When a truly delicious cookbook arrives on my desk, one of the first to view it is often my daughter who lives close by. Anna is one of those cooks who loves a good recipe book. She devours them; and when she finds a recipe, she follows it assiduously. For this reason, hers is a place where wonderful food is always on offer. The biscuit and cake tins are full; home-made drinks made from backyard fruit trees are bubbling in a warm place; and the smell of ghee cooking away often suffuses the house with a delicious buttery smell that envelops visitors like a warm hug. For all of these reasons and many more, you can be sure that when Anna is immersed in a cookbook, and is periodically whipping out her camera to record a recipe, it piques your own attention.
Sea Salt is more than a cookbook; it is the story of one family’s journey to perfect the creation and use of one of the world’s most ubiquitous ingredients. Halen Môn – or Anglesey Salt – is produced from the seas surrounding the wild island of Ynys Môn, off the north-east coast of Wales. It now comes under the EU’s Protected Food Name scheme which legally protects it – like Champagne ham and Melton Mowbray pork pies, from being passed off by an inferior product. Such is its status that it has been used at royal events, Olympic ceremonies and to season caramels favoured by former US President Barack Obama.
For the more than 30 years, the Lea-Wilson family has been tweaking the production of their salt flakes, they have also been developing recipes to highlight its use. These include tips to elevate the use of the glorious ingredient by exacting the time that it is added to a recipe. The family has always created their business around sustainable practice, so unsurprisingly, the recipes focus on food that is home-grown or easily obtainable.
Every dish featured is accessible, and elevates and ordinary ingredient to the sublime by the simple addition of an unexpected sauce, dressing, mayonnaise, or the unusual treatment of a fruit or vegetable. It’s alchemy of the most mouth-watering kind and I am completely enamoured of the Halen Môn approach to home-made food, which is a celebration of life itself.
I am so inspired by this stunning cook-book, I know I’ll be making many of the recipes regulars at my house, including the cabbage and parmesan slaw; the bread and butter pickles and no-churn hazelnut espresso ice-cream, to name but a few.
If you love to cook, and you only buy one cookbook this year, make it this one.
Reviewer: Peta Stavelli