The Friday Five – my holiday cookbook reading


We had the most incredible weeks holiday in Dorset over Easter, in a beautiful cottage in Beaminster. I would happily never have moved back out, but school and the owners might have taken a dim view of that!


One shelf of fabulous cookbooks



Holiday cookbook shelf two



One of the reasons I loved it was for the fact that it had a cookery book collection to almost rival my own, but without much duplication. It’s a slight cheat on the post as I got through six, but would probably only add five to my collection.


My holiday cookbook reading


Fish Pies and French Fries by Gill Holcombe


Fish Pies and French Fries


I thought I’d featured Gill’s first book, which was the snappily titled How to feed your whole family a healthy, balanced diet with very litle money and hardly any time, even if you have a tiny kitchen, only three saucepans (one with an ill-fitting lid) and no fancy gadgets – unless you count the garlic crusher…although it turns out I hadn’t. This was my least favourite book out of the six, though great if you’re not a very experienced cook. There was quite a lot of condensed soup in it. And Smash in at least one. Not my kind of thing, but might give it to MFL as perfect for in a rush, trying to feed 2 teenage boys kind of territory.


How to Feed Your Friends with Relish by Joanna Weinberg


How to feed your friends with relish


I rather liked this book, even if the set up is somewhat different to many of our realities. But there are lots of recipes for gatherings of friends and families for all kinds of occasions, and it was the kind of food that made me want to dash into the kitchen and start cooking. Marinated steak with chimichurri sauce and then frozen berries with hot white chocolate sauce would make any day good in my book.


The new English kitchen: how to make your food go further by Rose Prince


The New English Kitchen


I think this one is probably the one that’ll make it onto my shelves first out of all of them. I loved the style of writing, but I loved the recipes more. If I’d read this one first then I think I might well have cooked from this whilst I was away. I loved it from the first chapter about bread, and how to use it from day one to day seven, which just showed how much you could with it. Great shopping guide as well. There are hard cover copies on Amazon starting at just 1p so definitely worth a look.


The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater


The Kitchen Diaries


My love of Nigel Slater is well-documented here, though I haven’t bought any of his books in a while. But I loved this one for the same reasons as I’ve loved many of the others: the stories, the recipes, the wit, the honesty. I mean, you don’t spot many admitting that dinner is sometimes baked beans with Worcestershire sauce. Once I’ve worked through the New English Kitchen, then I’m getting this one and working through it throughout the year.


The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo


The LIttle Paris Kitchen


This one has been on MFL’s wishlist, I think he has a bit of a crush on her to be honest. I quite liked it, I would probably cook from it a bit, but it wasn’t my favourite. Let’s face it though, the competition was tough! But the recipes look well written, not over complex and certainly sound very tasty. It’s a maybe from me, love to know if anyone has it and enjoys cooking from it.


Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen


Forgotten Skills of Cooking


I’d featured this one before some years ago, and I’d forgotten why I thought it was a great title. To be honest, it’s a toss up between this and The New English Kitchen for which one joins my bookshelf first. I love Darina’s style of writing, I love the tales she has to tell, and the skills she describes. I’m craving some soda bread followed by a bit of foraging, particularly given there were some great recipes for wild garlic which is just in season.


So, no fancy new titles in here, but I think at least three out of the six will truly stand the test of time. We were lucky to get some fabulous weather so had lots of time on the beach, otherwise it might have been more like seven or eight books! Have you got holiday cookbook reading lined up for your next holiday? Love to know what.


The Friday Five – eggs-actly what your bookshelf needs


So Easter is hurtling towards us, many of us will be off today so hopefully a day for relaxing and catching up with friends, family and maybe a bit of reading. Keeping the Easter theme going, but not the chocolate, then this week is all about the eggs.


Eggs by Michel Roux


Michel Roux Eggs


Start with a classic approach from Michel, taking you through lots of versions of frying, boiling, scrambling, poaching, baking…basically, he’s got all the bases covered, and then some.


A Good Egg: a year of recipes from an urban hen-keeper by Genevieve Taylor


A Good Egg


Whether you keep your own chickens or not, or just fancy doing so, then this will show you what you could be doing with the eggs throughout the seasons. The recipes also include lots of seasonal veg and fruit, so very much getting in touch with what’s going on around you.


