Lucy Corry’s Blog: 6 cookbooks to read in bed

To read a cookbook in bed, says Lucy Corry, is to surrender to inaction and read for pure pleasure. 

When you snuggle down in bed on these dark and cold winter nights, who’s your preferred companion? An old friend or someone new? Tall, dark and handsome, or happy and homely? Someone opinionated and thought-provoking, or a dreamy stargazer? Or perhaps you want a taste of everything?

Some people are fastidious about where their bedmates have been and a new one always smells delicious but I don’t mind one who’s been shared by the whole city, or that I’ve picked up locally. More than anything, I want to collapse into the pillows with someone who’s good at telling a story. They can’t be too heavy (in weight or tone) or too big.

If there’s one time in life when size matters, it’s when you’re reading cookbooks in bed. Because what else would you be doing on a bleak winter evening? In my mind, reading cookbooks in bed is one of life’s greatest pleasures. To read a cookbook in bed is to surrender to inaction: there is no impetus to get up and do anything, you can just read for pure pleasure.

Here are some of my favourites to peruse when wrapped in a duvet (like a pig in a blanket).

1. How To Eat by Nigella Lawson

This is Nigella’s first and best book, published in the halcyon days of 1998. There are very few photographs and absolutely no shots of her looking coquettish in red satin. Such images would be completely redundant because the writing is utterly seductive all by itself. This is Nigella for readers and cooks, rather than TV watchers (or for the hideous man who stood up at her Wellington appearance in early 2019 and thanked her ‘for all the pleasure you have brought me). I’ve made lots of things from this book over the years and re-reading the recipes and her useful bits of culinary advice remains both enormously comforting and inspiring.

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2. Persepolis by Sally Butcher

Should the happy day ever return when we can pick up our passports and freely travel again, I’m making a beeline for no. 28-30 Peckham High St. This modest address in the rapidly gentrifying south London borough of Peckham is home to Persepolis, a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean-inspired cafe and shop run by Sally Butcher and ‘Mr Shopkeeper’ (her husband Jamshid).

In the meantime, I’ll happily settle for getting lost in the pages of this book. There are lots of gorgeous vegetarian recipes, but even more delectable are the little tales about shop life, Persian fables and useful bits of life advice woven throughout.

3. Recipes from an Old Farmhouse by Alison Uttley

Anyone for Cowslip Wine? Beef Tea? Canary Pudding? This slender paperback is completely charming, even if I’m unlikely to ever make many of the recipes. Alison Uttley, best known for her Little Grey Rabbit series of children’s books, gathered this collection of recipes from her childhood at the gorgeously named Castle Top Farm in Derbyshire in the early 1900s. The recipes themselves are written in the conversational style of the time (‘mix four pounds of flour with twenty ounces of butter…’) and the practical advice is embroidered with delightfully detailed scenes of farm life.

4. Nose To Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson

Fun fact: I once nearly ran into English chef Fergus Henderson (literally, not figuratively) in Wellington’s Moore Wilson’s food emporium. I was in the middle of apologising profusely when I twigged who he was (he’s a god among chefs, renowned for his nose-to-tail philosophy). Then I realised he was with his wife Kiwi chef Margot Henderson who I also revere. I stammered out a garbled ‘oh I am so sorry/oh you are both so amazing’ and fled in a deep state of mortification. Anyway… Nose To Tail Eating is such good fun to read. Incredible recipes, sly humour, clever writing. I learn something every time I pick it up.

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5. The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit

This isn’t a book of recipes, per se, but an encyclopaedic bible devoted to flavour pairing. It’s a feat of great skill by Niki Segnit, who manages to combine vast amounts of useful and entertaining knowledge with countless recipe ideas and hilarious anecdotes. This is the book I turn to when I don’t know what I feel like reading (or eating). It’s also a convenient novel-sized tome, so easy to read lying down without punishing your forearms too much. Warning: you may want to read bits aloud, so choose your bed mate accordingly.

6. The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

My love for this book is tempered only by my terrible jealousy of its author, because its premise – recreating food eaten in notable and beloved books – is such a genius idea and I wish I’d written it. Like the name suggests, it’s a joyful collection of recipes inspired by books old and new – from crumpets (as served by Mrs Danvers in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca), to roast pheasant (as imagined in Danny, The Champion of the World). Reading this is like sitting with an old friend who loves to read and cook and eat as much as you do. The only drawback is that it will make you want to read every book mentioned. You may never get out of bed again!

What are your reading-in-bed favourites?

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