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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Leon Book 2 – Naturally Fast Food




A soon as I received this book I knew I was going to like it. I already have the first Leon cookbook which I have found to be a total inspiration from start to finish.
There are a lot of cookbooks around – and I think I own most of them – so for a book to attract my attention it has to be different. Of course recipe content is all important, but I like it to be more than just a set of instructions, it needs to engage me in some way. Leafing through a cookery book, extends beyond merely looking for something to cook for tommorrow's dinner, I will often curl up on the sofa and browse its pages purely for pleasure. A cookbook is a good companion in times of solitude.

Like the first, the second Leon book has such an endearing design, almost like a family album or scrapbook, it draws one right into the authors' life, both in and out of the kitchen. Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent want us to use their book, as they say on the welcome page, "This is not a book for the coffee table. It is a book we would like to be used, made messy, torn a little and stuck together with unidentified jammy bits." Needless to say, I will be using the book but I think I'll try to avoid getting it sticky!

The book has been designed as if stuck in a time warp, actually I like its retro qualities. Many of the graphics hark back to the 70s and 80s and I love the visual references to fruit stickers and vegetable crate labels. There's even a full page picture of a framed collection of old Brook Bond tea cards further building on the nostalgic theme.
Some of the food photography, however, I have reservations about, it does look like some of those wierdly coloured plates from old edtions of Good Housekeeping, but perhaps that's the point. What I do like, though, is the humour, I just had to giggle at the picture of the soup on page 72, when I noticed, that perched on the edge of the bowl, was a tiny plastic figure of a man with his fishing rod dangling into the contents. Nice touch.

Divided into two distinct sections, the first half of the book covers Fast Food where none of the recipes take more than 20 minutes to prepare, Nothing is too involved and all the listed ingredients are obtainable from everyday shops. Breakfasts are given a fresh approach, soups are made simple and barbecuing a breeze. There are some great ideas for children's foods too.

The second half focusses on Slow Food. Again preparation is straightforward and the only lengthy part of the process is the cooking, but the methods of stewing or pot roasting allow one to get on with something else or just relax while the magic takes place automatically in the oven.

When selecting the recipes to try, the weather had turned cold, the leaves brown and there was a distinct nip of autumn in the air, this made me naturally gravitate to the Slow section, as I was in need of some cosy sustenance.

Leon Chilli Con Carne

I made the Leon Chilli Con Carne (p.219) as I was looking for something comforting, unfussy, yet full of flavour. I've made and eaten various versions of chilli con carne over time, so why not try another one?  This was so easy to make, I didn't even have to do much chopping, as the carrots, celery and onion all go into the food processor.
The whole thing just sits very gently bubbling on the stove for two hours, with a little stirring now and again to make sure it doesn't stick.
The beef and kidney beans become soft and everything melts away into a rich and spicy tomato sauce which has just the right amount of chilli kick to leave your lips tingling, but not launch your head into space.

Apple's Breathtakingly Quick Chocolate Pots

For some self-indulgence I quickly whipped together the Chocolate Pots (p.199) which were so effortless I barely noticed I'd made them! Just two hours in the fridge is enough to set them into a rich and velvety texture that renders one silent whilst eating, just the clinking of spoon against cup can be heard as every last bit is scraped up.

I really love this book, the whole approach is fun and inspirational and the recipes can be made by anyone to produce a real crowd pleaser.

Leon by Henry Dimbleby & John Vincent is publish by Conran Octopus
Hardback RRP £20
Order yours now

Food photos: ©childsdesign 2010
Book kindly supplied by Conran Octopus

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