Cookbook Reviews – A Modern Way to Eat & Through the Seasons
If there’s one thing that makes my heart beat a little faster it’s a new cookbook, so you can imagine how pleased I was to get home from my travels and find two of them waiting in the post for me! The first is from a very reliable favourite of mine, Annabel Langbein, and the second from someone new to me, the vegetarian cook Anna Jones.
Annabel Langbein’s newest offering is Through the Seasons (ABC Books, Harper Collins). The style of this edition differs a little the previous books of hers that I have reviewed here and here, but the content is every bit as well tested and reliable as ever. I love Annabel’s recipes for their consistency, adaptability and accessibility. Her recipes use ingredients that you are not going to have to scour the supermarket shelves for, and produce wonderfully fresh, flavourful dishes that don’t take half the day to prepare. And you know that time is a big consideration of mine – I’m lazy, but still want to have great food on the table every time.
Langbein’s stylish and sophisticated good looks belie her extraordinary background and it’s hard to reconcile this polished television performer with the woman who used to trap possums and jump out of helicopters to recover live deer. Nevertheless, after 20 years of honing her skills, 21 cookbooks and several immensely popular television series she is now an international overnight sensation whose cookbooks outsell those of Jamie Oliver in her home country by up to nine times!
For existing fans, this book won’t disappoint and for those new to her – you are in for a treat. Inspired by her seasonal harvest, Langbein has created over 200 new recipes, many of them gluten-free or vegetarian. Each seasonal section notes produce that is best at the time, a selection of menus and all the recipes, plus serving tips, shopping tips, quick cheats and even some planting advice. Many of the dishes can be viewed online with additional information, extra recipes and gardening tips. Recipes like Duck Salad with Marmalade dressing are simple, but will look deeply impressive on a lunch table and her spicy, moreish Chocolate Bark offer the perfect finish to any meal (and would also make an awesome Christmas gift).
Buy it for – anyone who loves big flavours with not too much effort, it’s also the perfect gift for a new cook who is looking to branch out a little.
Anna Jones, author of A Modern Way to Eat (4th Estate, Harper Collins), is a talented young cook and food writer who first found her feet working in Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen London. She was one of his first students and his foreword to her book glows with pride – this was clearly one of his goals when he first began to take young people in and help them develop their skills. After working with Oliver she went on to cook with others, including Antonio Carluccio and Mary Berry, and has since cooked for school children and royalty – and everyone in between.
Understanding that the way we eat is changing and that meat and two veg is now dated, Jones promises that her food will make you feel and look good, be quick and easy to make, won’t cost the earth – in any sense of the term – and will be indulgent and delicious. Her recipes investigate every form of vegetarian ingredient, including nuts, grains, seeds and seasonal vegetables, but take into account the fact that we are looking for the middle ground – somewhere between green juice three times a day and vegetarian dishes full of stodgy cheese and carbs.
Winning me over with her efforts to limit the time spent in the kitchen, Anna is keen to produce food which is clean and healthy, but delicious and she uses spices, texture and flavour to bring depth to her dishes without heaviness. Dishes like her hearty Deep Crusted Leek and Greens Pie or her deeply scented One Pot Mushroom and Bay Biryani are just two of the hundreds of recipes in this book that admirably prove her point. More than just a cookbook, this volume offers a way to change your entire diet – from breakfast right through to dinner, with a section for feeding a crowd as well. Vegans and those on a gluten-free regime will appreciate the thoughtfully added index specific to their requirements, too.
Having said that, she is not afraid of indulgence and there is a very sweet selection of desserts and baked goods, plus drinks, jams, stocks and chutneys. Predictably as ever, I was soon to be found dabbling in the back of the book in the dessert and baking sections and have just one of her gorgeous sweet treats to share with you. This Cardamom Lemon Drizzle cake ticks all of my boxes – I love cardamom and have a groaning lemon tree right now. What a stunning dessert this would make!
Buy it for – any vegetarians in your life, or anyone who is looking to lighten and modify their diet, but still wants to eat heartily.
- For the cake
- 3 organic or free-range eggs
- 100g Greek yoghurt or
- coconut yoghurt
- 150ml runny honey
- 150ml light olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- 200g ground almonds
- 200g light spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- seeds from 4 cardamom pods, crushed to a powder in a pestle and mortar
- For the syrup
- 1 unwaxed lemons
- 100ml honey
- seeds from 8 cardamom pods, crushed to a powder in a pestle and mortar
- First preheat your oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.
- Put the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk until they have fluffed up a bit.
- Fold in the yoghurt, honey and olive oil, then grate in the zest of both lemons.
- Now put all your dry ingredients into another bowl and mix well. Gently beat this dry mixture into the yoghurt mix.
- Grease a 20cm springform cake tin with olive oil, then line the base with baking paper. Pour the cake mixture into the tin and level out the top with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden on top.
- Test with a skewer – if it comes out clean it’s ready.
- Meanwhile, make the syrup for the drizzle. Peel the zest from the lemon with a vegetable peeler. Squeeze the juice into a pan and add the zest and the honey.
- Add the ground cardamom seeds.
- Place on a medium heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the syrup has slightly thickened and
- the zest has candied. You’ll know that is has candied when the strips have become shiny and translucent, and have curled up a little at the edges.
- Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool until you can safely take it out of the tin. Transfer to a cooling rack, then place a large plate underneath to catch any drips.
- While the cake is still warm, skewer it all over and slowly pour the warm syrup all over the cake, making sure you go right to the edges.
- Sometimes I serve this with a spoonful of yoghurt.