I make no secret of the fact that I'm a fangirl for Gizzie Erskine. I love the chilled-out, cool vibe she lets colour both the style of her food and her own personal look. I love that she seems to have such an insatiable desire to explore and enjoy the culinary world. Most of all, I like that she's unafraid of being just a little bit weird in an industry that can occasionally come across as manicured within an inch of its life. I love people who celebrate the fun of food, so when I heard about Season's Eatings it was an easy pre-order.
It must be difficult to come up with new concepts for cookbooks. Especially at this time of year, when publishing seems to explode like a scattergun in the hope of making it onto lucrative Christmas lists. Regardless of any head-scratching and even though she says it's been a tricky book to piece together, Gizzi's come up with something really special. You don't want to wait to unwrap this on Christmas Day either. It needs to be your companion for the weeks ahead of us. The book takes the traditional British and American celebrations or feasts we squeeze into October, November and December as starting points, then fits the recipes around them. In Season's Eatings, the 'holiday season' covers Halloween, Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving or The Harvest Festival, all stages of Christmas and New Year. They're all important to Gizzi in their own ways and that comes across in how much care has gone into what we get.
In theory, this should be an easy book to write. We all have traditional dishes we rely upon to be edible markers during these concentrated celebratory months, but Gizzi's put a more delicious spin on everything. If you're going to cook something to punctuate a special event or even just to make the best of the autumn/winter ingredients, really go for it. And besides, how many chefs especially in the UK treat Halloween like the legitimate holiday it deserves to be? That in itself is worthy of praise.
What's great about what she's decided to include is that, yes, you can absolutely use the recipes to fuel gatherings of your friends and neighbours if you so please. The Sparkle & Pop section definitely made me want to cater for cold-nosed people ooh-ing and ahh-ing at fireworks. But it's also the kind of food that can be your Wednesday night supper in front of the telly after a long day at work. It's all very adaptable and versatile depending on how much you make and what you do with it. It's as much about just enjoying the in-season ingredients we've got to play with. You don't have to be a party person to delve into the book.
There's no reason why you can't have Coq Au Vin Spooky Faced Pie or Fried Pumpkin & Ricotta Gnocchi in the middle of the week. As I found out last week, you don't need to wait for Christmas Eve to try the Treacle-Cured Salmon or for Bonfire Night to make some Nduja Sausage Rolls. (My attempt below.) In fact, the sausage rolls are such a heavenly creation that I absolutely insist you don't wait for November. The spicy scent that fills the air as they puff up in the oven makes them something that just shouldn't be isolated to one day.
The written recipes are very easy to follow, with the photography and the food styling beautiful to look at. But what makes Season's Eatings a book you should buy and reach for regularly during the forthcoming colder months is that it's crammed full of personality. You don't just get how to cook something, but where it comes from and why it's important to her. You get nuggets of history belonging to Gizzi and the dishes, and each new section comes with notes on what makes them magical. Typically, she's given the whole design a kitschy feel. It's peppered with 60s-inspired illustration and we get some extras to supplement the food. Suggestions on what you might want to include in a Christmas playlist, pumpkin decoration advice and seasonal wreath-making tips, for example.
I'm a captive audience when it comes to Season's Eatings. I love Gizzi, I love the balance of measure and indulgence in her food, and these are without a doubt my most favourite months of the year. It was practically written for me. But beyond my own bias, this is a book that anyone who truly loves cooking and eating will enjoy. Especially if you get a real thrill from making other people smile with what you cook. And if you're still in two minds, just remember that you should always trust the opinion of women who'll tell you to eat pasta for breakfast. We know best.