When the guys at Quarto sent me Eat With Intention by meditation and wellness teacher Cassandra Bodzak, I knew that I was in for a ‘non-traditional’ recipe book adventure. I was pleasantly surprised. Eat With Intention is not a book about fad diets – I would say that its good writing is effectively encouraging the reader to stay positively away from those. Instead it’s better to be happy with who we are while doing our best to live healthily and happily. This is what the author means by ‘eating with intention’.
It’s always fun to get something new in the post. This month the people at Quarto sent me not one, but two very interesting books that I thought deserved a special mention. I’ll start with one called Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea written by Sebastian Pole, co-founder of Pukka Herbs in 2001, which is of course the same company that makes the very well-known Pukka teas.
I am blessed to have great friends. They are good people who fill my life with joy and serenity, and having no brothers nor sisters, they’re my support system and my tribe. You can count my friends with one hand but they’re all I need. They are honest, trustworthy, loyal, dependable and non-judgemental. And total foodies. I almost ‘heard’ you trying to guess and you were completely right. So M suggested a great place we could try for a lovely meal and a long catch-up chat. It was so good, we went there twice in matter of a few weeks.
I have to say, this moving thing is really throwing me off. Was about to put an exclamation mark there but I kinda stopped. Reason: there are too many of those scattered around this blog. Way too much for my liking. It would help explain my surprise though so I think you would have forgiven me if I inserted one anyway. Yes, all this tiredness from organising this move is taking its toll, and I’m not even contributing to half of the work! (And there it is. I couldn’t resist.) J is the boss when it comes to huge moves so I left the big decisions up to him. I’m trying to do the small stuff, like making sure everything’s tidy, all of our clothes are properly washed, packed and sealed, ready to be shipped and other little miscellaneous things.
So lately I have been reading a number of food and travel books. It’s my new thing. There are times when a recipe book just doesn’t cut it, meaning that you need stories or real-life events behind the food. To me at least, memories make the foodie world that tiny bit extra special. I tend to buy books by the bucket load (this blog is *such a good excuse*) and when I travel I tend to read a lot more. No distractions on the plane, except of course when you have a drunk crazy lady sitting next to you, ranting to the cabin crew about changing her seat because she doesn’t want to sit next to her husband…or when they spill boiling hot tea all over your trousers…yay. Fun. And I don’t sleep much, so I read.
Some time ago I read Amore and Amaretti by Victoria Cosford. I liked it in my first read-through. It was good though I kept it mainly for the recipes. How could I give away a book with Italian food in it? Inconceivable. A real gem I think is Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris. Loved the whole thing – her writing, the recipes – everything. I think it will feature in a future post, so I’ll leave it here for the time being.
The one I just finished is Falling in Honey by Jennifer Barclay. I was browsing the shops before a flight, feeling hot and bothered after passing through security (they almost undress you these days but anyhow), in a hurry. I just grabbed the first book I saw with an attractive cover, paid for it and rushed off to the gate. In case I didn’t tell you yet, that’s totally wrong when it comes to purchasing books, so please don’t do that. I’m so bad I know; I’m ashamed in fact. I liked Falling in Honey – it’s a good read. Missing the Sun in Surrey (almost sounds like a book title right there) makes the book more enjoyable. The book is home to only four recipes at the back, which is a bit of a disappointment, but hey, I can live with that. I will definitely give them a try.
I don’t know much about Greek food but J tells me it is delicious. Nothing fancy, exactly how I like things to be and tasty. I do have a Greek recipe book back home in storage; it’s not here with me and I could kick myself for that. However I figured that if the lovely J would tell me about what he ate in Greece I could come up with some very simple Greek-inspired food at home. J doesn’t say much, bless him; he prefers eating. To be honest I didn’t break new ground with the following concoction but I don’t care. I love the following salad. It’s fresh, refreshing and it reminds me of the Mediterranean sunshine that we lack so much of right here. It’s summer on a plate. I chop everything in cubes. If you want the make this like they do it on those beautiful islands, simply slice the tomatoes and cucumbers, and add a sliced red onion. Also you could include sliced green peppers, which to be honest I don’t like much. Serves 2 in a mezé.
- 1-2 cucumbers, weighing about 400g in total, peeled and chopped
- 100g feta, cubed
- 250g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 40g kalamata olives
- juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 tablespoons, and some, good extra virgin olive oil
- Mint (fresh is better than dried if you have it, oregano and dill will also work well, and sometimes I also use thyme)
All you do is mix everything well in a bowl and have a little taste. Add seasoning if you think you need it. Eat. It. Now. Or take it with you on a picnic. That’s what we did. Enjoy! R xx
Writing a review about a book I really love is one thing, but doing so for one I have mixed feelings about is another. There is no need to say how much I like Nigella Lawson and her style of cooking. There are reviews out there saying something like: What is this? Another BBC series to accompany the book? I, on the other hand can say that I am enjoying the show. And yet, I still have my doubts. (This is *such* a hard thing to say!)
I have purchased Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration myself, for various reasons; one, because I like her, and two, for the sake of completing the set (until the publication of the next book, of course.) Nigellissima is very different than all the others; this is not a bad thing in itself. I like the toned-down appearance of it, including the fact that there are more photos of the food than of Nigella herself. Though, to be honest, I miss her encyclopaedic style of writing. I miss the chunky in-your-face book, but there again, there can be only one How to Eat, Feast or book number eight, Kitchen. I always try to read cookbooks from cover to cover whenever I can, especially for reviews. I read this too. In a day. We don’t need a book as big as the Bible to convey the beauty and the simplicity of Italian food. Do we? Anna Del Conte has done it; so has Giorgio Locatelli. Perhaps I am totally missing the point. Nigellissima is the lovely lady’s take on Italian fare and that’s that. (Mentioning Anna Del Conte, the classic must-have is *not* Cooking with Coco as Nigella insists – perhaps a bit too much – but Gastronomy of Italy. More like it.) As far as ingredients go, I don’t understand the continuing emphasis on the so-called banana shallot. My Maltese readers are definitely familiar with the kind of onion we use for pickling. It is also found all over the south of France.
