I love this cookbook. It’s the cookbook that got me making biscuits, and the cookbook that first convinced me that making my own stock wasn’t that much of a hassle and was worth the time it took. Either this cookbook or Tessa Kiros’s previous work, Falling Cloudberries, was the book that first taught me to make bread, and the book that made me reconsider my position on beetroot. Recipes for Life, indeed. I owe Tessa Kiros a debt.
But this cookbook is even cooler than that makes it sound, at least for someone like me, because the entire cookbook is divided into chapters based on colour!
And I am now totally unable to resist colouring this post accordingly…
Red has tomato risotto, cranberry and choc-chip cookies, tomato lasagne, tomato pizza, jam shortbread… and those are just the recipes I’ve made that I can remember without opening the book.
Orange has a wonderful pumpkin soup recipe, as well as a beautiful, healthy wholemeal apricot tart, a pizza with a pumpkin base, and an orange and olive oil cake (I’ve made all of these too). I’ve made fewer of the yellow recipes, which are to my taste but not to Andrew’s, but I can vouch for her lemon sandwiches with raspberries and icecream, and her playdough recipe definitely works! I want to try her chicken cooked with milk and cheese and her sautéed potatoes with egg, and I’ve certainly been inspired by her plate of yellow desserts to make dessert platters in a variety of colours.
Pink has wonderfully lurid beetroot gnocchi and Greek yoghurt with pomegranates, honey and cinnamon. Green has the spinach and ricotta pancake canneloni which are my favourite make-ahead dinner party dish, as well as spaghetti with zucchini, mint and feta, a lamb and green bean casserole which is far more than the sum of its parts, and a green bean soufflé loaf. Gold has olive oil focaccia and half moon rolls, White has the most amazing, light, ricotta gnocchi, and Brown has chocolate bread, lentils with sausages, and an excellent chocolate cake. There are chapters for monochrome (containing chicken stock, zucchini, banana and apple breads), and even one for stripes, with chocolate and vanilla biscuits, pomegranate and apple jellies, and little spinach and carrot pots. (I thought about colour-coding the stripes, but that way lies madness…)
The American subtitle for this book is A Colorful Cookbook. I usually get irritated when titles are changed in different countries, but I think that one was a good call.
With the exception of the two recipes I mentioned from Yellow, I’ve cooked every single one of the recipes above, and several more that I haven’t mentioned. They were all delicious… and there are a lot more which look just as inviting, if not more so.
The recipes in this book are quite wide-ranging, but mostly, they are the things that Tessa Kiros cooks for her family, so there are lots of recipes that feel very homely and comforting to me. The majority are quite quick and easy to make, though some, like the canneloni, are fairly time-consuming to put together. I just love this woman’s palate, which I think must be a fair bit like mine – there may be things in here that Andrew wouldn’t touch, but I’d be willing to eat just about every recipe in there. Actually, those jam shortbreads are calling me now – I haven’t made them for ages, and they are *good*.
As you might expect from a book of recipes cooked in the home and for family, the recipes are, on the whole, relatively cheap to make. Kiros doesn’t use expensive cuts of meat, and tends to start with fresh fruit and vegetables rather than harder-to-find and more expensive prepared ingredients (I’ve never had to go further than the supermarket to find ingredients for a recipe in this book – which is not something I can say for other cookbooks in my collection). Kiros also suggests substitutes and things to do with leftovers (including what to do with all those vegetables you’ve just boiled to death to make a stock – make some croquettes, or stir them through rice). Her recipes are well-explained and, above all, they work. You don’t have to be a particularly experienced cook to find this book useful – but even if you are, there is plenty to enjoy here. I can’t re-iterate enough what a useful, colourful, inspiring book this is.
(Actually, at one point my book club was selling copies of this really cheaply, and I bought about eight copies and gave them to everyone I knew. Because everyone needs this cookbook! How could they not? It has beetroot gnocchi in it! Magenta pasta can only be a good thing!)
This is definitely a cookbook for omnivores, but there is a fair number of vegetarian recipes in here, too. Just for fun, I counted my way through the recipes in the Red chapter, and found that 14 out of 22 savoury recipes were vegetarian (all 12 of the sweet recipes were, of course), and 8 were either vegan or could be made so by sautéeing in olive oil rather than butter. Several more recipes had small amounts of tuna or prosciutto, and could easily be made vegetarian. My feeling is that this reflects the proportions in the book as a whole – I might well buy this if I were vegetarian (especially if I liked eggs, which seem to be a favourite protein – and did I mention the spinach and ricotta pancake canneloni? Because it’s almost worth buying this book just for that one recipe.), but would probably not find it particularly useful as a vegan except for some flavour combinations in the sweets. If you are gluten intolerant, I’d say this book is neither particularly good or particularly bad – it isn’t full of brilliant, innovative ways to avoid wheat, but given access to good gluten-free pasta and flour, you could make a lot of delicious food from this.
You know, I’m actually really glad I was looking for a book to review today. Much as I love this book, I haven’t really gone reading through it in detail for some time. Writing this has reminded me of all the gorgeous things I could cook that I haven’t tried yet. So much lovely food! I’m almost sad to remember that I’m going out to dinner tonight…