I could start a library with my cookery book collection and a quick look on the Amazon bestsellers list shows that 6 of the top 20 best selling books over Christmas were cookery books, so I’m not the only one with shelves stuffed with a smiling Jamie, Nigella, Nigel and Hugh.
Despite this, my favourite present this Christmas was a cookery book. Milk, The Surprising Story of Milk through the Ages, by Anne Mendelson is half history book/half recipes and a fascinating (although admittedly esoteric and definitely one-up-from-the-masses) read.
As well as a well written historical account, Mendelson has us doing ‘white magic’ experiments in part one, which will have you scurrying out to Waitrose looking for unpasturised, unhomogenised milk to turn into yogurt, buttermilk and simple cheese (be warned, this is addictive and hugely fun, particularly with teenage helpers who think they are geniuses for making something similar to Philadelphia Cream Cheese but tastier).
She also covers the organic/conventional/pasturised/raw debate with intelligence and admirable wit and has us thinking hard about the current state of the super-processed dairy industry that now supplies us with our sophisticated (but not necessarily better for us) selection of skimmed/semi-skimmed/whole/Jersey/breakfast/vitamin enhanced and even non-milk milk now available.
And as well as clarifying what the difference is between Crème Fraiche and sour cream, it tells you how to make clotted cream, the best vanilla ice cream, perfect béchamel, mascarpone, scalloped potatoes, yoghurt, simple cheeses and lots of other stuff. There’s also a great clam chowder recipe.
This is not your average cookery book, nor is it for light weights; it’s for passionate super-cooks who rate food more than just fuel and town dwellers who’ve always dreamt of keeping cows. You know who you are….