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.


Did you survive Blue Monday? Try these if not


How did you get through Blue Monday

Yesterday was apparently Blue Monday.

I have no idea who invented this, and whether it was supposed to make us feel better. Or is it just going to make us feel bad by telling us that we should be feeling bad.

So, how will you make yourself feel better today?

For me, it’ll start with a darned good cup of tea. In fact I really should try and remember to get some Bellevue Belter in, as that’s the only tea better than Yorkshire Tea for me first thing in the morning.

It’s a working day, so perhaps we could scoot out to lunch as a team. We haven’t been to the Victoria so far this year, so probably about time.

Tuesdays mean a swim after work, which is sometimes hard to go and do, but I do feel better once I’ve done it. Hopefully I’ll come home and make something that feels good as well as taste good. Although to be honest, my fave would be scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.

And then I think an early night, with a stack of cookbooks would be lovely. I think I’m missing out by not having Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand, and I’ve always loved Nigel Slater so a copy of A Year of Good Eating would be amazing too.

January is rubbish, so be good to yourself.


Week 5 Cookbook Challenge – The 30-minute Cook


30 minute cook


Oh, the nostalgia of this one! See, long before Jamie Oliver was thinking up 30 minute meals, Nigel Slater was already doing it. I love this book, as I loved Real Fast Food before it, although was slighly taken aback to discover it was published 20 years ago.

But then I look at Nigel’s photo on the back, and my own from that time and think that yes, it probably is 20 years ago. But my, we’re wearing well!

I don’t think I’ve cooked from this one in an age and, if I’m honest, I don’t think I ever cooked as much from this one as from Real Fast Food. Maybe at the time I bought this the 30 minutes seemed like too much, and I was busy making Smartie Sandwiches, one of my reasons for loving Real Fast Food.

I loved rereading this, especially when looking at the ingredients section, which really does remind you that things really have moved on in 20 years. I mean imagine, coriander only available in most good supermarkets? Isn’t it now the UK’s most popular herb? Or that it was a world where curly parsley dominated the shelves? First world problems perhaps, but the food landscape has definitely moved on.

But the quality of the recipes is timeless, and a dish of chicken with lemon and olives on a cold, dark evening was a perfect anti-dote to the outside world. I don’t think mashed potato came on the recommended serving suggestions list, but it was that kind of day here. Sadly I think Nigel would be less than impressed, as the only chicken in my freezer was a skinless chicken breast, which he describes as being like “newly born rodents”. Couldn’t get the image out my head for a bit, but it still worked as a dish.


Not a rodent


I loved the flavours, and I loved that it didn’t need loads of attention. In just over 30 minutes (who was really counting, it was a Sunday) then the kitchen smelt more sunny and exotic than it really was, and dinner was a joy for the senses. And unlike when Jamie’s 30 minute recipes were being made,  I hadn’t used every pan and utensil in the kitchen!


Bubbling away


This book is always a keeper for me, though that has been on the basis of nostalgia up till now. But having dipped back into it, I think there might be a few more return visits. It’s still in print, although the cover has changed design in the interim, it’s all pretty and hand-drawn now.


The Friday Five – my golden tickets


I wrote last week about the Great Charity Cookbook Swap that I’m organising, and the Golden Ticket books we are bringing together. I feel really thrilled that the first book we had was from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and I know I would be very happy if this was my golden ticket book.

So, just for fun, these are the five writers I’d love to find I was holding the golden ticket for:


real fast food


Nigel Slater – I’ve written before that the first cookbook I ever bought was Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food, pretty much in the first edition. I still have it, and I still have a real soft spot for Nigel’s writing and to find any of his books behind a golden ticket would be fantastic. I don’t know if I could pick a favourite. I really loved Eating for England but then I really like Tender…too many to choose, would be happy with any.


Too Many Chefs


Sat Bains – every morning I pass, in the space of about 5 metres, three, possibly four brown signs for Restaurant Sat Bains. I eat my lunch about a mile as the crow flies from the restaurant, and a million miles in culinary terms. I’ve been lucky to have eaten there once, back in the days when the restaurant did lunch, and we had expense accounts. The book would be about the closest I get, other than that daily passing of the sign.


The Modern Pantry


Anna Hansen – lunch at The Modern Pantry has been one of my favourite eating experiences of the last couple of years. I’ve recommended it to numerous people, but still not managed to get back myself. I love the flavour combinations and would hope that I could translate some of that from the cookbook. Especially the fig leaf ice cream.


Bill Granger Every Day


Bill Granger – I know that warmer weather is here when I reach for Bill’s books. I think I have about four, because for the summer (all 3 weeks of it) I love that style of cooking. I also love the look of the lifestyle: the sunshine, the Australian coast, all that white linen. Well, a girl has to have a dream. I think I reach for Every Day most, although Bill’s Food probably is a close second.


