Day 8/10 of my cookbook challenge, the books and cooks who have influenced my kitchen over the past 40 years: Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course.
This picture is of my actual copy of this book; old and battered yet much consulted. Sounds a bit like me at work! Compared to the Keith Floyd and Nigella Lawson’s of the tv cookery world, Delia was never over-excitable or a glamazon, more like the nicest old-school domestic science teacher you never had, but what a loyal following of home cooks she has built over the years. The recipes are straightforward, easy to follow and, most importantly, they always work!
My late mother and father-in-law had this book when it first came out so I had eaten Delia-influenced food long before I became a regular home cook myself. I still use her Yorkshire pudding and Eve’s pudding recipe from this particular edition today and I went on to buy a number of her more lavishly produced books; the ones that spawned a thousand imitators such as her Summer and Winter Collections and her eponymous Christmas. If you visit someone’s house and they serve up a pesto rice salad, you can bet they’ve got a copy of a Delia’s Summer Collection in their house somewhere.
Day 7/10 of my cookbook challenge, the books and cooks who have influenced my kitchen over the past 40 years: Rick Stein’s Food Heroes.
This book was another thoughtful gift from my lovely Mum, a bit of Indian giving as there were good cake recipes included that she hoped might make their way from my oven to her plate! It’s beautifully laid out and champions our brilliant British food producers. Most importantly though, the great thing about Rick Stein recipes (a bit like Delia’s) is that they always work beautifully in a home kitchen as they are thoroughly tested by his trusty home economists. I’m afraid the same can’t always be said of other celebrity restaurant-owning chefs’ cookbooks that seem to be designed more for the coffee table than the dining table.
Once introduced to his wonderful books through his BBC tv programmes, every new one was pretty much on pre-order and I’ve probably cooked more of his food choices than anyone else’s. There is one recipe in Food Heroes, however, that is just outstanding. It’s the one we’ve made time and again for friends and family, the one most requested and loved of all the things served at the Pigeon Cottage table – the famous ‘Chinese Pork’. It’s a side of belly pork infused overnight with a Chinese spice rub and cooked long and slow over a bain-marie with the best crispy crackling you’ve ever eaten served with a delicious oyster sauce gravy over steamed pak choi. Just the best recipe ever!
Day 6/10 of my cookbook challenge, the books and cooks who have influenced my kitchen over the past 40 years: Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef.
First published in 1999, Jamie Oliver’s refreshing mix of youthful enthusiasm and unconventional approach inspired a whole new generation to get cooking and he’s never stopped since. Now an MBE, he’s published 23 books and opened and closed a number of restaurants, not bad for someone with dyslexia! His chirpy ‘chuck it all in’ family-friendly recipes are always a joy to make and eat and I’m still using the North African Lamb with Spicy Couscous recipe from that original book. I didn’t need him to inspire me to cook because I was already doing that, but he did help me incorporate his carefree ‘never mind the technique’ style into my menus – essential for us busy working mums who also want their families to eat well.
Until I started writing this series of blog posts, I hadn’t realised quite how many books of his were sitting in my library and even during lockdown he’s been inspiring the nation with his ‘Keep cooking and carry on’ tv show. His individual microwave marmalade steam puddings are still one of my favourite puds – with lashings of custard of course!