I’ve been cooking from SIMPLE all week, and the food that I have produced has been astonishingly delicious. The recipes are generally quite easy, and the ingredients are usually available locally. Many of the ingredients I have grown myself, and I am totally in love with this book.
Another plus: lots of recipes. The book is not stingy. The recipes themselves seem to be easy to adapt to what is available as well. Where fresh dill has not been available, dried dill has worked. I have swapped the cheeses in some of the recipes, and used lemon as well as lime in others.
If I could only have one recipe book, this would be the one.
Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Pasta is another recipe book that has stood the test of time on my bookshelf; I bought it in 1997. I have already got some of Rose Elliot’s other recipe books, but this one lifted vegetarian cookery to another plane, into something fresh and colourful. Several of my other recipe books at the time were a bit worthy. The book is illustrated with wonderful photographs, as well as plenty of practical and tasty recipes.
The recipes are divided into types of pasta recipe, starting with soup, moving onto salads, simple dishes, and then the classic sauces and baked pasta dishes. Most of the ingredients are readily available locally, and the methods of cooking are easy to follow.
One difficulty that I have is that the index could be better. If I have, for example, leeks and carrots, I would like to be able to find recipes that use these ingredients. The index only lists dishes by recipe title or type of pasta. But that is a minor grumble.
I recommend this book to you all.
In 1983, I was living in Edinburgh. My boyfriend at the time announced that he wanted to be a vegetarian, and after a short discussion, we renounced meat. I can no longer recall his reasons, but for myself, my concerns were around animal welfare and factory farming, especially for pigs and chickens. I also was aware of the environmental impact of feeding livestock as opposed to using land to grow plant-based food.
One of the first recipe books we acquired was Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. I think we didn’t get much past the first chapter, there were so many delicious recipes. The book includes recipes from Syria all the way through to Japan. There are chapters on Vegetables, Pulses, Rice, and Eggs, for example. The chapter on condiments, dips, chutneys and relishes is wonderful; Madhur Jaffrey explains that this allows each diner to ring the changes with combinations of different flavours.
I find that I don’t cook some of the more complex dishes. Although I love the illustrated guide to making tofu, I have never tried this myself. I’ve also struggled to find some of the ingredients listed, especially for some of the Korean, Japanese and Chinese dishes.
To compensate, this is a book full of wonderful recipes, properly indexed. The book isn’t full of glossy pictures, but there are 500 pages of advice, descriptions of ingredients and flavours, techniques and culinary tips. The food I have produced from these pages has been outstanding.
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.