I started a cookbook club!
One of the things I’ve noticed since moving to London is that there is a whole world of British food writers, chefs and culinary experts that I never knew about before. So, there are all these great food experts to learn about, and all of these gorgeous cookbooks to go with them. What’s a gal to do? Enter the cookbook club.
A cookbook club functions similarly to a book club, except that instead of selecting a novel to read and discuss, our group picks a cookbook to review. Before each meeting, everyone selects a recipe (or two or three) to make and brings their dish to the meeting. At first, I envisioned this to be a sit-down affair, with each of us passing around our creations and sharing notes about the preparation, flavor, presentation, etc.
For our first meeting, I selected The Really Quite Good British Cookbook, a compendium of both classic and modern British recipes from celebrated British food writers, chefs, and other culinary experts. In total, we cooked 11 recipes from the cookbook (including one “remote” participant from the Netherlands and one pregnant absentee participant who dropped off her dishes ahead of time before jetting off to a prenatal class). Our dishes were:
- Nettles on Toast with Pollack, Wild Garlic & Poached Egg
- Walnut Bagna Cauda
- Goats Cheese Bruschetta with Beetroot Relish
- Burrata with Lentils & Basil Oil
- Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb with Cockles or Clams
- Pork Pibil
- Rotolo di Spinaci al Burro e Formaggio
- Balsamic Roasted Red Onion Tarte Tatin with Tarragon
- Cherry Clafoutis
- Chocolate Guinness Cake
- Figs Roasted with Grappa & Amaretto Gelato
As it turns out, we didn’t need to be formal in our review. Participants brought kids, spouses and friends, and we all (yes, even the little ones) participated in the tasting and commentary. We tasted and ate, and ate some more, all standing around chatting about our various experiences making our recipes. Everyone did a fantastic job with their dishes, and we all marveled at everyone’s choice of recipe. Many of us remarked that others selected recipes that we wouldn’t have selected ourselves, and those ended up being our personal favorites. Highlights were the spicy zest of the pork pibil, the decadent, yet not overly sweet chocolate Guinness cake, the creamy ricotta centers in the rotolo pasta, the crunch of the beets in the goat cheese bruschetta … the list goes on and on. Our remote participant even sent in a summary about her experience making the roasted figs and grappa gelato, which you can view here.
The Cookbook Club turned out to be one of the most fun potlucks I’ve ever hosted. We got to sample a handful of recipes from the same cookbook in one day, and I’m motivated now to try other recipes in the cookbook that I might normally have just glanced over. I think there’s value in owning cookbooks over just using recipes found on the internet (yes, I realize this somewhat undermines the purpose of my own blog, considering I produce recipes over the internet). A good cookbook is a curated presentation of dishes that go together in some form or another. They’re not just reference manuals. Still, too often I buy a cookbook, make like, three recipes from it, and then move on. I’m so glad that the Cookbook Club has given me the opportunity to explore a collection of recipes more in depth.
Our next cookbook club meeting will be held at the end of June, and I invite you to participate remotely! We’re reviewing Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour. You can join our Facebook discussion group here to post reviews and share your experience!