These food books combine personal journeys, old staples, modern twists, versatile veggies and sources to boost the bodies health and overall wellbeing. Let’s take a look.
Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown by Sophie White - Gill Books €24.99
I admire anyone who puts their private life on a plate like Sophie White has done here. Her popular column ‘The Domestic’ received some nasty comments about her seemingly ‘perfect life’ as she wrote about Himself and all things food, always with a mild sprinkling of humour.
I was drawn to this book as, firstly it has an alluring black and gold shiny cover with no photo of the author or of food, and secondly, as I expected it to be full of anxiety-reducing recipes and green juices. I thought it would be filled with fermented foods, fixated as I am on the gut and happiness and their link, but no.
But then, who feels like chowing down on sauerkraut when you’re losing you’re mind? As a food lover who is as likely to be caught with my face in a doner kebab as a crate of kimchi, I can relate to just eating something indulgently yummy when you feel crap. When all is lost there is, as White says “always food”.
Food and cooking — just walking into the kitchen can be the best distraction and blank canvas for anyone going through a hard time, with a delicious meal or treat at the end of it, and the comfort and solace of knowing that you get to eat it too.
In terms of recipes, the book is a smorgasbord of regular, old school sweets made with sugar and normal things, apple crumble, pavlova, pizza and chilli.
Then it flips to ‘clean-eating’ courgettini and almond-based fudge. This is a reflection of how we eat now, sometimes naughty, sometimes nice and sometimes, the twain shall meet. From Thai curry to Middle Eastern, it’s a slice of Irish tastes and how much we love diverse foods.
Also ladies, be reassured that we all fight with our mothers and freak out over things, and cooking is great therapy at the end of the day. A self-effacing book from an entertaining writer who knows her life is good, and how food helped her deal with the hard stuff.
The Ketogenic Kitchen by Patricia Daly and Domini Kemp - Gill Books €27.99
There are cookbooks and there are important textbooks on how to get yourself through a potentially life-threatening event like cancer. Patricia Daly, a former banker, almost lost her eye after a tumour returned not too long after having treatment to get rid of it. She had enjoyed a ‘healthy diet’ as popular culture would have it and then studied the effects of the ketogenic diet, one very low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats, to starve cancer cells.
Daly has transformed her life and now helps cancer patients through their process with diet and testing in her nutritional therapy clinic. Domini Kemp, chef and businesswoman supreme, was hit with breast cancer and, having the know-how of food, made changes with the help of Daly, to transform her health and get her back to fighting fit.
It’s important to note that the authors are not purporting the replacement of medical therapy for cancer. This is another way to support a patient back to healing, and it’s a way for anyone to enjoy more vibrant health, through enjoying a high fat diet.
Fats, as we knew them, were the baddies of our generation and we were all encouraged to avoid the stuff. But saturated fats (always from well-reared animals), are the building blocks for good health and we need more of them.
The real beauty of this book compared to other ‘functional medicine’ books is that it’s written by two highly informed people coming from personal experience, but who can also cook. So many text heavy books on healing through food leave you feeling depressed as you try to get beyond the bone broths, fish and broccoli.
This book is bursting with exciting food from breakfast to dinner and there are even recipes for chocolate treats too. It’s not all expensive ingredients either. The layout is clear and easy to follow but it definitely requires a good read from cover to cover to fully inform yourself. Bravo for the bravery of the authors, we need more books like this.
The Fuelfood Cookbook by Oliver McCabe - Mercier Press €22.99
If you wanted to paint a perfect picture of the kind of food business many people dream of — well, this is it.
Nutritionist and chef Oliver McCabe runs Select Stores, the former family grocery store and now wholefood kitchen and deli in affluent Dalkey. He is the picture of health and makes a front cover that would make you pick up the book in the first place.
So many modern cookbooks subscribe to an austerity in food photography styling, happily this is not one of them and the pictures leap off the page in their fresh and colourful vibrancy.
