Welcome again to the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge, a year-long challenge set by the good folk at Long and Short Reviews that anyone can participate in. Check out the site to see who else is playing along.
This week’s topic:
Things I collect
Oh, too easy. Cookbooks!
I luuuuurve them.
Until a couple of years ago I had hundreds of cookbooks covering a vast range of cuisines and every one of them a delight. I loved those books, even the weird ones like my French book on making fruit liqueurs, and the sweet community ones like my Beachport Pony Club Family Favourites cookbook, full of donated recipes and printed and stapled together by hand, and presented as a thank you years ago for judging the dressage at their one day event.
For me the collection meant more than just books. It represented generosity and warmth, and the potential of wonderful days with friends, family and loved ones – all the things I associate with food and cooking.
Then a couple of years ago we moved again, this time into a cosy cottage. So cosy we could barely fit our basic furniture in let alone my bookshelves. My book collection, which had already suffered a dramatic cull, had to be thinned again and this time it was my cookbooks in the firing line.
I’m not ashamed to say that culling those books made me cry.
But it makes the ones I have left all the more important. It also made me realise I had to be a lot fussier with my purchases. In the past, if a cookbook had one recipe that I thought might be a keeper, I felt justified in buying it. No longer. These days any cookbook I buy needs to work hard.
Unless it’s a Rick Stein. I’m happy just to cradle those on my lap and stroke the cover while sighing contentedly.
What’s my favourite cookbook? That varies on what mood I’m in, but I hold a special passion for my personally signed copy of Rick’s Seafood Odyssey, although it’s a book I use rarely (you can read more about my Rick obsession on previous Wednesday Challenge post My Celebrity Crushes).
The three books of his I use the most are Mediterranean Escapes, French Odyssey, From Venice to Istanbul, and Spain. I particularly love Spain for its pot-roasted chicken with chorizo, leeks and cider recipe. So simple, yet packed with flavour. But that can be said for many of the recipes in these books.
Other cookbooks I adore are Just Desserts by Gordon Ramsay, I think now out of print. I have made many recipes out of this book and every one of them has been brilliant. The textures and tastes are sensational, although some of the cooking times are totally up the spout. I can only guess Gordon’s oven times were for commercial ovens instead of home versions.
I also have a series of books under the A Little Taste of… banner, including ones for Thailand, India, Morocco and Spain. From the title, you’d think these would be dumbed-down recipes but that’s far from the case. Every recipe is loaded with authentic flavour. The Indian one is a great go-to when we’re after a tasty curry, the same for Morocco when we feel like a tagine.
Another two I really enjoy reading are by Giorgio Locatelli – Made in Italy and Made in Sicily. Oh, and then there’s Alain Ducasse’s Grand Livre de Cuisine: Desserts and Pastries. It’s beautiful, although the food styling is a bit dated now. And how could I forget David Thompson’s extraordinary Thai Street Food? That book is mouth-watering gorgeousness on every page.
The best cookbook of all? My own bible of tried and true recipes. A world of foodie wonder lies within this messy folder.
It contains everything from fast weeknight meals to decadent desserts, and homemade sauces and liqueurs. The pages are tatty and food splattered, the folder on the verge of splitting, and the recipes are graffitied with notes on tin sizes and oven temps and adaptations.
Worn, loved and experienced. The way a good cookbook should be.
What do you collect?