Sunday, February 19, 2023

A Table Full of Love - Skye McAlpine

Cookbooks are very much on my mind at the moment. I've got a few of them recently with a few more interesting ones on the horizon. Regula Yswijn's Dark Rye and Honey Cake and Misa Hay's A Year in My Shetland Garden have, between them, shaken me out of a bit of a cooking and writing rut. It's been a while since I've felt any particular enthusiasm for both, but it's coming back in spades.

Another cookbook that's really caught my attention is Skye McAlpine's 'A Table Full of Love'. It's the second of her cookbooks I've got and I wonder if this might be her breakthrough title and lifts her out of the reliable mid-list? 'A Table Full of Love' deserves to make a considerable splash for a few reasons. On a very shallow level it's a particularly pretty book, more importantly, it's full of good things.

I also really like the concept behind it too. It turns out that her doctorate is on ancient love poetry (specifically Ovid) and she has remained interested in the way different kinds of love were defined in the ancient world. This cookbook reflects something similar in that it's divided into recipes to comfort, seduce, nourish, spoil, and cocoon. 

For those of us who use food as a love language, this is a concept that is both seductive and intuitive. What better way to choose what I want to cook than for what I want the dish to convey? It's also great to have whole sections, Seduce, that specifically have you cooking for two, or Cocoon, with recipes for one, and makes it easy to build a menu around that. Good recipes for one or two people are still thin on the ground but for most of our lives, that's what we actually need. 

There's everything in here from pull out all the stops birthday cakes (cakes do feature a lot - which I consider a bonus) to the disarmingly simple. I don't know if anybody has ever collected a good number of recipes which are hardly recipes at all and put them together in a book, but I would buy it if they had. There are a couple of crackers in here - Sourdough toast with chocolate and olive oil sounds heavenly, depending on good quality ingredients to provide a luxurious pick me up, but my favourite has to be for spiced oranges with brandy and sugar,

All you need to do is peel a couple of oranges and remove the pith then slice them into 5mm-1cm thick round, put them in a bowl to macerate with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar, 2 of brandy, and a sprinkling of cinnamon then put in the fridge for anything from an hour to overnight. Use less sugar, a brown sugar, a red wine, a sweet wine, rum, cardamom instead of cinnamon, full-on mulled wine spices, blood oranges, navel oranges, clementines, or mandarins. Have it on its own, with cream, use them to dress up a plain sort of cake - it's hardly a recipe, but it's elegant, adaptable, and easy. A very useful thing to have tucked away at the back of your mind.

And that's the charm of this book in a nutshell - it's full of elegant, adaptable recipes that'll see you through a variety of situations, as good for special occasions as it is for something quick comforting, and everything in between. 


  1. "recipes which are hardly recipes at all" - yes! This would be so u

  2. (sorry - pushed publish too quickly!) I was saying - it would be so useful to have "recipes which are hardly recipes at all" - I think, perhaps, for me the closest to this would be the earlier Nigel Slater book Real Fast Food. Time for more though!