Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Tender caress of a good cookbook

When it comes to cook books, I love them all; the old ones with bad photos, the well-used ones with soup stains, and of course the ones you borrowed but 'forgot' to give back.

My mum has some excellent books from the 1970s with horrific photographs of green and purple dishes that all seem to include gelatin and a sprig of curly parsley on top.

I try not to indulge myself in this too much as my urban living space is rather confined and shelf space even tighter.  Still, once in a while a book comes along that I feel I just can't live without. The second volume of Nigel Slater's Tender is definitely one of those books.

The photography is as expected, exquisite.  Photographer Jonathan Lovekin takes beautiful images, full of character, that have a real empathy for the flaws and vagaries of the garden.  Not every apple is perfectly round or unblemished, but that's the point.  He revels in these quirks and produces heart-stoppingly wistful images from them.  Lovekin also worked with Yotam Ottolenghi on his latest book Plenty, but to my mind his photographs have something special in combination with Nigel Slater's food and philosophy.  I also like that the paper stock used is good quality, and feels nice to handle.  These things count you know...

And the recipes, well. I share Slater's attitude to food; constantly hungry, and determined to make even the simplest dish into something to be treasured and celebrated.  Whereas Tender volume one was devoted to vegetables, this is a long, loving gaze at the wondrous world of fruit.  On initial inspection, there are intriguing entries for roasted quince and a sweet black grape focaccia which I may be trying soon.  He also includes some flavour thesaurus style food matching suggestions which will come in handy when inspiration has left the building.

A perfect read for snuggling up under the covers with - just try not to salivate over your pillow.

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