My favourite cook book has been a bit neglected since the kids came along as I tend to make a lot of things from books aimed at Mummies cooking for kids or books aimed at little cooks.
However, I still love to drool over the writing and photography in my favourite book and I still make the odd thing from it. Probably going to be inspired to cook something from it this weekend after writing this post.
It's this one -
Appetite by Nigel Slater.
I think I got this book when I was still a student. I was introduced to Nigel Slater when a friend lent me her Real Fast Food book (and which I actually have never returned) which was perfect for student cooking. It's really chock full of ideas more than recipes for really simple but great cooking. So, this led me on to seeking out more of Nigel's stuff. I think I have almost all of his books.
Appetite was probably one of my first introductions into "food pornography". I'd love to be original and use a less cliched term but actually "pornography" really hits the nail on the head. If you haven't seen this book before, I urge you to flick through it next time you're in a book shop (remember book shops where you could actually touch the books?). I'll put some photos of pages to give you an idea but my camera is a little rubbish and you can't really get the proper experience of flicking through the glossy book on a computer.
Hats off to the food stylists and photographers. This book makes you VERY hungry. It makes me drool buckets.
But what good are photographs that make you hungry if you don't have recipes which are achievable and which make delicious, satisfying food? Not much. Luckily, though, this book ticks all my boxes. Nigel Slater's food is generally uncomplicated, unfussy and obviously meant for people who love to eat.
And, in keeping with Real Fast Food, he gives you some basic structures of recipes but expands on them with loads of ideas for mucking about with them and generally adding your own twist.
"I want to tell you about the pleasure, the sheer unbridled joy, of cooking without a recipe."
And surely everyone knows that Nigel Slater is a most amazing food writer? He really knows how to immerse you in experiencing the cooking and tasting while just sitting reading your Sunday paper. All his books have been read by me in bed at some point. I can't get enough.
So what kind of recipes can you expect in this book? Well, loads and loads if you were to try all the variations he gives you. The chapters are divided into - soup, pasta and noodles, rice, vegetables, fish, meat, fruit, pastry, pudding, and cake. He starts off with really simple things like "Classic, Unmucked-About-With Roast Chicken", "A Really Good, And Very Easy White Loaf", "A Whole Baked Fish For Midweek". He then builds things up with his additions so you can actually make something very posh and impressive if you wanted to. I guess I have learned a lot of my basic recipes that I cook time and again from him eg. potato dauphinoise, sausages and onion gravy, various ways of roasting or pan-frying chicken. But I also refer to this book whenever I am cooking for guests. His ideas are ideal for allowing me to make a meal which is lovely but which is simple enough to not go wrong and means I don't have to spend all day stressing in the kitchen. He very much points you in the direction of maybe making a bit of effort for one course, dispensing with a third course, and buying in good quality ingredients to make a no-cook starter or dessert, for example.
He has about the first third of the book just yapping away about food and his thoughts about it. I know that won't appeal to some people but it is great for me to dip into those pages from time to time and just remind myself about his main message which is that food should be simple and tasty. He also has sections on getting hold of good quality ingredients, equipment, tastes and seasoning, what goes with what, how to reduce the work, and, of course, a section on seasonal eating.
Ten years later, I still think this is the best cook book by far. It is hugely inspiring and always relights my enthusiasm for food. And there is absolutely nothing scary about any of the recipes. They are all very do-able. I think it is still very fresh - his ideas about seasonal cooking, sourcing good ingredients, simplifying cooking without resorting to processed stuff are still very topical.
"Cooking is about giving pleasure to ourselves and others. So why do we continually beat ourselves up over it, turning the simplest of suppers into a bit of a palaver?"