On my shelf in the drawing room (we've run out of room in the kitchen) I have 34 cookbooks. Two years ago I had 3. There are 10 more cookbooks in my Amazon wish list, and my wish list is not a list of books I would like to buy, they are books I am going to buy next time I go on a cookbook binge, someone gives me gift vouchers or people ask me what I want for Christmas or birthdays. This is nothing compared to my mother, on our kitchen shelf she has an impressive 139. No one has the time or the energy to go and count all of the food magazines she's also saved for recipes which I sort of count as seasonal cookbooks, too.
The point I'm making here is that there is a very massive food related passion of mine that, except for in the form of adapted recipes, that I don't really share here on the blog. I think this is a shame, and it is something with my new 'Cookbook Corner' feature I'm looking to rectify. Most evenings curled up in front of the television if I'm not scrolling through Pinterest on my iPad, I have my nose in a cookbook. I think a good cookbook is more than just a collection of photos and recipes, they tell the story behind the food and the person cooking it, too.
I've experimented a bit with cookbook reviews here on the blog before (the Joy The Baker Cookbook, where I cooked and photographed two recipes from it and shared one of them, and Brilliant Bread by James Morton and Mr Todiwala's Bombay where I photographed a bit of the inside of the book and shared a recipe), and I'd love to hear your thoughts on which format you like best. But to kick off this new column here on the blog I want to talk about a lovely new book the guys over at Ebury send me a few weeks ago: food stylist and artist Rosie Ramsden's first cookbook The Recipe Wheel.
The concept of the book is pretty simple. 120 recipe ideas (I want to emphasis the ideas part here) that revolve around 10 'recipe wheels'. I've included the bread and roast chicken wheels here to give you the general idea, but they basically take one core cooking ingredient or method (poached fish, custard, risotto) and throw out ideas for entertaining, using up leftovers, or for comforting meals at home featuring that core ingredient.
I have so many different cookbooks for different things; regional cooking, baking books, technique books, books full of the sort of food I like to cook and I use every day and books I love for ideas and research, but cooking out of would be totally scary (here is looking at you Ludo Bites!) The Recipe Wheel is the sort of book I'd keep on the kitchen counter and maybe do one or two recipes verbatim from, but mostly draw from all the time for inspiration, or recipes for dressings or sides to go with something else. It tells you how to make tartare sauce, grind up a fragrant garam masala and how to choose the best cuts of beef for braising. I'm particularly excited about the delicious looking jam jar dressings, just thrown in as an added bonus on pg 136. However, I do want to make some of Rosie's recipes recipes straight up both for myself and my family; her Baked Lemon Risotto, Crispy Beef Salad and Blackberry & Yogurt Sponge spring to mind.
When the team at Ebury offered to send me the book, it was with the added challenge to either come up with my own recipe wheel, or to put together a dish inspired by one of Rosie's. Now, as tempting as creating my own avocado wheel would have been (!), one of the recipes on her bread wheel caught my eye. Her Courgette, Chilli and Garlic Bruschetta sounded fantastic, and as it is Summer I have an endless supply of courgette to make it through. While her original recipe used slightly cooked courgette ribbons, you know how much I love grating my vegetables (here, here and here), and how much of a fan of raw courgette I am (here and here), so I played around with her recipe a bit to make a fresh starter for a Summer supper.
There are not really exact measurements for this, the main idea is to use up leftover bread and part of your Summer vegetable glut in one swoop. I've put measurements below to give a general idea of a flavour balance, but just go with the flow of what you have to hand, tasting as you go along.
- 1 Large Courgette
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Large Handful Fresh Basil
- 1/2 Red Chilli
- Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Large Garlic Clove
- Leftover Bread
Using the widest hole on a box grater grate the courgette and stir in the basil, shredded, the zest of the lemon, the juice of half the lemon, the chilli finely diced, a dash of extra virgin olive oil and season to taste with sea salt, fresh black pepper and more lemon juice if needed. Set aside to allow the lemon juice to 'cook' the courgette.
To make the bruschettas slice the bread and brush with more olive oil. Grill (you can do this on the barbecue for a great flavour if it is already hot for dinner) until golden. Crush the garlic and rub over the bruschettas. Allow to cool enough to touch and pile on the courgette mixture. Enjoy with a nice chilled aperitif while you wait for the rest of our dinner to chill/ cook.
The Recipe Wheel is the gift I'd bring someone to a housewarming if I knew they had a new kitchen fitted. It is homely, comforting but modern, and while I usually like cookbooks with photos to look at, I like that this one does not so that it is left over to interpretation. While I do urge you to head out and grab The Recipe Wheel from an independent bookshop, you can also head over to Amazon and buy it here. You can also find Rosie over at her blog Rose Cottage. You can also check out what some of the other bloggers Ebury challenged to take inspiration from The Recipe Wheel got up to over at The Happy Foodie.
What has been the most recent cookbook to join your collection? Soon after finishing reading this I treated myself to something that had been on my wish list for a very long time: The Lemonade Cookbook from the Los Angeles chain, and the food in it has really made me realise how much Southern California seeped into my cooking in my time there.