Whilst very much on the modern food, chia seed and coconut aminos train, what McCabe does is list the essential store cupboard ingredients we need to have and what every one of them does, so the reader can make informed choices.
The book works through the day, from digestive waker-uppers to a comprehensive menu of juices and smoothies and then to breakfast; porridges, pancakes, eggs and of course avocados. Soups and salads follow, with a natural emphasis on wholefoods, beans and quinoa and delicious-looking mains.
I wish there was a store like this in Limerick where I could go and let Oliver do all the hard work for me. Veg pureés make it more likely that you’ll eat more kale and beetroot, the book is very veg orientated which is refreshing in a paleo world that focuses too much on bacon and eggs, missing the die-hard essentials of getting enough veg.
Digestion is everything and food doctor McCabe makes it look deliciously easy. It also ends with a recipe for one of my favourite things; sweet potato brownies. A lovely, unpretentious book to get you started on a realistic, lively and sustainable way of eating.
The Brother Hubbard Cookbook by Garret Fitzgerald - Gill Books €27.99
I haven’t been to Brother Hubbard’s and reading this book makes me want to go and live there. Ballymaloe-trained Fitzgerald travelled the world with his partner before coming back to his roots and setting up this institution of food in Capel Street.
Amazing recipes for Middle Eastern food, in an area that, until now was little more than post-pub doners and dodgy hummus. The book is filled with photos of the café, a light and fresh-looking environment and it goes through the dishes of the day at the cafe — bircher mueslis, egg dishes and into mains and salads.
The breakfast mezze, (above right) is so appealing, with simple bites of olives, flat breads and good olive oil, but there’s still respect for what locals want — a decent scone. As a fan of sausage rolls, I’m going to cook the merguez version for sure. Baba ganoush, pearl barley tabbouleh, slaws and salads, this book is a nod to how the culinary landscape of casual dining in Ireland has changed.
Cauliflower, the new superfood, is roasted and served with tahini and turmeric, cod is stewed with fennel and peppers, so many good things here are making my mouth water and I’m envious of the food in the capital.
I’m a big fan of baking and love fruit-filled, Moroccan-inspired cakes made with almonds and oranges and the recipe for the lemon, yogurt and passionfruit cake looks just perfect.
With recipes to make you more likely to cook the dishes regularly; sauces, flatbreads, spice rubs, preserved lemons and a how-to section at the back on kitchen basics like dough making, this is more than a cookbook, it’s a cookery course. It’s also amazing value as it’s text heavy so a good read is necessary, as I imagine they just couldn’t fit in all the photos.
The Holistic Gardener - Natural Cures for Common Ailments by Fiann Ó Nualláin - Mercier €12.99
Fiann Ó Nualláin writes lovely books, his immense knowledge quietly resonates from every page and a good scattering of the humour that readers of his column are familiar with. He makes the information light and accessible to his latest book opens with a statement of intent: “Herbalism is not a fad”.
Fiann follows through by showing how we have become so far removed from the natural world around us, and from our own abilities to access the healing power of plants and food.
I thought I’d have a quick flick through this book but once I looked at the contents list, I was in deep, and intrigued. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t suffer with one or more of these everyday complaints; colds and flu, cough, constipation, warts, insomnia, PMS, sore throat, sinusitis, weight gain and weight loss. The list is, as it says on the cover, all about common ailments.
Anyone drawn to this book will already have a few unsuspecting looking herbs growing in their back garden. Many ailments can be soothed by a simple infusion that involves little more than pouring boiled water over some of the freshly cut herb and leaving it to do its magic.
My son and I are convinced that regular drinking of Rosemary tea kept him calm during his Leaving Cert and helped him to study too — “rosemary for remembrance”, as the saying goes. The oldest and most well known herb, lavender, makes a soothing pillow to aid a restful sleep. (Lavender is also an excellent insect deterrent and one of the best ways to get rid of fleas).
From recipes for lips balms, to tinctures and bath time pampering treats, this illustrated pocket book will give you plenty of food for thought, quite literally.
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