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One, Florence Knight

This isn’t a brand new book, it was published last year. I bought it and looked through it. I liked it but set it aside, I don’t know why. I have a lot of cookbooks. A few weeks later I had lunch at Polpetto, where Ms Knight is head chef. The meal was terrific, full of tasty things. It was sharing plates so neither me or my friend missed anything. We ordered dessert. My friend was clever enough to ask for the maple custard tart. I wasn’t, but I had a taste of his and felt jealousy like I haven’t felt for many years. I love custard tarts and it’s a mystery why I didn’t ask for a piece for myself, but there we are. Our lives are punctuated and reduced by mistakes such as that. Replacing the sugar with maple syrup made the custard into something new to me. The taste was richer, indeed, tastier, than any custard tart I’ve eaten before. And there have been many. 

I began tweeting (more like begging) Russell Norman, one of the owners of Polpetto, for a recipe for the tart. I didn’t need to worry as he directed me towards One, where I found it on page 231. I made one that weekend for guests and even though mine wasn’t as pretty as Ms Knight’s it was as good to eat. The pastry was as crisp as you want pastry to be. I thought it a little too sweet, so the next time I used 50ml less syrup and it was perfect for me. It doesn’t need cream, or anything, to go with it. There is an instruction on how to get rid of the air bubbles on top using a cook’s blowtorch, if that’s what you want to do. I tried that once but it was hardly crucial. My guests were happily silent while eating it and asked for more once they’d finished. As they’d spent much of the evening telling me about the economy of Columbia I saw this as a result.

One was mentioned often last year, and was on some cookbook of the year lists, but I don’t think it won any prizes. Still, it became my cookbook of the year. Ms Knight has started writing recipes for the Sunday Times, which I suppose isn’t too shabby a reward in itself. I sometimes buy the paper just for them.

I realised I hadn’t explored the book as fully as I needed to. I like the cover, it’s well designed. It’s quite brave not to put food on the front of a cookbook. I presume Ms Knight’s second book will be called TWO. If she ever writes as many as, say, Mageritte Patten, we have SEVEN THOUSAND AND NINETY SIX, (or thereabouts) to look forward to. Salt Yard, her publisher, also produced Honey and Co’s wonderful book, Food from the Mediterranean last year, which did win prizes. This year they’ve given us Five Corners by Rachel Roddy, which I wrote about recently and love unreservedly. I suspect it will be my cookbook of 2015. The photography in One is by camera superstar Jason Lowe, and is as good as food photography gets. Every picture is truly lovely. Mr Lowe uses an unflashy, slightly knocked back colour palette here. Everything looks approachable and desirable. So Salt Yard is on a roll and its designers are doing a good job making the books look different from the rest. Go Salt Yard.

One is divided by ingredient; olive oil, salt, ketchup and so on which is a good way to browse but can be annoying when looking for dinner. You will find yourself looking for occasions to cook the dishes and it will be worth finding them. Last week I made the whole roasted veal shin which was a knockout. Many, but not all, of the recipes are Italianate. I’ve never seen salt beef or jam roly poly in Italy. I want to make and eat almost everything in the book. You can see by how grubby the cover is getting that I use it a lot. Good cookbooks should be grubby, their pages splattered with food and with your own notes at the side. I’ve liked everything I’ve made so far, every recipe has been easy to follow. I hope Ms Knight will forgive me for not eating beetroot. The food seems more suited to autumn and winter so the book will be used a lot in the next few months. I’ve just noticed the hare ragù and now have a reason to look forward to the end of summer. Highly recommended.

One, a cook and her cupboard, by Florence Knight, published by Saltyard Books

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