My bookshelf is lined with a dozen or more cookbooks, resplendent with artful photos and names of acclaimed chefs. I love to browse through them, but it is a couple of tattered, old volumes that I come to most often when I am actually cooking.
One of them is Simply Different by Sarah Woodward. Given to me by my mother-in-law, it is 17 years old, out of print and contains not a single picture. And yet, I turn to it time and time again for inspiration and very modern-tasting dishes.
I like how the book is arranged by ingredient, offering inspiration when you find, say, a bunch of sorry-looking carrots at the back of your fridge, a squash in your veggie box or a cheerful sole at your fishmonger's.
This is my version of the pumpkin soup recipe -- perfect for a dreary day.
Serves 4 as a lunch or a hearty starter
900g squash (or pumpkin)
1 large onion
3 sticks celery
3 cloves of garlic
1 litre of chicken stock
200g Greek yoghurt
salt, black pepper
Chop the onion, the celery and the garlic. Fry on a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, with a little oil.
Peel the squash, remove any seeds. Cut into cubes and add to the pan. Stir well before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until the squash is tender.
Blitz with a blender. Stir through the yoghurt and season with plenty of black pepper. Add salt if necessary (but you may not need to, depending on how salty your stock is).
Serve with bread.
(The original omits the yoghurt, adds olive oil and parmesan and serves the soup with slices of toasted garlic ciabatta to line the bowls.)