Tuesday 28 October 2008


I know I always say this and maybe it’s just because I love cookbooks so much but the Leon: Ingredients and Recipes book written by Allegra McEvedy (award-winning chef and cookery writer) is really beautiful. Its lovely just to look at and feel and flick through but it also contains some useful foody information and delicious recipes. Leon has revolutionised fast food as we know it. Not only are the restaurants friendly and relaxing but the food combines the two fundamental Leon principles; tastes good and does you good.

It’s split into two halves; Ingredients and food info on the front teaching you about the basic building blocks of cooking, and the recipes in the back. But that’s not it in the middle there is a tear out Seasonality Chart telling you what’s in season when and some cool Leon stickers in the back. My only problem with this book is that the type and page layout can sometimes be a bit small, jumbled and off putting. I don’t think this will actually cause anyone any problems; it just seems a little daunting when you are flicking through. However, this is a cookbook that you really want to read. There is even a buying guide (what to look for) and a directory for where to get things in the back.

It’s really wonderful to see really original recipes not just the revamped standards which you can find filling an apparently new cookbook (not that I’m completely adverse to revamped old style recipes!). What I love is the simplicity of the recipes – there is no pretension here you feel that you can do this, that you are about to embark upon a recipe that a friend has passed on on a scrap of paper with the advice that it’s ‘really easy’. A great example of this is the Hummus recipe. How many of these have we seen? Hundreds and they are all slightly different. This one takes up a ¼ of a page and uses the standard ingredients. Nice and simple and enables you to go off on your own tangent if you are that way inclined. All too often now recipes have been fiddled about with so much you feel that you have to stick to exactly what’s on the page. For those of you who like a more structured adventurousness there is Roasted Garlic and Pumpkin Hummus just below!

One of the great and most useful sections at this time of year is the section on soups. We are all feeling the crunch and the cold and there is nothing better for your wallet, lurgy and soul than a nice home-made soup. You can make it on Sunday night and take it to work for lunch during the week and feel full and soothed as a result. They are divided into seasons so you know what’s available when although in this day and age you can get most things at just about any time of year its often more rewarding to be using the right ingredients for the season – it often leads to a surprisingly more adventurous life in the kitchen too. Their Tom (Really) Yum Soup (in the spring section) can be frozen so is a perfect lunch treat. The picture of it is mouth watering. But the soup that I’ll be making asap (I’m suffering with the work cold at the moment) is the Good Soup for a Bad Day which is basically a chicken, pearl barley, mushroom and tarragon soup – you almost start feeling better just looking at it!

Leon: Ingredients and Recipes is a riot of colour and pictures, put together by friends and family you feel like you being let in to an inner circle, and being shown the tricks and secrets they use in the kitchen. Whether you are making the Love Me Tender Ribs, Fred’s Millennium Octopus or simply a Chocolate Milkshake this book instills confidence and enthusiasm. A perfect present for any foody or fan of the shops, even if you are only going to treat yourself to one cookbook this year let it be this one xx
Leon: Ingredients and Recipes (£20) is published by Conran Octopus.

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