Tamasin's Kitchen Bible


Tamasin Day-Lewis – this really would thrill me, as Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible is one of my all time fave cookbooks. Put it this way, if I was rescuing stuff from this house, I’d rescue this (if only because it now costs a fortune to replace). I love the variety of her books, and I love her recipes, I’ve never had one fail yet. Though they’re short on white linen in the photography!

We are at early days of Golden Tickets books but we’ve had some amazing donations already. So, if you were coming to Graze the Vale what would you hope to find behind a Golden Ticket?


Quick pick for a Friday – Tender is the fruit


I’m looking forward to feeling some sunshine on my trip, which always makes lettuce and a fruit salad so much more appealing than a beef stew and a steamed pudding! So my choice for Friday is Nigel Slater’s latest, Tender: Volume II A Cooks Guide to the Fruit Garden.

Bring on the first English strawberries, the raspberries, the blueberries…and in the meantime please inspire me with new things to do with appples and plums! I may have found myself not warming to him when I watched Toast over Christmas, but I do love his food writing.

Here’s to celebrating our seasonal fruit harvests!


The Friday Five – Bring on the Veggies

Vegetable sunset

Next week is National Vegetarian Week, so I thought it would be good to look at interesting cookbooks that are not about the meat. Even if you’re not a full time veggie, there is a school of thought that says it’s a good thing to have less meat, and therefore you might want some inspiration around some new dishes. Here’s a few to wet your appetite.

1. Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian– this is a classic, and has just been fully updated, and will give you lots to go at, whether you have been a veggie for years, or it’s just a passing fancy for a Thursday night. Rose Elliot really is seen as the queen of vegetarian cooking, so this really should make it onto your cookbook shelves.

2. Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon– in my veggie phase, this was my bible. A prolific writer, and I think this caught my tastebuds as it seemed to be slightly lighter approach than many European writers. Charmaine has gone on to write many books on Asian cuisines, and I’ve gone on to revert back to bacon sandwiches. But I did love the cheese souffle stuffed red peppers.

3. Tender: Volume I, A cook and his vegetable patch by Nigel Slater – I love Nigel Slater, Real Fast Food is the first cookbook I bought myself. And if this had been around when I was doing veggie, maybe I’d still be veggie, as the recipes are delicious. I may still have been tempted by a bacon sandwich. This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but vegetables are the dominant ingredient, so perhaps a good one for households of mixed eating habits.

4. Mediterranean Harvest: Delicious Vegetarian Recipes from the World’s Healthiest Cuisine by Martha Rose Shulman – this is probably my favourite kind of veggie food, and a Greek vegetarian meze is my idea of heaven. This book covers great recipes from Spain, France, Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, so giving you a huge variety of recipes and flavours to work from. It makes me think of sunny afternoons, even if it’s going to be grey outside.

5. The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson – another of my favourite food writers, this is as good as Simon’s other books in my view. I’ve only browsed through this in the bookshop, so not yet made it onto the shelf here (I’m supposed to be economising) but it’s on my wishlist. Perfect for veggies, or just foodies, or veggie foodies.

So these are great books to show how fantastically tasty vegetables can be. And this beautiful shot shows how stunning they can look as well, taken by Thomas Euler over on Flickr.

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Amazon lead us into temptation…

Economy Gastronomy
Economy Gastronomy

I think you might have gathered by now that I rather like my cook books, and the groaning bookshelves would bear testament to that. So I guess I really don’t need an offer from Amazon of 50% off a whole heap of new titles!

What to choose?

I mean, Nigel Slater was the first cookery book I bought for myself, so I guess 50% off Tender would be enticing. Not to mention all those wonderful veg recipes. But then there’s Economy Gastronomy, which suits the current economic mood. And of course a big saving fits in with that mood!

Marcus Wareing wins the most unusual title award, with Nutmeg and Custard. Sounds divine and intriguing, especially the chapter entitled Puds, Popcorn and the Ice-Cream Parlour. My kind of chapter! I’m less sure, but none the less intrigued by The Exotic Meat Cookbook. Definitely not going to tick the local food box, but will be interesting I’m sure.

There are all sorts of TV titles, from Jamie’s America to The Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour of Britain. Could sprinkle a seasonal bit of Delia with her Happy Christmas. Or spice things up with Levi Roots Caribbean Food Made Easy.

I think the time has come to measure up the space on the bookshelves, and then perhaps get Santa to put a few aside for me!


The Saturday Session – the joys of a horticultural show

More jam, less Jerusalem
More jam, less Jerusalem

It’s one of those big events in our village today: the annual horticultural show. Oh yes, there are still horticultural and village shows going strong, and there has been competitive pumkin and bean growing going on for months. No tales of sabotage yet but still time for that to surface!

