Saturdays with blank space are the ultimate. I like to cook up a lentil soup to huge proportions (two stock cubes? Let's go wild!) and eat one to three bowls of the stuff whilst catching up with all my reading. If the blank space is just half an hour, I turn to Discotheque Confusion, whose Weekend Lists seem to distill that Saturday feeling of there just being heaps of time to do anything, even when there are trains to catch and flats to clean. If there's a bit more time, I'll spend an hour or so lost in cookbooks and recipe sources. Here's the ones I've managed to amass in the past few weeks.
Mallah by Sarah Cotterell
Sarah is the force behind the Little Cooking Pot, a vegan supper club based Bodega 50 in Stoke Newington (an also 99 per cent cafe right under my nose for so long!). I went along with Tsouni from @yesitsallvegan on Thursday night for her Mexican dinner which was ridiculously good. By the end of the night I was a LCP convert, and couldn't leave without getting my hands on a copy of Mallah, a mix of a travel diary and cookbook that Sarah made after visiting India. The recipes are all just different and fancy enough to sound like the kind of thing you'd save for your best people. I also love all the extra notes around the recipes- how Sarah found travelling through India and staying with families, and the tiniest of details you only pick up when travelling alone- morning runs leading to discoveries a little off the track, or swimming out to somewhere unknown for dawn - it's full of all those extra pushes we give ourselves when there's no one else around to drag their feet- the whole book feels that way. I've wanted to cook more with plantain and banana with spices for so long, so the discovery of Sarah's banana masala recipe couldn't be more perfect.
The vegan feature from Jamie Magazine, January 2015
I am a sucker for magazines- not least the thrill of picking something up and realising it knows a whole lot more than you about everything you love. However, after the first flush of a train ride home with a brand new issue in my bag, I'm pretty bad at actually remembering to cook from any of them. I have a living room full of food magazines and good intentions to experiment, but I can't think of the last time I ever actually followed a recipe from them. So I've decided to begin with Jamie Magazine's January issue, which featured a handful of beautifully shot recipes that I think might all be key players in some summertime dinners coming up- the Vietnamese bun cha with sticky, spicy tofu was a sure-fire hit with Nina at dinner, and the super noodle ramen with kale and barbecue mushrooms sounds unreal. Pick up some old magazines and track down the recipes you promised you'd try.
Having said all of that, I'm about to totally contradict myself in the best of fashions to also introduce MOOD, a music and food magazine that waltzed into my life two weeks ago during a trip to Soho with my brother. Conceived in Brussels (boom!) but now based in New York, MOOD has some of the best photo essays I've seen in street food and cultural food discussions, and it actually deals with a whole lot more than just what people eat and listen to- it's just the sustenance is a kind of jumping-off point. The article on New York City's Ital Diet followers is worth the cost of the mag alone. Definitely one to save for a coach or train journey- there's lots of substance as well as gorgeous imagery.
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
Up until a few weeks ago I had pretty much written off Alicia Silverstone as one of those 'celebrity vegans'- you know the ones I mean. They keep plant-based ideas in the news whenever their name gets mentioned, so that's good, but I assumed her cookbooks would be like other celebrity chef cookbooks- faddy and overly strict /unsustainable so the first people to review it give it sparkling results, only to trickle down to everyone else on the planet, i.e. people with lives to lead and no time for soaking twigs overnight in stuff, or whatever Goop has in mind for its next prescribed detox. The Kind Diet is nothing like that. Although the book is a few years old now, the advice Alicia gives would probably work for vegans across the board- anyone that's already converted may not feel like they need to read the front half of the book, which focuses on 'flirting' with the idea of veganism before committing, (I know, I know, but this woman gave us Cher Horowitz, deal with it), but actually, she's got some great tips at grounding your vegan outlook with just being more conscious of what you're eating- something I struggle with alllll the time. I currently work from about three or four different basic meal set-ups for dinner, and some of those recipes involve about three different carbs and a lot of second helpings. It's great to go back to some real nutritional basics and add in a few lighter dinners, salads and soups- and I think Alicia's got it bang on with this book. The recipes aren't by any means revolutionary or mind-blowing, but I trust them a lot more because of that.
Magic Soup by Nicole Pisani and Kate Adams
Magic Soup was a payday treat last month that I didn't get time to mention until now. As with the Kind Diet, I'm currently looking to switch out a few of my heavier dinners for some lighter options, and while I don't do well on anything involving 5:2 meal plans or juice detoxes, I thought perhaps a few more soups in the evening might abate the temptation to go back for a third round of potato wedges, especially when everything looks this enticing. The magic soup the book takes its name from is actually based around a traditional Mauritian soup intended to get women back into fighting form after having a baby. It's packed with yellow split peas, coconut milk, ginger and spinach, so I don't think I'll need much persuading to knock up a few dozen portions.