Closed World, Open Kitchen

Mags Richards reviews Cath Kane and Thomas Chalk’s first cookbook.

I’m very pleased indeed to have the opportunity to review a publication by two of Leeds Living’s writers, especially as I already know how passionate they are about their food.

From the opening words to closing the back cover, that passion is confirmed in the warmth, comfort and sense of family that the recipes convey. The book’s writing was a positive response from Cath and Thomas to fill the void left in the couple’s lives when the pandemic prevented them from cooking for others and sharing the love.

Thomas & Cath

The foreword provides down-to-earth advice about heat, sizes and measures, although I took issue instantly with the notion that there are options for the size of a tablespoon, and sided immediately with Thomas. A tablespoon is bigger than a dessert spoon or a soup spoon, which are both bigger than a teaspoon, and that’s that! Although I’m on Cath’s side rather than Thomas’ Dad’s when it comes to the size of an onion.

There is a thread of the relaxed pragmatist throughout – a glug of this and a handful of that. I would imagine Thomas’ handful is somewhat larger than Cath’s, but a glug is a glug. Feel free to disagree. Satisfying to see ‘dollop’ used as a verb, too.

Mexican sweet potato and black bean bake

After some interesting insight into Cath and Thomas’ individual food journeys, there’s the list of recipes, each one clearly indicating dietary limitations for those who need them. Yes, there’s a crumble and yes, it is gluten-free. Sorted! And who is going to resist the pull of potsticker dumplings, or the novelty of pea and mint savoury doughnuts? These mingle readily with recipes for more familiar dishes, such soup, curry, fishcakes and stroganoff.

Each recipe offers a clear list of ingredients alongside the instructions or method, next to which are the images – rather good ones – of what the finished dish looks like. There are acknowledgments, attributions and anecdotes on so many pages, all of which serve to either entertain or inform. And the tips on technique are so helpful.

Lemon posset

Cath and Thomas are making donations to out of the proceeds of the sales of Closed World, Open Kitchen. The book costs £14.99 and would make a great gift for anyone who spends time in the kitchen – and even those who don’t!

Photography by Andy Saggerson and Cath Kane.

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