As well as veg and fruit growing, not to mention the fresh flower arrangement inspired by a film title, there are all the culinary classes too. So for today’s Saturday session here’s a recipe recommendation from some of my favourite blogs and sites for each of the classes:

1. Jar of Jam – tip here, nothing exotic ever wins. Or perhaps that should read nothing exotic of mine ever wins. Really I think what you want is a classic raspberry, possibly strawberry. But if you wanted to push it just that little bit further, but still keep it sounding classically British sounding, then I would go for the Blackberry & Apple jam that’s featured on The Cottage Smallholder. Like a little jar of autumn in a jar. Although it rather depends on when your show is theough, as this isn’t going to work for early summer!

2. Jar of Lemon Curd – hard to make this one distinctive, so it’s all going to come down to quality ingredients. Looking at the recipe on Gastronomy Domine, Liz Upton recommends American Meyer or Sicilian lemons if you can track them down. Failing that I would suggest you need unwaxed organic lemons, and the best eggs you can find.

3. Jar of Marmalade – no fruit specified, but I think you can guarantee at our show there is currently little point in entering lime, lemon or even ginger and kumquat marmalade, no matter how delicious! You preferably have to have been organised during the short Seville season and laid away a jar or two ready for the big day. Not from a blog but my favourite food writer, Nigel Slater, shared his recipe for Seville orange marmalade earlier this year, so I’d happily give that a go.

4. A jar of chutney – I’m not sure of the technical difference between a pickle and a chutney, they would seem to be one and the same to me. If only for the very beautiful colour I imagine it goes, then I would try the Beetroot Chutney from Allotment Growing. That said, quite partial to the taste of beetroot too!

5. Fruit cake – so many possibilities, from the light tea bread type to a full on well matured Christmas cake. With no specification, I would think most people would go tea bread type. Which might give you an advantage if you went moist and well matured. Who knows? The judging of these things are a thing of mystery. I rather like this Treacle Fruit Cake recipe from Celt Net, which feels traditional but with a twist.

6. Six savoury vol au vents – seriously, did anyone ever make vol au vents? I mean even if you were going to serve them, you bought the frozen ready made cases, right? And as even Nigella buys ready made puff pastry, then surely not a single one will be made from scratch? I would be tempted to do the full on nostalgia and attempt the mushroom and chicken my mum always made, which always seemed to involve a tin of Campbells’ condensed mushroom soup. Surely the only way to approach this class is with irony?

If you really want serious award winning stuff, then I would guess you couldn’t go far wrong by following the recipes of the WI. There are books on preserves, bread and even tarts! That should keep you in rosettes for a while!


The Friday Five – let’s start at the very beginning…


If, as a foodie, you’re at all like me, you will have shelves groaning with cookery books, food writing and magazines about food. The food and drink section of any bookshop will be your first stop, where you will lovingly eye up titles. Sound familiar?

So I’ve decided to feature 5 books each Friday, about different aspects of food and drink, some serious, some not, some for true foodies, some for dabblers, but always something that you can add to your wishlist. And let me know what yours are on each subject, love to hear! May just find a new title to add to those bookshelves!

For the first outing of the Friday Five, I’m starting at the beginning, with the 5 books that really fired my love of food.


The Be-Ro Home Recipes Book


1. The Be-Ro Home Recipes Cookbook – I still have my mum’s copy of this that is probably at least 35 years old, but love each and every recipe. When I’m feeling nostalgic, or just need comfort baking I turn to this. If you missed out on this, there’s a 40th anniversary edition available.

2. Delia Smith’s One is Fun – I had this when I first left home, and cooked from it lots. When I left one particular flatshare, I discovered that although I could cook most of the braised steak au poivre blindfold, I couldn’t finish the dish. This because my flatmate always did the last bit whilst I made the mash. The chocolate mousse is still my go to recipe.

3. Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater – any book with recipes for bacon sandwiches and smartie sandwiches is absolutely fine by me. Spoke to the need for good food, in a hurry, possibly the worse for wear. Which happened quite a lot.

4. The New Moosewood Cookbook – my godmother sent me this. I think she knew I was cooking from number 3 a lot. There aren’t a lot of smarties in this one. Or bacon. But I did cook quite a lot from it in attempts to be healthy.

5. A La Carte Magazine – not strictly speaking a book, but in the 80s this was food porn at the highest level! My mum used to buy it and I used to spend hours looking at the recipes and photography, which was luscious. Can’t even find any on eBay, but Gastronomy Domine has a recipe on her blog from there, so have to make do with that!

Love to hear what were the books that stoked your interest in food! And if anyone has any copies of A La Carte, be interested in hearing from you! With the resurgence of dinner parties, it must be time to bring back the Black and White dinner parties!