Monday, 10 May 2010

Left On The Shelf

I suspect, like most food lovers, that I have too many recipe books. At the last count, I'd say about 80 different books line my shelves with possibly over a 100 copies of various magazines. Some might say that you can never have too many books and some might even scoff at the size of my collection. I do know in fact that some people have mini-libraries tucked away in their houses with reams and reams of print dedicated to gastronomy but those types are food obsessed dweebs with the look of a blogger about them. Food bloggers are easy to spot by the way. Think part human, part meerkat with large eyes, even bigger mouths, extended index fingers and a tendency to dribble. They're also oblivious to flashbulbs, not very fleet of foot but over time their elbows have evolved into sharp points and will use them as deadly weapons should you come anywhere near their plate or glass. I know this because I look in the mirror everyday and can only marvel at the dramatic changes that have occurred since taking up this hobby of eating and writing about it.

I digress.

So why do I think that I have got too many cook books? Well the simple reason is that I hardly bloody use them. I do have some favourites that I return to time and time again but for the large majority, the only purpose they have is to sit up there on the shelf and look pretty. Case in point number one is Gordon Ramsay's *** Chef. That's the title of the book by the way. I've not censored it. It's not called "Tit Chef" or anything. Though that wouldn't be too far from the truth (sorry Gordo, love you really!) So I bought it when I went to visit the man himself at a book signing, laughed and joked when I shook his hand, mumbled like a total plonker when he blasted a question at me and left feeling 40 quid lighter. It is a lovely book, with stunning photography and amazing recipes but I am never ever likely to try them at home for fear of a) getting the book dirty and b) well how the hell I am I suppose to recreate dishes of that quality anyway. Do me a favour! So it just stays up there, looking pretty. It is signed though so perhaps in the future I could sell it and recoup that 40 quid. Just as long as his stock doesn't plummet any further (sorry Gordo! No really I do love you!)

Case in point two is the Ottolenghi cookbook, another gorgeous volume that languishes on the shelf, gathering dust, only ever to be taken down when I am home alone and feeling fruity. And of course Yotam* has now brought out Plenty which has already been raved about and I will probably get that too. But this is no good, I must at least use the damn book otherwise it's a waste of time and money and precious paper. Things are looking good for Ottolenghi though as last week I finally got to sample a recipe, thanks to Gail from One Million Gold Stars who showed me the way with her own twist on an already eclectic dish.

I met Gail a few weeks ago at an event at La Fromagerie where we consumed our own bodyweight in cheese and I got to explain the whole concept that is WMPC - "er, you feed me and I'll write a totally nonsensical review about it". Thankfully Gail was up for the challenge despite some ungentlemanly conduct from yours truly. In the Affineur room, I practically barged her out the way to get at some samples (remember those elbows?) and felt very bad afterwards. For about 10 seconds. I must admit though, it was great to see her smiling face the other day outside Barbican tube station as yet again this little project of mine has gone through a lean spell. I miss meeting different people from all walks of life, it's not just about getting fed. Honest. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to spare so it was a bit of a whizz bang conversation as I dragged Gail up the road to buy her some wine. In her twitter bio, she describes herself as a freelance Content Editor and writer, Domestic Slut, Craftivist, Londonist contributor and #KaraokeKlub co-founder and after chatting about her day to day activities, I did feel a tinge of jealousy. I mean oh to be a Domestic Slut. Like I said our meeting was prompt and so I bade her farewell and good luck on her journey to a Kings Cross postal depot (OK so maybe it's not all glamour for you eh Gail?) and made my way back to the office.

