Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Feast of Ideas; Books: There Is an Ample Portion of Cookery Books This Christmas - but Not All Are User-Friendly

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Feast of Ideas; Books: There Is an Ample Portion of Cookery Books This Christmas - but Not All Are User-Friendly

Article excerpt

Byline: MELANIE MCDONAGH

GIVEN the acreage of bookstore space dedicated to cookbooks - funnily enough, in proportion to the decrease in the amount of time we spend preparing meals (15 minutes an evening at the last count), the number of books written about cooking continues to rise - how do you choose?

Depends, really. Are you looking for something you can use? Or for autobiography-cum-recipes? There's a world of difference between the austere, Elizabeth David approach to food writing, where the author keeps herself well out of the way of the recipes, and the kind of cookbook that revolves around the writer.

For those who are already fans of Nigel Slater, his Kitchen Diaries (4th Estate, [pounds sterling]25) are a kind of excursion into the World of Nigel. It's a record of the great man's shopping, cooking and eating habits over an entire year.

So it's Nigel going to the farmer's market, Nigel buying-in patisserie, Nigel having chocoholics to dinner and Nigel having a night off cooking and rustling up cheese on toast.

The friends who share his table are shadowy figures, but quick to clamour if they don't get enough to eat, and wonderfully spoiled. As an example of seasonal eating and local shopping, it's a model for the rest of us; as a cookbook it's unbelievably frustrating.

If you want to get ideas, it's hard to know where to start - I mean, Nigel's way with leftover risotto (fried cakes, with a nugget of taleggio in the middle) could crop up anywhere and you're unlikely to encounter it unless you take the trouble to read the book from start to finish. Not user-friendly.

The same could possibly be said about this year's offering from the well known raven-haired food writer with celebrity associations and a stint on telly. No, not her. Tamasin Day Lewis (sister of Daniel) has produced a marvellously comprehensive Kitchen Bible (Weidenfeld, [pounds sterling]25), which is billed as The One and Only Book for Every Cook, and from this cook's point of view, it almost is.

I mean, where else apart from Simon Hopkinson are you going to get a recipe for jam roly-poly? The only thing on the debit side is the quirky way it's ordered: chapters on Frugal Food and Foolproof Favourites don't tell you that much. …

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