Here’s another go-to book. I was given Maw Broon’s Cookbook one Christmas, and I resisted it. It looks like an old book, whimsically recreating the basic meals of the 1950s, complete with hard-to read hand-written notes, and styled-in splashes and old sellotape. The biggest Christmas gimmick, I thought.
But the recipes are really good. They cover all sorts of basic recipes for clapshot, Eve’s pudding, jams and chutneys, roasts and stews, dumpling and the rest. If I have an ingredient that I have never cooked before, this is one of the books I pull off the shelf. If I want to recreate a dish my grandmother used to cook, this is where I will look.
The success of this book has spawned a whole series, none of which I have tried. On the basis of this one, though, I would be happy to give them a go.
I was trying out a recipe for mackerel risotto last night, and as I did, I thought of all my recipe books, I have a shelf full of them. Some have favourite recipes in, others are the ones I go to when I am looking for new ways of cooking basic ingredients. This book is one of the latter type.
Valentina Harris started writing recipe books in the 1980s, and by the 1990s she was on television, bringing authentic Italian cookery to us all. She was brought up in Italy, and is a well-regarded chef. I have also got one of her earlier books, about regional Italian cookery and food culture.
Risotto! Risotto! is a fabulous book. It includes a section on the start on making stock, and on the methods of making risotto. On to the recipes, every one I have tried is delicious. The range of recipes covers all sorts of basic ingredients, and the index works well. My favourites include asparagus risotto, beetroot risotto, fennel risotto, lamb and courgette, and the famous boxing day risotto, called risotto with a white ragu.
There is an updated version of the book on Amazon, but my old version is crammed with my favourite recipes and ideas, and available for 1 penny plus postage.