I have to say that this book and the series in which accompanied it changed how I thought and wrote about food. Food had always featured heavily in my life, yes, but I had never actually stopped to think about how many memories were built on the basis of it and what sort of feelings it evoked and how it brought people together over the simple action of just cooking something. Sounds silly I know but somehow it was a bit of a ‘and then the penny dropped’ moment for me. I also think it was part of the reason we decided to do our ‘sentimental Sundays’ feature on this blog as we had so much to say about childhood and past food memories.
I know Sophie Dahl’s books and tv series was rather heavily criticised at the time but I don’t care, I absolutely loved it. Each programme was geared around six moods – romance, nostalgia, melancholy, selfish, escapism and celebratory and what she felt like cooking that most expressed those feelings. The show was shot beautifully, entwined with gorgeous imagery and music along with chosen snippets of history and literature, half an hour of blissful and calming escapism. She cooked in the most idyllic English kitchen too (which was half the reason I watched it!) with an Aga, shelves of Kilner jars, jugs of flowers from the garden, hanging pans and utensils.
This cookbook is almost an autobiography as well and is the sort of one you can read with a pot of tea in your garden and get really engrossed in it. There is no doubting that Sophie is the granddaughter of the great Roald Dahl, she has a lovely way with words and her book contains pages of her food memoirs, modelling and her increasing and decreasing waist line along with family life and holidays. Sophie has split her book into seasons and then meal times, so for each season you have breakfast, lunch and dinner suggestions all with wonderful photography by Jan Baldwin. There are loads of veggie, vegan and gluten free recipes in her books and she uses lots of Indian inspired spices and flavours in her cooking too due to spending a lot of her working life in India. I think I have said this before but a lot of the ingredients and flavour combinations she uses are very much in vogue now so I think she was much ahead of the foodie trend even then. I love the whimsical tales we get with each recipe and how they came about, most of which are obviously old favourites of hers, cooked and tested numerous times with her family. For example in her rice pudding recipes she uses basmati rice instead of pudding rice as whilst living in New York there was a raging storm outside and that was the only rice she had in at the time and it transpires that it actually works quite well!
I have shared some of her recipes with you on here before already, but to select a few favourites of mine:
- Wild rice risotto
- Cinnamon roast peaches with vanilla yogurt
- Monkfish with saffron sauce
- Chicken stew with green olives
- Eton Mess with rhubarb and rosewater
- Cardamom rice pudding
- Rich chocolate pots with brandy soaked cherries
- Toffee apple and pear crumble (only featured on the tv- I hope to make for you in the Autumn!)
It is currently The Gluten Freevolution Awareness Week and as our sister Faye is a coeliac and her birthday has also coincidentally fallen this week, I baked her one of my favourite recipes from this book, flourless chocolate cake. This cake was also featured in her ‘Celebratory‘ episode of the series so it seemed very apt! You can find the recipe here. I think the recipe is fool-proof and has worked every time for me – it is my go to gluten free cake to bake or even if I just fancy a good chocolate fix! The combination of the creme fraiche and fresh red berries works really well with the richly chocolatey and fudgy cake.
Sophie also released a second cookbook called ‘From Season to Season’ which is much of an extension from her first book really but just as good. A few of my favourite recipes from this include:
- Spelt french toast with smashed blueberries and blackberries
- Chickpea mushroom burgers with tahini sauce
- Winter curry with saffron cinnamon rice
- Coconut crab rice with yogurt and lime dressing
- Halloumi croque madame with black olives
- Panettone bread and butter pudding
- Pineapple and mint granita