Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Favorite Brits and Their Books

There are so many incredibly talented British cooks and cookbook writers these days it is hard for me to choose my favorites. I currently have 29 cookbooks written by 13 English cooks (not including several from Australia and Ireland). Some of them are nearly household names, even here, like Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, thanks to their numerous television appearances. And others are just splendid cooks, often heading up restaurant kitchens, who write beautifully and create wonderful dishes to share with us, their readers: Fergus Henderson, Simon Hopkinson, Gary Rhodes, John Torode, Simon Rimmer, and Nigel Slater to name a few. I have cooked from all 29 of these cookbooks. While I can’t say that all the recipes were equally successful, the great majority were very good indeed. In London this spring I made notes of a number of cookbooks which I hope will get published here in the next few months. More by women too. I’ll keep you posted.

Nigella Lawson is stunningly beautiful, funny, astute, and can create both complicated and simple dishes with great wit and charm. I’ve never seen her on television so all my impressions come exclusively from her many books.
Nigella Bites (2002)
Favorite recipes: Italian Sausages with Lentils (recipe below), Chocolate Lime Cheesecake, and Chocolate Pots (December 8, 2009 blog)
How To Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking (2001)
Favorite recipe: Pizza Rustica
Other cookbooks: How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food (2002), Forever Summer (2003), Feast (2004), Nigella Express: Good Food Fast (2007)

Jamie Oliver is passionate about getting people to cook and eat better, without a hint of preciousness or elitism. He is congenial, even folksy, in his cookbooks, making them seem accessible to people who haven’t cooked much, especially guys. If you want to see for yourself, check out his web site and watch his TED acceptance speech. Then cook his food. You’ll be convinced.
The Naked Chef (2000)
Favorite recipes: Pappardelle with Sweet Leeks and Mascarpone, Spicy Couscous, Spiced Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks, Marinated Chickpeas with Chilli, Lemon, and Parsley, and Farfalle with Watercress and Arugula Pesto
Happy Days with the Naked Chef (2002)
Favorite recipes: Shrimp with Chilli, Parsley, Ginger and Garlic on Toast and Sirloin of Beef with Bok Choy, Soy Sauce and Ginger
Jamie’s Dinners (2004)
Favorite recipe: Sticky Toffee Pudding
Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook (2007)
Favorite recipe: Indian-style Broccoli with Spiced Yogurt (May 19, 2010 blog)
Other cookbooks: Jamie’s Food Revolution (2009)

Simon Rimmer, an avowed carnivore, bought a vegetarian restaurant called Greens in 1990 in Manchester, England with no experience running a kitchen or cooking in one. He and his partner who had been waiters previous to the purchase threw themselves into transforming “stodgy” vegetarian fare into remarkable dishes and learning to cook really well along the way.
Rebel Cook: Breaking the Rules for Brilliant Food (2006)
Favorite recipes: Warm Potato Salad with Garlic Sausage (recipe below), Warm Vietnamese Chicken Salad, and Simple Green Salad, Chinese Style
The Accidental Vegetarian (2004)
Favorite recipes: Smoky Roasties, Rendang Shallot and Asparagus Curry, and Butternut Enchilladas with Mole Sauce

Nigel Slater wrote Real Fast Food way before the “fast” thing kicked in over here. The ingredients are few, the skills required negligible, and the results quite delicious. His 2004 memoir Toast is both sad and revealing of the various situations that may lead to an interest in cooking.
Real Fast Food (1995)
Favorite recipes: Brussels Sprouts and Bacon (recipe below) and Spinach and Orange Salad
Appetite (2000)
Favorite recipes: A Smooth and Creamy Paté, and A Creamy Calming Pasta Dish
Other cookbooks: The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater (2006)

Two of the three recipes I’m about to give you call for sausage. The third calls for bacon. It’s safe to say that I am extremely fond of both sausage and bacon. One of my favorite easy meals when I was newly married was sausages and baked acorn squash halves filled with butter, brown sugar, and walnuts. Sound familiar? The truth is sausages are great with just about anything. Recently I made them to accompany a very tasty bulgur salad. I suggest you buy the best you can, preferably from a butcher you trust. And if you are serving them to friends, try them out yourself first to make certain they are worthy.

1 comment:

Kathy World said...

I'm not sure if it is still in print, but Jane Garmey's Great British Cooking, A Well Kept Secret is wonderful. It's worth buying just for the introduction by Calvin Trillin. (Hi, Kathy!)