The Friday Five – the ones on my list


I write about all kinds of cookbooks throughout the year. I keep an ongoing list of books to come back to, never quite knowing what theme I’m going to pick up each week. And over the year, some transfer from my research list onto my wish list. Not always cookbooks, but always with food at the heart of the book. So as we get to the festive season, these are five that I wouldn’t object to finding under the tree next week.


The Untold History of the Potato - great book gift for a food lover who likes to know the story behind food


* The Untold History of the Potato – I quite like these sorts of books, where an expert/geek gets to really get indepth on one subject or ingredient. I’ve done Cod, I’ve done Salt, and I quite fancy doing the potato. Reviews look a bit mixed, but then Salt was slow going, and Cod was definitely a slow burner, but in the end I loved it.


The Town That Food Saved - great gift of a book for a food lover with interest in food sustainability


* The Town That Food Saved – I saw this when I was in NYC in the summer, and the story really appealed to me. I love the way food can bring communities together, and how it can be economically reviving. A story for our times, and perhaps something to be read in the context of the Portas report this week, which I wasn’t completely convinced by.


Pieminister: a pie for all seasons - great cookbook gift for a food lover who loves their pies


* Pieminister: A Pie for All Seasons – this would be to make MGG happy, as chicken pie still rates as one of her top three meals, rotating with mussels and chow mein. I’ve been a Pieminister fan for ages, and I’ve heard nothing but good reports on this book from cookbook addicts that I would trust.


Bill's The Cookbook: Cook, Eat, Smile - great cookbook gift for a food lover with a smile


* Bill’s the Cookbook: Cook, Eat, Smile – I’ve never been to Bill’s but if I was ever to run a food store meets restaurant, I would want it to be like Bill’s. It sums up everything that can be fabulous about good food, well sourced, and well cooked, served with love and fun. If I can’t get there, then I’ll have to settle for the book.


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard - my favourite baking book ever


* Short and Sweet – It wouldn’t really be my list without something baking oriented, and Dan Lepard’s book is probably the one I would prioritise. I really enjoy his writing, and his recipes. That said, I can imagine putting on about a stone in weight as there are so many recipes that appeal to me in this book.

I’d also be happy with any of the beautiful Penguin books I’ve written about a few times, as they look good, and are great for recipe and for historical context of the development of food and cooking. I’ve particularly enjoyed reading A Little Dinner Before the Play, and have cooked from the Claudia Roden quite a lot.

If Santa brings any of these though, I have to decide which one to move off the shelf, which one has failed to earn its spot…choices, choices!


The Friday Five – On pies, baking and Britishness


It could be because we’ve gone beyond the Last Night of the Proms, which is always a signal of autumn for me, or that publishers are preparing for Christmas, but there is a raft of new books out that are calling out for attention. And there is a bit of a theme, all around real comfort food. Here’s five that I’m thinking of making room for:


Jamie's Great Britain - the one Jamie Oliver cookbook that's on my shelves, I think this is a great gift for a food lover


Jamie’s Great Britain – well, he’s been around a lot of the globe, so I think it was inevitable that Jamie Oliver ended up back in the UK at some point. The cynic in me would say this is capturing a trend for Britishness that we’ll see grow as we head into the Olympics, but it looks like this will encompass all the great flavours that Britain is famous for. I’m sure this will be a huge success, and keep the focus on the ever improving British food scene.

The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies – love the Hairy Bikers, love pies, which has to make this a perfect book for me. As you’d might expect this covers sweet and savoury, small and large, traditional and new. Something for everyone.

Pieminister: A Pie for All Seasons – told you I love pies, and I love Pieminister, been buying their pies pretty much from when they started. All the favourites are there, and try something different like a St Valentine’s pie. I guess you don’t need both of the pie books, but would be hard pressed to choose between them!

Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury – more stuff I love. Proper tea time, plenty of baking, cake. This book certainly covers all of those, and then some. I wouldn’t know where to start but quite sure I would find plenty of willing volunteers to try whatever I was testing out. Teatime could become very popular!

Ginger Pig Meat Book – I love the description of this as a meat manual for the inquisitive domestic cook, which I guess means you can get beyond your usual meat cooking routine from this. Covering different meats, and by month, as well as all the accompaniments, this gives you endless variations and possibilities. I don’t know what aromatic melting pork is, other than delicious, but it makes me want to really make it!

So five choices that really reflect great food, the sort of stuff I love to cook, that are perfect as we head into winter. I would say these are not the sort of books to read in bed though, you’ll be starving by page 6!


The Saturday Session – pimp my Staffordshire Oatcake


For fairly unimaginative reasons, I was in Stoke on Trent yesterday, a first.

Well, Hanley, which is the city centre of Stoke. Confusing!

But, like any good foodie, I’d done my research, just in case of some foodie time out. And what results! There were three things on my list: pie from Pieminister (fail, the shop is no longer there), ice cream from Quadrelli’s (fail, ran out of time) and a trip to the market to buy oatcakes.



Staffordshire Oatcakes


Now, just in case you are confused, these are nothing at all like Scottish oatcakes. As you can see from the photo, they have the distinct look of a small pancake, and tastewise are more akin to a Breton galette. If you want to try them at home, there’s a good recipe and brief history on the Allotment Growing website. This is not just regional food, this the food of just half a county.

Most places round about served them stuffed with cheese and bacon, or any combination thereof. I bought 12 for £1.80 from The Original Oatcake Stall in the market, and brought them home to experiment. The bag also contained a very good looking black pudding.


So, I give you lunch today at Tarver Towers: Staffordshire Oatcakes with Black Pudding and Caramelized Apple.


Oatcakes with Black Pudding & Caramelized Apples


I have to admit, you couldn’t eat this every day, but it was divine. The oatcakes have a bit more body than a pancake, the black pudding was nicely spiced with good, uneven chunks of fat giving away its handmade origins, and the apple was a good combination of tart and sweet. If I was to change anything, I would use eaters not cookers next time, just as they would hold their structure a bit better.

Needless to say, dinner will be a meat-free affair! If you want to try them without getting into the kitchen, then you can get them by mail order from, who will send them anywhere in the world. What you do with them when you get them is up to you!