I want to tell you about the pleasure, the sheer unbridled joy, of cooking without a recipe.
An odd start to a recipe book, but once you get into it you understand what Nigel Slater is on about in his book, ‘Appetite’.
This was the first cookbook I really read, picking it out of the many books on my Dad’s bookshelf purely because its orange spine stood out from the rest. Before I had made things from memory and on my parents advice, my repertoire consisting of a few pasta dishes and a fruit salad.
It is Slater’s manifesto of cooking, his mission statement for the kitchen.
The first third of the book doesn’t really contain any recipes at all rather explaining his passion for cooking in drool inducing language with full page gastronomic pornographic images. It talks about what you really need in your kitchen, the little number of pans and knifes you really need, how and where to shop, what flavours really go together, and when fruit and veg are in season and at their best. He tells you that you should cook for fun, that you don’t have to cook every night, that its fine to get a takeaway every so often.
His recipes are written in the way people cook. He understands that we don’t all cook like they do on Blue Peter, with each ingredient pre-measured and put in its own little dish all lined up ready to go. It’s not 20g of basil it’s a good handful. It encourages experimentation and the recipes should be treated more as templates than anything else.
My copy is well thumbed and a couple of the pages are stuck together at the back when the flat above me water pipe burst. The recipes I use on a regular basis and flecked and stained with cooking debris. I love it.
I would recommend this book to people starting to cook or who have cooked for a while.