Egg: The Very Best Recipes Inspired by the Simple Egg


Egg: The Very Best Recipes


I love the cover of this, great looking design. Inside, it’s no let down, as the recipes are good too. From the basics, through breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then sauces, puddings and drinks, truly giving you something for everyone, on every occasion


Take a Box of Eggs


Take a Box of Eggs


This one is a bit more involved cooking, so leaving out the basics, and moving onto recipes with eggs in. So, you’ll find recipes for Salad Niçoise and frittatas, and things like a Spanish almond cake. I would say this wasn’t a bad alternative student cookbook, as eggs have to be such a great simple food to have on standby.


How to Boil an Egg


How to Boil an Egg


Or maybe this is a great student cookbook, certainly a great starting out cookbook. In fact the full title is How to Boil an Egg; Poach one, Scramble one, Fry one, Bake one, Steam one. That pretty much covers it. Or at least gives you 6 days worth of variety before you start again.

So, bring all kinds of eggs to the table this Easter Sunday from morning to night, and not necessarily all about the chocolate. And you might even find enough recipes to last you through until next Easter!


The Friday Five – cooking and baking for Spring


I love Easter, because I love Spring generally. And there’s chocolate. But it’s always, regardless of where it falls on the calendar, a signal that winter is over. There are lighter mornings and evenings, fabulous Spring flowers and a general spring in people’s steps.

It’s also a good time to be thinking about new flavours, sweet or savoury or both. So these are some cookbooks that might inspire, that might sum up the season, that might just produce a new favourite dish.

High Tea


High Tea - great cookbook gift for a food lover


I love afternoon tea at any time of the year, but it does feel like sunny afternoons that linger are the most perfect time. So this might be a good starting point for inspiring something beyond just some scones and cream (although I do love a good scone and cream!) and time to start working on your finger sandwiches and pretty cakes.


Itsu 20 minute Suppers


Itsu 20 Minute Suppers


Itsu is one of my favourite places to stop for a quick lunch when I’m out and about, and this style of cooking is perfect for Spring suppers. Quick, simple, clean flavours, just the thing to pep up tired taste buds after the long winter.  Not to mention great suppers in a hurry after a long day at work.


Koreatown: A Cookbook


Koreatown: A Cookbook


Korean food still seems to be having a moment, with kimchi still everywhere. I guess this is sort of a variation on a theme, as this is Korean food in America, so likely to have been some “adjustments”. This is a beautiful looking book though, with fabulous photography, not to mention some great sounding recipes.


Clean Cakes


Clean Cakes


Why should healthy living or not having gluten, dairy or refined sugar in your diet stop you having some delicious cakes? I’ve done lots of baking along these lines but quite fascinated by the raw desserts. Though I might start with the courgette, basil, lime and pistachio layer cake.


Spring: The Cookbook


Spring the Cookbook


Seemed appropriate to include this one, but I also love Skye Gyngell’s style of cooking, and Spring is the name of her new restaurant. This book not includes fabulous recipes, but also the story of the creation of the restaurant, some really fascinating insight. Beautiful photography too, so definitely a reading as well as cooking book.


Spring is a time for newness, so maybe think about some newness in the cooking and baking department too. After all keeping things fresh is what keeps our minds young and fresh too. So definitely a win win situation.


The Friday Five – the ones you’ve recommended to me


The most used shelf of cookbooks in my house


I love writing the Friday Five, and love cookery books, as I think is probably obvious by now! There are cookbooks everywhere in my house: the much loved, much used ones on top of the fridge; the two shelves in the utility room, plus a stack on the bench out there; the pile at the side (or on) the bed and then a few at the side of my writing desk.

So, it’s a fairly well known thing that there are lots of cookbooks in my house, so I love it when people talk to me about cookbooks they would recommend. These are the five that we’ve been talking about recently:

Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks


Lean in 15 from Joe Wicks the Body Coach


The conversation on this one started back in January with 4 then 6 or 7 different people in the office. Of course, at first it was all about the New Year’s resolutions, but interesting that nearly 8 weeks on, people are still following this and raving about the food. I’m told the recipes are tasty, filling and quick to do, and they are all looking incredible on it. If I can get past his incredibly irritating writing style (I mean, how old is he? Midget trees are broccoli, spears are asparagus) then there’s certainly some robust flavours to go at. Cheesy chorizo chicken and spinach seems to be a favourite amongst the team, so going to start there.


