Emily Rookwood reviews the latest editions to her cookery book library, from the inspirational but impractical to wholesome Italian homecooking
Today my bag is somewhat weighed down with cookery books — four to be precise. I’ve been collecting a few new ones over the past months, from the books to dip into every day to the ones that are simply there to inspire. Here is a quick whizz through the latest additions to my ever-growing library.
1. Gizzi Erskine, Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts
I’m not a fan of diet books, or diets for that matter, but Gizzi’s book of healthy everyday options and blowout weekend feasts is really rather good. Mainly because it doesn’t seem like a diet book, rather a book of interesting dishes with the calorie count helpfully pointed out at the bottom for those who are interested.
Many of the recipes have clear Asian influences (leading to a few on the likes of Amazon complaining that the ingredients are too hard to come by) and for the more adventurous cook, it is a lot of fun. It is certainly very visually appealing, too, with lots of great photography mixed in with big, bold illustrations and colourful pages.
2. Antonia Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, Two Greedy Italians
Two Greedy Italians has been a cracking addition to the television listings — big characters, gorgeous cinematography and delicious food. So I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of the book.
It is a good, solid book of Italian food with lovely interjections and introductions from the authors, but it lacks some of the charm and vibrancy of the programme. It does, however, contain a huge number of classic Italian dishes with a good dollop of family history behind them and the recipes are easy to follow. They are also recipes that you could cook almost every day and would actually want to. Which is something you can’t say about many cookery books.
3. Hannah Miles, Sweet Things from the Aga
Hannah Miles was a finalist on Masterchef a little while back but seems to have been rather busy since then, given that this is her 12th book. It is a book specifically written for Aga users, so those with an actual oven might struggle to get much value from it as oven temperatures are not given, which seems like a bit of a silly omission to me.
However, if you do have a hulking great Aga in your country kitchen there are some lovely recipes here that will take you right back to your granny’s kitchen, as well as some more modern recipes including a few gluten free ones. It is a shame that I won’t be able to try out the recipes in my electric oven, or if I do I will just have to approach it with a bit of an experimental-edge temperature wise.
4. Philip Howard, The Square The Cookbook Volume 2: Sweet
A little while back I looked at volume one of this masterwork. It is a genuinely awe-inspiring book — the sheer attention to detail is incredible and the photographs just beautiful. You can learn such a great deal about the workings of a professional kitchen from studying this book, it is informative and — for any budding chef — aspirational.
To be able to cook to this level at home would be truly impressive, and I’m sure if you have the time and patience you would be able to recreate these masterpieces in your own home but you will need to have time, equipment and patience on your side. For me, this is one of those books that I read to learn rather than read to cook from. Perhaps one day I will have the confidence to try something, I just know that I am far too gung-ho with my cooking to faithfully recreate such meticulous recipes.