Articles By Pascale Beale


As many of you know I am passionate about cookbooks. I have been collecting them for more than forty years, and yes, lugged many of them across the pond when I moved to California. I would like to share some of these tasty tomes with you.

The Cookbook Review is now part of every newsletter which features one or two newly released books and delves into some of the favorites on my shelves. These are books reviewed in 2022. 

December 2022
Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors
 by Diana Henry
Simply by Sabrina Ghayour
Spice / a cook's companion by Mark Diacono

October-November 2022

Breadsong: How Baking Changed Our Lives
by Kitty Tait, Al Tait 
Lulu's Provencal Table: The exuberant food and wine from the Domaine Tempier vineyard by Richard Olney
Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Shelf Love
by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi

From the December 2022 Newsletter
This month the books I have chosen all pack a flavorful punch, layered textures and full of spices. They are a feast for the eyes and will delight your taste buds.

Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors by Diana Henry
Published in 2016 by Mitchell Beazley

Diana Henry is one of the UK’s best-loved food writers, known for her weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph and her broadcasts on BBC Radio. She is the author of 12 spectacular award-winning cookbooks, each more delicious than the next. I am a huge fan of her work, having cooked my way through many of her books. She has a deft hand when it comes to combining flavors and writes with style, a sense of humor and aplomb. 

One of my favorite books of hers is Simple. The recipes are just that, yet marvelously nuanced as well. Think of her style as Ottolenghi meets the ethic of Alice Waters. It's Mediterranean cuisine with her flare. As the New York Times wrote in one of their reviews: It's the kind of prose that makes you want to run immediately into the kitchen to have your way with some figs. And when you get there, you discover that none of her recipes are fussy, and all of them work. To be accessible, reliable and still thrilling is a very rare achievement indeed.

She excels at turning the ordinary into something very special, such a roast chicken transformed with oranges and an olive gremolata, eggplants packed with flavor as they're roasted with cumin, chickpeas, walnuts and dates, or sweet potatoes transformed with a yogurt and cilantro chili sauce. They are all mouthwatering, easy to make, uncomplicated and usually not too time consuming. Simple is such a treat and judging by the number of food-splattered bits of paper wedged between the pages, one I return to time and again. Do you have a favorite Diana Henry book?
Simply by Sabrina Ghayour
Published in 2020 by Mitchell Beazley

British-Iranian Chef and food writer Sabrina Ghayour is a multi-award winning, best-selling author of the very popular Persiana, who made her name hosting the hugely popular ‘Sabrina’s Kitchen’ supper club in London, specializing in Persian and Middle Eastern flavors. Her eye-catching books are the product of all those fragrant meals.

Simply, very much in keeping with the premise of Diana Henry's book Simple, in transforming sometimes complex dishes into easy to make flavor bombs. The book is organized into five sections, including one called Traditions with a Twist, which opens with her spin on Maast-o-esfenaj (spinach with yogurt and walnuts). It's completely luscious. I'm happy as a clam with a bowl of this and some warm flatbread, the Green Hummus (made with chickpeas, parsley, cilantro and tarragon) and her Fennel salad with spinach, cashew and coriander seed dressing, the three dishes making up an oh so satisfying mezze plate. There's a plethora of desserts I want to dig into, and highly recommend the stuffed dates and the pistachio cake. 

If you want to cook Middle Eastern food but have been afraid to try, this book is a delicious way to dig into this cuisine with uncomplicated, fragrant recipes that are easy to follow and reliable. Ms. Ghayour also has a wonderful Instagram feed where she shares her colorful culinary journey with the huge fanbase. 

Spice / a cook's companion by Mark Diacono
Published ‏by Quadrille Books in 2022

Mark Diacono new book just came out. It is my most recent cookbook purchase. He runs Otter Farm, the UK's only climate change farm. As well as planting and maintaining the farm's vineyards, forest garden and vegetable patch, he also leads the Garden Team at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage.  He's a food writer and contributor to some of the UK's major publications including The Guardian.

Spice, the follow up to his beautiful book Herb: A Cook's Companion, is THE book to turn to when you open your spice cabinet/drawer, find Achiote, Anardana, Kokum, or Wattleseed, items you purchased because they looked so interesting but then never used. It's also the book to delve into when you want fragrant recipes that explore the use of Allspice, Anise Seed, Cardamom (black and green), Fenugreek and Verbena Beans to name a few.

But honestly, one the best things about this book is Mark Diacono's writing. Who can resist sentences like this? "This is my default shortbread recipe - it's shorter than my old man's patience - and while the dough may pretend it doesn't want to come together, have faith. It is promiscuously adaptable to other spices, but wattleseed just might take the biscuit. Its chocolate-hazelnut-coffee flavour is so very good here, especially if you have it with coffee." Now, as I don't have wattleseed in my spice cupboard, I HAVE to get some and make this shortbread straight away! There's also a recipe for an apple crumble, topped with Krupnik (Polish spiced honey vodka) laced mincemeat (no, mincemeat does NOT have meat in it - it is basically boozy dried fruit used to make Christmas pudding and mince pies amongst other things). I HAVE to make this as well, and the Paradise Cauliflower Soup, the Caraway Dressing, the Juniper Brined Roast Chicken and so many more. 

