I've been watching the Sophie Dahl cookery series on BBC2 on Tuesday nights, and whilst the programme has annoyed me slightly (I wasn't sure about making 6 individual chocolate pots for a night in alone!), I was tickled to spot her reading Barbara Pym's Excellent Women in 30th Anniversary Virago hardback, and enjoyed it sufficiently to seek out her book from the library. The book actually pre-dates the series by a year, which is unusual for a cookery programme tie-in, and this is reflected in the fact that you will not actually find all of the recipes from the series in it (which was something that I found somewhat disappointing).
The book contains five sections; one for each of the four seasons, featuring seasonal recipes for breakfast, lunch and supper, and a section on pudding. The book is also autobiography, about Sophie's love affair with food and her changing shape (she rose to fame, not just as Roald Dahl's grandaughter, but as a voluptuous and beautiful model. She then famously lost a considerable amount of weight and developed a twiggy-like figure, before returning to a more healthy size). We hear about the time she spent cooking with her grandmother and the importance of food in her childhood as well as the story behind her weight loss and subsequent discovery of healthy eating and living which informs the recipes in her book - in particular she doesn't eat much wheat and tries not to eat too much refined sugar. The recipes are accompanied by beautiful photographs.
So what of the recipes? I'm aware that normally if I'm writing about a recipe book I'd want to cook one of the recipes, but I didn't feel particularly enticed by any of the cakes in the puddings section - they were quite pedestrian, including things like crumble, banana bread, flapjack, and flourless chocolate cake. I liked the focus on breakfast options - the cinnamon roast peaches from the summer section sounded appealing - and I liked the fact that many of the recipes were vegetarian (Dahl is a vegetarian, although unlike me she does cook meat!). The soup options looked good - beetroot, avocado, and lettuce were the three that sounded most appealing. I am definitely going to give the stuffed summer squash a go - summer squash is the one that has a spaghetti like texture, and Dahl suggests roasting it and serving it with a tomato sauce and pine nuts. Sounds yummy.
Overall, I don't think this is a book that I will buy, but I enjoyed flipping through it - it is a lovely girlie book, and although it annoys my fiance I will watch the rest of her series, and hope to spot her reading some more lovely books! She's a bit of a Nigella to watch (although lacking some of Nigella's stature), and the show is relaxing entertainment if not especially innovative or wonderful cookery.
I love books, baking and my boyfriend, and love to write about the first two. I particular love "forgotten" books, books brought out of obscurity by republication and those still languishing in obscurity. I'm currently reading my way through all of the Virago Modern Classics, but taking in other books along the way.