Cookery publishing can be a strange phenomenon, relying on the ingredients or particular style that is currently fashionable – flash in the pan cookery books, if you will – rather than on recipes that have stood, and will continue to stand, the test of time. In a move away from slick coffee-table cookery books – those that are there to impress and look at rather than actually use – Pan Books have come up with a new and worthwhile enterprise. The series takes a low-priced, no-pictures and no-frills approach to cookery book publishing, reissuing already tried, tested and well-loved books in a kitchen-usable format.
'Gammon & Spinach' by former Bibendum chef, Simon Hopkinson, is a collection of his weekly columns for The Independent on Saturday. Since he sidestepped the cooker for the keyboard he has written two other acclaimed cookbooks – 'Roast Chicken and Other Stories' and 'The Prawn Cocktail Years'. Unlike many chefs, he avoids over-elaboration and complication, and 'Gammon & Spinach' is a simple, unpretentious cookery book. As with his last ('The Prawn Cocktail Years') Hopkinson focuses on dishes and ingredients that may be considered unfashionable such as Avocado Pear Stuffed with Cream Cheese, Lamb Shrewsbury, Pig's Trotter Brawn and pickled walnuts. With mouth-watering descriptions of old-fashioned food such as Hot Strawberry Pie and Mushrooms on Toast, 'Gammon & Spinach' is a pleasure to read as well as to cook from.
The other three in the initial series – 'Evergreen' by Annie Bell, 'The Independent Cook' by Jeremy Round and 'Simply Delicious Suppers' by our own Darina Allen – are refreshingly unfussy. Bell focuses on non-meat dishes that will please all vegetarians as well as going a fair way to convert even the most confirmed carnivore. A former Independent on Saturday columnist until his early death in 1989, Round's book is a chronological collection of his best recipes. Allen is immediately familiar throughout Ireland from her Simply Delicious television series, her cookery books and, particularly this summer, her ice-cream. Here she gathers her favourite supper recipes together, with the emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, simply prepared. All four of these books would be an addition to even the best-stocked cookery book shelf.
'Gammon & Spinach' by Simon Hopkinson, 'Evergreen' by Annie Bell, 'The Independent Cook' by Jeremy Round and 'Simply Delicious Suppers' by Darina Allen are all published by Pan Books at £6.99 stg.