I like the way Kitchen Notebook is put together, and there’s nothing else quite like it on my shelves.
Following the notebook theme, I think what it tries to mimic is something like a large size softback Moleskine. This makes it really comfortable to handle, and quite an interesting direction for cookbooks overall with its pleasing benckliness and almanac appeal. It’s certainly a good approach for those of us who carry the things around like novels.
This one is a tactile delight – even if the design does mean that when cooking from it, on some pages it wants to flip shut or be weighted down in some way.
I like Rachel Khoo a lot, and the TV series that accompanies this book is her best. I like her good fun sort of approach to food & the way she is trying to work out a broader relationship of her own with cooking – with fashion, design, travel, and so on – and a different visual look to cookery in print. This isn’t a new aspiration – Jamie magazine is something like – but I think the way she does it is, and it’s the only cookbook I’ve bought recently that has such a clear wardrobe acknowledgement at the back, for sure. Throughout, the photography is excellent with beautiful tones and the more you use the book, the cleverer the design gets. The design isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but I think the recipe pages are really well done and have a kind of kinship with her own website.
While I was a bit too bitter and cynical about her early TV series – young, living in Paris, makes you sick, moan, moan, grumpy old sod, etc – Khoo has really grown on me, and this book features many of the inventive and Funky recipes from her latest travels. I like her Mini Focaccia Buns, the buttermilk chicken salad, the Roasted Cauliflower and Carraway Salad, and really do think some of her baking looks fantastic – namely, the Pistachio and Pomegranate Cake which is basically outstanding. None of this is a surprise – Khoo did a patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu.
She has a really infectious approach to food exploration – brilliantly shown in her Swedish episode, which is great – and the book explores different cuisines with a sort of cheekiness that’s really enjoyable and really well exemplified by the super tasty Potato Churros with Red Pepper Sauce. But, it’s always respectful, and similarly, the recipe here that shows this best is the little Swedish buns (Lemon, dill and fish roe bullar), which I’m going to try, even if I am a lousy baker and will leave out the lumpfish roe by instinct.
This book is a little adventure, aiming at more than just a cookbook I think, and the work of one of the most fascinating kitchen characters around just now. With the recent launch of her Khoolect initiative, a sort of online exploration of all the connected aspects that make this intelligent and inventive book so enjoyable, she’s hopefully going to keep on keeping on.
Against a sort of po-faced, grey and granular vision of kitchens and food Rachel Khoo has entered the fight, and I think, in the end, good for her.