Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club, which this month focused on Melissa Hemsley’s Eat Happy
If you have been to one of our Cookbook Club events up in the Cookhouse at Borough Market, you’ll know the way things normally roll is that we get each dish out one by one, giving an opportunity for its cook to talk about how it went and what they thought of it and for other members to chip in with thoughts. We keep it relatively fast. But at one of the most recent events, the conversation for the very first dish out of the blocks threatened to run and run.
I took that as a very good thing indeed. Surely any cookbook—let alone any single recipe—that can stimulate so much discussion across a group of people is doing something right. The book was Melissa Hemsley’s Eat Happy. And the dish? Thai cauliflower fried ‘rice’ and prawns. The concept of cauliflower chopped into pseudo-rice being the touch-paper. Whatever side you personally come down on, you would have been in good company at our Cookbook Club event. Some felt it was absolutely great, especially if trying to cut down on carbs. Some just couldn’t get it at all. Some felt ambivalent about it philosophically and decided all that mattered was how it tasted. (Very good.)
I hover somewhere between those camps. I rather think the conclusion, having done two events for this gorgeous book, is that Eat Happy is for those who feel that this kind of eating is not about being too entrenched in any one school of thought or cooking. This isn’t preachy clean-eating. It is tasty food that looks good and hopefully makes you feel happy in lots of different ways.
Light and delicious
Certainly, many dishes made our Cookbook Club members very happy indeed. I am thinking especially of the roasted cauliflower with Vietnamese dressing; Korean chicken with sesame sprinkles; hot-smoked trout with a beetroot fennel salad and Scandi-style dressing; and ‘any time’ blueberry bake. I made the quinoa bread with quinoa I just whizzed-up into a flour-like texture in a processor. It becomes very light and delicious and while something I would never previously have thought of making, it is firmly in my quick-bread repertoire.
The mood across both events was that some of the dishes that were modern or healthy adaptations of classics maybe didn’t work quite so well for us. Scotch eggs coated in ground almonds and baked are, obviously, never going to be quite the same as ones in deep-fried breadcrumbs. And that got us all thinking and talking even more about the choices we make in terms of what we eat, when, and how it makes us feel.
There was a strength of feeling that this modern book fits well with burgeoning aspirations for minimising food waste and making the most of leftovers. The recipes throughout the book are driven by that idea, and provide options for seasonally available alternative ingredients—yet more ways in which Melissa Hemsley’s recipes make us happy.