A quick note to say; sorry for neglecting the blog over the last month, I have been away over the Christmas period then busy back at work over New Year. Will and I had a lovely Christmas though and this year I even got my hand in the kitchen to help my mum with Christmas diner. We did a lovely roast beef with all the trimmings and on Boxing Day I made a delicious recipe of Nigella’s called spiced chocolate cake, which was to die for, and also conveniently wheat free because my brother’s girlfriend Emma is gluten intolerant. It was divinely soggy and rich and must have made a nice change for Emma from cakes made with rice flour, which can be quite dry. The recipe is in her new book Nigella Christmas but isn’t on her website (www.nigella.com) yet.
But on to my first post of 2009. I want to share with you my collection of fantastic Christmas presents, which aside from a new bike consisted mainly of gorgeous cookery books. Quick run down of the books I received:- Moro: The Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clarke, Chinese Food Made Easy, by Ching-He Huang, Bill Granger Everyday, Ottolenghi and The 30-minute Cook by the legend that is Nigel Slater.
I’ll start with Moro, which I just put down moments ago and I was brought down to reality with a bump after being transported to the souks of Morocco and the tapas bars of Spain. This is a truly original collection of recipes from Spain, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. We are not just talking about paella and gazpacho here (although they do feature) but all kinds of regional delicacies that you have never heard of. Once I am feeling more adventurous there are clear directions for how to make deliciously chewy sour-dough bread and spicy homemade harrisa. I am particularly looking forward to trying the soup and tapas dishes and a yummy looking yogurt cake.
Ottolengi is a cookbook written by the founders of the deli come patisserie come food shop come restaurant in London. Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi grew up in Jerusalem but their recipes draw inspiration from all over the world. The book has a fantastic section on vegetables, pulses and grains with a massive variety of salad recipes and then a hunger-inducing patisserie section with a wealth of original ideas for cakes, brownies and tarts. Tonight I am going to try a recipe called Chickpeas and spinach with honeyed sweet potatoes and yogurt sauce (if you could see the pictures you would know why it appealed to me).
Bill Granger always comes up with a great selection of recipes that you could envisage yourself throwing together, although invariably the recipes make me think of summer, which is not surprising as they were written by a man sitting in the heat of Australia. The book Everyday does what it says on the tin, meals for everyday of the week and brilliantly this book includes plenty of breakfast recipes (one of Bill’s specialities), lunch, brunch and lunch-box ideas. I have already noted down at least 10 recipes I want to try straight away.
I don’t know if you caught the series Chinese Food Made Easy last year, but I was really impressed with Ching, both for the great range of recipes she cooked and also with her attitude and style. I wanted to get the book to go with the series because although I like to experiment with food, Chinese food is a complex cuisine to get right and I think you do need to learn some recipes and techniques by the book before going free-style. This book offers a really good little collection of authentic dishes, which are also fresh, healthy and fast. Ching has tried to make it as simple as possible using ingredients you are likely to be able to get your hands on so if you are looking for complex, restaurant style recipes then this isn’t the book for you, but for those embarking on Asian cooking or trying to ween themselves off take-aways this is great book (lovely photos to). I tried the hot and sour noodle soup yesterday and it went down a storm with Will who knocked back two bowls of the steaming broth.
And lastly to food-writing king Nigel Slater. What is there to say? Another book by Nigel is always welcome and always a joy. Anyone who hasn’t read anything by Nigel Slater must go out and get one of his books from the library right now. You will find yourself salivating as you read. The 30-minute cook can be read as a manual almost, a helpful guide for those who are short of time but want some real food with guts, flavour and quite often plenty of cream ad butter. There aren’t many photos, but you don’t really need them. I also recommend his autobiography Toast: The story of a boy’s hunger, for bedtime reading.
So I feel well and truly inspired for the New Year. I love a bit of foodie reading to excite my senses and get my mind thinking. My New Year’s resolution is to try out at least one new recipe a week, whether that is an idea of my own or one from a book. I also want to learn – and get good at – baking bread. Bring it on!