can find it!
‘Books for Cooks’ – is unquestionably the best cookbook shop in this country, possibly the world. If you like cooking and enjoy food it is a MUST to visit. It is located in trendy Notting Hill, it has a wonderful ‘Test’ kitchen that serves probably the best priced lunch in town. http://www.booksforcooks.com/