Street books offer kitchen inspiration

Around my neighbourhood people often leave a box of books for curious readers to gather up and take home; for free.

Some books are dog-eared, read and pored over many times and now seeking new homes and are, as the saying goes, pre-loved. Others appear as new; perhaps an unwanted gift or the pages no longer sparking interes.

On the next street we even have a small, plastic covered set of wooden shelves where you take a book, replacing it with one of your own.

This past weekend, from a local street food box, I picked up a complete collection of 24 booklets that formed a mini-library titled ‘The Master Chefs’. Weidenfield & Nicolson published the series in 1996 with Simon Wheeler credited as photographer. Wheeler is also known for capturing many of the images in the books of chef/ writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame.

Bundles of inspiration

While I normally steer clear of this style of book – a few recipes with no chef or cook named or given credit – I was tempted to take this stack, neatly bundled together with a black shoelace. At first sight they appeared untouched, and after the covers had a quick wipe, it was obvious that they had rarely, if ever been opened.

food healthy leaf kitchen
Spinach is key to this recipe from Aglaia. (Photo by Wendy van Zyl on

But this little package was different, with the booklets containing recipes credited to chefs such as Valentina Harris, Rowley Leigh, Michel Roux, Jill Dupleix, Richard Olney and Arabella Boxer.

Each booklet has ten recipes and a couple of pages of ‘Basics’. For example, Olney gives us tips about making Chiffonade (finely shredded leaves) and prepping squid, while Anglo-Italian Harris offers secrets from a lifetime of cooking for stock (béchamel, fish and chicken).

The cover of Aglaia’s Tapas and Antipasti book

Also in this little treasury of expertise and generosity was a booklet by Aglaia Kremizi titled Tapas & Antipasti. Recipes here include Spicy Feta and Pepper Salad, Gambia’s Al Ajillo (garlic prawns) and a Smoked Fish Spread. Inspiration is drawn from across the Mediterranean, with the Basics section offering guidance in folding filo pastry triangles and grilling peppers.

Zooming in from Kea and Copenhagen

I hand recently watched a zoom cooking lesson with Aglaia had done with Copenhagen-based chef and writer Birgitte Kampmann of Instagram’s @mykitchennotes,  Viewers ere offered an insight into a life lived on island of Kea in the Aegean Sea where she now runs a popular cooking school, following a successful career as a food writer and editor in the US.

Needing a quick starter for a small Saturday evening gathering, I choose to make Aglaia’s Spinach and Yoghurt Crostini.

Inspired by Aglaia’s recipe, these are my home made Spinach and Yoghurt Crostini

A mix of steamed spinach, Greek yoghurt, finely diced garlic and chilli, torn shreds of flat leaf parsley mixed together, left for 12 hours in the fridge and layered onto crostini. Crunchy, fresh and with a little heat, these crostini bites bought a taste of Greece to my palate – three of four times!

#greece #cookbook #greekcookbook #recipe #recipebook #foodlab 

For more on Aglaia Kremezi go to

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

Leave a Reply