Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries II has not yet been published in the US, but I'm sharing this review anyway because I know I'm not the only non-UK citizen who's a big fan of Mr. Slater and his gorgeous but quite useful cookbooks. You can find copies of the UK edition here and there, and it will be published in the US this fall. But if you're like me and can't wait that long, read on for a peek into this beautiful, inspiring volume.
Many people in the US were introduced to the British cook and writer Nigel Slater with the first volume of The Kitchen Diaries back in 2006. Volume II is a similar concept: a mix of kitchen prose and musings, recipes and suggestions, walks in the garden and strolls to the shops, and illustrated with beautiful photographs by Jonathan Lovekin. Arranged chronologically, The Kitchen Diaries II begins on January 1 with A Humble Loaf and a Soup of Roots about which Mr. Slater says:
This January 1st is no different from all the others, in that I will make soup and a loaf in what is now an annual ritual. Kneading is a good way to start the year. Tactile, peaceful, creative, there is something grounding about baking a loaf on New year's Day. We have baked bread since the Stone Age.
This book will truly travel from your bedside table to the kitchen and back again. As with all of Mr. Slater's cookbooks, the emphasis is on the seasons and the garden but not exclusively so. He's not adverse to opening a tin of tomatoes in February, for instance. You will also find a wide variety of flavors here, from comforting, squidgy British puddings to clear-brothed Asian soups to a dark, sticky chutney made from figs.
• Who wrote it: Nigel Slater, with photographs by Jonathan Lovekin
• Who published it: Fourth Estate, London
• Recipes and projects for right now: Here are a few of the things Nigel cooked in February: Seville Orange Marmalade; A Risotto of Smoked Cod and Spinach; A Little Brown Stew of Mushrooms and Spelt; Braised Neck of Lamb with Apricots and Cinnamon; Mograbia (aka giant couscous); Smoked Haddock with Potatoes and Bacon; Prune Pudding with Caramel Sauce
• Recommended? Absolutely. If you pick up the British edition, be prepared to use your kitchen scale (not a bad thing) and learn a few new terms for certain kitchen items and vegetables.
• Other highlights: As mentioned, the book is arranged by month, with over 250 recipes and 200 photographs, a total of 532 pages with an index. It is bound in cream-colored linen with a pretty gold silk ribbon for marking your place.
• Who would enjoy this book? Nigel Slater's fans will not be disappointed, of course. This book will especially appeal to those who read their cookbooks in bed (although perhaps not the bath due to the fact that it is heavy and needs propping up or your wrists will wilt.) Many will find it to be a Sunday afternoon kind of cookbook, for when you need to push the Sunday blues away by rolling up your selves and digging into a good kitchen project that results in a lovely meal with friends, family, and good cheer restored.
• Availbility: Although not officially released in the US, it is possible to find this book here. Look for it at well-stocked cookbook shops such as Omnivore in San Francisco or online from Amazon, $36.00. Be sure to click on the Look Inside! feature for a peek at the first few pages. In September of this year, 10 Speed Press will release a US edition titled Notes from the Larder, $40.00.
&rarr: A fun link! Martha Muffett has created a blog called Letters to Nigel Slater in which she works her way through The Kitchen Diaries, Vol I and has just started on Vol II.
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(Images: Dana Velden )