Two new cookery books hot off the presses: Polpo, a Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) by Russell Norman, and a reprint of Arabella Boxer's English Food in hardback.
One of the things I find exciting about this country is our excellence in book design. And what a beautiful thing is Russell Norman's Polpo. The design and typography are exquisite; Bloomsbury have done something clever with the spine (it's just the edges of the paper, sewn- if that makes sense), so that the book lies completely flat when open. The paper is creamy and smooth. The typeface is elegant. The photography is evocative. The book even smells right.
For those of you more interested in the food, Polpo is based on the recipes used in Russell Norman's successful London restaurants. I've got a thing about Venetian food. Not that awful trat stuff you get near St Marks' Square, but the genuine, regional cooking you'll find in out of the way restaurants like the wonderful Corte Sconta or in standup working men's bars tucked away down sinister alleyways. We're talking about Warm Squid Salad with Cavolo Nero and Chickpeas, Broad Bean, Mint & Ricotta Bruschette, Grilled Fennel & White Anchovy Skewers, Chopped Chicken Liver Crostini. Polpo, a Venetian Cookbook of Sorts is published by Bloomsbury and is priced at twenty five pounds.
Another recent publication which caught my eye is a reprint of Arabella Boxer's classic Book of English Food (published by Fig Tree/Penguin in hardback, and priced at £20). It's another sumptuous effort of high quality, with a fabulous Art Nouveau dustjacket, sumptious creamy paper and a decent typeface. The book was first published back in 1991. I've got a Penguin paperback edition, which I seem to remember cost me an arm and a leg second hand. Lady Arabella's book is a terrific read, and covers Country House and restaurant food of the 1920's and 30's. It's a gem.