27 July 2012

random recipes :: a substitute for strong medication

Despite the date, I'm feeling distinctly un-olympian. I weigh about 25% more than my breathless frame dictates, none of my shirts meet my waistband, and my hair looks a fright... I sincerely hope that's where the similarities between me and BoJo end (and at least I have an excuse for the first two).

(As an aside: seriously Mister Mayor, "the geiger counter of olympomania is going to go zoink..." What? What? I can't even... no I'm speechless. Two words: statesmanship lessons.)

But mostly I've woken up with a fever and a throat, on a beautiful day, which makes me cross. In an effort to do something more productive than crawling back into bed, I thought I'd join in with delicious Dom and his Random Recipe challenge. As something a little different this month, Dom has asked us all to photograph and tell a little story about our cookbooks.

the usual suspects

Since my collection is streamlined to just twenty titles (due to severe cutbacks in April) I thought I'd give you a one or two line review of each. As any tabloid journalist worth their salt knows, brevity is a tough challenge. So, deep breath, here goes (from left to right):
 *N.B. if you have any of these books and can recommend recipes that I may not have tried, please leave in a comment, I've got nothing in for dinner yet...

shelf next to the end of the sofa, where I do the weekly menu planning, sometimes, when I'm organised enough

1. The Big Book of Backyard Cooking
Never used it. No idea why it made the cut. (Oh yes I do, gift from mother-in-law.)

2. New Recipes for your Slo-Cooker 
Annette Yates
Everything tastes the same in my slo-cooker, I call it essence eau d'slo. No idea why it made the cut.

3. Jamie's Ministry of Food
Jamie Oliver
Disappointing. Some of the recipes just aren't tasty enough. Perhaps I'm not the target audience.

4. How to Eat 
Nigella Lawson
Worst design and structure of any cookbook ever, end of. But comes in handy sometimes (though I can't remember the last time).

5. River Cafe Cookbook Easy
Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
Nice layout, love the broad bean soup, and the chocolate nemesis was intriguing. Should probably use this one more.

6. Jamie's 30-Minute Meals
Jamie Oliver
Should really be called 60-minute meals, but that aside I love the food in this book. Off the top of my head highlights include: Pregnant Jools pasta, tomato soup, chicken pie, mango frozen yoghurt, sticky prune puddings - I make these and others all the time. Lowlights: cauliflower macaroni, beef hash

7. Twelve
Tessa Kiros
Classic Italian arranged month-by-month. Lovely, look at it all the time. Never use it.

8. The Naked Chef
Jamie Oliver
My husband makes the best risotto thanks to this book. It also gave me the joy of 'The most perfect steamed & roasted duck with honey & oyster sauce' during last October's Random recipe challenge. Carnivores: you need this quacker in your life.

9. Kitchen
Nigella Lawson
Epic family cookbook. Love it. Our household highlights: chicken teriyaki, turkey meatballs, tarragon chicken, Vietnamese noodle soup, Mexican lasagne... and many more. Only lowlights so far: BBQ beef mince (I substituted 30ml bourbon for the same quantity of Glenmorangie - BIG mistake!) and the Minetta marrow bones, which this post discusses at length while glossing over the fact that they actually made me puke. Might have been the vino mind you.

10. River Cottage Veg
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Beautiful, never use it.

11. Real Food
Nigel Slater
Highly recommended by everyone, never use it.

12. The Silver Spoon
Italian compendium to end them all, never use it.

13. My childhood kitchen notebook
Has evolved into my plastic files of notes, clippings and deliciousness, where most all of my meals originate. So this one never gets looked at any more which is just as well, my handwriting was feeble and ugly.

14. Jones Dairy Annual 2005
Bizarre book, definitely a gift from my mother-in-law. But contains a fabulous recipe for Nanaimo bars (which I should probably just copy out before giving the book to charity).

