I have a full bookcase of cookbooks. Only 1, yes. Lovingly added to by just about everyone who knows me as a foodie, especially Mr J. But the only way to limit fruit fly levels of proliferation, is to limit my collection to just 1 bookcase. If something comes in, something else must go out. In theory. At the moment, I find ways of double-shelving, pushing books into nooks and inexistent crannies, much as I’ve seen videos of the Tokyo subway trains. I blame my mother-in-law. She claims that if she opens a new cookbook and sees at least 3 recipes she would like to try, she buys it. And so I have taken her rule of thumb for my own.
But what to do with such a collection when they are all about roasts, fish, sausages, etc? It turns out, I actually had some books which were just perfect for my new dietary restrictions.
From the bottom up:
- River Cottage – Light & Easy by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall: I originaly bought this because it was, if not gluten-free, at least wheat free and 90% of the time that’s good enough for my body. The recipes are heavy on vegetables, grains, a bit of meat and fish on the side. So far, I’ve made the Buckwheat & Almond Scones (twice. The first time I accidentally put bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder, 2 tsps of it. Yuck! Even the ducks in the canal wouldn’t eat them), the Rye Grissini (yum! and oh so easy and great to make with kids), the Oaty, Nutty, Fruity Cookies. So far. And that was even before I became a (reluctant) vegetarian.
- Green Kitchen Travels by David Frenkiel & Luise VIndahl (a fellow Dane and her Swedish husband) of Green Kitchen Stories fame: I read a review of this book somewhere and immediately bought it. The one recipe which called out to me from the pages was the Halloumi Veggie Burgers. But try as I might, I just couldn’t get the pattie to stick together without anything to bind it. It was delicious nonetheless, but then anything with halloumi would be, wouldn’t it?
Luckily, the next recipe I tried was an outstanding success on multiple occasions: Crispy Aubergine Bites with Honey & Lime. Just typing the name makes my mouth water. The whole book is practically vegan, so right up my street at the moment, and yet I haven’t made anything else from it. I think it’s just an advanced form of Envy: the book is peppered with stunning photographs, the recipes are compiled on travels around the world with their toddler daughter (how??? I could hardly remember how to read in the first few years of motherhood!). Or maybe it’s just that’s it’s a bit Ottolenghi-sh, i.e. looooong on ingredients. Ah, Ottolenghi, there’s one missing from my collection, although I’m such a fan of his eateries but I feel defeated when, despite an extremely well-stocked pantry, I still need obscure things to replicate one of his dishes. So one more I must try, probably.
- Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward: now THAT one almost didn’t make it into the photo above. I bought it because a friend of mine recommended it, then another and suddenly everyone was gushing over it. So, like a meek sheep, I followed. And I shouldn’t have, as it just doesn’t inspire me. At all. it should, it’s right up my alley: Ella used to suffer from auto-immune diseases too, although in a debilitating way which I hope never getting close to experience (mine are more of a nuisance). And everything is so fresh and yummy looking. And yet. Next time you spot one in the charity shop, it might be my copy. Whoops!
- A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones: ah, this one wasn’t here a month ago. But a vegetarian friend of mine who coincidentally feels the same about Deliciously Ella as I do (as me? as I? I’m never sure). Anyway, her words were a lot more virulent, if I recall. So when she wholeheartedly recommended the Anna Jones one, it tickled my fancy. Anna Jones used to work for Jamie Oliver and I think she became the resident vegetarian chef at one point. I just want to sit down at her table and taste everything in that book! The book has been giving me come hither looks ever since I bought it (it has 8 neon bright bookmarks in it already), but since we get a weekly veg box, I tend to take those veg as a starting point for my cooking, and there was nothing that overlapped for the first 2 weeks. And then late last night I made my first one-pot pasta (yes, I know, it’s a thing): Kale, Tomato and Lemon Magic One-Pot Spaghetti. Mamma mia! That was delicious! I feel a post coming along on that one. Can’t wait to try some of the other ones: the Goodness Bowls Matrix (she likes matrixes where you mix and match from various categories, it speaks to my inner geek), the Cashew, Kale and Lime Nachos, the Carrot and Chickpea Pancakes with Lemon-Spiked Dressing. Nom nom!
- Everyday Superfood by Jamie Oliver: ah, my current favourite. I’ve spoken before of how every time I have Jamie overload, he goes and does it all again, publishing yet another book of stuff which is both so of the moment and timeless. It’s a gift. I learnt to cook with Jamie. His voice is the one I hear whenever I cook a risotto (“now don’t go anywhere now, anyway this is the best bit, when you cook the rice slowly”) even when I use Giorgio Locatelli’s recipe. The Superfood in the title is a misnomer. It smacks of chia seeds (yuck!) and kale (yum, but not everyday and certainly not as chips) and green spinach smoothies. But Jamie like everyone else of our age (i.e. past 4-0) has just discovered that he is mortal and would now like to kick the inevitable as far away on the time horizon as possible. That’s all fine, but what about the food? Well, it’s exactly what the doctor has ordered me (and pretty much everyone else) to do: no gluten, no dairy (some cheese, but almost no milk I think), meat and fish in much smaller quantities, vastly reduced amounts of sugar, heaps of veg (see, I even speak Jamie. “Heaps!” Next thing you know I’ll be saying “Pukka”). So far I’ve tried: the Granola Dust (a must try, even if just for the smell when you open the jar), the smoothie pancakes (too sweet for me), the tortillas from the Quick Homemade Tortilla and Scalded Veg, Chilli, Cheese and Avo (fab!), the Amazing Mexican Tortilla Soup, Sweet Potato Chips, Feta and Tortilla (OMG), and of course the super tasty Harissa Roasted Aubergine, Pomegranate, Pistachios, Olives & Rice (my post on that made my friend Emma go out and buy the book!). I think that’s it. For now. Well worth the price of the book.
- Last but by no means least, River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. This is the book in this list which I’ve had for longest. I like it so much I immediately gave a copy to my mum. Hugh also went vegetarian for a month, which considering his predilection for roasts and all things meaty is quite a feat. He really did inspire me, as I keep thinking ‘if Hugh can do it, so can you’ (geddit?). My copy of this book is exactly as I like my cookbooks to look: the pages are stained, some have suffered impressive liquid damage, others have notes (yes, I write notes in my cookbooks, sometimes even warnings such as ‘NEVER cook this again’). Hugh’s Chachouka is a thing of beauty and a lunch staple of mine, as it’s so quick to throw together some tomatoes, onions, spices (I leave out the peppers as they don’t agree with Mr J), I add chickpeas and voila! The Squash stuffed with Leeks is yummy and good-looking, the Chilli, Cheese and Rosemary Polenta with Tomato Sauce introduced our kids to polenta which they now love, the Sweet Potato and Peanut Gratin is the one with the warning (too sweet for my palate), and it’s soon time for the Chestnut and Sage Soup again.
That’s all, folk! Actually, I think I have some more lurking somewhere… And then there are the magazines. And the weekend papers. And the blogs. And… This is never ending, isn’t it?