Food Book Awards

For the past few years I have been one of the judges for the Guild of Food Writers annual food writing awards. Last year 100 new books landed on my doorstep. Who says you can’t have too many cookery books? The awards are always worth following for discovering really good quality and worthwhile food books, some from small publishers you may not otherwise come across along with blogs, broadcasts, magazines and campaigns you may have missed. Having just returned from an amazing trip to Georgia, I was delighted to see that Carla Capalbo’s book on Georgia had won the Food and Travel award. It was the book that guided us through so many food and wine adventures in that remarkable country.  There are many other worthy winners so take a look.

Food Writing Award: Joanna Blythman for work published by the Sustainable Food Trust and in The Guardian and Sunday Herald

Cookery Writing Award: Meera Sodha for work published in The Guardian’s Weekend magazine

Restaurant Writing Award: Tim Hayward for work pubished in FT Weekend Magazine

Food Blog Award: Grand Dishes ( by Iska Lupton and Anastasia Miari

Food Broadcast Award: Food Programme: Leah Chase: The cook who changed America presented and produced by Dan Saladino (BBC Radio 4)

British Food Award: Sue Quinn for work published in Dorset Magazine

Food & Travel Award: Tasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the CaucasusTasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the Caucasus (Pallas Athene)

Campaigning Award: Foodism: Issue 21 (sustainability special issue) (Square Up Media)

Food Magazine Award: Market Life magazine, edited by Mark Riddaway

First Book Award: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis (Phaidon)

Food Book Award: The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World by Lizzie Collingham (Bodley Head)

Cookery Book Award: The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones (4th Estate)

Special Award: Charlie Hicks

Lifetime Achievement Award: Anne Willan

Cooks and their Books

I’ve no idea whether Jo and Stu Myers got the jitters when we booked 15 of the country’s top food writer’s into their little café, the Swine that Dines on North Street but if they did, it didn’t show in the fabulous six course tasting menu they produced.

Photo by Angela Clutton

The lunch was the culmination of a morning with the Guild of Food Writer’s, beginning with a visit to Leeds University for a talk by Eileen White, co-curator (with Peter Brears) on Cooks and their Books. Her talk accompanied a display of some of the ancient and valuable cookery books that are part of the outstanding Brotherton Special Collection.


The collection dates from the 15th century to the present day and includes a Roman recipe for flamingo tongues, a first edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management and from the 20th century, Robert Carrier’s rather pompous ‘Great Dishes of the World’. There is still time to view the exhibition at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery at the University of Leeds until 31 January.


The highlights of our small-plates lunch were the feather-light parsnip bhaji on top of crumbled Lancashire cheese and pickled red cabbage; a puree of Jerusalem artichoke matched with a fillet of ling. There was a light smokiness in a plate of shallot, lentils and sourdough croutons and praise for Jo Myers marmalade ice cream (accompanying a whisky tart). Praise indeed when it comes from Robin and Caroline Weir authors of ‘Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide’ and Jill Norman, an expert on spices, an author in her own right and notably Elizabeth David’s editor at Penguin. Thank you Swine, we loved it.

Steenberg Spices

I’ve been cooking from Meera Sodha’s fantastic book Fresh India recently, which calls for all sorts of Indian spices, not always easy to find  in York (try Rafi’s Spice Box in York, Harrogate and Leeds and Makkah International – formerley Feshways – on Hull Road), so I was pleased to be able to root around in the storerooms of Steenberg Spices, a specialist spice importer run by a lovely couple, Axel and Sophie Steenberg based at a business park in Melmerby.


You might have seen Steenberg’s little blue topped jars in Booth’s or in delis here and there, but if you don’t know of them then read on, because Steenberg’s are a fabulous source of ingredients, not just spices.

All their spices are organic, ethically sourced and many are Fairtrade. My visit included not only a tour of the factory but a Pepper Workshop organised by the Guild of Food Writer’s in which Axel took us through their list of 33 different peppers from the gentle Selim pepper from Ghana that strangely had a tang of furniture polish to the spicy Sansho Pepper from Japan with a menthol scent and a weird numbing sensation to the mouth much like Sechuan pepper.