So what delectable Ottolenghian dish did Gail rustle up for me? Well her meal from the previous night had been a variation on their Puy Lentils with Sour Cherries, Bacon and Gorgonzola. The twist being that Gail used chorizo instead of bacon because well she didn't have any bacon in the fridge and I like that kind of resourcefulness. Interestingly this was also the first Ottolenghi recipe that Gail had ever tried so it's good to know that I am not the only one with a fetish for harbouring books. The combination of the lentils, cherries, chorizo and cheese was amazing. Earthy, salty, tangy, creamy, all rolled together to deliver one hell of a sucker punch. I was seriously impressed and of course, although this wasn't Gail's creation per se, it still takes a deft hand to assemble so I'll give her full credit. And I'd say that the smokey paprika heat from the chorizo takes the dish one step further over bacon. Spread over a bed of rocket leaves lovingly cultivated from a supermarket chain, this warm salad really hit the spot. If you go to Gail's blog, you'll see that baking is her forte and I was very happy to chomp down on her delicious chocolate cookies.
Moreish, moist and sweet, quite naughty really. A big glass of milk wouldn't have gone amiss but unfortunately I had to put in a few more hours on the late shift but could I have some more for beddie bye-byes please Gail?

All in all an excellent contribution to Where's My Pork Chop? Gail and thanks to you for spurring me on to actually use a recipe book. Rather than paw it lasciviously with the curtains closed.

Puy Lentils with Sour Cherries, Chorizo and Gorgonzola

Chocolate Cookies

* Although to date I have never ever used one if his recipes, I am still on first name terms with Yotam


  1. I set up my blog as an attempt to use my cookbooks, aim was to cook a recipe from each book. Within a couple of posts I'd moved on though and was reviewing restaurants, making recipes up or scouring the internet for inspiration rather than the two book cases of cook books.

    I did manage to get rid of all my food magazines though, well trim them down to two lever arch files of hole punched recipes anyway.

    May have to add the Ottolenghi one to the collection too.

  2. If you make it up to Leeds one day I'll cook you something, I'd even get you a beer to go with it I think. maybe.

    This Lentil dish looks awesome, I think I'll give this a go some time soon.

  3. You have a look of the blogger about you, Danny (Fay said).

    I own tonnes of cookbooks and never cook from them - I just read them in bed and drool on the pictures.

  4. Nice post Mr Urchin and nice work Gail. I can't believe you haven't cooked anything from the Ottolenghi book yet Dan it really is full of great recipes. I've cooked the sour cherry and lentil dish myself a few times and it's a frigging winner. Good choice!

  5. I just love cookbooks... even if i don't use them all, i just love looking at them and dreaming of the recipe in my mouth!

  6. I currently have several hundred and regularly weed them out - but that's nothing compared to other people - Lindsey Bareham, for example, has over 10,000. I sometimes thinking that the twin obsessions of food and bibliophilia (I have 10s of 1000s of books altogether) is possibly the worst combination.

    I do use my cookbooks though, if mainly for inspiration and a nerdish desire to know as much about any given foodstuff or dish as possible.

    Love both Ottolenghi books, btw - I actually cooks some of his recipes unadapted which is almost unheard of for me.

  7. Being considerably older than you I came to the same conclusion about cook books a long time ago and halted my burgeoning (ooh good word) bookshelves.

    They're great to browse through, but as far as actually making the recipes, they're under used.

    Great post BTW. The salad and cookies look lush.

  8. Great looking food, congrats to Gail (is that a photocopier in the background?), bet it tasted good.

    I really like Ottolenghi - it delivers fabulous dishes that seem oddly easy to put together - especially their grain and pulse based ones. You should give it a go FoodUrchin, you won;t be disappointed, promise.

  9. I love cookbooks too and have plenty I haven't used, or have made only one lonely recipe from!

    Like others, even if I don't cook from them, I love them as food porn ... pouring over recipes, salivating, dreaming about what I intend to cook (but only occasionally get around to)... it's a foodie's wet dream, innit?

    PS Tit Chef made me laugh so hard I nearly choked on a fizzy cola bottle. I did swallow it whole, though at least I'd sucked the fizzy sugar off already, so it didn't grate my throat going down.