There have been a good number of great food books released lately and we've been using our summer break to catch up on some reading. What, you don't read cookbooks at the beach?
First up is Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes
by Sophie Dahl. Yes, Sophie Dahl the model. Yes, Sophie Dahl the granddaughter of Roald Dahl and Patricia O'Neal. Yes, Sophie Dahl who is married to pop-jazz star Jamie Cullum.
It's very easy to dismiss cookery books that are written by famous folks who have come to fame for reasons other than cooking. And often that is the correct impulse. But in this case you would be missing a really charming, accessible, and thoughtful cookbook.
I originally made that mistake myself. The book languished for a few weeks on my to read/review pile but I regularly passed it over in favor of books that seemed more learned, serious, and chef driven. I was eventually drawn in by the styling — lots of lushly rustic photos of food against big, blousy, retro-cool English floral prints. It's the sort of book that sells you on the lifestyle before the food. But to the food.
I picked the book up again as I walked in the door after a late spring run to the greenmarket which left me laden with bundles of asparagus. I headed to the kitchen to try Dahl's Asparagus with hard-boiled eggs, Parmesan, and lemon.
The recipe was clear, correct and easy to follow and the result was a lovely little lunch. Next up was her Radishes with truffle salt, mint and olive oil,
which was again simple and seasonal, with flavors that I had never thought to combine before, but were really successful together Halloumi croque madame with black olives
was a savory, salty, spin on the classic and her comforting Fava bean risotto
was also a hit.
Like her bestselling 2010 cookbook, Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights: Recipes for Every Season, Mood, and Appetite
, Very Fond of Food
is divided first by seasons, then by meals, and focuses on fairly healthy and wholesome seasonal eating. Lots of vegetables and legumes, with the occasional appearance of ingredients like spelt and tofu.
Dahl is also a fiction writer and the headnotes are where this cookbook shines brightest, setting a cozy yet aspirational stage for both cooking and eating: “Perfect for a Sunday night supper when there are few around and you can eat this on your lap, a poached egg on top of it, watching a good old costume drama,” she notes of a simple — and tasty — recipe for seasoned mushrooms on toast. With lyrical and evocative prose, she tells the sometimes very personal story behind the recipe's development. Some are inspired by her famous family members. A persistent craving for pineapples during her pregnancy that had her bringing whole fruits up to bed with her at night accounts for a refreshing Pineapple and Mint Granita
; a long ago failed attempt to woo a crush gives us the silky Heartbreak Carbonara
. “The carbonara in the pan lingered longer than he did. He wolfed it down with a bottle of Chianti, and informed me he was actually in love with a dancer called Willow (or something infinitely more exotic than Sophie),” she reminisces.
With easy to follow and occasionally inspired recipes, this book will make you fell like being in the kitchen cooking lovely food for the ones you love is exactly where you want to be.