The Pressure Cookbook by Catherine Phipps


The Pressue Cookbook by Catherine Phipps


This one got so many recommendations from folks on Twitter, along with why I should give a pressure cooker a go. Let’s face it, I’m a child of the ’70s, the beast of a one that my mum had scared the pants off me with all that hissing and running it under cold water. And I’m really very fond of my slow cooker. But MFL has a fancy combined pressure cooker/slow cooker thing, so I thought I could give it a go before committing to the preferred pressure cooker (which appears to be the WMF Perfect Plus). We’ve already tested the risotto recipe, which was an absolute revelation. And I love Catherine’s writing style, as obviously written from a typical family kitchen scenario. Like she says, zen state of risotto stirring not often reached when hungry kids are circling.


A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones


A Modern Way to Cook


An old boss of mine stopped me to recommend this one, which I’d had my eye on. Focused on quick and easy vegetarian food for every night of the week, I would say this is perfect for family meal times whether you’re full time vegetarian or not. Recipes are broken down by time, and start at 15 minutes and under, as well as those that you can cook ahead and re-use during the week. When I’ve decided which cookbook to move out the house, then I am going to move this one in.


A Bird in the Hand: Chicken recipes for every day and every mood by Diana Henry


A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry


This one has so many fans, and been issued with plaudits of every kind, but it was good to hear from a regular home cook that was loving this. I really like Diana’s books and already have a few on the shelves, but think this one could well join them. I love the chapter titled “chooks, shoots and leaves: chicken salads” both for the title and because I love a good chicken salad. And dishes to warm and soothe sound right up my street. Poulet bonne femme or Mexican chicken and pumpkin with pepita pesto sound equally delicious and I could cook them up right now. It’s on the list.


The Modern Preserver: Chutneys, pickles, jams and more by Kylee Newton


The Modern Preserver


My preserving experience is a bit mixed, with my raspberry jam well loved (thanks to the Clinton Street Baking Company recipe) and my marmalade experience a one off. But I’m told this book might make me want to experiment a little further. The photography is truly stunning, and I could definitely be persuaded to ring the changes and try the Raspberry and Rose Petal jam for a change. One for the end of the summer perhaps when I’m working out what to do with the fruit glut.

What would you recommend for me? Did Santa bring you a new cookbook you’ve been trying out? I’d love to hear your recommendations, or even the ones to avoid in your view!


5 books to get your Halloween tricks and treats sorted


I’ve written about books for Halloween treats for the last five years and, to be fair, there aren’t many new books each year. So this time I’ve decided to choose my five favourite cookbooks from the last five years, which have treats galore.


The Spooky 3D Cookbook - an unusual cookbook gift for a food lover


The Spooky 3D Cookbook – from 2014’s choices, I had to include this one as I think it’s the only time I’ve featured a 3D cookbook on the blog. That’s surely an unusual gift of a cookbook for any food lover.


The Martini Diva's Halloween Martinis & Munchies Book


The Martini Diva’s Halloween Martinis and Munchies Book – purely for the title alone! And who says that Halloween is just for the kids?


Ghoulish Goodies - our favourite Halloween cookbook


Ghoulish Goodies – this has been in my house since 2009, and brought out every year by MGG. We’ve made lots of things from it, and I reckon there’ll be a few more recipes tried this year too.


Wormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween RecipesWormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween Recipes – I think this book title has the right kind of yuck element to it that will make the kids want to check it out. And if that gets them into the kitchen that’s got to be a good thing.


Halloween Treats by Annie Rigg - perfect cookbook gift for a food lover at Halloween


Halloween Treats – I love Annie Rigg’s books, and always liked the look of this one. Still best for a cute approach to Halloween, rather than a blood and guts version. Which is fine by me!

It’s an event for a bit of fun on the cooking and baking front. I’ll see more black and orange colouring in the kitchen that weekend than the rest of the year put together, but I love it.


The Friday Five – Christmas is most definitely coming


Christmas is coming, time to get planning for the food lovers in your life


I am sorry to mention this, but three months today and it will be Christmas Day! Which means it’s time to start the planning for the meals, if only because I love this part. Looking forward to new traditions and old, so maybe that I need some new inspiration. These five books are all newly published in time for Christmas this year, so may be worth looking out for.


