A Really Useful Cookery Book

41fGTfq5yfLThe last twelve months has once again seen some beautifully produced cookery books on the shelves – you may have got one or more for Christmas: Jamie’s Super Food, Nigella’s Feel Good Food, A Year of Good Eating with Nigel Slater. They are expensively produced, lavishly photographed and thanks to TV and newspaper tie-ins, they sell in millions.


There are other cookery books though, that don’t instantly appear on your Amazon suggestions but are well worth buying because they are ones you might actually use. One such, not nearly as lush as those mega-sellers, but I would like to bet, a lot more useful, is The One Pot Cook by Hattie Ellis. Hattie is an admirable food writer whose other titles include: Honey, Planet Chicken, What to Eat and the Best of British Fish.


This one appeals not only for the quality of the writing and the interesting background to each dish but for its practicality. Hattie is essentially a home cook, so she understands what it is like juggling family, work and shopping while trying to eat well. The recipes are straightforward and useful; they don’t require endless ingredients and won’t break the bank. All of them are appealing, do-able recipes for feeding a family and sometimes entertaining friends.


A couple of dishes have become regulars like her ‘Slightly Cheaty Thai Green Curry’ – made with ready-made curry paste and a tin of coconut milk, and while Hattie suggests using mushrooms and sweet potatoes, I invariably adapt it to any vegetables I have to hand. I also like her lamb shoulder with garlic, anchovies and rosemary and her chicken and mushroom pie. My copy is already food splattered, the sign of a well-used cookery book.

The One Pot Cook by Hattie Ellis

Malton Food Lovers Festival

If you’ve never been before, or even if you have, get along to the Malton Food Lover’s Festival tomorrow, it’s the last day of what is arguably the best food festival in Yorkshire and even beyond. The stripey food awnings give it a French country market feel with stalls selling the best of Yorkshire produce.


Sue Nelson interviewing Diana Henry

Get there early, at lunchtime today it was heaving and the  Haxby Baker had sold out by 2pm.  I filled my basket with a sourdough loaf from the Leeds Bread Co-op, Sand Hutton asparagus and a pack of their strawberries – try these super-sweet boys and you’ll never buy supermarket Elsanta again.   I went to a Q & A session with a panel that included Prue Leith, Levi Roots and Stephanie Moon, a honey masterclass from Hattie Ellis and and an interview conducted by Sue Nelson (Yorkshire Food Finder) with food writer Diana Henry and the chance to taste dishes from her new book A Bird in the Hand.

Books of the Year

If you want to buy a food book for someone this Christmas, you will have no difficulty choosing from the celebrity chefs and TV tie ins: Tom Kerridge, Yottam Ottolenghi, James Martin, Gordon Ramsay, Carluccio, Delia, Jamie, Hugh and Mary.


Peter Brears (in black hat) at Harewood House Jelly Festival

But we think there are many interesting, talented food writers out there who you may not have heard of, that also deserve to be read and we’d  like to tell you about some of them. Here are the books that  have sparked our interest this year and we hope you will like them too.


Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking – A Memoir of Food and Longing By Anya von Bremzen

Not a recipe book, though it does have a handful of recipes, but the story of Anya von Bremzen’s life growing up in the Soviet Union. She describes with both humour and nostalgia her experiences of communal kitchens, empty shelves, food queues and making friends with foreign embassy kids in order to score Juicy Fruit chewing gum. As well as her own story of love and longing, she charts seven decades of Soviet life through food: Lenin’s bloody grain requisitioning, WWII starvations and the deprivations and excesses of the Stalin, Krushchev and Gorbachov eras. It won The Guild of Food Writer’s Book of the Year Award, (I confess to being a jury member). It’s my book of the year and I love it.



Honey & Co Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packit

This book by Israeli husband and wife team Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packit  is based on the food they serve at their London restaurant Honey & Co, a very on-trend place having received a cracking review from Jay Rayner and subsequently won the Observer Food Monthly, Best Small Restaurant Award. The book is a delicious collection of the food they serve in what is no more than a café in London’s Warren Street, but it’s our kind of food: relaxed, uncheffy, with flavours of the Levant and a touch of Ottolenghi (Sarit worked there for a time). I’ve only had it a couple of months and the pages are already splattered.




