Cookbooks – instead of counting sheep?
I woke today at 5.05am. No. I didn’t wake up – an annoying tickly cough woke me up, and blatantly refused go away. I thought ‘I must go back to sleep’, but how? Images started to float through my mind. Not sheep, or even beautiful, floaty ethereal pictures, but cookbooks, of all things. Well, Cookbooks – instead of counting sheep – why not? My old favourites, including Delia Smith’s “Delia’s Summer Collection” from the 1990s, that we dug out and dusted off yesterday, so that tonight I can cook her Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon Sauce. Think I’ll serve it with buttered new potatoes and Cauliflower Puree. Looking forward to it.
Maybe you’re not aware, but I have hundreds of cookbooks, collected over the years. My designer son, Anthony Hodgson of Face Publications, swears he has cookbooks in his genes after being surrounded by so many of mine when he was growing up. Could be worse, couldn’t it?
But it set me thinking. The original “Delia’s Christmas Collection” cookbook is a much loved and much used cookbook in our house. As is “Delia’s Winter Collection”, along with her Summer Collection, all tarnished with the odd remains of unrecognisable ingredients trapped between a page, and greasy finger and thumb prints. Mea culpa, Delia. Her recipes from those books, written in the 1990s, are still cooked regularly in our kitchen. Also, the food photography in those books is of a stunning quality.
I must confess that I really don’t enjoy cookbooks with poor-quality food-photography – even some food magazines out now have such bland or poorly coloured food pictures that it totally puts me off wanting to attempt to cook the dish, let alone eat it. Why do they do it?
My other old favourites go back quite a few years. My Chocolate Mousse recipe is taken from a tiny book called “Memorable Meals” by Cordon Bleu, printed in 1971, which (now, this is giving my age away) I must have bought in the early 1970s. I have never found a better Chocolate Mousse recipe, and will write it up for the blog soon. I believe this little book also taught me how to cook a full Fillet of Beef (which needs a Lottery win to be able to do nowadays). A Fillet of Beef tastes fantastic, especially with a Madeira Sauce, and over the years I have cooked this dish for New Years Eve, special occasions and also adapted it for Summer, teaming it with a Summer Salsa Verde. Just looked for “Memorable Meals” on Amazon and it is for sale for the grand sum of £0.01 (that’s right, one penny!) It’s full of the old classics, that I often see ‘tarted up’ by some of our top chefs and dragged into the 21st century and called their own invention. There’s nothing wrong with that, taking an original idea and giving it their own treatment, as long as they acknowledge the original idea came long before most of them were born.
“Great British Bake Off” is the cookbook by Linda Collister featuring the wonderful, now feted Mary Berry. Mary is loved by the nation for the recent show of the same name, the Great British Bake-Off, but was a very young and nervous TV chef in the 1970s. My son, Patrick, when 4 or 5, was fascinated by her cookery programme. He sat, eyes glued to the TV screen, and if I left the room, he would keep shouting out to me what Mary was doing and asking me if I wanted to cook her recipes! Her books led me through the early years of marriage, never let me down, and some of her recipes are still staples of my meals. Quiche Lorraine (again, never bettered – even my ex-husband has asked me to bake him one), Smoked Mackerel Pate and Smoked Salmon Pate are original Mary Berry recipes. Also in the last few years, I have been lucky enough to have cooked with my AGA oven, and Mary Berry wrote the definitive book for AGA cooks. There is a new edition out, “Mary Berry’s New Aga Cookbook”, which I must order for myself, to bring me up to date.
I am delighted to see that Mary had bought out a brand-new edition of the “Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook” with over 1,000 recipes, and masses of tips for freezing etc. I think I have to buy this new book, because her last one that was published many years ago somehow found its way to son Anthony’s house, never to be returned.
So these cookbooks were some of the building blocks that steered me towards being a (hopefully) reasonable cook. Along with the Robert Carrier magazines (whose got those parcelled up in the attic)? Then I branched out to Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson, John Tovey and the Roux Brothers. A few years ago Jamie Oliver knocked us all for six with his fresh look at food – the list goes on and on. But it’s time to go and prepare Delia’s Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon Sauce now, so if it’s good, I’ll take a picture and add the recipe on the blog. If you wish to buy any of the pictured books, or find out more information, just click on the title of the book. So many books have molded me into the cook that I am, and I just can’t help searching out new ones, so keep looking for more titles in my cookbook library. You can maybe understand now why my mind was full of Cookbooks – instead of counting sheep.