I really, really enjoy cooking dinner. There’s something wonderful about looking into your fridge and cupboards, picking a few things out, and after some time and swearing, producing a tasty meal. However, I come from the Jamie Oliver school of cooking – not the real one, of course. You know, back when he was a young lispy whippersnap and not a National Treasure? When he rode around East London on that little moped? Yeah, that. I’m not proud.
My cooking generally involves chopping various vegetables into approximate sizes (“daaan’t have to be too accurate”), throwing whatever herbs and spices happen to be within reach (“pinch a’that, pinch a’this”) and letting the resulting concoction ‘slow cook’ in a big pan until it tastes good. Generally while talking through my ‘recipe’ to an imaginary cameraman and bantering with my imaginary producer. Let’s just say there’s a lot of room for error – but the results are generally acceptable.
Baking is a whole different kettle of fish (and if you’re using a kettle of fish, stop now and check the recipe). As I found out to my consternation recently, even using the wrong sized egg can be the difference between a squidgy banana loaf and a gloopy banana… well, quiche is perhaps the best way to describe it. Baking requires patience, accuracy and an ability to follow instructions to the letter – qualities that don’t come naturally to this particular pseudo-geezer.
Like the majority of the population, I have been captivated by Bake Off and its peculiar blend of high drama, passive aggression and icing sugar. Shots of people nervously crouching in front of their ovens or flapping a too-warm sponge with a tea towel have rarely stirred a nation to this extent, and it seems that Mary Berry is nailed on for a sainthood – which will be confirmed if one day she tells Paul Hollywood exactly what she thinks of his badger-bearded smugness.
So if, like me, you’ve been inspired to bust out the piping bag, here are a few choice titles from the Turnaround shelves to get you going…
Joy The Baker Cookbook (Hyperion, £14.99, left) – a beautifully photographed collection of baked treats that are easily achievable and written about with real soul.
· Butter Baked Goods (Random House US, £25.00) – simple, indulgent and elegantly presented, this is a classy offering. Don’t forget your napkin.
SweetDesigns (Hyperion, £19.99) – celebrating the ultimate fusion of cooking and art: sugarcraft. I fear this will only ever be aspirational reading for me.
The GlobalBakery (New Internationalist, £20.00) – Baked goods from around the world – we guarantee you won’t have heard of all of them, unless you are particularly au fait with the cuisine of Azerbaijan or Papua New Guinea.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your loaf tin and get cracking. Just make sure you use the right sized eggs – and smile for the imaginary cameras.