Florence’s Gift Guide #5: Beautiful Books

It’s official. I’m a book addict, but my favourites to receive as gifts are cookery and interiors books, the kind of coffee table beauties that are full of gorgeous imagery and inspiration. As many of these books are cheaply available online for around the £10 mark, I decided to forgoe a stocking filler gift guide and round up my favourite recipe and decor books that I’ll be giving and would like to receive this Christmas.

For Foodies…

  • I’m ALWAYS looking for recipe books that lean towards sharing food. I love having friends over but rarely make fussy food prefering big plate options, and one pot solutions that everyone can dig into. Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi looks like just such a book and is causing a real stir in the Christmas market this year so it’s on my lust-list.
  • I only discovered the Great British Bake Off this season and got totally addicted. Everyone loves Mary but it’s Paul’s critique and exacting standards that made me want this book. Paul Hollywood, How to Bake
  • I spotted this book on the shelf in the Bertinet Bakery in Bath. I mean, how could you not notice that stunning front cover image? I suspect this would be of the variety of cookery books that I buy mainly for the beautiful imagery, however there are many recipes that look do-able for the keen baker or wannabe pastry chef. Pastry, Richard Bertinet
  • If you’re a regular in the food section at book stores you might have seen Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros, an equally stunning book to this more recent release. I hesitated to buy her books before, fearing I wouldn’t want to attempt the recipes, instead just staring at the pictures, however this book focuses on Italian food – my favourite. Tessa now lives in Tuscany so my mouth waters at even the thought of what this book may contain and it’s more than pretty enough to display too. Limoncello and Linen Water by Tessa Kiros.
  • Lastly, not pretty (what happened with this cover I don’t know as the styling of his books is usually fantastic,) and rather omnipresent this Christmas is Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals. I have several Jamie Oliver books and they are without doubt the most relied upon and turned to books in my kitchen. For that reason this has to be a no brainer. Although I’ve heard 15 minutes is more than optimistic for some of the recipes and omits time-consuming prep, I know it would contain recipes that would become staples in my home.

For interiors addicts…

  • First up, Decorate Workshop: A Creative 8 Step Process for Transforming Your Home by Holly Becker. Holly’s second book, this one rather than telling you what to put in your decor projects, advises on how to approach re-decorating and designing your home. Many people struggle to translate inspiration into an actual room and this book shows you how.
  • American Modern, Thomas O’Brien. This book isn’t one you’ll find on the bestseller lists, but it was given to me by a friend and remains my favourite interiors book. With a thorough insight into many American homes in their entirety, I am always inspired when I flick through it’s pages.
  • Another older choice but still relevant, Domino: the Book of Decorating: A Room-by-Room Guide to Creating a Home That Makes You Happy, is perfect for the coffee table but full of inspiration. I bought a special edition Domino magazine whilst away and just loved the approach to design, decor and styling so have renewed interest in this book which is on this years Christmas list 🙂
  • If you have a friend who has just bought their first home or is in the midst of renovation project, Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love: is a great book. Full of DIY ideas from super bloggers Sherry and John Petersik who have documented their own renovations on the synonymous blog.

Readers, I would love for you to share any thoughts on my selection – do you own any of these books and are they a good gift choice or do you have any other suggestions to add to my list? Are you also coveting any of them?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Friday Food: Ottolenghi Barley Risotto

Happy Friday everyone!

We’ve got vegetarians coming for dinner next Thursday, and in honour of them I will be making Yotam Ottolenghi barley, tomato and garlic risotto.  This recipe is one tracked down after Mr C-S and I had been out to dinner, to a lovely restaurant, with a big group of people. Some of the guests we knew, some we didn’t.  One woman we hadn’t met before (our friends are mostly used to us) ordered a barley risotto, and barely touched it.   There it sat, looking creamy and amazing.  Mr C-S nudged me in the ribs.  I nudged him back.  Say it! He said. You say it! I said.  Finally, a waitress came and cleared the table.  Was there something wrong with your risotto? She asked.  No, said the woman, it was gorgeous, I’m just not very hungry.  Mr C-S and I watched as the waitress took it back to the kitchen.  He sighed.  All you had to say to her, he said to me in mournful tones, all you had to say, and then I could have tried it, was ‘are you going to eat that?’

A quick google the following morning turned up the following recipe on the Guardian website.  Now that I’ve made it quite a few times, I add in two small onions and am generous with the lemon zest and chilli powder, but I’d suggest sticking pretty closely to the set quantities the first time around.


Ingredients:

3 tbsp olive oil, plus an extra trickle at the end
2 whole heads garlic, cloves separated, peeled and quartered
750g fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
200g passata
½ tsp smoky paprika
⅛ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp picked thyme
4 strips fresh lemon zest
1½ tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
270g pearl barley, well rinsed in cold water and drained
Roughly 200ml water
20g chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
Black pepper
200g feta, crumbled roughly

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan and sauté the garlic quarters for about two minutes, or until golden. Add the tomatoes, passata, paprika, chilli, thyme, lemon zest, sugar, salt, barley and a ladleful of water; stir and bring the mix to a simmer. Cook over minimal heat for 50-60 minutes, until the barley is tender but still firm to the bite. You’ll need to stir it from time to time, so it doesn’t stick to the pan, and add water occasionally, making sure there is always just enough liquid left in the pot to cook the barley. At the end of the cooking, the mix should be runny enough easily to spoon into bowls.

Once done, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the coriander and some freshly ground black pepper. Add most of the feta, stir gently so the cheese doesn’t break up too much and stays in largish chunks, taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle with the reserved feta and coriander, and drizzle over a little olive oil.

I promise that this isn’t nearly as fiddly as it may seem, and it will satisfy even the most ardent of meat lovers.  Or risotto-made-from-rice lovers, come to that.  It’s become a real healthy comfort food in our house.  What’s your best comfort food recipe? Share it with us in the comments!

Love, Gemma C-S

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