Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This isn't intended to become a blog about cookery books, but I have been reading some luscious ones lately.
Diana Henry's book, 'Roast Figs, Sugar Snow', does not seem to be widely available in the UK - I've only seen her earlier publications in bookshops and even Amazon does not sell it directly.
Which is a shame, because this is a truly wonderful book. It's a very personal collection of cold-weather food, gathered by the author during trips to Vermont, Russia, and Scandinavia. The recipes are grouped according to themes like "The Colour Purple" (figs and plums) or "Winter On Your Tongue" (sour cream and herbs), with additional chapters on pumpkin and beans.
I've borrowed it from the library and am now obsessing about a trip to Scandinavia - who cares where, as long as they have dumplings and plum vodka. (We very much enjoyed eating in Prague, where dumplings figure prominently on the menus and cocktail bars are staffed with waiters who will make you specials in a jiffy. (Sigh.))
What I particularly love about the book is the introductions to each chapter, which are a rich source of information about the various countries' cuisines. Scandinavian food makes up most of the book. This cuisine isn't big on vegetarianism, I have to say. But what it does do well is winter food. The very thought of steamed potatoes smothered in sour cream and dill... or peppers stewed in Hungarian paprika... cheese pies with feta and mozzarella... or shortbread squares topped with glossy plums... is making me extremely hungry.
As usual, I am on a diet, and as usual, I am reading books about cream and baking. But I am turning down pages for weekend experiments, and will definitely note my adaptations here. Many of the meat dishes could well be adapted for vegetarian cooking. I am going to start with Lecso - a cream-free dish using Hungarian paprika, which must be one of my favourite spices. And I'll keep you posted - if you haven't already bought the book in the meantime.