2020 has been a year. When my daughter started back at school in September, I felt like I hit the ground running. Suddenly, each day had a name again and a purpose. Weekdays and weekends, slipping from late summer then to autumn and now with winter on the way. A familiar cycle with the same familiar question I look to answer every night: what’s for supper? The answer is most often found in the pages of a cookbook and lately the cookbook that’s been on my kitchen counter is Claire Thomson‘s Home Cookery Year (an appropriately-titled book, for the year where the focus is on home cooking).
The recipes are organized by season — the sections are colour-coordinated along the pages for straightforward referencing. Within each section the recipes follow 6 main categories: Midweek Suppers, On a Budget & From the Larder, Salads as Light Lunches or Side Dishes, Treat Yourself, Leisurely & Weekend, and Celebration Feasts. Recipes for all purposes and occasions. I find that I’ve been using Home Cookery Year mostly for my weeknight cooking when I’m short on time and ideas.
What I appreciate about Thomson’s book is the variety of recipes, while her cooking is not plant-based there is a clever index of vegetarian recipes at the back of the book that helps for quick and easy reference. And I found that some recipes containing meat are easily altered. Take her recipe for Brussels Sprout Galette w/ Pancetta & Chestnuts — I decided to omit the pancetta and I added an extra grating of smoked scamorza to the top of the galette. I also used what I had on hand, which was premade puff pastry, for the galette crust. Thomson’s recipes aren’t precious, they’re delicious and robust enough to be subjected to the whims of the home cook, ingredient availability or both.
Everyone in my family has their own favourite meal from this book — my husband adored the Roasted Tomato & Bulgar Soup w/ Spiced Butter, and my daughter loved the Roasted Squash w/ Chickpeas, Garam Masala & Pumpkin Seeds. And while that galette holds a special place in my heart her recipe for Roasted Cauliflower w/ Red Onion & Preserved Lemon was mouth-watering. What made this dish even better was the leftovers, which I served over lush greens and made a vinaigrette from the preserved lemon and herb mixture. If you’ve never had roasted vegetables with mixed greens, then I suggest you try it!
On a Friday evening, a few weeks ago, I decided to forgo our regular pizza dinner for something a little different — frying up a batch of Thomson’s Buttermilk Fried Cauliflower w/ Jalapeno & Lime Dressing. Those of you who follow my reviews will know that my husband and daughter have an aversion to cauliflower, so I’m always on the lookout to redeem one of my favourite vegetables. After reading in her recipes notes that this is “one of my favourite recipes in the book” and that “when they are fried, heavens above, cauliflower becomes so unbelievably good” I knew this recipes sounded too delicious to pass up. I was a little nervous trying this recipe too. Counting on three fingers, I can tell you how many times I’ve deep-fried anything. Doughnuts, potato chips and these delightful buttermilk battered cauliflower florets. Deep frying is not my forte but cooking with confidence means that you can place your trust in a good recipe with clear instructions and feel okay with the outcome. And the more times you try something the better you’ll get! In case you’re wondering everything turned out fine — I got the battered cauliflower fried and my people here loved it!
With all the lovely savory recipes I’ve made from Home Cookery Year, there are many enjoyable dessert recipes too — since it is the season for apples here, I baked up the Caramel Apple Cake. An easy cake to make — I was able to get it mixed up and into the oven while dinner was cooking. A gorgeous upside-down cake where the magic happens when you flip over the cake pan onto a plate. Soft and warm baked apples surrounded by a luxurious caramel/toffee sauce. It’s everything I want autumn baking to be — comforting and homey. I served generous slices of cake with dollops of whipped cream.
Home Cookery Year is a joy to cook from because the recipes are uncomplicated and delicious. Following the rhythm of the seasons, Thomson encourages the home cook to become more confident with their own cooking practices. It’s about making food for yourself and the people you love with the time you have on hand — quick and easy recipes for busy weeknights along with recipes perfect for the weekend because they may take a bit of time. What Thomson aims for is a cookbook that is timeless that will be as good in the future as it is now. As she says in her introduction: “I’d like the contents of this book to be evergreen, a little like some of the cookbooks my mum had (and still has) sitting on her kitchen shelf at home. My kitchen is the axis of family life; it’s where we pass through the seasons.” (9)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Quadrille Publishing and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.