Summer Cookbooks

Posted · Add Comment

Christopher Hirst explores a few literary fruits from the sunny season

The Book of Ices by Mrs A.B.Marshall

Mrs Marshall (1855-1905) was the Nigella of her day. This slender but still-useful work of 1885 will tempt modern ice-cream addicts with such fashionable temptations as sorbet of apricots, cucumber ice-cream and rose-water ice. Nesselrode Pudding on page 44 is ordered by the gluttonous character played by Jim Broadbent in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. Mrs Marshall, who, judging by the authorial portrait, was a dish in her own right, not only informed readers how to make ice but assisted with their consumption by inventing the ice-cream cone (previously it has been served in glass ‘licks’). Like present-day culinary stars, Mrs M was not averse to a spot of brand extension. Pupils at her cookery school could invest in ice-cream moulds (shapes included fish, cucumber and basket of cherries) and other spin-offs ranging from Coralline Pepper (‘For good digestion’) to Luxette Fish Pasta (‘So delightfully dainty’). The adverts at the back of this book, published to coincide with the Scoop of the Century ice-cream exhibition at Kings Cross, are the cherry on top of this splendid confection. (Grub Street, £5.99)

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Anyone tempted by the gorgeous cover design, which incorporates a persuasively real sushi rolling mat, should know that the index contains a mere half-dozen types of sushi. This is very much a book of real Japanese food rather than the often dubious Western versions. Of course, we would expect nothing else from Phaidon but prospective purchasers will need a Japanese supermarket within easy reach. Possibly a well-stocked Waitrose, which has made a specialist of Japanese food, might suffice. Since this review is being penned in the depths of North Yorkshire, where Japanese supermarkets and even branches of Waitrose are thin on the ground, I was obliged to eschew the kudzu powder (‘produced from the kudzu root’, the book helpfully explains) and Japanese-style soft block tofu required for the ham and chicken broth known as cold prevention soup. Fortunately, my wife did not detect these sad missions. ‘Completely yummy.’ Obviously substitutions can be made. Foil-grilled crab and eggplant demands shimeji (mild mushrooms) and usukuchi shoyu (light soy sauce). Even Japanese-style scrambled eggs, which seems more of an omelette (‘Using a spatula, draw the egg mixture from the outside edges into the centre…’) requires katsuobushi, a stock made from matured tuna. Would Lea & Perrins produce something interesting (if not authentic)? There’s only one way to find out. (Phaidon, £29.95)

A Long and Messy Business by Rowley Leigh

Rowley Leigh is a nonpareil among top-flight chefs in that he writes as well as he cooks. His latest work, crowdfunded by an army of enthusiastic fans, is a pleasure both to read and cook from. His introduction to salade Niçoise includes a rumination on Jacques Medecin, ‘a deeply corrupt right-wing racist mayor of Nice’, while piperade with ham recalls Keith Floyd’s impeccable honest TV style: ’There you are, you see, it’s a complete disaster.’ On the back cover Leigh insists that his book does not pursue the ‘quick and easy’ route. In case this puts off less confident practitioners, it should be stressed that his recipes are not necessarily hard work. Essaying his watercress soup with croutons and a poached egg, my friend Malcolm declared the result to be ‘Not half bad’ (high praise from him). Incidentally, in his introduction to this dish, Leigh expounds his recent re-discovery of ‘the superior succulence and charm’ of watercress compared to rocket. That use of ‘charm’ is a stroke of genius. From salt cod brandade, recommended for Christmas Day morning, to the cauliflower soup known as creme Dubarry, from poached oysters with shrimps and cucumber to the ‘revelation’ of a grand couscous, this haul of classic dishes, often unfairly overlooked, should be an obligatory purchase for anyone who enjoys being in the kitchen. (Unbound, £25)

Roots by Tommy Banks

You can’t get away from seasonal foods in cookbooks these days but while most volumes use the idea as a lazy taxonomy, seasonality is in the very warp and weft of the first book from this Michelin winner. For Banks, there are three seasons: the Hunger Gap, the Time of Abundance and the Preserving Season. Each spell is characterised by five forms of vegetation local to Banks’s pub, the Black Swan in Oldstead, North Yorkshire. Rhubarb (in jam, schnapps and accompanying Yorkshire curd tart) is a representation of the spartan cold months. Elderflower is a gift of abundant summer (‘if sunshine had a flatter then elderflower would be it’) and can be used in cordial, ice tea, jam and, particularly, vinegar: ‘Please make this recipe!’ Finally, celery and celeriac crop up in the autumnal abundance: baked gratin, roast celery soup, roast venison loin with celeriac and pickled blackberries. Other more unusual ingredients include spruce and fir (‘I implore you to go out to the forest’), wild garlic and fermented vegetables. This book is the British equivalent of the seemingly unceasing avalanche of volumes on Scandinavian cuisine, often requiring impossible recondite foraged items. While equally enthusiastic for using the wild, Banks’s version is far more practical. I plan to use my copy until it falls apart at the seams. (Seven Dials, £25)


Photo credit: clotho98 on VisualHunt /  CC BY-NC