Elizabeth David's Christmas - could become my new go-to Christmas cookbook from one of the most important food writers of the 20th century


Elizabeth David’s Christmas – obviously the writing is not new in this, but it’s the first time Elizabeth David’s thoughts on, and recipes for, Christmas entertaining have been pulled into a book. She was such an influential writer it seems unbelievable this is the case, but I will really enjoy reading this one.


Dozens of Christmas cookie classic recipes for all the family


Christmas Cookies – the secondary title tells you all you need to know: dozens of classic Yuletide treats for the whole family. As we have a tradition of new PJs and hot chocolate on Christmas Day evening, maybe some of these would be ideal accompaniments.


Maggie's Christmas - sharing the best of Maggie Beer's Australian Christmas


Maggie’s Christmas – given this has been the year of our big trip to Australia, then it seems appropriate that we might add an Australian view of Christmas to the bookshelf. I think Maggie is the Aussie equivalent of Delia, and so these could become classics, even allowing for the differences in the seasons.


The Irish Countrywomen's Association Book of Christmas - for recipes, advice, blessings and traditions for a perfect Irish Christmas


The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Book of Christmas – from Australia to Ireland for another part of my heritage. This says it covers recipes, advice, blessings and traditions for the perfect Irish Christmas. I’m all about mixing traditions and recipes, so might give some food for thought.


Oh Come All Ye Tasteful - the foodie's guide to a millionaires Christmas feast


Oh Come All Ye Tasteful – who doesn’t want a foodie’s guide to a millionaire’s Christmas feast? Maybe it’s a bit of fun just to read, or maybe you can afford to stuff your turkey with foie gras and black truffles. Personally I think Christmas is memorable when you cook with love, not just expensive ingredients, but may be worth a read.


If you need more books, then I’ve written some other Christmas Fives over the years. There was “Christmas is coming, the cook is getting…?” which has the classic that is Merry Kitschmas in it. The first of my Christmas book offs with English Mum was in 2012, and I fired the opening salvo in 2013 too. I would have thought 20 cookbooks about Christmas was enough for anyone though!


The Friday Five – cookbooks for the Last Night of the Proms


Best of British


Ah, the Last Night of the Proms beckons tomorrow evening, which means to me that autumn is truly here. Which makes me a little sad at the passing of the summer, even though I love the colours and flavours of autumn. So, this one is a little tounge in cheek, five books based around some of the traditional pieces of music always found in this extravaganza of music and frivolity.


Food Britannia


Food Britannia – it wouldn’t be the last night without Rule Britannia, and this book by Andrew Webb is a great read on some of the very best things that the British Isles have to offer. It shows the huge number of food influences we have here, not to mention the truly fabulous products now on offer.




Jerusalem – a gift of a book to fit in with this theme, but it’s a gift to a kitchen. I love this book, and there are some fabulous recipes in here that I just keep coming back to. Plus more information and debate about hummus and falafel than you’d have thought possible!


Edible Seashore


Edible Seashore – hmm, hard to find one directly linked to Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, but thought this did some interesting in terms of foraging and good cooking from our abundant shoreline.


At the King's Table


At the King’s Table – well, I suppose the most pomp and circumstance in food must come at royal banquets, and this history of those banquets makes for some interesting reading. Although probably not much inspiration for a Wednesday dinner.


tea fit for a queen


Tea Fit For a Queen – it’ll end with the National Anthem, particularly as the Queen becomes our longest reigning monarch. And afternoon tea has to be one of the most British things up there with the Proms.

So, whilst it marks the end of the summer, it’s something to enjoy in the moment. I think there might be a glass of Pimms required to mark it.

Photo by simononly on Flickr.



The Friday Five – Flavours of Caribbean Sunshine


Let's hope the sun shines for Carnival time


Here we are, August Bank Holiday weekend, which means it’s time for the Notting Hill Carnival. It’s not something I’ve ever been to, even when I lived in London, but could be a great excuse for some sunshine flavours to offset whatever damp, dismal weather might be in store for us.


I love Levi Roots' passion for food, & it comes across in his cookbooks


Caribbean Food Made Easy – Levi Roots is just one of those characters that I just really like, as he just seems one of those genuine people who has made the most of every opportunity thrown at him. And he just brings such joy to his cooking and the way he talks about it. Probably a great book for starting an exploration of the food of the area in an accessible way.


