Cookbook exploring in 2012


I have acquired a lot of new cookbooks this year. A lot. In fact, I’ve just counted 24 new books in 2011, including both cookbooks and food writing. Gulp. One of the problems with twitter is that I feel connected to the food writers I follow, and so I feel more or less compelled to buy their books when they come out. It’s like buying the book your friend wrote – it just feels like something you should do to support them. Of course, I don’t know these people personally, but I feel some of that obligation nonetheless. This is not helping my shelf capacity.

Like most people, I haven’t made most of the recipes in most of the books I own – and my habit of constantly acquiring new ones isn’t helping. So I’ve decided to pick a book a month to cook from this year (except December). I’m hoping this will ensure I spend some time really exploring each of these books. It can also be helpful to restrict your choices sometimes. When I’m short of time, I’m much more likely to choose something new to cook if I have a book choice of one, rather than having to navigate the whole bookcase.

This list isn’t just the new books in my collection. It’s more the substantial books that I don’t feel I’ve got into properly yet, and that I think will repay some sustained attention. I haven’t included baking books on this list – I bake so much that it’s not hard for me to work through those. I’ve already made quite a few recipes from Dan Lepard’s magnificent ‘Short and Sweet‘, and I’m sure I will make many more. I won’t be cooking exclusively from these books, or aiming to cook everything in them. This is more of a starting point for when I’m looking for ideas or a cooking project to tackle.

January: Far Eastern Odyssey by Rick Stein

I thought it would be useful to do these fresh Asian flavours in January, when I could do with some spices to brighten things up. A lot of these dishes are store cupboard based as well, and any seasonal ingredients are fairly out of season for us for much of the year, so having to use January produce shouldn’t be as much of a hindrance.

February: Modern Cookery for Private Families by Eliza Acton

This is a reprinted version of a cookbook first published in 1845. This was the source for many of Mrs Beeton’s recipes. I’m hoping that the traditional English food will be just what is needed in February.

March: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking: Scandilicious – Signe Johansen

I’ve really been looking forward to getting my hands on this one. I follow Signe’s twitter feed and blog, and there have been many tantalising glimpses of her recipes in the newspapers this year.

April: Nutmeg and Custard – Marcus Wareing

I’ve had this book for a quite a while, and made a few things from it, but there are so many tempting recipes here that I wanted to spend some serious time sorting through it.

[Having just received Heston Blumenthal at Home as a late Christmas present this week, I might have to switch this one]

May: Bocca: Cookbook – Jacob Kennedy

I’m a fan of the Bocca di Lupo restaurant, and even more so of their sister gelateria, Gelupo (it’s easier to get in for one thing). I haven’t looked at this at all yet, but wanted to give this a slot that would mean some good fresh produce was starting to appear.

June: Tender: Volume I, A cook and his vegetable patch – Nigel Slater

I’ve also had this for some time, but it’s such a huge volume, I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. Again, having some good veg to play with feels important here.

July: Supper Club: Recipes and notes from the underground restaurant – Kerstin Rodgers

Kerstin’s book is definitely organised with entertaining in mind, so I’m putting this one in July with my birthday with the aim of throwing some parties that will allow me to use the menus as they are meant to be done.

August: Moro East – Sam and Sam Clark

This book was written around their allotment and the produce it generated, so August felt like a good month to tackle these fresh recipes.

September: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook – Judy Rodgers

I’ve owned this cookbook the longest of this set, but so many of Judy’s recipes feel like real projects, I have avoided many of them. This feels like a good time to really get into some of these multi-day recipes.

October: Made in Italy: Food and Stories – Giorgio Locatelli

I would like to get around to making some of the fresh pasta dishes and the more elaborate restaurant dishes from this. And maybe this is the year I finally break my rule about deep frying at home and make the banana chocolate beignets from this book.

November: The Family Meal – Ferran Adria

I bought this (and had it signed) when Ferran was in London this year, but again, haven’t made many of the recipes yet.

I’m stocking the kitchen now to tackle the pan-Asian flavours of Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, so a few recipes from that will be coming soon.

5 comments on “Cookbook exploring in 2012

  1. Choclette says:

    I’m feeling quite envious of your book purchases last year, but also rather thankful on the shelf front! I only have the Nigel Slater veg book, which I received last year for Christmas and am ashamed to say I’ve hardly used at all. My NYR should be to stop baking so much and spend more time on cooking savoury and looking at my non baking books, but I’m not sure I’d stick to it.

    • louise_m says:

      Yes, that Nigel Slater book has been good whenever I’ve looked at it, but I’ve barely looked at more than two things.
      And there’s nothing wrong with lots of baking! 🙂

  2. Well I’ve now stopped feeling bad about buying new cook books because guilt never stopped me from buying them in the past anyway! 🙂

    Yes like you I have so many I haven’t cooked from, one day I will, that’s what I say to myself!

    I asked for Made In Italy too this xmas, as I keep doing his lobster linguine, thought I should get the book. Would recommend that recipe, it’s one of my favourite dishes we’ve had in the restaurant and the recipe at home tastes just as good, and as you know this isn’t always the case with chef recipes.

    I had the Zuni Cafe 2 yrs ago and still haven’t cooked from it! Like you maybe I should have another look.

    Rick Steins I have cooked from, I loved the series, one of the recipes the Rendang I made was dull as dishwater, I had to save it myself with ‘upping’ flavourings. The pork curry on there was a hit, made it few times and have now developed into my own version of it, because it’s a bit of a pain to do all the steps so I’ve short cut a bit. In fact I have lots of photos on my laptop of the curry which should have made into a post by now!

    I don’t know about you but also have books not well know tv cooks or chefs by cookery writers less known and loved looking through the books, saw lots of “must try” recipes then forget about them…should get those out.

    Haven’t cooked from Nigel’s either bought out of habit of buying his other books. I think I’ve outgrown Nigel if I’m truly honest, who’s first books I love.

    My problem is I would like a dedicated little room just for my books with a reading chair in the to the dream kitchen 😉

    • louise_m says:

      If you’re going to tackle the Zuni cookbook, try the roast chicken bread salad – one of my favourites, and it uses bread!
      Judy Rodgers writes such detailed instructions that the method seems quite complicated. But it’s actually quite straightforward. I don’t often make the full recipe she describes, but I use parts of it all the time.

  3. […] the book, covering areas as diverse as Forcemeats, Curries, Pickles, Confectionary and Bread. In my calendar of cookbooks for this year, February’s allocation was Eliza Acton’s ‘Modern Cookery for Private Families’, first […]

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