Beautiful, dreamy, elegant, exquisite, summery – altogether aesthetically pleasing. Fitting descriptions of Skye Gyngell’s latest book, How I Cook.
Where her previous two books have focussed on the food from her kitchen at Petersham Nurseries Cafe in Richmond, this book, as the title suggests, is all about the food she wants to cook and eat at home; on her own, with her family or with friends. In tune with this are the ingredients for the recipes, which many home cooks will already have in the cupboard or could easily get hold of. She doesn’t stray, however, from the stress she has always placed on eating with the seasons.
Simplicity is the key to the recipes in How I Cook. Skye wants us to be able to enjoy stress-free cooking without comprising on the food, which should both look and taste stunning; whether feeding the troops in the evening, having a relaxed family meal at the weekend or entertaining.
The book has quite a unique structure. It is broken down into sections such as breakfast, Sunday lunch, midweek dinners, late-night suppers and celebration food and within each section there are several themed menu suggestions – Mediterranean flavours, retro dinner, prepare ahead, elegant and easy, midweek special or birthday celebration. The menu suggestions are just that – suggestions. Skye is clear to state that there are no hard and fast rules – the menus are dishes which she feels complement each other and will no doubt help a less confident cook understand how to pull together a balanced meal (in terms of flavours, accompaniments and courses).
Throughout the book there are helpful cookery tips, tricks, skills and advice. The introductions to the recipes provide an interesting backdrop to the menus; Skye shares a childhood memory, a family story or some food history which are all great insights into her life, work and food philosophies.
The book has an awful lot going for it and is quite simply a joy to read. I like a book that gets me drooling, that sends my brain into overdrive conjuring up my next week of meals, or simply expands my culinary horizons. It doesn’t do these things for me, but it is most definitely heart-warming.