Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Oldies but Goodies

The Observer Food Monthly that came with this week's Sunday newspaper focused on a subject close to my heart - cookbooks! It included a list of those that were, in their humble opinion, the fifty greatest of all time. In spite of having a large collection of my own recipe books, I was surprised to see that I only owned two in the list.   Even more shockingly I'd never heard of the Number 1 title, The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney, published in 1970.

To give lots of authors a look in, it seems that only one book per person was allowed in the list.  So while I own lots of Nigel's Slater's book I don't have The Kitchen Diaries which comes in at number seven. Nige is pipped to the post by Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food at number two, another volume isn't in my possession, although I do have her excellent New Book of Middle Eastern Food which is a source of an amazingly favourful dish Meggaderra whose ingredients, apart from seasoning, are just rice lentils and onions.

But enough. The purpose of this post isn't to boast about my cookbook collection.  It is to inform about the more obscure titles that would make it onto my own favourites list, were I to compile one.  Sure, the likes of Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall are up there.  But the four titles above shown in the picture are used again and again.  Sarah Maxwell's Meze Cooking is the source of well explained recipes for delights such as crispybu fried courgettes, tiropittes - wonderfully crispy cheese parcels and a blinder of a sausage and pepper stew. The other books are sadly out of print but happily, Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed is still readily available in Amazon's Marketplace.  It has two reviewers, both of whom give it a five star rating which coincides with my opinion that this is an excellent book of delicious recipes with clear instructions.   Good Soup Book by Lindsay Bareham and Sweet Dreams by Josceline Dimbleby are excellent examples of the little paperbacks produced by Sainsbury's in the 1980s and 90s.  I have another book by Lindsay Bareham but the one here is my favourite and arranges its recipes seasonally.   And time after time the pudding cookbook has been the source of wonderful desserts.  Anyone for Coconut Ice Cream with Mango Puree,  Dark Chocolate and Lemon Tart or Chocolate Mousse Gateau? No?  Then perhaps you'd prefer the Cox's Creamy Apple Tart,  Walnut Mousse Gateau or Nostalgia Pudding.  Again copies of these two gems float around Amazon Marketplace which is a good thing to know as my books could well fall apart from overuse soon!

But probably my number one title is the New Art of Cooking created and written by the Stork Cookery Service  Yes! the margarine people.  This little marvel never fails me when I need a simple recipe.  Yes to  Yorkshire pudding, Victoria sponge, steak and kidney pudding and any type of sauce or pastry that a normal human being would care to make themselves.  It is entirely up to you whether you go along with the suggestion to use margarine in every recipe but in my experience substituting an appropriate trendier source of fat works just as well.

The book also gives a flavour of how times have changed with its illustration of unusual vegetables 1970 style.  However the ratatouille recipe is spot on.  Just substitute olive oil for the Stork!


  1. Barbie nurse just back from cornwall (need an awning) Risotto on hob, wine in hand, just perfect, HAPPY DAYS. love the blog

  2. Barbie Nurse! Glad you've enjoyed the freedom of a house on wheels! You've just inspired me to think about writing a piece on the pros and cons of a little camper van vs. a big motorhome!