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Of all the cookery books my wife (Sue) owns her favourite by far (or so she tells me) is The Kitchen Diaries written by Nigel Slater and first published in September 2005 (UK) and December 2006 (Canada/USA). Our copy is in hardback format and everything about the book including its cover, paper quality (Munken 130gsm supplied by Arctic Paper) and even the typeface (Berthold Baskerville) presents a very professionally designed book. The book was bound and printed in Vicenza, Italy and its original recommended selling price was £25 (UK) and $59.95 (Canada). It is widely available new directly from Amazon in the UK (£19.50 with free shipping) and $37.77 from their Canadian website as well as from the Amazon marketplace in the UK, Canada and France which vary in condition.
The book has 394 pages plus introduction and 11 pages of index!
This book however is different from the norm because although it features 300 recipes it is written in the form of a diary detailing recipes and how he created the dishes on a month by month basis. Although I can find no trace of this book being made into a tv series some recipes do seem familiar. There are a number of photos of dishes that he has created but unlike some books these are limited in number.
Meals listed in the book include:
January - stew, cheese-smothered potatoes, spaghetti Bolognese, lime tart and double ginger cake
February - hot chocolate puddings, braised lamb with haricot beans, treacle tart and lamb shanks with mustard and mash
March - Taramasalata, Demerara lemon cake with thick yoghurt, prawn and coriander rolls, chicken with mushrooms and lemon grass
April - Thai fishcakes, orange and lemon cheesecake, lemon trifle, thyme and feta lamb
May - roast pork with lemon and potatoes, lemon ice cream, hot sour bean shoot salad, lamb chops with lemon and mint and potatoes crushed into pan juices
June - chicken roasted with new garlic, Vietnamese beef salad
July - soup of roasted Summer vegetables, roast lamb rolls with oregano and garlic, strawberry water ice
August - garlic prawns, lamb chops with oregano and tsatziki, orange yoghurt water ice
September - a squid in the fryer, baked lamb with tomatoes and rosemary, roast pork sandwiches
October - pork ribs with honey and anise, sweet and sticky chicken wings
November - baked onions with Parmesan and cream
December - Nigel's Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, roast leg of pork with onion and Marsala gravy
Sue's passion for cookery books however is mainly for reading and not for testing recipes. Despite being Sue's favourite cookery book, she has yet to make any recipes from it. Having briefly looked through the book to produce the list above I have to admit that they do seem to be worth trying. Some months are sparse in terms of recipes and there are several in the book which I wouldn't want to try such as pot roast pigeon with luganega sausage or roast partridge. Whether the average shopper could afford some of the ingredients however is debatable.
As a read I would definitely recommend The Kitchen Diaries as part of any cookery book collection. This book is also available in paperback but it is the hardback version which oozes quality.
I can not describe how much I love this book but I can say I love it n a number of different evils.
Initially just holding it reminds me of a time in my life where I lived a boho dream and this book epitomises this time in my life. Flicking it open to the day and month and seeing what my local farmers market had to offer that fitted with a recipe around the date.
The book really got me thinking about local, seasonal and fresh ingredients and opened my eyes to a way of eating that was more than just three course dinners. Some dys Nigel has some cheese within fruit or lunch and the (beautiful) photos show it as a feast.
I also love the fact that Nigel is so honest and open about his motives for cooking certain recipes and his general impetus to make things for people. One of my favourite entries involves Nigel deciding to call out for pizza...and loving it!
Another level of long this book is very much because I old just read this book. It's someone's diary and whether you decide to cook any of the recipes or not, you can read happily and enjoy sharing someone's year of cooking.
The photos in the book were taken as he cooked and ate, and are particularly beautiful, as is the classic traditional font and paper quality.mif I could only have one book for the rest of my ice, this would be it
As a big fan of Nigel Slater's other books, I couldn't wait to read this one when I got it. If you enjoy cooking and/or reading about food I think you'll enjoy this one.
The book takes you through his year in terms of food which each chapter as a month. This design is excellent and easy to use, although I suspect some people would prefer it divided into starters, desserts, meat, fish, etc. The photography is stunning and makes the food look very appealing. I also liked the photos of his house and garden as they added a more personal feel to the book.
He discusses his shopping trips to local produce shops and delis, farmers markets, health food stores and the fruit and vegetable box he gets delivered. He mentions how proud he is to have never shopped in Tesco, but admits he's lucky to have such good shops nearby.
He also describes what he has cooked and eaten. As a cook and food writer rather than a celebrity chef with a restaurant, his food seems accessible and not at all fiddly or pretentious. Most of the recipes are for 1-2 people rather than the 6-8 you often find in cookbooks, and they are the kind of food you would make yourself for dinner. Some recipes are a little more complex and for larger numbers, and these would be fantastic for a dinner party. As I have come to expect from Nigel Slater, the recipes are reliable and easy to follow so you can be confident that you'll be able to reproduce the meals he has made. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of vegetarian recipes, although the sides from the meat dishes can easily be used, and a number of dishes could probably be adapted.
Throughout the book, he talks about seasonal produce and uses it in the recipes. I enjoyed learning about which fruits and vegetables are best at what time of year and it influenced me to try to use seasonal produce more. It's a good idea to buy things when they're cheapest and best. It also inspired me to find and visit my local farmers market.
It's more than just a cookery book, with Nigel talking about things he's been eating throughout the year. He comes across as very genuine and down to earth. There's no pretentiousness that you sometimes get with celebrity chefs, and it's refreshing to discover that just like the rest of us, sometimes he has takeaway pizza and a beer for dinner, then eats the leftovers cold. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this as a book as well as using it for the recipes.
