Five Quarters hb jacket

This is the most wonderful cookbook, especially – though not exclusively – if you like really reading cookbooks, possibly in bed. Rachel Roddy is a marvellous writer, and her ruminations about living in Rome – about markets, pasta-cooking water, being unfaithful to her usual butcher, Jane Grigson, the old Jewish ghetto, letting the meatballs rest, her daily life and so on, are total heaven (also, excellent restaurant recommendations). What I especially like is that she sounds like a real, complicated-in-a-good-way, intelligent and forthright person, not some ninny going ‘Ooh, I love Italy, me’ while poncing about on a Vespa. She is proper. You feel like a friend is leading you by the hand, going ‘Look at this, make this, and if you make it like this it will taste even better’.

The recipes are great. The vast majority are simple, family-friendly things you or I could make for supper with minimum fuss, and everyone would pat their stomachs delightedly and go ‘Man, that was unbelievably good’. Everything I’ve cooked has been delicious, unfussy, robust and somehow honest. More than once I’ve been surprised by the simplicity of the recipe and the complex deliciousness of the results. Very precise instructions, too. Plus, a beautiful-looking book, beautifully produced, which doesn’t hurt. If you want a taster, Rachel’s excellent food blog is here.