Cookbooks are inspirational reading. They’re filled with nourishing ideas, incredible food photography and often, like Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food, some entertaining anecdotes, personal notes and silly stories. They make us laugh and make us hungry. What new cookbooks are inspiring you? – Maggie
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I flipped through Sophie Dahl’s new cookbook, Very Fond of Food, admired the pictures tremendously, and even made a delightful recipe without having a clue as to who she was.
After thoroughly stuffing my face, with what just might become my new go-to lunch, I looked her up online and discovered that Sophie is a former fashion model, contributor to British Vogue, cooking show presenter and is married to Jamie Cullum — a musician whose swoon-worthy songs appear on many of my dinner party mixes.
The icing on the cake, so to speak, is that Dahl is also the granddaughter of revered children’s book author Roald Dahl, who based the main character in The BFG on Sophie. I’d say her life is really and truly a bit of a fairy tale, which is fitting because her lovely new cookbook transports you to a whimsical and seasonal place.
First of all, I don’t know what type of paper is used by Ten Speed Press, but it smells divine. I’ve been on an ebook tear lately so the scents and sight of honest-to-goodness books are becoming slightly foreign. Trust me. This is not a book you want to experience on your iPad. From the get go, Very Fond of Food literally smells adventurous and Sophie greets you on the first page in artfully tousled hair and cute ballet flats like she is welcoming you to her home.
Dahl’s theme is clear and precise and revolves around conscious consumerism and seasonality. One line from her introduction particularly resonated with me: “food meets the call of the weather.” How succinctly put and true! Can someone make that into a poster for me?
Sophie is charmingly up front with her audience, letting us know that she is first and foremost a storyteller, not a chef, and if you’re seeking “chefly wisdom” to look elsewhere.
Throughout the cookbook, brightly hued fabrics and laces adorn each of Jan Baldwin’s gorgeously shot meal renditions, and the eclectic patterns found on cups and plates made me instantly wish for a weekend trip to dusty antique stores so that I could emulate this effortlessly elegant aesthetic.
Keeping with the seasonal dining theme, the cookbook is broken into sections for Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Then each main section is again divided into breakfasts, lunches, and suppers. The recipes are very approachable and homey and include everything from baked pumpkin to beef stroganoff and even the very British fish fingers with tartar sauce and mushy peas.
The recipe notes throughout Very Fond of Food really make Sophie’s personality shine and she comes across as someone you’d very much like to have as your friend.
My personal favorite involved a modern day take on The Nutcracker. This tale prefaces a dessert she’s dubbed “Christmas Sugar Plumb Syllabubby Mess,” and tells the story of a very cheeky and boy crazy Clara who is confronted with dancing rats sporting skinny jeans and falls asleep under the Christmas tree listening to Whams greatest hits. I’m almost certain that George Michael’s pop group has never been mentioned within the covers of a cookbook before. Yet another reason I’m completely enamored with this author, and you will be, too.
Turning to her cookbook one recent afternoon, this unbelievably simple and seasonal springtime lunch idea was the technicolor bright spot in an otherwise melancholy Monday. The crisp, grilled asparagus were surprisingly filling when accompanied by bits of fresh organic egg and the lemon, which I feared would be overpowering, was just what the dish needed to feel special.
Plus, it made my usual boring sandwich or hastily toasted bagel seem completely gauche.
Dear Sophie, I solemnly promise to try harder from now on, starting with this recipe.
Asparagus with Hard-Boiled Eggs, Parmesan, and Lemon, from Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food
- About 12 asparagus spears
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and Pepper
- Heat a griddle or frying pan over very high heat, remove the tough ends from the asparagus and cook the spears for about 5 minutes on each side, until browned on the outside and soft within.
- While the asparagus is cooking, boil the eggs; about 4 to 5 minutes if you want them still slightly runny inside. Plunge them into cold water, and then peel and chop finely.
- Plate the asparagus, pouring over the olive oil and sprinkling with the Parmesan, lemon juice, and zest.
- Season and sprinkle the hard-boiled eggs on top.
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