15. How to Cook, book one
Delia Smith
Useful basics, including a tasty moussaka. Other well-floured pages include a parsnip parmesan bread and a potato cheese bread. Good pastry section too.

16. The food of Singapore
Never used it yet (but only because the Asian food market is the other side of town and I don't have a car).

17. Aussie Women's Weekly: Japanese
Made proper sushi a few times in about 1995.

18. Aussie Women's Weekly: Easy Vietnamese
Gift for my husband on his 21st from a girl he travelled round Vietnam with the summer before we met. Even has a message inscribed in the inside cover. 'nuff said. Never used.

19. Nigella Christmas
Bought in 2009 because I couldn't find her cheaty, speedy, ever-so-slightly chocolatey Christmas cake recipe anywhere on the internet. The Domestic Goddess had the rights to that recipe on lock down that year. But it was worth buying. Beautiful (if slightly irritatingly overstyled) book that really puts you in the Christmas spirit.

20. Cook with Chef Wan
See point 16.

Blimey, and I thought I'd streamlined! Seems I only use 50% of that list with any sort of regularity. I'd love to know what percentage of their shelf inches others honestly reckon they use. Why are cookery books something that we buy, give and hoard in such quantities? With only 20 books, I already have more delicious meal options than there are days in the year, and yet I'm sure I'll be tempted to invest in more at some stage. I bet I'm not alone!

Checkout Belleau Kitchen at the end of the month to delve into the bookshelves of the other RR devotees, I'll be having a good rootle around, for certain!


  1. The Internet has ruined us for cookbooks. With so many other bad options all over the web, why limit ourselves to books? Nigella and Jamie are two of my faves, though I have none of their books. Lidia Bastianich is one I'd enjoy too. I guess I have many cookbooks I don't use either, and several I would like (but probably wouldn't use) .

  2. I find it incredible that you have just 20 books, it shows incredible discipline... and you have a very sophisticated choice of books too... I whole-heartedly approve... I also hope you get better honey and enjoy the opening ceremony from the comfort of your sofa! Thanks for jumping back on the RR bandwagon xx

    1. Thanks Dom, I will! I'm just making some stewed rhubarb to eat on the sofa with ice cream throughout the whole ceremony :-)

  3. Okay, so I just went to count my books and do an estimate of how many are used regularly (can you tell I am supposed to finishing the laundry and packing for our holiday tomorrow?). I found it difficult to decide if a book was used regularly or not so I decided to use the criterion of whether I had made at least two recipes from it (yip - pretty small numbers). 45 out of 65 books have been used to that extent. Most of the books have two or three recipes that I use regularly and then I am fairly unadventurous and never bother trying the others unless it comes up in Random Recipes ( which is where a number of my most used recipes have come from).

    I can't believe you don't like the structure of How To Eat. I love reading what she chooses to put together for different occasions and it comp,etely inspires me. If I am doing a meal for something, How To Eat is the first place I go for inspiration even if I tend to use recipes from elsewhere.

    My basic risotto recipe is from Naked Chef too. It was brilliant to get that under my belt, see how easy it is, then endlessly adapt.

    And as for still not using Real Food. Tut. (Although I prefer Appetite).

    I like your pared down approach. It is manageable and sensible. I don't think I'll reduce my collection but I might try to do a one in, one out policy from now on. Having them stored in the garage, though, does mean it doesn't really matter if it expands a bit.

    Sorry you're feeling rough. You have had a bad time of it lately. I think that means you'll have a contented baby and a really chilled out few months after the birth. Fingers crossed. Xxx

  4. Thanks Lou. I'm ok, just a bit knackered i think, and in serious need of all the meds im not supposed to take!

    Now, in my defense, I do enjoy reading How to Eat, but it is totally hopeless if you're just looking for a recipe with an ingredient list and concise instructions, no?!

    I guess I have made a few things from each of the books I list, even the ones I say I never use, or they really wouldn't have been kept. But those ones certainly don't get opened on a regular basis.