As many of you know I cook with and write about A LOT of herbs. After reading this beautifully illustrated book and salivating over the recipes I have a feeling that many more spices will be featured in my food too.

From the October-November 2022 Newsletter
Breadsong: How Baking Changed Our Lives
by Kitty Tait, Al Tait 
Released in 2022 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

As you watch videos of Kitty Tait making bread and talking about baking, her sunny personality literally beams at you. Her love of all baked goods is contagious. I feel myself reaching for a mixing bowl after I watch one of jaunty romps through her kitchen on Instagram. It wasn't always this way though. In the space of a few short months Kitty went from happy bouncy fourteen-year-old, to being caught in the maws of a frightening depression that left her unable to leave the house. Breadsong is the story of what happened next. Told, alternately between Kitty and her father Al, they recount their journey from desperation to discovery to jubilation, all through the power of baking bread. Their story is moving, poignant and ultimately delicious. Watching her father make a loaf of bread transformed her life. He asked her if she would like to try baking too. She did. A metamorphosis followed. The more she baked, the better she felt. She started giving her neighbors bread. They asked for more. She started selling her bread and sold out every time. They crowdsourced the funds to expand, then opened a bakery. Reading this book makes me want to go to Watlington in Oxfordshire so I can taste her bakes in person. Until I make it back to England, I will happily bake many of the sweet and savory treats in their book such as Za'atar, Feta and Honey Buns or Stem Gingersnaps.  The instructions are clear. The photos quirky and delightful. I can attest to the transformative qualities bread baking imparts and am always on the lookout for a book that touches on this. Breadsong does just that. 

Lulu's Provencal Table: The exuberant food and wine from the Domaine Tempier vineyard by Richard Olney
Originally Published in 1994 by Harper Collins 
Republished in a slightly different format by Grub Street Cookery in 2018.

I grew up with one foot planted in Provence. The color of the sea and the sweet earthy aroma of the sun warmed vineyards are baked into my psyche. To find a cookbook that captures the essence of all that is Provence is like stepping into a scene from a book by Marcel Pagnol or Jean Giono, filled with tang of aioli, the richness of bouillabaisse, the sweetness of merveilles, complete with the soundtrack of cicadas crick cricking in the background. Richard Olney has managed to capture the 'je ne sais quoi' of this region's cuisine in Lulu's Provencal Table. Lulu is Lucie Peyraud whose family owns Domaine Tempier, a vineyard just outside Bandol. Her cooking style is instinctive, a little dash of this, a handful of that, and fluctuates with what's at hand, and what's in season, which can be difficult to translate into a precise recipe. Olney managed this task with aplomb, combining clarity and precision in his text, yet maintain the spontaneous spirit of her food and capturing her words of wisdom and practical kitchen tips. The grand classics of Provencal cuisine are here, from anchoiade, pissaladière and bagna cauda, to bourride, gigot à la ficelle and ratatouille. It's a delight to read and a feast to eat!

Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Shelf Love by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi
Published ‏by Clarkson Potter in 2021

The subtitle to this book is 'recipes to unlock the secrets of your pantry, fridge and freezer.' It's the book you want to turn to when you find a jar of harissa, a bag of those special beans you couldn't resist, or a bottle of pomegranate molasses all sitting somewhat underused in the back of your cupboard. It is filled with suggestions on how to substitute ingredients and make dishes your own.

The book is the product of the talented team at Ottolenghi's Test Kitchen who found themselves separated during the pandemic. Through zoom meetings and social media, they shared what they were cooking with what they had on hand. The result is this very practical and tasty book. I've added the smoky marinated feta and almond and orange brittle to my pantry staples thanks to the OTK crew. The book's organization takes a different approach too. From 'your veg box' (exploring the many ways you can use a multitude of vegetables) to 'fridge raid' aka comfort food, the book encourages its readers to get out of the rut of cooking things the same way over and over again, e.g., Grilled confit parsnips with herbs and vinegar instead of plain roasted parsnips. It is, as one would expect from an Ottolenghi book, packed with flavors and masses of herbs, and does assume that we have pretty well stocked pantries filled with lots of spices, jars of tahini (yes), tamarind paste and asafoetida (perhaps not). Yes, some of the recipes have long ingredient lists, but part of the charm in the recipes is that they are the framework upon which you can create your own dish. There's a Brussels sprout and parmesan salad with lemon dressing that's terrific. I've made a few different versions which I'll serve at Thanksgiving this year. Delish!

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