Cooking & Cookery books have been passions of mine since secondary school when I took home economics for one of my options. During those early teenage years, I had a few favourites recipes; cheese souffle, lemon meringue pie & donuts. Note the odd one out there? Where did cheese souffle come from? Even at 13, I had highfalutin ideas!
I moved into a flat when I was nineteen and I bought my first grown up cookery book – Vogue Entertaining, (the theme continues). I have no idea where I bought it, but it includes lots of photos of beautiful dining rooms and the recipes are full menus including seriously; ‘Poolside gathering for six’ and ‘warming lunch for six’. As I didn’t have a pool at the time (or now!), I dove straight into ‘Elegant dinner for 12’.
My memory of the recipes are hazy but I do remember cooking the fish plaits with tomato basil sauce. I felt stressed about my timings whilst my friends chatted away and had fun at the table with the wine flowing – I don’t think anyone asked if they could help – I mean they were 19! The tomato basil sauce was not reduced enough so it was watery and the flavour was insipid.
200 Cookery Books
Since that time, my cookery book collecting, and cooking has continued at pace. I have over 200 cookery books now. Is that a lot? I think probably the answer to that is yes. The years of cooking often went in fazes; the curry year with trips to Southall to buy spices and huge bunches of fresh coriander. The Jamie then, Nigella stage. I went back then to Delia, perhaps later than most. My children loved the Wagamama 6 months, but I got tired of the cooking time required for the tasty stocks needed for the ramen.
Around 2012 my friend Neil introduced me to Ottolenghi after he had eaten at one of his restaurants. I bought his cookbook ‘Plenty’. It literally changed the way I understand recipes and cooking. I suddenly began to really understand flavour and how each different component helps build a dish. His later books ‘Simple’ and ‘Flavour’ are also fabulous and all three are cookbooks I use time and time again. They have been a delightful discovery of new flavours and ingredients. When ‘Flavour’ was launched in 2020, I immediately ordered Cascabel Chilli’s and Black limes – both incredible, new to me flavours. Do try these ingredients and books if you have not.
I want to inspire you with similar exciting flavour combinations with our drinks recipes. No cookbooks needed, just an openness and excitement to try something new.