Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club, which this month focused on Felicity Cloak’s The A to Z of Eating
“Super wow.” That was the opinion of one of the Cookbook Club members as overheard at our recent event for Felicity Cloake’s The A to Z of Eating. If I’m starting off with that, you’ll get the general idea that this was an evening of truly lovely food being shared and talked about.
I know from conversations at previous events that lots of us (very definitely ‘us’—I often do this too) rely on Felicity’s ‘How to cook the perfect...’ Guardian series when looking to make a recipe classic. That somehow made it all the more interesting to hear how members felt this book retained the feeling of it being very much that same cook and writer. A few said that it feels like Felicity is really talking to the reader—and those who heard her speak as part of the recent cookbook edition of Borough Talks will know how insightful and fun an experience that can be.
‘Fun’ is definitely one of the words I would use to sum up this cookbook. I love that Felicity feels like she’s encouraging cooks to let go of strict ideas, to play around a bit with ingredients and cooking styles. That was really why we chose this book for the Cookbook Club to start with.
Here are just some of the dishes members had at the event—a menu showing how apposite the book’s subtitle ‘A flavour map for the adventurous cook’ is:
—Southern cheese on toast. A beautiful recipe for using the different tomato varieties, colours and flavours that are around on Market’s stalls at the moment.
—Aloo tikki scotch eggs. The deep-frying debut for the cook who brought these, and a total triumph. Lovely mix of subtle spicing to the pea and potato mix that encases the egg.
—Pork rillettes with rhubarb chutney. Or, in this case, with pineapple chutney instead. The member who brought this thereby really proving her adventurous cook credentials. It worked quite brilliantly.
—Courgette fritters with bagna cauda hollandaise. A gorgeous whack of anchovy-led umami with the hollandaise.
—Chard gratin with gruyere crumb. Comforting creaminess, crunchy crumb, delicious.
—Confit garlic, thyme and parmesan tart. The dish that quite a few members wanted to make to bring along, and having tried it I suspect even more want to give it a go now.
—Venison and port casserole with stilton dumplings. When the weather takes a chilly turn again (many, many months down the line of course) I’ll be looking forward to making this.
—Green herb cauliflower ‘tabbouleh’. So simple to whizz up cauliflower into a couscous-like texture and then mix with lots of different herbs. A lovely burst of fresh flavour.
—Triple chocolate malt cake. Got the biggest ‘oooh’ of the night when revealed. Fabulously rich.
—Pistachio and pink grapefruit cake. Deeply flavoured, moist and light, all at the same time.
—Pissaladiere. One of the recipes I picked out to make as my contribution to our sharing table was Felicity’s recipe for fennel seed dough, piled up for baking with slow-cooked onion, anchovy and olives. It is certainly set to become a staple of my repertoire.
The last word on it all goes to another Cookbook Club member who attended this and who has been to a fair few events across our first year: “I think that was my favourite book so far.”
27th June: Kitchen Diaries: Volumes I to III by Nigel Slater
18th July: Fruit Book and Vegetable Book by Jane Grigson