I think of myself as a pretty good cook. We eat really healthily in our house, making all of own meals rather than using processed dishes. As regular readers know I bake my own sourdough bread every couple of days (I even very nicely gave a how-to on the blog for this). We make our own hummus, stocks, curry sauces, etc. We try to eat locally using the farmers market and rarely buy out of season veg. But one thing I do find is that I often make the same things throughout the seasons. I get to the supermarket and then end up selecting ingredients for similar dishes to what I had the week before. I have quite a few cookbooks (I guess we all do, given that cookbooks make up the majority of the top 20 non-fiction books). But even though I haven’t cooked everything from our current books I’m open to another one catching my eye. This one:
A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry did just that, a while ago. It’s a stunningly visual book (The photos were taken by Laura Edwards). The dishes are all very easy on the eye, but more importantly will titillate the tastebuds too. I’d mentioned the book to my wife, who bought it for me as a present. And boy am I pleased she did. Before we got the book I hadn’t realized that the premise of the book is that the food is healthy for you. I am not in the least bit overweight, and have never needed a diet in my life. In fact I completely disagree with diets (although I reserve judgment of the 5:2 diet, for its IGF-1 lowering effects). So it wasn’t the ‘healthy’ aspect of it that attracted me, instead it was that every dish looked jam-packed with flavour. If you are looking for some really interesting dishes from around the world then this really is the book for you. As I write this I have decided to open the book and random 5 times and it has opened to:
Burmese chili fish with hot and sour sauce (P198), Japanese ginger and garlic chicken with smashed cucumber (P63), Red Mullet and saffron broth with Corfu garlic sauce (P171), Leeks spelt and goats cheese risotto (P286) and White beans with roast peppers, eggs and hilbeh (P114).
There are recipes from the Middle-east, Japan, Scandinavia, the Med, the Balkans and Asia (both west and east Asia). Where else have you seen ‘Uzbeki carrots’? The full-flavoured nature of many of the recipes means that they call for herbs and spices, but this isn’t one of those annoying books necessitating you buy a whole spice rack of obscure ingredients, that you have never heard of and have no hope of ever getting through before they go off. You’ll already have most of the ingredients in anyway, and there is nothing in here that a quick trip to Waitrose couldn’t supply you with.
There are hundreds of recipes in this book. I really like the section on p176-177 where she lists which recipes work well as lunches that can be taken into work with you and those from home. Who hasn’t got sick of eating the same sarnies week-in week-out? The other thing I like is that most of the recipes are accompanied with alternative twists that you can make. The writing is also witty.
In case you haven’t noticed I really love this book. If any one of the next list applies to you; you like tasty food (who doesn’t?), want to expand your repertoire of dishes, are sometimes at a loss of what to eat, like to eat healthily, like looking at great food photos, like food that is a little bit different, then this is the book for you.
I haven’t been asked to write about this book, we bought this book ourselves, and I see from its ranking on Amazon that quite a few others have done the same. Begrudgingly (only kidding) I note it is currently ahead of my wife’s lovely book The Cut Flower Patch, but as I say cookbooks do quite well. A word of warning about writers and their books, never ask them the question “How many of the new books have you sold?” It’s a bit like asking someone “What was your take home pay last year?” They don’t find out for a year when the royalty cheques come in (if they ever do), so they don’t actually know. What answer are you expecting?
One final thing, if you are going to buy this book (or my wife’s for that matter), please try to order it from an actual bookshop. You might be very slightly better off financially if you buy them from Amazon, but I think that the country as a whole will be worse off if we don’t support bookshops.