A few years ago I had a clear out of my cookery books. I had over two hundred on shelves buckling under the weight and I really really needed the space. I am sure I am not alone when I say there were books I kept simply because I used one favourite recipe from each tome. Easy to see which it was. Open the book and it automatically falls to the correct page which is easily identified because it is covered with stains of soup or cake mix or whatever. Now I freely admit that I took a pair of scissors and cut out those that I wanted to keep, yes I know I could have photocopied them, but I did not have one of those all dancing all singing printers which do everything at the time. These were popped in my file. Well, file is a misnomer really, more like a folder with heaps of scraps of newspapers, magazines etc which I need to sort out as well. Then a huge heap of books went to the charity shops. I freely admit that I panicked more or less immediately as I realised I really wanted to keep one book or two after all and hoofed it down to the charity shop in question and bought those back. And, yes I know....again.
Well the books are building up again and I feel I need to have another sort out but before I do I thought I would bring you my thoughts on the books I use regularly.
First of all, Delia. Surname is irrelevant. We all know who she is. I learned to bake from watching my mum, I learned to do casseroles, pies, pate etc from Delia when she started her first cookery course back in the seventies and I still have her cookery book and always will do. Packed both my girls off to Uni with a copy of this and it has never let them down.
From the picture you will see some of my old favourites. The Best of Sainsbury's Baking is now over twenty years old. Sainsbury used to produce excellent cookery books and this one has been used constantly by me ever since it was purchased. Old and battered copy covered in stains and squashed fruit and with a torn cover and I kept it until one day I found a pristine copy in a local book sale and pounced. Have I chucked out the old one? you know the answer....
Traditional Tea Time Recipes by Jane Pettigrew. This was picked up in a charity shop for 50p. It is a National Trust book and it is full of basic scone, sponge and biscuit recipes and I keep it to hand at all times.
Afternoon Tea - Michael Smith. I have written about this book before. I simply love it and have kept it for two recipes, his Coconut Cake and Chocolate and Pineapple Truffle Cake. Have not chopped this one up as I it is a delightful book and there it will stay.
The Chocolate Cookbook - Helge Rubinstein. Over thirty years old and a battered paperback. Have endeavoured to get rid of it but each time it is rescued and goes back on my shelves.
So what is new and what have I received and am using at the moment?
Well the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver has crept onto my shelves but not sure if he will stay much longer. I admire Jamie enormously, his recipes are really excellent, but I am afraid his persona seriously gets on my nerves. Just one of those things so I never listen or watch him but read his books instead and have cooked some of his recipes with great success. However, I just get fed up with his 'slug' of olive oil or a good 'glug' of something else. What is a slug or a glug for heaven's sake? A tablespoon, a teaspoon, a ladleful? Sometimes he is just too cool for school. I appreciate that this is a generational thing and for one reared on Delia is unlikely to be a favourite. I have his Thirty Minute Meals cookbook which my daughter Kathryn raved about, so got a copy. The only way these are Thirty Minute is if you spend about half an hour ahead of time assembling all you need, then time yourself from the start of actual cooking. If you do that, fine it is half an hour, else it is an hour or so for even the most seasoned cook. So I find this a pain.
BUT some of his cooking is wonderful and one recipe from this book is simply divine. It is incredibly simple and easy and the end result is superb. Tried it out on my friend Rosemary a few weeks ago and we just sat and drooled.
18 ripe plums or mixture of any stone fruit you like, such as nectarines of apricots. Half and stone plums and put them in roasting tin with one teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract and 2 heaped tablespoonfuls of caster sugar (I used brown sugar as had no caster sugar handy and it was fine). Speed peel (?? speed peel? Take your time) zest from half an orange, then squeeze in all the juice. Add cinnamon stick (did not have this so used tspoon of ground cinammon instead) and stir in a good swig of brandy (here we go - swig. Least it is not a glug. I had no brandy so used Amaretto instead). Cook on bottom shelf of oven until soft and done.
When cooked layer the plums, either hot or cold, in a nice see through glass, with a really good vanilla icecream. I tell you, this is DELICIOUS. Perhaps Jamie will stay with me a bit longer.
Recently received are the books on bread and baking by Paul Hollywood. Have tried several recipes from these books and have turned out well and I adore PH and find him very sexy and gorgeous with those piercing blue eyes. And I know he makes others cringe but there is no accounting for taste. Am going to one of his shows in May and I have VIP tickets, present from my girls, and seems I get to meet him prior to the show. Swoon....
And I cannot let this post go without mentioning the lovely Mary Berry. I have several of her old books on my shelves which I have let go over the years but, like Delia, she is so reliable and dependable and those two attributes have tended to fall out of favour with all these super duper poncy chefs bouncing around. It is therefore a great joy to me that she has come back to notice again after she and PH were the judges on the Great British Bake Off. I have just watched her latest series on the BBC and note there have been a few sarky remarks along the lines of her cooking being SO seventies (thought retro was back myself) but the food she has demonstrated each week is simple, straightforward and delicious. Love her and have treated myself to the book of the series.
My last recommendation, only last because I am working my way through a pile, no other reason is a small, delightful book called The Smart Book of Recipes and Tips by Ann Louise Hood. She is the founder of the Smart School of Cookery and an ex-contestant in Masterchef (one of those TV food progs I never watch because of the style of presentation by the BBC, building up tension over a souffle and a disaster over a boiled egg), but this little book is free of affectation and fuss and full of simple ideas and tips. Her recipes are similarly fuss free and presented in a simple style which makes even the most posh dish easy to do. I have already produced her asparagus risotto and it was delicious, her chicken in lemon and herb served with garlic potato crush went down very well when cooked for a friend recently and I have found other useful tips throughout.
This is the kind of cook book which I love. I don't want a Jamie or a Gordon hollering in my ear and yelling pukka or swearing if I get it wrong. Cooking should be a pleasure and this book makes me feel happy when I read it or use it.
Do check out her website, linke above, looks wonderful.
I understand that this is the first in a series of many more to come so Ann rest assured that they will be welcomed in Schloss Random any time.....
Bon appetit (have I spelled that right?