In praise of Lucas Hollweg. Of all the things I love about the U.S. jacket of THE SECRET OF COOKING (for which I must thank photographer Matt Russell, art director Rachel Vere and cover designer at Norton Ashley Tucker), perhaps my favourite is that it includes an upside-down copy of GOOD THINGS TO EAT by Lucas Hollweg. The spine fell off through overuse so I wrote Lucas's name back on with Sharpie pen, which is what I do to my most loved (and abused) cookbooks.
GOOD THINGS TO EAT is one of the most lovable and useful cookbooks of the past two decades, in my opinion, and yet it's out of print, which is mystifying. It was first published in 2011 when Lucas was the food editor of The Sunday Times. I've given it as a gift many times and everyone I've introduced it to is converted. One friend refers to eating 'Hollweg dinners' in a special tone of voice which tells you that Hollweg dinners are better than most other dinners.
Clearly, I am not alone in my Lucas love. I've seen copies selling on eBay for as much as £150!
What makes it so good? I think of it as an all-purpose cookbook. It has no particular theme, except for Lucas's own passions. Yet whenever I turn to it wondering what to cook, I emerge happier and better fed.
I especially love the chapter headings which - like those in Cook, Eat, Repeat by @nigellalawson- are refiections of the author's predelictions rather than any attempt at being comprehensive (not that a comprehensive cookbook could ever be possible). There are chapters on gratins, on summer soups and winter salads. And on spaghetti and stews and things on toast. You have a sense that he has only included dishes that he really, really loves; and therefore all of them feel golden. There's a recipe for 'go-with-anything cake' which really does go with everything. And more than that, there's such an agreeable spirit of companionable appetite about the whole book that it makes me as happy to read it as I am to cook for it. I wish the publishers would reissue it. In the meantime, it's available on kindle (but I know that's never quite the same...).