Strategies for Fun and Accessible Cooking: Holding onto the Joy of Cookbooks

By Annika Konrad

I love cooking and I love cookbooks even more. Since losing more of my vision, I’ve stopped being able to read pretty much all print material, cookbooks included. I’m a cook who needs new inspiration every once in a while and looking through a shiny new cookbook with lots of pictures has always been one of my greatest past times. Since switching to reading everything on screens using magnification, I’ve had to decide—do I order the Kindle version of the cookbook or stick to the print version? Here are a couple strategies I’ve developed to keep the joy of heavy, thick, photo-filled cookbooks in my life.

Most recipes published in cookbooks are available online if you search for them. So I’ll spend time flipping through some of my favorite cookbooks, Jerusalem, Plenty, and Great Food Fast, and when I’ve found a recipe that looks amazing in the photo and from the title, I search for it online. If I can find it, I download it to an app on my phone called Paprika. I am convinced that Paprika is the single most helpful app I’ve ever used. You can download recipes from online, select the ingredients you need to buy at the store, and it will compile a grocery list based on your selections and organize them by section. Then, when you’re cooking, if you leave the recipe open, your screen will remain lit up so you don’t have to touch it with your dirty cooking fingers. Once I have the recipe in Paprika, I’ll never have to try to read the printed recipe in the cookbook or search for it online, but I can still enjoy flipping through the pages and looking for new recipes. If I can’t find the recipe online, I’ll settle for using the magnifier app on my phone called Spectacles, which works well but can get clumsy when you have to be using your hands to cook.

Here’s one of many favorite recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Plenty and Jerusalem, two cookbooks I love to hold.

Chickpea, Tomato, and Bread Soup

Ingredients:

1 large onion, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
about 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled, cut lengthways in half and sliced
3 celery sticks, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato purée
I cup white wine
1 14-oz can Italian plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoon caster sugar
34 ounces vegetable stock
3 to 4 slices of stale sourdough bread (crust removed)
1 14-ounce can freshly cooked chickpeas (canned are fine too)
4 tablespoon basil pesto (bought or freshly made; see Royal potato salad, page 20)
handful of shredded basil leaves to serve (optional)
salt and black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the onion and fennel in a large saucepan, add 3 tablespoons of the oil and sauté on a medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, just to soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato purée and stir as you cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and let it bubble away for a minute or two.

Next, add the canned tomatoes with their juices, the herbs, sugar, vegetable stock and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover and leave to simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
While you wait, break the bread into rough chunks with your hands. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil and some salt and scatter in a roasting tin. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until thoroughly dry. Remove from the oven and set aside.

About 10 minutes before you want to serve the soup, place the chickpeas in a bowl and crush them a little with a potato masher or the end of a rolling pin; you want some to be left whole. Add them to the soup and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes. Next add the toasted bread, stir well and cook for another 5 minutes.

Taste the soup and add salt and pepper liberally.
Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Spoon some pesto in the center, drizzle with plenty of olive oil and finish with a generous amount of freshly shredded basil, if you like.

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