Monday, 13 November 2017

The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

I used to dread those last few sepulchral hours of the weekend, particularly in winter when it can feel like all traces of colour have leeched into the sodden earth.  That Sunday night feeling when the prospect of a whole week of school hit like a freight train.  How much more bearable those last few hours would have been if we had embraced the opportunity to cook together in the way chef Rosie Sykes's family did.  Based on the kind of food they liked to cook and eat, The Sunday Night Book is the antidote to that Sunday night curtains-drawn glumness.  But whatever the day of the week, it's uplifting cooking to banish the blues.  There are failsafe recipes for comforting dishes on toast; one-pot dishes that you deliberately make too much of just so you have leftovers for later in the week; a bowl of pasta, of course; something eggy; light salads for when the weekend has been too good; ideas for leftovers; and, at the end of the book, "if all else fails" there's a chapter on Cocktails and a little bite to eat.

Rosie Sykes has worked in the kitchens of some of the greats in British food, including Joyce Molyneux, Shaun Hill, Alistair Little and Margot Henderson.  I've eaten her food in a number of restaurants over the years and I know it pays to 'follow the chef'.  Her menus make your heart sing and the food she prepares is invariably delicious, soothing and heartwarming.  The recipes in this book are quick to prepare.  Many make use of fresh ingredients but a good number reach for store cupboard staples. The chances are high of finding a recipe that is easy and satisfying despite the fact you haven't been able to shop, and we all need a book like that.

Caerphilly with leeks and mustard
from The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

I've cooked Caerphilly with leeks and mustard, a less cheesy take on Welsh rarebit.  The 'can we have this again soon please' request came on first bite.  Bacon and egg pie was a real flashback to childhood.  Easy to make and so easy to eat.  Next time I want to wrap it in newspaper and take it on a picnic.  A Spanish recipe for Eggs in a pestle and mortar came next for the promise that I will be "amazed that something so seemingly unconventional can taste so utterly delicious"  It did and I was.  There is nothing in the ingredients lists of these recipes that doesn't need to be there.  In my experience, this is a rare thing in the current crop of cookery books.

Bacon and egg pie
from The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

Among the recipes I've place-marked are Fregola with bacon and peas, and if it tastes half as good as Patricia Niven's photograph suggests I'll be a very happy diner; Bouillabaisse of peas and beans, inspired by the French classic fish soup; Coddled eggs Ivanhoe for the delight of egg married with smoked haddock; and the Quick cheese straws to remind me of the start of a sublime meal at Joyce Molyneux's Carved Angel restaurant - yes I still remember it, and that River Dart Salmon in a butter sauce in particular.

Beginnings of Eggs in a pestle and mortar
from The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

The final chapter, on 'Pick-me-ups and pop-it-in-in-ones' makes a high-spirited ending.  Original and imaginative Cocktail recipes are from the inimitable Gimlet Bar.  Born out of of a performance work at the Slade School of Fine Art, this movable cocktail bar-for-hire makes in my view, the best cocktails in London so it's no small thing to have some of their recipes here.  Rosie's knowledge ensures each glass is paired perfectly with an edible treat.    A Light-emitting diode - a variant on a whiskey sour?  Try a plate of Squash and truffle brandade; feeling like a citrusy, bitter Reichenbach Falls?  You'll be wanting a few Shallot, parmesan and olive toasts.

It may seem odd to mention the size of the book but I love the fact it is hand size - A5.  It feels good and it's the perfect size for popping in your bag for those weekends away when you are going to have access to a kitchen.  And the beautiful block-print cover by Alexis Snell with restrained little stamps - a tin of anchovies here, a dog-in-a-basket (Rosie's beloved Florence) there - punctuating each chapter makes it look good too.  I'm a bit of a fan of Patricia Niven and here her photography is crisp and bright, true and unfussy, just the way I like it.

This is unpretentious cooking at its best and it's one of those rare books I bought two copies of - I've only ever done that with Simon Hopkinson and Rachel Roddy's books before now.  And I know exactly where the second one is going.  Yes, those "How to ..." books are invaluable but this is the perfect book for anyone leaving home who needs a heartwarming book that makes them actually want to spend some time in the kitchen.

The Sunday Night Book: 52 short recipes to make the weekend feel longer by Rosie Sykes
Published by: Quadrille