GORGEOUS BOOKS AS GORGEOUS CHRISTMAS GIFTS…

It’s that time of year again where we see lots of books and new releases up for sale and you are spoilt for choice as to which one to buy for yourself or as a gift. Well, I thought I would put my pennies worth in and have three of my favourite not entirely cooking books but books about cooking, the history of the biscuit and stuff every cook should know about.

My first choice is The Biscuit; The History of a Very British Indulgence by Lizzie Collingham£12.99

Did you know that British people eat more biscuits than any other nation; they are as embedded in our culture as fish and chips or the Sunday roast. But biscuits are not only tasty treats to go with a cup of tea, the sustenance they afford is often emotional, evoking nostalgic memories of childhood.

Lizzie Collingham begins in Roman times when biscuits – literally, ‘twice-baked’ bread – became the staple of the poor; she takes us to the Middle East, where the addition of sugar to the dough created the art of confectionery. Yet it was in Britain that bakers experimented to create the huge variety of biscuits which populate our world today. And when the Industrial Revolution led to their mass production, biscuits became integral to the British diet.

We follow the humble biscuit’s transformation from durable staple for sailors, explorers and colonists to sweet luxury for the middling classes to comfort food for an entire nation. Like an assorted tin of biscuits, this charming and beautifully illustrated book has something to offer for everyone, combining recipes for hardtack and macaroons, Shrewsbury biscuits and Garibaldis, with entertaining and eye-opening vignettes of social history.

I love reading about life in times gone by and this book is full of fascinating social insights and delicious recipes. If you are someone who is fascinated by the history of food, then this book is definitely worth having. As a blog writer on all things Hygge it was interesting to read that The Dutch word “koek” means cake / biscuit / wafer and the diminutive is koekje, another word which I am sure will soon become popular.

This book is one for the coffee table to pick up and learn something else you didn’t know about tea and biscuits.

Stuff Every Cook Should Know by Joy Manning £7.99

Stuff Every Cook Should Know is as indispensable to cooks as a good sturdy knife and just as sharp. Compact enough to fit on the smallest shelf or countertop, this sous-chef-in-a-book tells how to make a meal plan, how to use common ingredient substitutions, how to throw a dinner party, how to organize your kitchen, and much more. It s a pocket-sized problem solver that makes a great gift for seasoned culinary artists, novice chefs, and anyone who loves to cook.

I’ve still got my first cookery book which I was given at school and love to read through it with my pencil notes fading by the day, but this gives you a hint at everything you might want to know about in your kitchen and full of helpful tips and reminders.

It really is a book about stuff every cook should know. While it won’t make one a master cook, it is definitely most helpful for someone starting out. A great little stocking filler for the novice student about to embark on their first cooking venture.

My final one for the time being is a bit different as it has stories as well recipes and one I plan to keep this one for my granddaughter.

Fairytale Baking Recipes And Stories, by Christin Gewekes £14.23

Once upon a time, many moons ago, there was a little girl who discovered her love for baking … Thus begins author Christin Geweke’s culinary journey through magical bakes that make you dream of fairytale forests and are guaranteed to be liked by the fussiest of cake eaters, just like the princess of the Princess and the Pea fame. Here are recipes and exquisite photographs of forest berry ice cream cake, mini gingerbread kuglofs, marzipan chocolate rolls, dreamy peach rose cups.

Like old family recipes, fairytales and stories are also handed down from one generation to the next. And delicious baking can delight the senses and bring back memories just like a good story, for both old and young alike. Lose yourself in fairytales to while away the time until your goodies are ready to take out of the oven and devour.

I love this book and the beautiful images inside it. I can’t wait for my granddaughter who is only one to be old enough to enjoy baking with me with this book. It’s definitely one for the coffee table and a real conversation starter. The recipes are clear and very easy to follow with a choice of some unusual ones (for me anyway), and it makes a nice change.

THE WI COUNTRY WOMAN’S YEAR 1960 BOOK REVIEW…

When my WI Country Woman’s Year 1960 by Shirley Paget book popped through my door I was so excited to open it and even more thrilled when I saw that the cover was a special retro cloth one.

I love anything WI (although not a member) and this book covers it all. From cider-making and hedgerow basketry to public speaking and committee-meeting protocol and of course, not forgetting the jam making.

If you can’t get inspired to have a go at smocking, upholstery repairs, bread making, lampshade, Christmas wreaths, wallpapering, corn dollies, Welsh quilting or crystallized flowers then I will eat my hat. It’s right up my street and I can’t wait to give one of the crafts a go.

Inside the book it says that a great deal has happened to change the lives of women living in the countryside since 1960 when this book was last published, and it is fascinating to note these changes. But we have since lost or forgotten so many rural skills and pleasures. Following the four seasons, here are dozens of different tasks and hobbies re-discovered in this WI Country Woman’s Year: Six decades on, modern readers may no longer wish to live like their countryside sisters of two generations ago, but they will be struck by the happy gusto with which the then-450,000 members of the WI went about enjoying their busy country lives throughout the year.

The WI Country Woman’s Year 1960 by Shirley Paget is available from Amazon and other good book stores at £15.99

THE BRITISH…

They say that being British is all about tolerance, decency, and the determination to talk about the weather on all occasions as well as a tendency , when a stranger stand on ones foot, to apologise. Martin Bell

FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT GRANDMA’S APRON..

The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material. But along with that,it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. When company came,those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.. And when the weather was cold Grandma wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden,it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the Autumn, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, to tell us it was time to come in for dinner. It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes. Grandma would also set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters now set theirs on the window sill to thaw. They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.