Like many of you might know, I like a good rant, especially if the aforementioned happens to make a good point.
As a food writer and incidental cookbook reviewer, I happen to read a lot of cookbooks, not because I have to but because I love to.
In recent years, everyone happens to have published a cookbook no matter how qualified for the job they are.
Contrary to popular belief, writing a recipe (a good recipe that is) can be quite laborious. Not to mention the countless tests and adjustments cooks have to make for the recipe to a) work and b) result in a great-tasting dish.
Given the large number of unqualified people with published cookbooks there is, it’s not surprising to see the market completely saturated. If you are an amateur cook, or a beginner trying to find that one book that will arm you with the skills you need to be able to properly cook for yourself, I can’t begin to imagine how confusing and off-putting finding the right cookbooks can be.
You see, when I stumble upon a cookbook filled with poorly written recipes that do not work, I can’t help but feel angry at the group of people who put financial gain over usefulness. Just because someone’s fame can sell hundreds of thousands of cookbooks doesn’t mean it should be published. That being said, I have made my peace with this, and hopefully, I’ll be able to help you navigate the world of cookbooks by sharing with you the best ones out there, the ones worth your time and money.
Want me to check out a cookbook for you and tell you if it’s a good egg? Send me your requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s hidden gem is a good one. If you are looking for a well-informed cookbook with character, filled with one of a kind recipes, Elly Curshen’s second book “Elly Pear’s Let’s Eat” is for you.
The main reason why I love Elly’s second book is the format. It begins by teaching you some great base recipes (that you can make in advance and in bulk) which can then be transformed into a bunch of different dishes. Not only this is great for those who like to get their meals organised beforehand but it’s both time and cost effective.
The second reason why I love the book is the menus featured in the second half. From “Dinner for four when you want to show off a bit but not stress” to “Lunch for six when sandwiches just won’t do”, these menus are very well put together and very inventive.
Today I’m trying and testing the “Roasted Butternut Squash used As a Pasta Sauce with Ricotta”, because my repertoire of pasta sauces is distressingly small.
🕑 45 minutes
- serves 4
- 1 butternut squash (cut into 2cm dice)
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- sea salt and black pepper
- 500g penne / fusilli
- 250g ricotta
- 1 garlic clove
- 25g basil
- 20g rocket
- Parmesan Cheese (to serve)
– Begin by preheating your oven to 200° / 180° Fan / 400°F / Gas mark 6.
– Peel and cut the butternut squash and place it in a baking tray. Add the olive oil (or your choice of oil) and chilli flakes, followed by salt and pepper.
– Mix everything together with your hands until the squash is evenly coated. Put the tray in the oven and roast for 35 minutes.
– Once cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool while you bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil.
– Add the butternut squash, ricotta, basil and garlic to a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth sauce. You may need to add a couple of teaspoons of water to achieve the right consistency. Make sure you try as you modify it, it may need a pinch more of salt.
– When the water in the pan comes to a boil, salt it generously, I usually use rock salt and add a handful. Then add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta and use the same saucepan to heat up the butternut squash sauce.
You may need to add a little bit of water to thin it out. The book (and many cooks and chefs around the world) recommend to add a bit of pasta water to the sauce to thin it out but I always find that this makes sauces stodgy given the amount of starch in the water. As always, this comes down to personal preference, so try it and see how you like it!
– Toss the pasta and the sauce together and serve. Make sure all the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce. Serve it and top with a handful of rocket, some basil leaves and shavings of Parmesan. Perhaps a drizzle of olive oil too!
“Elly Pear’s Let’s Eat” does a great job at being relatable and talking directly to the reader in a more casual, down-to-earth way. This not only makes the book fun to read but you really get the point. Life’s busy, and we all rather spend more time enjoying it and less time worrying about our meals.
Elly’s approach to bulk cooking doesn’t compromise on either flavours or variety of dishes, which is why her second book “Let’s Eat” should be on our shelf asap.
Other Recipes We Loved
Marinated Peppers in a Frittata with Ricotta and Spinach
10-minute Flatbreads Smeared with Roasted Garlic Butter and Rosemary
Vanilla Ice cream, Candied Nuts and Maple Syrup
✚ Elly Pear’s Let’s Eat by Elly Curshen. Simple, delicious food for everyone, every day.