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It is no secret that I am addicted to buying cookbooks but the fact that I have been on leave for nearly six months has meant that I have had to restrain myself and make use of my growing library of culinary treasures. Titles by celebrity chefs like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Donna Hay, Bill Granger, and my new favourite Yotam Ottolenghi (whose book Jerusalem is a standout), will always have a place in my collection. Their recipes are doable, delicious and often quick and easy to prepare.  Having talked about restraint, I admit I did recently purchase Polpo by Russell Norman, but I have resisted the temptation to go Italian, delving instead into my collection of Kiwi cookbooks, and I realise what a treasury of fabulous recipes I have, courtesy of writers like Annabel Langbein, Julie Le Clerc, Angela Redfern, Elizabeth Lind, Natalie Oldfield, Nadia Lim, and Kim Evans.

While I do have favourites like Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, Nigella’s Kitchen, Donna Hay’s Fast Fresh and Simple and Bill Granger’s Everyday Asian, I have been relying recently on homegrown recipes from the books of those talented Kiwi cooks I mention above, and others besides. Each book engenders a favourite recipe or two – from Annabel Langbein’s The Free Range Cook  it has to be Thai Beef Salad and the stunning Strawberry Cloud Cake; from her Free Range in the City, Cheesy Rocket Scones hit the mark along with Quick Zucchini Fritters, while from Simple Pleasures Bang Bang Chicken Salad and Fragrant Lentils are taste delights; Julie Le Clerc’s French Chicken and Mustard Pie (from More Simple Café food) has been a family favourite for years, along with Crispy Noodle Salad with Chilli and Spring onion Vinaigrette; Ripe has spawned the favourite Go Go Chicken and Smoky Israeli Couscous Salad, while the new Ripe Recipes – a Fresh Batch has already provided a favourite pie which I mention below; Elizabeth Lind’s La Cigale provides Chicken, Olive and Preserved Lemon Tagine among others; Treats from Little and Friday has given a favourite biscuit recipe plus the delectable Frittata; Nadia’s Kitchen supplies a wonderful winter warmer- Red Lentil, Ginger and Pumpkin Soup and the Balsamic Mushrooms on Toast are delicious; and Natalie Oldfield entices with the gorgeous Luscious Lemon slice and Neenish Tarts in Gran’s Kitchen. NZ cookbooks

Owning recipes books like these, is like having a treasure chest – each time you sift through them looking for inspiration, you can find something to suit what is currently in the pantry, plus you have the added bonus that these books are filled with little anecdotes, which often resonate with the reader, simply because of a shared culinary heritage and history. I think that for me, the joy in owing these books is in the reading, not the cooking.

New Zealanders do comfort food really well so here is how I have used some of these books over the winter months – I made the most delicious 7 Hour Lamb dish from the beautiful La Cigale by Elizabeth Lind, followed by the tempting Shepherd’s Pie from the latest Ripe book, and the classic New Zealand favourite – Mince and Cheese Pie found in Treats from Little and Friday, plus each week some sweet delight will be made from that same book, such as scrumptious Chocolate Chip Cookies and Anzac biscuits, or the Extra Thick Ginger Crunch from Julie Le Clerc’s Cafe at Home.

I should mention the wonderful NZ foodie magazine Dish, to which I subscribe – it never fails to deliver and with each issue a favourite will emerge – for instance in the latest issue the Lamb and Eggplant Bake is delish!  Cuisine is another gem – the Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup from the Italian Issue is now a firm favourite. Kiwi blogs and websites too, provide wonderful recipes – Eleanor Ozich’s Petite Kitchen is an excellent wholefood blog and Chelsea Winter’s website is a goldmine.  There are so many other fantastic cookbooks written by New Zealanders and I look forward to experimenting with their recipes… (the beautiful Alice in Bakingland comes to mind!) but that will have to wait until I return to work ….