The Andre Simon book awards announced their 2015 winners on the 28th January this year from a shortlist of contenders. The prestigious event took place at The Goring Hotel, London and the judging panel was guided by the help and advice of this year’s independent assessors, television producer Pat Llewellyn (food category) and wine merchant Mimi Avery (drink category). The shortlisted books for the 2015 prize in the food category were: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones (Fourth Estate) Fermented by Charlotte Pike (Kyle Books) Five Quarters by Rachel Roddy (Saltyard Books) Mamushka by Olia Hercules (Mitchell Beazley) First Bite by Bee Wilson (Fourth Estate) Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke & Rejina Pyo (W&N) Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph) The winner amongst this excellent list of food writers was Rachel Roddy for “Five Quarters: Recipes and notes from a kitchen in Rome” I have been in touch with The Andre Simon book awards and will be sharing with you the thoughts of this year’s lead assessor, Pat Llewellyn. Pat discusses her views on the nominated books and the awards itself.
Thoughts from Pat Llewellyn…
“We finally got the shortlist down to seven books. It’s a very diverse list, covering a huge range of cultures, geography and approaches. Distinguished authors, publishing phenomena alongside brand new names. The things that unite them are genuine passion and originality. They are all very personal, uncynical books, and all put eating-for-pleasure firmly at their heart. This year much of the shortlist comes from a new generation of writers. I’m delighted to see how much new talent is coming through and how willing publishers are to back fresh faces, something that television commissioners rarely do these days. Here they are, in alphabetical order: “Everyday Superfood” by Jamie Oliver, is a great example of the entries that put health very firmly on the agenda. The judges agreed that Jamie brought his own unique voice to the subject with his usual knack of making a potentially dry subject both accessible and enjoyable. “Fermented” by Charlotte Pike is an excellent, clear and concise introduction to the hot food trend of the moment. The book has a surprisingly wide range of both food and drink recipes – my favourite was the cucumber pickle – seen through the narrow prism of fermentation. It manages to be both specialist and accessible. The judges felt “First Bite” by Bee Wilson was intelligent and thought-provoking. It’s a sophisticated, beautifully written book about how our food habits are shaped. It explores how we can find ways to change our palates and improve our relationship with food. “Five Quarters” is Rachel Roddy’s first book. It was a hypnotic read, and a real love affair with Rome. In her hands recipes that at first glance seemed familiar became fresh and interesting. It’s a beautifully designed book, filled with glorious detail and great photographs – I enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed cooking from it. Another first book is “Mamushka” by Olia Hercules. Her original writing style impressed the judges, and we very much enjoyed her family recipes and reminiscences about Ukrainian food – clearly a much under-appreciated food culture. I have to confess that I burnt the bottom of the Azerbaijani rice and lamb dish, because I used butter instead of ghee, but it was still delicious. Anna Jones’s “Modern Way to Cook” was one of the considerable number of healthy cookbooks, but happily one that was all about flavour rather than dubious nutrition. Covertly vegetarian and with a calming voice, it really did feel very modern, as the title promised. The recipes are delicious, her lemony tomato lentils were a revelation. “Our Korean Kitchen” by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo was a real labour of love. A heartfelt, thorough piece of work with wonderful recipes and lovely stories. Cooking from this book was quite an adventure – I’d never heard of some the ingredients, let alone cooked with them, but they opened up a whole new world of flavours. The chicken and potato curry has become an instant favourite at my house. My fellow judges tell me that each year you can see new trends developing. This time there were some clear fads and fashions: of the 119 entries there were 22 books about health or so-called clean eating; the fashion for baking continues with 13 entries, and there’s no doubt that the ingredients of the moment are kimchi and yuzu, and if a vegetable could ever be fashionable then cauliflower is this year’s Cara Delevigne. As far as titles go, it seems the trend is for pairs of names – “sesame and spice”, “near and far”, “peace and parsnips”. One of my favourite titles was not a pair but a threesome “Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls”, and my favourite cookbook author’s name was Linda Tubby. An occupational hazard for us all! It’s been a great privilege – and a pleasure – to have been the food book assessor for this year’s Andre Simon Awards. There were over 100 entries and we’ve had a lot of fun wading through all the books and cooking from them. There were some beautifully produced books, and some fascinating original research. There were established authors and interesting new voices”.
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