This really is the funnest cookbook that has ever crossed my desk. Things suddenly pop out, charts and tables are stored in pockets, and a double page of a cupboard opens up to reveal the contents. It’s like those books we had as children, where every page was a revelation inside hard-backed covers that boasted a solidity that was reassuring and comforting.
Now this could all be called a bit silly and whimsical when compared to the books by chefs who suck lemons while their portrait is being taken, but it’s clear that Allegra McEvedy and her team at LEON are simply decent, honest and intelligent people who love food and see no reason why tasty food can’t be good for you too. A philosophy that was at the root of the restaurant chain they founded in 2004 and which has gone from strength to strength.
The book is like LEON – clear, unpretentious, accessible and enjoyable. The first half -The Ingredients Book is taken up with ingredients, obviously – what they are and where to find them including LEON’s top 250 fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, dairy, and store cupboard must haves. The amount of actual writing is remarkable; pages are dense with words in an encyclopaedic, gabby, sort of way. Fun illustrations and photos are stuck in with the gleeful abandon of a child creating a scrapbook. It’s all very engaging, although some bits can occasionally be Playskool enough to make you want to grind your teeth a bit.
The Recipe Book second half has over one hundred and forty recipes, many taken from LEON’s recipe banks of the last four years – The Original Superfood Salad, Moroccan Meatballs, Magic Mackerel Couscous (LEON loves alliteration even more than Ainsley Harriot) as well as the secret of the famous brownie. There’s a lot here you’ll want to cook and which you should find easy to cook too. And if you can’t be bothered, it still makes for a rather entertaining read if you skip some of the more twee bits.
As LEON grows beyond its original rather hippyish, colour-blind social worker roots to become the brand it was inevitably going to be, given the provenance of the people behind it, this marks a kind of waypoint for them. In the future one suspects this image of inspired amateurism won’t sit with the income LEON will be generating. Allegra probably won’t be climbing into a power suit any time soon of course, but she already has an MBE, is well -connected, and will probably find more suits around her as the years pass. So enjoy this book and its great recipes now and revel in what a big helping you get for just £20 (Or £12 at Amazon).