It was interesting discussing with a friend who manages Waterstones (now officially minus its apostrophe!) the buying habits of his customers in the run up to Christmas. Every year, he says, cookery books do well, especially glossy, glamorous, heavily illustrated coffee-table type cookbooks. Nick actually gave me one such book for Christmas - Thai Street Food by David Thompson, a massive hardback tome (33.4 x 27.6 cms), heavy on gorgeous illustrations and light on actual recipes. How I will prop it up in the kitchen as I cook for it, I'm not sure!
Alongside all the cookbook porn, is a little gem of a book, The Flavour Thesaurus by Nicki Segnit (see my post here) which has no illustrations. Nick tells me it has been a runaway success and he's planning an event at the shop with the author sometime soon......Watch this space.
I tend not to buy a cookbook because of its pictures. I don't need to see a picture of a dish to know whether I will like it or not, and I prefer cookbooks which have interesting text alongside the recipes. Both Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson write beautifully and the preamble to their recipes is always worth spending time over.
I bought Falling Cloudberries in a remainder shop; I doubt I would have purchased it at full price, especially as I don't use it very often, but it is an attractive book to have on my shelf - and this simple lamb recipe is a winner:
2lb 12oz waxy potatoes cut into large chunks (I use Charlotte potatoes)
2lb 4oz lamb cut into chunks
4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 heaped tsp of cumin seeds
125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
4 or 5 ripe tomatoes cut in to thick slices
3 1/4 oz butter
125 ml stock
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red pepper in small chunks (optional)
Preheat oven to 170C/Gas 3. Sauté onions and garlic, add red pepper during the last minute of cooking. Then put the onion, garlic, potato, pepper and lamb in a 5 litre casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley, cumin, and olive oil and mix through very well with your hands. Put the tomato slices on top in a single layer and season lightly with salt. Dot the butter over the top and pour about 125 ml of stock around the sides of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 3 hours, tilting the dish from side to side a couple of times and spooning some of the pan juices over the top. The lamb should be very tender and the potatoes soft.
Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 190C/Gas 5 and cook for another 45 minutes or so, turning the lamb halfway through, or until the meat and potatoes are a little browned and the liquid has reduced.
Cook's note: If you are making this in a tagine or chicken brick, put some oil in the bottom of the pot and toss all the ingredients in. You probably won't need much stock, if any, so keep checking to make sure the dish does not dry out during cooking.