Sunday, 1 July 2007

Cooking the Books

It's probably no surprise to anyone that I love cookbooks, or that I have a collection of over 200 of them which is unfeasibly large, given the size of our house. Yesterday evening I actually found some time to sit down and do some cookbook reading - mainly to dredge up some inspiration for tonight's dinner. It's lovely to just sit and read cookbooks, but I like the cooking part even more, so the most important thing for me when I choose a new book is that it should make me want to cook, not just read.

I like my cookbooks to be quite 'wordy'; to hear something of the history of a dish and the writer's feelings about it. Nigel Slater's books rate very highly with me for his evocative writing style as much as for his recipes. I wonder whether it boils down to the fact that I talk all the time, so I want everyone else to do the same somehow. A quiet world is not the world for me, that's certain. If I had my choice, I would have some pictures of the dishes, but to me they're not essential. Several of my favourite and most-used books don't have a single photograph.

Tonight's supper came from the pages of 'Apples for Jam' by Tessa Kiros, a recent addition to my library and one that I supspect is destined to become a favourite. It ticks all three important boxes for me -a lovely chatty way of writing with suggestions for adapting and changing her ideas to suit yourself. I could just sit down and read it for pleasure (and I do). The book is also truly beautiful to look at, but most of all, I am just desperate to cook just about everything in it!

This Sausage and Potato Goulash, which I cooked tonight, is a typical example of the recipes contained in the book; simple family food which is a joy to cook and to eat. Some good-quality sausages are cut up and sautéed with onions, flavoured with paprika, bay and cinnamon, then simmered with potatoes, tomatoes and water to make a gloriously-coloured soupy stew, full of flavour. Both the children adored it and I'm very glad that there are leftovers in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch. There nearly weren't! There is an excellent balance between this kind of practical everyday food and more frivolous and delightful things like fizzy orange and jam shortbread. Both of which have the pages turned down in my copy.

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