Sunshine flavours of the Caribbean brought up to date in this cookbook


Caribbean Modern: Recipes From the Rum Islands – having grown up in Leicester, London and Trinidad it’s no wonder that Shivi’s recipes are a wonderful melting pot of influences. Not to mention very tasty influences. Coconut Chicken Rundown sounds like a perfect bad weather anti-dote.


French Caribbean cooking in one beautiful cookbook


Creole Kitchen – the flavours and tastes of the French Caribbean, I think this could be one for me. I mean, coconut slaw could well replace regular slaw, and who doesn’t want pineapple fritters and flambé bananas? And then there’s the rum laced punch recipes. My kind of cookbook!


Meat free in the Caribbean in cookbook form


Caribbean Vegan – definitely one to spice up your cooking, vegan or otherwise. And this takes flavours well beyond just pineapple and coconut, so delicious flavours from the islands, all the taste but without meat, egg or dairy.


Spicing up dinner time with this cookbook


Jerk from Jamaica – if you’re planning an end of summer barbecue, then maybe spice it up with Jamaican style barbecue. This cookbook gives you the main dishes but also great sides, drinks and desserts as well, so you can make the complete deal.

So, let’s keep our fingers crossed for some sunny weather, for the carnival and for the rest of us to enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend.






The Friday Five – all about cake


Ok, I know this week’s Bake Off was about biscuits, but I’ve got cakes on my mind as it’s my turn to take cakes in for the team. If I had time then I’d be baking, but sadly it’s only going to be thinking about baking this week. These books would be fabulous inspiration if there was time:


Naked Cakes - great gift of a cookbook for a food lover who likes to keep ahead of trends


Naked Cakes – how beautiful does this cover look? And I love this as a reaction to things like over-decorated cupcakes. This one is very much about the flavours, with things like Coconut Angel Cake with Raspberries or Chocolate Fig Cake. I think this one is going on my Christmas list.


Jamie's Food Tube: The Cake Book - great cookbook gift for a food lover who likes it big


Jamie’s Food Tube: The Cake Book – as you’d expect from Jamie, these are modern twists, and plenty of flavours involved. I like that these are seasonal recipes, so something to go at any time of the year.


Cakes in a Mug - great cookbook gift for a food lover who wants it fast


Cakes in a Mug – ok, there have been a few nights that cakes in a mug have featured here when there’s been no other sweet stuff to hand. This sounds like it might be a dangerous book to have on hand!


Surprise Cakes - great cookbook gift to surprise a food lover with


Surprise Cakes – sounds like the best kind of cake to me! I’ve never really tried anything like this except an ombré cake so wouldn’t mind giving a go.


Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book - great cookbook gift for food lovers who like to learn from the best


Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book – well, can’t really beat going a bit old school with the queen of the bakes, now can you? Funnily enough I don’t own any of Mary’s books, so maybe this is a good one to start with.

Whatever time you get to bake, hope you enjoy it and the results!


The Friday Five – plenty of good reading and cooking ahead


I’ve suddenly got a stack of great cookbooks to review, which I’m very excited about. There’s a great amount of variety and I almost don’t know where to start. These are the five in the starting blocks:


Reading ahead

Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret – this has a sense of family history as my dad spent many years working for Harvey’s of Bristol. Lots to go at in this in terms of the history of sherry, the places to buy it from and great cocktails to make with it. Going to be some fun.

Inspiralized – I bought this following on from buying a spiraliser, and hoping for some inspiration to do something more than just courgette noodles. Or carrot.

The Art of Making Gelato – oh my, the flavours in here just sound amazing. Not to mention the stunning photography. Could be some very serious gelato eating going on here this summer.

Crepes and Galettes – I’m definitely bringing buckwheat flour back from France ready to start testing from this one. I cannot believe I have never found Cafe Breizh during all my trips to Saint Malo, but I’m definitely making a bee line next time based on this book.

China Towns: Asian Cooking From Around the World – MGG and I are very fond of our Chinese food, so we’re looking forward to trials from this one. It’s pretty heavy, so looks like we have plenty of choices ahead.

So, lots of fun ahead, full reviews to follow over the summer. Big question is, which one to start with? Any thoughts?