Pleun’s Spotlight on Cookbooks

By Pleun

For me, autumn and winter is the time of the year to stand in the kitchen for hours on end and cook up a feast. From pies and cakes to grand lunches and spicy meals. I love to try out new recipes and when approved, by me and friends and family, they go into my cookbook journal and will be used again for years to come.

The cookbook market is now overflowing with new books so here is a small selection of some recent favorites I wanted to share with you.  Treat yourself to one, or surprise a loved one this holiday season.

Let’s start off with our lovely Jamie Oliver and his Jamie’s Great Britain cookbook. I have three Jamie cookbooks; two of them I use frequently and the last one (Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals) I found somewhat disappointing. For me the layout was just too messy and it was lacking the clarity I like while cooking from a recipe. So when I got a look at his new cookbook I was pleasantly surprised that the layout was back to normal! Similar to his America, Spain and Italy cookbooks, this one features a lot of original classic dishes and dishes with Jamie’s own personal twist.

I think a lot of people still think of British cooking as inferior but let’s be honest, the days when that you got  – at worst – only a bit of limp lettuce and slice of grainy tomato, or -at best – a dollop of coleslaw with lots of mayonnaise as a side dish are long gone. British cooking is now an inspiration too cooks and chefs everywhere. Jamie in particular is adamant on using local and seasonal products.

The book is organized in themed chapters, including Breakfast, Pub Grub, New British Classics, Afternoon Tea, Sunday Lunch, Condiments and many more. You might wonder if it doesn’t feature a lot of the same recipes also used in Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food – well, there is some overlap but the books are both perfect on their own and actually really complement each other. For me the recipes that I can’t wait to try are the Root Vegetable Crisps, Earl Grey Tea Loaf and Highland Mussels with Whiskey!

Do you remember, when you were younger, your mother would tell you to eat your veg and that it would be the hardest chore you could possibly imagine? The veggies were cooked till they were light green and had the consistency of milky porridge. Thank goodness we have evolved from that point! Vegetables are back! And back in a good way. Cooked to perfection and seasoned to complement and not disguise the wonderful flavor of the vegetable.

Last year it was Ottolenghi and his masterful Plenty cookbook; this year it is River Cottage Veg Every Day! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that has me salivating over the pages, 415 pages of inspiration!

What I love about this book is that the vegetables take on many different roles. From dips and side dishes to delicious mains.  Many people are still of an opinion that vegetables are only complementary to, for instance, meat and that a whole dish containing only vegetables is boring. This book proves them wrong! I can’t wait to try out the Roasted Beetroot Soup with Horseradish Cream, Pasta with Fennel Rocket and Lemon, the Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry and the Cannellini Bean Hummus.

I have a penchant for baking. It is like meditating and it eases my mind. Oh, and as for the end product; well something sweet is always good in my book. So with The Great British Bake Off just reaching its finale on BBC 2, I got my baking itch again and these two books really got me all exited.

The spin-off baking book The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake the Perfect Victoria Sponge and other Baking Secrets is, in my opinion, a real gem. It features a lot of sweet and savory dishes, both classic and contemporary. I mean Mary Berry’s (queen of baking) Chocolate Roulade is something that you have to have eaten at least once in your lifetime; a technical challenge but very rewarding. The recipes are very easy to follow and some have a lot of pictures explaining every step of the baking process.

Last year’s winner of the show, Edd Kimber, has written his own baking cookbook, The Boy Who Bakes, and what a lovely book it is
. Every recipe has a short intro on why he likes and loves it so much. This makes it much more personal than the average cookbook. Soon I will be trying out the Nutella and Banana Bites and the Coconut Cream Cheese French Toast.

If you are interested in baking you can always have a look on my baking blog: (in Dutch).