Cookery challenge #2

Leon Book 3

LEON book 3: Baking & Puddings
by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby

Bet you thought I’d forgotten this challenge, huh? It was never really forgotten, but I have completely failed for too long to make time for it. However, in celebration of Easter I thought I’d do a little baking.

This is actually one of the books that inspired the challenge, because about a year ago we bought a set of three gorgeous LEON cookbooks, which we pored over all the time but didn’t use.

Well, in the past couple of months I have used the third book in the set, this one on baking, three times. I have made cranberry and oat cookies, honey bread and simnel cake. I seem to keep picking recipes that include lots of awkward ingredients and adapting them quite a lot to fit what I have available or can buy from the corner shop, but all three experiments have been successful. Possibly not great looking (I figure that’s a skill I’d develop if I baked more often than once a month) but definitely tasty.

The books are artistically beautiful, with quite a lot of frontis material on baking techniques or ingredient groups. Most recipes are prefaced with a brief story about their origin, with several staff of the LEON restaurant chain featured heavily. Seeing as it’s their healthy fast food that initially attracted us, I shall have to crack open the main meals book at some point.

Leon simnel cake

Cookery challenge #1

Hamlyn All Colour Vegetarian Cookbook

Hamlyn All Colour Vegetarian Cookbook

I mentioned vaguely a while back that I had an idea for a challenge involving all the cookery books that I almost never refer to any more. My plan is to feature the books one at a time on this blog and each time I do that, to actually use a recipe from them! Simple, but hopefully it will widen my cooking repertoire and reinvigorate the fun that the kitchen used to hold for me but hasn’t so much lately.

Let’s begin at the beginning. When I was 13 I told my parents I wanted to be a vegetarian. Their response was to buy me the Hamlyn All Colour Vegetarian Cookbook. When I look at it now, it seems a bit cheesy and dated, but this was how I learned to make ratatouille, pasta bake, stir fry, curry and peanut butter cookies. (Don’t get the wrong idea, I wasn’t suddenly left to fend for myself; my Mum and I explored this book together to begin with, but also my desire to be vegetarian came with a surge of interest in what I ate and how to vary it more.) This book went with me to university and every house I have lived in since then, and it falls open at favourite recipes such as carrot and mushroom loaf.


This week I was looking for a quick meal that would use some of the huge pile of vegetables from the veg box that was delivered Monday morning and I lit on a simple stir fry recipe in this book, blending British and Asian ingredients: chinese cabbage, brussels sprouts, leek, cauliflower, soy sauce. I amended it a bit to what we had available and voila: a variant on my favourite quick supper. Very tasty too. And I have a hankering to make carrot and mushroom loaf again soon.

Stir fry