    Now, go and pack Bob's wheely tote, and have a super holiday :-)

  5. You never use the Nigel Slater? There are some really fussy recipes, but the Griddled Mustard and Herb Chicken is gorgeous (I did it for one of my cookbook challenges!) I'd urge you to give it a shot.

    1. I've been meaning to make that chicken ever since you wrote about it Natalie! I will I will I will!!

  6. I hope you are feeling a little better today! xxx And wow what a great post, it makes me tempted to copy you, except I would have to tidy my cookbooks up first... lol

    1. But other people's mess is the most interesting bit, no?!?

  7. I love your mini reviews – great idea! I reckon I only use about half my books regularly, but I keep the rest because I love reading them and they have beautiful photos or they have one favourite recipe (or they were gifts). And then there are probably about four that I've never actually cooked from. One because I can only get about half the ingredients here, and the others because… I don't even have an excuse. Looks like the next RR might have to come from one of those!

    I hope you feel better soon!!

    1. Yes, I hope next months RR forces me to try one of my neglected few!

  8. Thanks for commenting on my post! I have to say I'm amused by the fact that so many of the books that "made the cut" aren't used! With regards to slow cooking, I must introduce you to Stephanie, the Queen (IMHO) of Slow Cooking - http://crockpot365.blogspot.co.uk/. Thanks to her my slow cooker is in regular use in this house!

    I must say that most of my proper cookbooks have been used - it is the little pamphlets, torn out magazine recipes that I keep "just in case" that never get a look in...

    Got to say that the best thing for me in Nigella's How to Eat was the shortbread - one of my son's converted that to be gluten free and makes it all the time!

  9. Nigella is certainly good for the baking, I do use How To Eat for cakes and puddings, I must confess.

    I was really starting to question why so many books that rarely get used made the cut too, and then I realised that they are either ones given to my husband by his mother or (eek!) ones that he has given me! So I feel I can't ditch them!!!

  10. Thanks for popping by...You're right about the quality and not the quantity of cookbooks. I'm very well picky with what cookbook and chef author I purchase as well. You've mentioned having to purchase Nigella Christmas. I love her and I've purchased it last year because it was my turn to host the family holiday supper. I'm glad I did! I've used her recipes quite a lot. The book with the pair of wee red shoes you've asked me about is lovely. The recipes are in colour groups so she would make dishes out of the colour group its in. Tessa writes of her childhood and children and how the dishes come into place. Her recipes are simple and not pretentious. So for a beginner like me it's perfect. I'm a happy follower now...hope to see you at mines. : )

    1. I might have to see if my library has a copy, that sounds lovely, and certainly my copy of Twelve by the same author is beautiful (if a little underused!)

  11. That's great restraint. I have lots of books that I never use, although I'll often dip into them and think 'That's interesting' and then do something completely different. I suppose that's a kind of inspiration. 'How To Eat' works a bit like that for me.

    1. Not sure if it's restraint, or simply necessity! Our house is really rather teeny with no storage whatsoever, so needs must!

  12. A small but perfectly formed collection, your books are lovely. Everyone seems to have the Silver Spoon cookbook on this roundup, I wonder what I'm missing.

    I can see this edition of RR is going to cost me money at Amazon....again!!

    Sue xx

    1. Well Sue, what you're missing with Silver Spoon... Let me see! In my opinion it's really good when you need something very very heavy, like weighting the boards together to dry some tofu. It's second to none in that respect...

  13. Love the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals (and you are right 60 minutes minimum), particularly like the Tray-Baked Chicken. But surprisingly the cookbook I've used the most lately is Gwyneth Paltrow, Notes from My Kitchen Table. Love lots of her dishes particularly the vegetarian paella.

  14. Hey! So sorry that you're finding photoshop so frustrating! I left some instructions over on my blog in reply to your comment. Hope they help! If not, let me know. Take care!


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