For the best part of two years, I’ve been art-directing and designing for the digital cookbooks start-up, 1000 Cookbooks. Having been on the inside looking around this incredible resource for so long, I rather vainly considered that my own top-ten list was possibly of interest, not least because it’s been formulating in my head for most of the time I’ve been working on this project. So, yesterday’s post, #10, is here and the rest, in no particular order of preference…
#9 The Farm Shop Cook Book
Having worked for one of the country’s leading independent food publishers for many years, it was inevitable, I guess, that one or more of their titles would find their way into my top-ten list. I worked with some incredible writers and more than a few stellar names during that time. Christine was no household name, but her knowledge of food and her passion – and more than that her skill – for sharing it was the equal of anyone I ever worked with.
Christine had already authored a quite brilliant, erudite book for Absolute Press several years earlier. Pepper explored its subject with such detail and passion: a love story of the most forensic kind. This book was in some ways its opposite: an A–Z of farm shop produce (almost a hundred different subjects) with recipes, cooking, shopping and storage suggestions for each ingredient, all contained within just 304 pages. Where Pepper had been so expansive, here concision and curation was everything.
When someone gave me duck eggs for the first time, it was to this book I turned for advice on how and what to cook. When a friend bemoaned his gooseberry glut, I quickly pulled this book from the shelf. Many times, it’s to the brief two- or three-sentence notes on how to cook a particular ingredient that I go. In many ways, it’s become my go-to reference book, but that’s to undersell the sheer joy of some of the recipes in this collection, because I think Christine’s greatest achievement was in choosing – knowing – which recipes might most appeal. I love how it wears the marks of my enjoyment: the indigo smears of juice that stain ‘Blackberry Batter Pudding with Eau-de-Vie'; ditto the oily prints of two fingers straddling the gutter of a spread where an introduction to carrots and an adjacent recipe with ginger glaze resides. It’s a book to find out when a fruit or vegetable will be in season, or for notes on how to store salad leaves or, just the other day, to debunk the myth that whole mushrooms cannot be washed in water (‘dunk briefly and scrub lightly’). But the thing I like most about it is that it’s a book that I trust to always be useful and that each new discovery within it continues to impress and inspire.