Re-discovering old cookbooks


I’ve a new kitchen (hurray) and I’m so thrilled to have space again to cook. Amongst the many things that need unpacking and new places for their repose, I have had the joy of re-discovering my cookbooks as I put them on the shelves. Now some people say that if you have had your things in storage long enough ( and I have!) you have learned to live without them and ultimately you wonder why you ever kept and stored them, not to mention the expense of this exercise.

Well I can tell you that the pleasure of putting books and cookbooks onto shelves makes this feel really like home I am so glad to see them again. I am not wondering why I have kept so many. I know they mean a lot to me. They are a record of my cooking life in various places. No need for guess work as I wrote in each one when I bought them and they reflect many culinary adventures. Such as when I lived in USA I discovered the NY Times cookbooks and I can tell you which recipes from that era I still love to cook.The curried green pea soup is lovely, and much more delicate than it sounds. You and Me reminds me of Jenny Ferguson’s wonderful restaurant in Sydney where I ate veal fillet for the first time. Gabriel Gate’s books contain some of my children’s childhood favourites, such as the crepe stack with courgettes, tomato and cheese.

Jane Grigson’s Fruit book reminds me of the delicious desserts from produce from our Pyon House garden. Claudia Roden’s Middle eastern cookbook with its lino cut illustrations takes me back to discovering houmous among other things for the first time. Karen Perry’s Fish book reminds me of our cookware shop in Oxford where authors promoted their books. Friendships were born here,I met Anna Del Conte and Mary Berry here and have many long term friendships as a result meeting students at cooking class days. Italian cookbooks in English were once scarce, I bought everyone I could find. Once upon a time cookbooks were not as prolific as they are today.

Another discovery on browsing through the books is finding ones I have rarely used. Such as the Scandinavian baking book. Of course now that Scandi everything is a la mode you might be surprised that I neglected this book for so long. But the good news is it has all the recipes one would want to find today. Those unctious cinnamon rolls, apple bread , butter wreaths. I wont need to hurry off to the bakery in Hoxton so often.

Despite this embarrassingly vast collection I have room for a new book,the Australian Kitchen Coquette…”the go to guide for those random ( a very Australian word) life scenarios when food is the only answer”. What more could you want from a book. Needless to say there are some fabulous recipes and it is a great read. It’s chapter headings may ring true more for 20 somethings ( my niece gave  this one to me) but this imaginative book will have you, whatever your age laughing and cooking at the same time. So here is one of her recipes, which speaks of the need to cook warming food at this time of the year. Enjoy!

Katrina’s hot apple souffle.  125g apple puree, 2 egg whites, 75g caster sugar, 1/8 teaspoon vinegar, butter

Butter well 4 (200ml) ramekins, then put them in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 180C. Beat the whites until firm then add the sugar gradually, beating all the time. When firm beat in the vinegar. Fold in 80g apple puree. Divide the rest of the puree between the dishes and then spoon in the souffle mix. Bake immediately for 8 minutes until well risen. Serve immediately.