This costs £25 for the hardback and £16.99 for the paperback, but as usual, is available for less on Amazon.
As a very nosy and greedy girl I couldn't wait to peek inside my new copy of 'The Kitchen Diaries.' It was so interesting to see a year in the life of Nigel Slater told through his dinners.
The recipes are laid out monthly, starting from January, and they feature a really nice range of everyday meals, soups, and desserts as well as special dinners. Each recipe features the date it was made and eaten, and each dish was photographed just after it was cooked. The book itself is a beautiful object, and the photographs by Jonathan Lovekin tease and tempt.
I had got into a bit of a rut making the same old meals, so in January I cooked a new meal every night from Nigel Slater's books. It was wonderful to cook seasonally, without having to put any effort in. Slater buys the best seasonal produce, which shows in his books, but he isn't preachy about food. For him it's all about eating the right food at the right time, making a thick and hearty sausage stew when the snow is falling outside.
The highlights of January's eating was a supremely rich spaghetti bolognaise, made with pancetta, red wine and cream. From February I loved pork chops with mustard sauce, with a sticky brown coating and fragrant sauce.
These are classic food combinations in another class. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and I find they always turn out well.
One of the many problems I have with supermarkets is that they try to persuade me that any fresh fruit and vegetable I want is available all year round. I can eat fresh raspberries in January, green beans in February, leeks in June, asparagus in October and strawberries for Christmas dinner. The problem is that theyll have been flown half way round the world and taste of little more than wasted money. What I needed was a book to flag up when food is at its peak and give me some hints as to how it can best be used.
Nigel Slater is an obliging man. For more than a decade hes written a food column in The Observer. Ive read him slavishly and hes had more influence on the way I buy and prepare food than anyone else. I think Ive read just about everything hes written and when I thought of a book I needed he wrote The Kitchen Diaries.
For a year he recorded his food shopping expeditions and the food he cooked and ate. He goes out to shop for food most days and frequents farmers markets, health food shops, the local deli and artisan producers. He lives where he does because its close to good shops and he has a proud boast that he has never set foot in a branch of Tesco. He cooks in a normal kitchen. Its not a restaurant kitchen or a high-tech theatre which costs more than most peoples homes. Its a family kitchen with doors which open out onto the garden. He has the sort of pots and pans that we all use.
Theres a peel-off label on the front of the hardback book saying that it contains over 300 new recipes from Britains best-loved food writer. Id quibble slightly with this as some of the recipes are distinctly familiar to me as a reader of The Observer Magazine. Ive certainly not seen them in any of his other books though. Anyone buying Delia Smith books these days is likely to find that the books are compilations of recipes that shes published previously or re-workings of older recipes. On that basis the cover price of £25 for The Kitchen Diaries (available for £15 on Amazon in October 2005) is very reasonable.
Each month some fifteen to twenty recipes are given. Theyre listed at the beginning of the month and also covered in the excellent index. The recipes are almost incidental though, as the book is written in the form of a diary. Not only do we see how food varies in the course of a year we see how it changes in the course of a month. As Nigel points out the beginning of May and the end could be two completely different months from the point of view of the food available.
Nigels principle is simple. Its the way he begins the book Right food, right place, right time. He believes and shows that this is the best recipe of all. Refreshingly its not all about preparing difficult recipes with hard-to-get ingredients. Its about eating fish and chips on the beach or ordering a pizza and then ringing up afterwards to say how good it was. Ive read right through the book now and re-read September and October. I havent seen one recipe that Ive thought looked complicated and most have a very limited number of ingredients. Theres copious use of seasonal ingredients.
One problem that Ive had with a number of cookery books is that the recipes cater for a ridiculous number of people. A recent Gary Rhodes book regularly had recipes feeding six, eight or even ten people. These are not the family groups in which most people live. Many of Nigels recipes are for a snack for one or a meal for two people. Very few of the recipes even cater for six. Theres a good variety too of the everyday food and the more special, the healthy and the more indulgent.
If I had to quibble over one point about variety (and this is me being VERY picky) then I noticed a lack of savoury egg dishes. Nigel doesnt eat eggs as eggs if you read his book Toast youll see the reason why and theres only one recipe, for a Spanish omelette. We eat eggs regularly and I would have loved some more inspiration, but its not as though theyre exactly seasonal!
Nigel is quite open about mistakes and failures too, such as the lime tart where there was a small hole in the base and all the filling ran out. I found it reassuring that someone of his experience and expertise could make the odd blunder. My own failures dont seem so disheartening now.
The book is beautifully presented. Nigels articles in The Observer Magazine are always accompanied by photographs taken by Jonathan Lovekin. Hes the photographer for this book and the pictures are exquisite. Theyre not restricted to pictures of prepared food but include shots taken in the garden and around the house. I was pleased to read that the food was prepared and then photographed before being eaten. This might sound like a strange point to make, but its not unusual when food is being photographed for cookery books for it to be coated in engine oil to enhance the appearance. Its then binned and I hate the waste. A nice presentational touch too is the silk book mark attached to the spine.
Many people who read Toast: the story of a boys hunger hoped that Nigel would write about the later years of his life. Im afraid that anyone hoping that these diaries would reveal more about his personal life will be disappointed. There are references to we and us but there is no further elucidation and it might even mean that the cat is particularly well-fed.
The book is highly recommended. It excited all the senses and gave me inspiration.
The Kitchen Diaries
ISBN: 0 00 719948 1
Published 3 October 2005 by Fourth Estate
Cover price: £25 in hardback but currently available from Amazon for £15 plus £2.75 P&P if total order is under £19.
Paperback not yet published.