When award-winning British cook Nigel Slater writes about food, the thing that stands out most is the man's unashamed greed. And, rather than this being a problem, it's what draws people in and makes them buy the Observer every Sunday because he writes for the magazine. It's what has made last year's 'Kitchen Diaries' - a simple account of the dishes he cooked over 12 months - a bestseller. It's what propels people towards the kitchen, mouth watering and Slater magazine cutting or cookbook in hand, to try out a new recipe.
Penguin have recently reissued four of his early cookbooks - 'Real Fast Food', 'Real Fast Puddings' (1993), 'The 30-Minute Cook' and 'Real Cooking' - in lovely, cream-coloured paperbacks, with simple cover illustrations from Alice Tait. 'Real Fast Food', Slater's first book, published in 1992, is a treasure trove of more than 350 quick, easy and tasty recipes and suggestions for what to eat when you've no time to cook. He states his precepts in 'Real Fast Food' - "a set of straightforward recipes for fast food with bold flavours, cooked in minutes and served without pretension" - ideas that he has stuck to, time and time again in later books, along with his use of the very best ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, fruits and berries, anchovies and "dark, bitter and absurdly expensive chocolate".
'Real Fast Puddings' is a slimmer book, a seasonal exploration of sweet dishes that concentrates on fruit, with treasures like the recipe for the best Plum Crumble or Vanilla Ice Cream with Christmas Pudding Sauce. 'The 30-Minute Cook' (1994), the first of his cookbooks with photos (from Kevin Summers), spreads its net a little wider, with recipes from India, south-east Asia, north Africa and the Middle East but, although worthwhile (there's no such thing as a unused Nigel Slater cookbook), it is not as immediate as 'Real Cooking' (1997). Pictures from Georgia Glynn Smith in 'Real Cooking' are almost lascivious in their close attention to food detail and his recipes - for Savoury Onions, Crusty Bread; Split Pea Soup with Moroccan Spiced Butter; and the classic Bottom Crust Fruit Pie - are straightforward, unpretentious and hit the spot every time. If you don't already own these books, you owe it to yourself to get them. Start with 'Real Fast Food' and learn about cooking - and greed - Nigel Slater-style.