OK. I know this is going to be a bit of a hard sell, since most of our readers are in the US and the book I'm about to talk about is only available in the UK. I completely understand it that this may be a huge barrier for some of you. But I'm so taken with Orlando Gough's Recipe Journal that I can't help but share it! I can say with confidence that it was absolutely worth the effort to get it from London, England to my home in Oakland, California.
In my case, it helped matters that a friend was visiting London for the Christmas holidays and was able to tuck my preordered copy into her luggage. The Recipe Journal is a slim paperback (just about 100 pages) so it did not inconvenience her in any way. But I was lucky. If I wanted to order it from Toast, the charming clothing and lifestyle company who publishes it, I would have had to pay £20 in postage. Which is almost twice the cost of the £11.95 book. Yikes.
But if the courier logistics work for you, don't hesitate, especially if you enjoy deeply personal accounts of a passionate cook's life at the stove. Orland Gough is a British composer who first found his love of cooking (and eating) at age 5 when was put to work tending a small patch of rhubarb in his parent's garden. In his introduction, James Seaton describes Mr Gough:
He's also a cook of distinct character. His recipes might stem from Sussex or from the Levant but, knowing him as I do, I think I could recognize all of them as his. That's not, of course, that they taste the same as each other but that his cooking has its own handwriting; not fussy, not parading itself but wide ranging, heartwarming - and very tasty. He's the epitome of a good home cook and a man entirely at ease with himself in the kitchen.
The book is arranged by decade, with approximately 6 recipes per era, to total 40 recipes in all. They are pulled from Mr Gough's actual recipe journal, which he has kept for decades and often bares the marks of the dish being made. From the rhubarb patch we go on to explore the 1960's though his father's marmalade, the 1970's through an Apricot Nut Bread from Vogue, and the 80's bring us Polenta and Red Onion Jam. By the 90's, Mr Gough is married with two sons and presents us with Risi e Bisi and Pan Bagnat; the Aughts are represented by his take on the Spanish Tortilla. Finally, he gives us a hint for what's in store for 2010's with a Galician Soup which he describes as being 'stonkingly nutritious.'
Even if you cannot find a way to import this book, you still might be inspired to pick up Orland Gough's habit of keeping a recipe notebook over the decades. Like Mr. Gough, you can record your favorite recipes, with adjustments and notes from a particular evening scribbled in the margins. And hopefully you will also match his enthusiasm and abandon by marking your efforts with the spills and dribbles of whatever happens to be on your tasting spoon.
Orlando Gough has written additional kitchen-focused essays on the Toast website's Toast Travels section. It's worth it to bop over there to see if you're as smitten by his style and palate as I am.
• Orlando Gough's Recipe Journal, £11.95, from Toast
• More information on Orlando Gough and the Recipe Journal
• Orlando Gough on Toast Travels