Well I sit corrected!
I was recently sent "My Family Kitchen" to review but, to be honest, was a bit worried about it. I had not heard (or at least thought I hadn’t heard) of the writer, Sophie Thompson. I don’t watch Celebrity Masterchef which Sophie won last year, I never watch soaps (apparently she was in EastEnders) and I even have a bit of a dour view of celebrities writing cookbooks. For some reason I have always thought chefs, lifelong cooks and food enthusiasts might be better at it!
In short I am a bit of a grumpy git!
This very attractive book arrived and I felt I recognised the girl on the cover so googled Sophie Thompson and found that I have watched her with pleasure in many things, including one of my utter favourites; “Dancing at Lughnasa”. So I apologise.
Next I applied my standard test. One day a week I sort books that have been donated to Cornwall Hospice Care (dividing them between those that go to their shops and those that are to be sold, hopefully, on Amazon) and, of course, cookbooks always catch my eye. Obviously I can’t buy all the books I fancy (we only have a small home) so I apply a test; I flick through any cookbooks I am interested in and in most cases said flick reveals that I’ve seen it all before. In this case, however, whilst doing my preliminary flick my attention was caught by good ideas and flavour combinations over and over again. The Autumn Burgers sound brilliant!
It seems that Sophie Thompson is indeed a food enthusiast and lifelong cook as well as being talented actress, so another apology!
One recipe that interested me straightaway was ...
College Days Homemade Flatbreads
I love a flatbread but have honestly never thought of using yogurt in them – call myself a cook! This recipe was so incredibly simple, memorable and variable – it almost qualifies as a "genius recipe" according to my very strict standards.
I quartered the recipe because it was just for me and made four little round breads, more than enough to go with my chicken salad lunch.
Sophie suggests cooking these breads in an unoiled grill pan but mine seems to have gone awol so I cooked them in a normal frying pan and they worked fine. I added sumac to one of the flatbreads and whilst they were all good that was my favourite. Sophie suggests adding turmeric or thyme or black pepper and I am sure there are loads of other great things that could be added to the basic breads.
Then I tried ...
Rainy Day Tablet
Tablet is a very rich, unhealthy and delicious crumbly fudge-like thingy from Scotland. I was recently offered some Iron Bru flavoured tablet to try and it was ‘orrible. Yuk, yuk, yuk. After that I felt it would be good for me to eat some proper tablet asap so that I would not be put off for life. I made Rainy Day Tablet and it was really good, what a relief.
The recipe is very hands on (constant stirring, which I enjoyed as I just flicked through the rest of the book at the same time!) but is easy and took about 15 minutes from deciding to make it to it being ready. So much faster than driving to Scotland!
"My Family Kitchen" is highly illustrated with food photos, pictures of Sophie and her family and some attractive drawings. The layout is clear and attractive. The paper is thick! Lovely book – I am jealous. I wish my publishers had been a fraction as assiduous with “The Leftovers Handbook”!
Many of the 100+ recipes are attributed to friends and family, I particularly like the sound of her Granny Megsie, a girl after my own heart. I liked the writing style from the start; friendly, funny, it is well worth reading not only the recipes but all the notes and asides too.
You can watch Sophie making her
There is also none of The Thing That Really Irritates Me! ie. using ready made, bought in mixes and “ingredients” and the book even a recipe for homemade marzipan. The exception to this (which doesn’t irritate me at all) is her whimsical State School Mess (as opposed to what they eat at Eton) which is an over the top mixture of ice cream and lots and lots of sweets and biscuits, made a weeny bit healthy by the addition of fresh raspberries immediately offset by a Mars Bar Sauce!
So, in short and much so to my surprise Yes, I heartily recommend this book!
I’m am so much in favour of people learning to cook (has anyone been watching “Eat Well for Less”? I couldn’t stand it after a few minutes!) and do believe this happy, friendly not at all intimidating book might be an inspiration to both novices and experienced cooks. I know it sounds a bit harsh but Christmas is coming! I am sure this would make a great gift.
"My Family Kitchen" by Sophie Thompson was published yesterday (!) by Faber & Faber and is available, of course, from Amazon and probably lots of other good bookshops too!