Winter Books & St Albans Cookbook Club – January 2013

How often do you cook a recipe from a cookbook on your shelf? They say that on average, we cook around three recipes from each book we own, which doesn’t seem like a lot, unless you have a rapidly escalating collection like me. In November, I started the St Albans Cookbook Club, in my town of St Albans, inspired by the Bath Cookbook Club, since we didn’t have anything similar. We met for the first time at a local coffee shop and talked about some of our festive titles. This time, I’ve asked everyone to bring a cookbook they received for Christmas. Next time, we’ll meet in one of our homes and I think we’ll challenge each other to cook a recipe from one of our new books to share.

Winter Cookbooks

For Christmas, I received one new cookbook as a gift, thank you Heidi, which was Peggy Porschen’s Baking Boutique, as well as a book on nutrition, called It Starts With Food. Since one promotes gorgeous cakes filled with buttercream and the other promotes a Paleo-style eating plan with no dairy, grains or sugar (Day 12, going well, by the way!) you could say they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. But that’s what I love about food; there is an endless supply of inspiration out there for whatever kind of cooking takes your fancy.

I reviewed and cooked from a few new cookery books before Christmas and the three-book Quadrille giveway I hosted proved to be hugely successful. Of the three books, I most fell in love with Tom Kitchen’s Kitchin Suppers.

I’ve also tried a couple of recipes from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima, including her Banana Bread and Prawn Pasta Rosa – both easy to make and equally delicious. I can also recommend her Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, oh, how I miss chocolate and cake…

Italian Breakfast Banana Bread

I have also enjoyed cooking from a new Polish cookery book, called From A Polish Country House Kitchen (soon to be reviewed) and have made a few good meals from Jamies 15 Minute Meals (which I much prefer to Jamie’s 30 minute meals,) despite the fact the timings suggested by both books are a bit unrealistic, even for a seasoned cook such as myself. I’ve yet to cook from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Volume II and I can’t wait to dive into Rococo’s beautiful new book, Mastering The Art of Chocolate too.

Today’s snow is making me want to curl up, or make jam, a new skill I learnt from Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke.

Purple Fig Jam

It looks like it’s going to be a busy spring! 

A quick reminder for anyone local to me, the next St Albans Cook Books Club meets this Wednesday 16th January at 10am, at Bakehouse St Albans. Everyone is welcome, including children.

St Albans Cookbook Club

Did you receive any new cookery books for Christmas?



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  21. says

    I think I will be the outsides here… I have a bunch of cookbooks at home, from France to China (even one from Kazakhstan!) but usually just for entertainment for pictures and memories. I do not think I actually cooked anything from them.

  22. says

    The answer to your question, from me, is “seldom”. I don’t normally follow any recipes precisely; I just use them as inspiration. We have LOADS of cookbooks, many from different parts of the world, but I don’t think we have a Polish one, so I’ll be very interested to read your review of “From a Polish Country House Kitchen”.

    • Ren says

      Thanks Mark, yes my review should be up soon. I think the more cookbooks we have the less we cook from them and I’m like you, I prefer to use them as a guide. I started making an Ottolenghi recipe the other day and very quickly off-roaded! I’m more likely to stick to baking recipes – though I haven’t baked anything since before Christmas!

  23. Ren says

    Wowee, 500 is quite a collection already! Good on you reading Nigel’s book from cover to cover, that’s what a good cookery book is all about! I haven’t tried the Orange Wine from Diana’s book, but now you have mentioned it…..

  24. Liz Thomas says

    I didn’t get one either but seeing as I have about 500 on the shelves and my Amazon Wish List is a mile long it’s probably just as well. I really have to control myself and be very selective over books now as I have limited space.

    I got Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries II just before Christmas through — read it from cover to cover but not cooked anything yet. The Cider Loaf does sound good but my oven just packed up on me so no baking for a while.

    My other favourite at the moment is Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke — the orange wine is lovely.

    I too wish I could join your cookbook club, it sound like great fun.


    • Ren says

      You should! It’s a lovely excuse to get together with like-minded foodies, you don’t always have to cook, sometimes its nice just to compare and natter!

  25. says

    Is this the second outing of your club? I wish I had enough get up and go to organise something similar. It’s all cake clubs around here. As for cookbooks, people assume I have everything I want to so I tend to buy my daughter and mother-in-law books I like and then borrow them 😀 I have recently bought myself Sprouted Kitchen by blogger Sara Forte, Salt Sugar and Smoke on your recom, and Deb at Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook. But right now I am settling in to read and learn more about food photography with the Yummy Pics ebook from Nancy Lopez-McHugh, the cook-photographer behind Spicie Foodie. I hope she gets me over my fear of Photoshop! Good luck with the paleo!.I don’t do a strict paleo by any means but I naturally gravitate towards that way of eating as I don’t tolerate many of the short-chain carbs and monosaccharides very well. One reason I am a nutritionist!

    • Ren says

      Hi Kellie, it is, it should have been the third but we cancelled December as everyone was a little busy before Christmas. So this is meet-up #2. I will look out for Sproted Kitchen, sounds lovely and I’ve yet to order Smitten Kitchen but no doubt I will. The photograophy books sounds great – a whole other post in itself! Whole 30 day 13 today, and it’s a tough challenge, I have to say!

    • Ren says

      Wow, that’s quite a challenge but it’s a great idea. Are you opening it up to a linky? Good idea to ask for specific books!

  26. says

    I got a few, one being Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries II. So far I have made the Cider Loaf and the Celeriac and Bacon Soup (infact had some for lunch today). Both very good!

    • Ren says

      Ooh the celeriac and bacon soup sounds wonderful, bookmarked! Thanks for the recommendation, James

  27. says

    I wish I lived nearer and I could come! I have been cooking from Nigellissima since Christmas – I actually bought it back in September but hadn’t used it yet. The only book I had for Christmas was the Amy Atlas party tables book which I’ve not had chance to look at properly yet.

    • Ren says

      Me too, I bought Nigellissimma as soon as it came out, not my favourite of her books, but there are some quick and easy recipes, as usual. I would have linked to Forever Nigella!

  28. says

    Oddly I did not. Possibly as everyone now knows just how many I get sent for review?
    My stocking (we still do them) contained a very nice beech wood spaghetti spoon – the only food cooking present I had!

    • Ren says

      I think that’s the problem, how do you know which ones we’ve already got. I also got a big pasta bown, oil and spoon set and a wine guide by Olly. Hope you are enjoying some of your rewiew copies.