Spoonful of Honey by Hattie Ellis

We’ve much enjoyed this book by Hattie Ellis reviewed in full here. Packed with detail about the huge range of honeys available, the life and times of the honey bee and a lovely collection of recipes.







Traditional Food in Yorkshire by Peter Brears

A work of true scholarship by historian Peter Brears, who if you haven’t come across him is the former curator of York’s Castle Museum and Leeds City Museum, consultant to the National Trust and English Heritage, has written the standard work on medieval dining and is the world authority on jelly. This book is an updated and much expanded (double the size) version of the book  he wrote in 1987, in it Peter Brears looks at the staple foods of Yorkshire’s past: porridge, oatcakes, bread, meat fish, puddings and cakes. He explains how, when and where they were eaten with chapters on weddings and funerals, feasts, fairs and customs. Peter Brears was our neighbour when we lived in Leeds, so I went back to interview him for the Yorkshire Post. You can read about his life and times here, but if you have any interest in Yorkshire and its history through food, then this book should be on your book shelf.


Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop

Another favourite of mine is this wonderful memoir by Fuchsia Dunlop. It was published in 2011, but I only came across it a month ago and devoured it in a couple of days. Fuchsia travelled to Sichuan Province vowing to eat everything, however bizarre, that was put in front of her. She took a professional’s chefs course – the first westerner ever to do so, and in the following years travelled around the country immersing herself in Chinese culture through its food. It’s a fascinating insight into real Chinese food, funny and entertaining as well.  A great read.



Green Kitchen & Green Kitchen Travels By David Frenkiel & Luise Vindahl

We were put onto the Green Kitchen blog by Joan,  and so snapped up the book when it came out in spring.   It’s written by an impossibly beautiful young Swedish/Danish couple, David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl. David is a magazine art director so the photography and styling is fabulous.  Luise is a Nutritional Therapist so packs it with health-giving recipes like herb and pistachio falafel and stone fruit salad with goat’s cheese. Many of the recipes are gluten free and vegan and while they sometimes ask for recherché ingredients like kamut flour and kelp noodles most dishes use easily found ingredients. We haven’t yet seen a copy of their latest book Green Kitchen Travels, but it was pick of the year on BBC Radio 4 Food Programme and that’s good enough for us.


The Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman

Another blog we love is Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen.  A New Yorker who writes like you’re her best friend gives us recipes that are homely,  accessible and unfussy, which is just how we like ’em. She covers breakfast dishes, mains, tarts, pizza and sweet things. Perelman was a vegetarian for a decade so understands what makes a tasty and interesting non-meat dish and there are plenty in this book like her linguine with cauliflower pesto or leek fritters with garlic and lemon. Every recipe too has a story to tell, so if you are the kind of person who likes to take a cookery book to bed there is plenty of bedtime reading here.





Spoonfuls of Honey

“A teaspoon of honey sweetens and deepens a tisane or stew and adds lustre to a sauce. Sweet tarts, cakes and roasts are burnished by its glow. Syrup-drenched baklava, glazed chicken wings and sticky ribs are made special with a touch on honey”. Spoonfuls of Honey by Hattie Ellis


Hattie Ellis’s introduction to her new book  A Spoonful of Honey, is so evocative it will have you digging out that half empty jar of honey from the back of the cupboard and trying some of her recipes.

If you thought a single ingredient book might be a bit one dimensional, this  book confounds that.  Hattie Ellis knows her stuff, ten years ago she wrote a an award winning book, on the social history of the honey bee called  ‘Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee’.

This new book is primarily a recipe book covering both sweet and savoury dishes.I personally love the sweet and savoury combinations like her chorizo with wine and honey and chicken wings with honey and thyme and love the sound of honey roasted roots and blue cheese and honeyed walnuts. There are plenty of puddings, cakes and drinks too.

Well produced and beautifully photographed, it’s more than a recipe book, it’s also a good read with background on producing, buying, storing honey and how to use it in the kitchen. She writes knowledgeably but with a light touch explaining the importance of bees in the natural world which is increasingly under threat and analyses the best honeys from New Zealand’s manuka to Yorkshire heather honey.

With acres of heather moorland on the North York Moors we have some of the best heather honey in the world, for which this book makes a fitting partner.



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