I was asked recently what some of my favourite cookbooks were – a friend was looking for ideas for Christmas presents for a few of her foodie friends. This was a question I have pondered before and I always end up saying something like “all cookbooks are great!” or “anything by Martha Stewart is always good”.
Well, not this time.
I’ve decided to start a “reviews” section on my site and I am going to list some of my favourite and possibly even a few of my not-so-favourite cookbooks and will review a few of them along the way. So stay tuned for more reviews in the near future and an evolving list of my all-time favourite cookbooks.
Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a Nigella Lawson fan. Heck, I even named my cat after her! So I suppose just about any of her cookbooks would fit on my list of favourites. But really, her most recent cookbook manages to top them all. Feast – Food that Celebrates Life covers all the circumstances during which the world indulges; Christmas, Eid, Weddings, Birthdays and Funerals to name a few. She has even included reasons to feast that we should all start to follow: Kitchen Feasts, a Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame and a Midnight Feast are all chapters that I want to incorporate into my future feasting calendar.
“Feast” is at its heart, a British cookbook – appealing with familiar flavours and celebrations throughout. Comfortable recipes such as Soft White Dinner Rolls, Banana Buttermilk Pancakes, Stilton Rarebit, Chicken Pot Pies, Bubble and Squeak, and Mushroom Stroganoff transport me to the kitchen of my childhood. Flip the glossy pages and you will also find novel, and perhaps outlandish recipes like Bellini, Pomegranate Jewel Cake, Lamb Maharaja, Hot Cross Bunny, Toblerone Fondue and Vodka-Marinated Steak to satiate your desire for something decidedly distinctive.
Two recipes leapt from the pages, begging me to make them – both featuring chocolate, unsurprisingly. Her Snow-Flecked brownies look delicious and ooey-gooey chocolately in the middle. Simple to make, a double-batch of brownies that guests can’t stop at eating just one or two, even after a filling dinner. These take their place at the front of the line, as my new favourite brownie recipe. Her Chocolate Gingerbread was another winner – bumping up the ante of a scrumptiously moist gingerbread just that little bit more with cocoa and a chocolate/ginger-ale icing.
Although most of the book was overflowing with indulgent and flawless recipes for every festive occasion, I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the “Eid” chapter. I turned to it first, hoping to find the secrets behind my favourite dishes. But instead of recipes for Kibbeh, Waraq Inab (stuffed grape leaves) and Qatiyif (sweet stuffed pancakes) I found only Indian-inspired recipes. It would have been nice to see her represent more than just one facet of the Muslim culture that celebrates it – because having indulged in a few Middle Eastern Eid Feasts myself recently, I can honestly say that the food is extraordinarily luscious.
All in all this book is one that I haven’t put back on my shelf since pulling it out – there are literally recipes for every day, whether it happens to be a festive occasion or not. I am tempted by a few specific recipes and plan on making them in the very near future. Nigella’s tempting Apple Cheesecake, her alluring Spaghetti alle Vongole, her enticing Saffron Roast Lamb and her very attractive Cranberry Bakewell Tart will all be making starring appearances on my dining room table sometime soon!