I have over 60 cookbooks, and roughly 100 food magazines. I also have a tiny one bedroom flat. These things don’t mix very well.
You see, I have a….well. I don’t like to use the word “addiction” lightly, so I’ll go for compulsion instead. I have a cookbook and food magazine buying compulsion. When I get the idea of buying a new cookbook or magazine in my head, I just have to do it. I can’t stop myself. I love cookbooks. I love the promise they hold. A whole damn book of recipes? Something bound in thick card, with shiny pages and beautiful photos? Something to be sighed over, to invoke feelings of awe or nostalgia or contentment? Sign me the hell up!
And so my cookbook collection grew and grew – to put it in perspective, when I moved out of my parents’ in June 2012 I took only 20 with me – and now we’re buying a new bookshelf on payday to hold, amongst other things, my huge collection of cookbooks and food magazines.
When Garry and I got engaged, we realised we’d have to start saving money for the wedding. To do this, we’ve had to give things up. We don’t eat out as much. He doesn’t buy so many video games or clothes. And I have given up buying new cookbooks and food magazines.
It’s been a struggle, I won’t lie. There are at least three cookbooks coming out in the next few months that I desperately want, and there’s at least five I can think of that I’d buy if I had the chance that are out now. But I can’t. I’ve been strong. I will not buy new cookbooks.
There’s been help though. A woman at work is kindly drip-feeding me her old cookbooks which she doesn’t use any more, some of which are amazing. I have been picking up a lot of freebie supermarket magazines. And then occasionally someone will send me a cookbook to review. That’s what happened with Luke’s Cookbook.
Luke Thomas is 20 years old. Being honest, that’s he’s so young makes me want to curl up under my table and cry because man, he is good. Some of the food in this book is absolutely incredible. Luke likes taking classics and giving them a twist, such as the canapés section’s Shepherd’s Pie Fritters. He also clearly just likes making very good food, like the crispy duck salad above shows.
The book covers canapés and cocktails, snacks and starters, burgers and grills, grown-up dinners, retro feasts, for the table and sweet-shop raisers. It also has sections on store cupboard essentials, kitchen equipment and wine. I got this recipe from the grown-up dinners section – and what a grown up dinner it was.
It took about 30 minutes to make and, when I served it to my friends, was greeted with silence. Not bad silence, you understand, the silence where everyone is so engrossed in putting what is on their plate into their mouth they can’t talk to you. The sweet peas bursting and crunching in your mouth, contrasting brilliantly with the soft rice and the sharp goat cheese with the complex flavour of the watercress on top…it was heavenly. Heavenly.
And, diet fans, it was Slimming World friendly. A lot of recipes in this book can be made to be absolutely on plan with a few easy tweaks.
There are a few recipes in the book that seem so basic you wonder why someone would even put them in, such as a cheeseburger or pan-friend pork chops, but even these usually have something about them that makes them a bit special.
Luke’s cookbook feels nice to flick through – heavy book with beautiful photos and layout – and really does have some good recipes. It’s quite basic, but that’s no bad thing. If you’ve gone any young nieces or nephews heading off to Uni or just showing an interest in learning to cook, this is a perfect cookbook for them. Huge thanks to the guys at Penguin for sending it to me.
But for now here’s my slightly edited version of Luke’s Pea and Goat Cheese Risotto.
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 1 medium onion
- 250g Arborio rice
- 650ml hot vegetable stock
- 250g frozen peas
- 120g goat cheese
- 1/2 a lemon
- Several large handfuls of pea shoots/watercress
- In a large pan, fry the garlic and shallot in either a little butter or spray oil for three minutes. Add the rice, stir well, then pour in about 200ml of stock. Stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed
- Add the stock a hearty glug at a time - I added about six glugs before it was all gone. Between each addition stir constantly so that the rice doesn't stick until the stock is absorbed
- Remove the risotto from the heat and stir through the goat cheese, the juice of the lemon and the peas until the cheese has melted and the peas have defrosted
- Dish up the risotto, then add a handful of pea shoots/watercress to the top. Grind over a little black pepper and serve