There’s something about a book that comes from a cookery blog. The recipes are always well tested and usually have great alternatives, the style is personal and consistent and the photographs are always wonderful. It’s a hard sell – a book where many of the recipes are online but I happen to think blogs and books have two very separate purposes even when they are written by the same author. Blogs tend to be found when you are looking for something specific and read on a daily/weekly basis. Books are for leafing through on quiet afternoons, piling up to flick through quickly looking for what to do with leftover roast chicken, for keeping close. And I’ll certainly be keeping A Lot on Her Plate close as I work my way through all of the recipes.
The book is beautiful and passionate. Birkett is an experienced writer and it shows in both the recipes and the pages of prose. She tells a story with her food. The chapters all start with extended notes but they are fun and easy to read rather than being long explanations of what you’re about to read.
A Lot on Her Plate is exciting. The recipes are simple but the ideas are grand. It’s hugely original without being complicated or faddish. The balance between fish, vegetarian and meat dishes is so good that it feels deliberate. There is a wide range of everything used here, you’re bound to find something you want, something you need, something you can cook with what’s already in the cupboards. The images are sublime, they make you want to cook and want to eat.
My favourite recipes are the Oxtail French Dip Sandwich, the Maple Glazed Pear + Hazelnut Tart, the Warm Salad of Roasted Aubergine + Broccoli with Anchovy Lemon Dressing and the Radicchio, Gorgonzola + Walnut Break-Up Lasagne. My favourite section overall was the little chapter of essentials at the back of the book – spend a day pottering around making all of these cupboard/freezer staples for the week(s) ahead.
The real take-away message from A Lot on Her Plate is that all of the small touches make a huge difference, whether that is shopping at your local butcher, putting the right sauce on the side of your dish or making sure you mix good food and good company.
Grab this book. Make the recipes. Join me in waiting for the next one!