Please allow me to say something negative, and then I promise you it’s all positive from then on. I am not convinced of the savoury recipes – they left me a bit wanting. (And there endeth the negative ranting.) But hey, the sweet things are fantastically easy and tasty. I have been trying some of the recipes all week and boy, have they been a hit! The Tiramisini (page 162), a scaled-down version of the Tiramisù, is to die for. Please note that I am not a fan of Tiramisù. During a recent visit to Frascati (by all means not the home of this dessert) I had no choice but to have a taste. It was good of course, but nothing to write home about. However Nigella’s version is something else. Individual portions made it all the more easier to serve. Just get a glass or ramekin out and you’re done. It just needed an extra Savoiardi though to absorb more of the coffee mixture. But it is fine, even as is. You can find the recipe on Nigella’s website here. Try it and you will be a convert.
Yesterday, while the house was one big mess and J was working from home, I wanted to take a break: I needed a moment for baking. I decided to try the Italian Breakfast Banana Bread (on page 188). Good decision. In 10 minutes flat the cake was in the oven. There isn’t much Italian to be found in a banana bread, let’s face it, even if coffee is added to the mixture, and I like the recipe more for it’s fast preparation than for anything else, but it worked. And it was what I needed at that moment. This weekend it’s all about Nutella cheesecake. (I also made the Instant Chocolate Orange Mousse. The one from Express was quick and gloriously rich, but this one is better.)
Even though I would give Nigellissima a 3.5 on 5, there’s still a significant space for it in my bookshelf and in my kitchen. Taking baby steps for now, but it’s getting there.
I love cookbooks and I use them often. I also review them. I’m no food expert, which is something that I say again and again, but I love to try out new recipes whenever I can. Recently I received messages from quite a number of people asking me about my favourite books/chefs/authors/food writers and though you can get a pretty good idea if you look through my links page, I’ll gladly post some right here. This is obviously not a comprehensive list, because I don’t own every cookbook ever published. (For more inspiration you can see the one Stylist compiled here. It was a good list, but they did leave out the classic stuff, e.g. Escoffier.) The following are my current favourites, old ones and very new ones but it’s all good. Please note that this is just the first part. I don’t want to make one long post – it would be too tedious. And no book will be numbered (as in order of preference.)
How to Eat by Nigella Lawson (1999, Chatto & Windus). I know what you’re thinking. She has to mention Nigella, doesn’t she? Yes, of course I do (and there’s another one coming a bit later). I have to start with this though. It covers everything, from the basic sauces to pastry in the first chapter, to feeding children. It’s such a good introduction to Nigella’s cooking, well shall I dare say to cooking in general? Nigel Slater described this as his “book of the decade”. How to Eat is like an encyclopaedia, but refreshingly non-patronising and unassuming. Very charming trait indeed. Plus it’s nice and thick, and I love my paperback version, which makes things a little bit easier when carrying it around the house just for a read.
I can never rave enough about James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking (2011, Quadrille), and the whole New Voices in Food series. Which brings me also to another nifty little book by Niamh Shields’ Comfort & Spice, same series, same publisher, same year. These two (not just the books but James and Niamh themselves) are delightful. With exciting but uncomplicated recipes, they will definitely guarantee a wow from all your friends. Definitely my two constant companions this summer.
Now I don’t mind a bit of a challenge sometimes. A recipe with a longish list of ingredients won’t be necessarily dismiss. However I would only give it a go when I have some time to spare in the kitchen. This is not always possible. So here comes my other favourite James. I bought James Tanner Takes 5 (2010, Kyle Books) on an unplanned trip to the bookstore with my mum. The idea behind this is simple: you need five ingredients for each recipe, plus the usual salt, pepper and pantry staples. Nothing complicated, which is just what you need, especially during the summer months. There’s also a good mixture of dishes and it’s a book which will continue to be well-loved by me because of it’s practicality.
If you’re a bit of a baking buff like me, then you will guess what the next book will be. I’ve said many times that How to be a Domestic Goddess, another Nigella book, (Chatto & Windus, 2000) is one of my favourites. It’s not the only book I go to for easy baking ideas, but I find myself grabbing it from the shelves nine times out of ten. It’s not all about cakes, so it’s not for you if you want just your sweet things. I must admit that I haven’t tried any of the savoury recipes, perhaps because I already had good recipes to work with when I bought the book. However there’s no need to say that the cakes and sweet pies and muffins and brownies, and whatever else that remains from HTBADG (my abbreviation) I baked, were yummie.
During my many hours on the internet looking for the newest publications, I came across A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell (2012, Harper Collins). And when it came through the post around three weeks ago I couldn’t help but feel excited and yet afraid. Why? Because this book was not an easy feat. Before I opened the book I said: it’s either going to be really really really good, or it’s going to be a disaster. Thank goodness it is such a good read! Not everyone could do this. Sitwell did. Hats off. So A History of Food has to be included in my list…in any list if I may say so. Please note that this is *not* a recipe book in the classic sense of the word. Most of the recipes cannot be replicated (especially those that go back to 1958BC) but I just love all the history. I don’t think the chapters are meant to be read in order, which makes it an ideal reference manual, and they are short, which is always a joy. It is, and it’s for everyone. I didn’t know that Virgil probably had one of the first recipes for roast goat…