But have a browse through Steenberg’s website for much more. This is the place to buy your harissa, sumac, chermoula, ras al hanout. They also stock hard to find baking ingredients such as buckwheat flour and chestnut flour, organic orange flower water, almond and vanilla extracts, edible rose petals, the list goes on. All available online from:

Steenberg Spices 6 Hallikeld Close, Barker Business Park, Melmerby, Ripon HG4 5GZ

2012 Guild of Food Writers Awards

So off we went to That London and the fabulously historic Fishmongers Hall for the 16th Guild of Food Writers Awards (Jill was on the judging panel for the Michael Smith Award for Work on British Food category) with a song in our hearts and a secret hope that we might make the shortlist (Restaurant Reviewer of the Year (Jill) and Food Blog (Squidders)) but determined to make a night of it regardless. And what a night. Balmy breezes and late sunshine slanting across The Shard on London Bridge, and warm enough to spill out of the building onto the patio, all the better to catch the waiter’s eye (actually no need, since the wine and divine canapés just kept coming) and in my case to rubber-neck food writing royalty who were present in abundance. Squeaking like a teenager, I caught glimpses of Roden, Rayner and MacLeod, Parker-Bowles, Norman, Fort and Ottolenghi – folk I read every week, some of whose writing I aspire to. Speaking of which I buttonholed Jay Rayner who turns out to be a splendid chap; friendly and warm with a lovely crinkly smile which spread across his entire face, not just round the mouth (ie pretend). We had a laugh and I shamelessly banged on about Squidders, not letting him get away until he promised to subscribe to our newsletter.

No gongs for us this time but there’s always next year ..


And the winners are

Cookery Book of the Year Award: Couture Chocolate by William Curley

Derek Cooper Award for Campaigning and Investigative Food Writing or Broadcasting: Hugh’s Fish Fight

Evelyn Rose Award for Cookery Journalist of the Year: Lucas Hollweg for work published in The Sunday Times’ Style Magazine

Food Blog of the Year Award: Poires au Chocolat ( by Emma Gardner

Food Book of the Year Award: Food Britannia by Andrew Webb

Food Broadcast of the Year Award: Hugh’s Fish Fight

Food Journalist of the Year Award: Tim Hayward

Food Magazine of the Year Award: Fire & Knives edited by Tim Hayward

Best First Book Award: How to Make Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou

Kate Whiteman Award for Work on Food and Travel: Jerusalem on a Plate presented by Yottam Ottolenghi

Michael Smith Award for Work on British Food: Work published in the Birmingham Post by Richard McComb

Miriam Polunin Award for Work on Healthy Eating: The Food Programme: Transfats presented by Sheila Dillon

New Media of the Year Award:

Restaurant Reviewer of the Year: John Walsh for work published in The Independent Magazine

Lifetime Achievement Award: Claudia Roden

How Do You Measure Up?

There are no pictures. Not even many words. Just a lot of numbers. But this little book is an indispensable guide for anyone who likes to cook.

I have to declare an interest. Shirley Bond, is a colleague in the Guild of Food Writers. She lives in Yorkshire so we meet up from time to time for Guild get togethers. When she told me her book was about weights and measures, I had to stifle a yawn. I’m only just getting to grips with ounces to grams. How could anyone write a whole book about them?

Well thankfully Shirley did and what a blessing. First of all it’s more than a conversion table. She’s saved me any amount of head clutching when I’ve got a recipe that asks for an 8-inch square cake tin and I’ve only got a round one.  She’s worked out how much almond paste and royal icing I need for every size of Christmas cake and how much pastry for an 8-inch flan ring. She knows how hot a moderate oven is and the difference between a medium egg and a large egg: answer 10g.

You may never need American measures, or to know how much butter you need for 20 slices of bread (100g) or how a kilojoule compares with a kilocalorie but I can guarantee there will be something in this book to make your cooking day.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE UP? Is available from £7.99 + £2.75 postage. Visit Shirley’s website:


Modernist Cuisine

In London recently for the Guild of Food Writers annual lecture. The guest speaker was Nathan Myhrvold, the IT billionaire, (he was Microsoft’s chief technology officer) who has self-published the world’s most expensive cookery book which he is virtually giving away at £356.90

Yes, Modernist Cuisine is pretty amazing – six volumes,  1,500 recipes, 3,200 stunning photographs, but unless you’re a chef or an extreme food fetishist you’re not really going to need breakdowns on comparative custards or the latest thinking on vacuum concentration. Of course, if you’re going to get it, please, please buy it through Squidbeak and we’ll get solvent on the commission.


A pot roast in the making from Modernist Cuisine, and yes they actually cut the pan in half to photograph

Actually, the most intriguing moment was when Myhrvold unveiled his revolutionary wine decanting technique. He puts it through a blender. Nervelessly, he took two particularly fine clarets, whizzed one up and at a blind tasting two of France’s finest sommeliers pronounced that the ‘hyperdecanted’  bottle tasted better than the conventionally decanted one. Now Squidbeak’s wine cellar is not so long on fine clarets that we were were prepared to pour one into the blender, so we subjected our neighbours to a blind tasting from two £4.99 bottles of plonk. It was a low scoring draw; it all tasted rank.

Over to you, Helen.

Squidbeak Blog

© Copyright SquidBeak 2012 Contact usDisclaimerPrivacy PolicyMaraid Design