Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food
Colu Henry, 2022
Reviewed by Naomi Bussin
With so many cookbooks for sale, how do you choose what to buy? Reading my articles is one highly recommended option. But recognizing that what I like may be different from what you like, I created a decision-tree to assist you, using Colu Cooks as an example. (I love decision-trees: my work colleagues are rolling their eyes right now).
Step 1: Does this book interest me? If the answer is no, stop. If the answer is yes, keep going. I heard about Colu Cooks from a number of sources. Colu Henry has credentials as a recipe writer and food developer and a contributor to the New York Times. Good food is important to me and I am generally willing to put in a little time to make it so. But like everyone else, my time is limited and the title “easy fancy food” is intriguing.
Step 2: Will I actually use it? If the answer is no, but you like the pictures, or you want a book that is aspirational, feel free. But for most people, a good cookbook is one that they will use. This is not always obvious, sometimes you need a closer look. I pick a few recipes that I will actually make – if I can’t find any, it’s a no-go. With this one, I made quite a few: The Roasted Red Pepper Salad – roasted peppers with capers, herbs and a spicy garlic oil; Roasted Mushrooms with Sour Cream, Herbs and Lemon, Coconut Rice with Pea Shoots and Citrusy Cashews; Smoky and Spicy Shrimp with Anchovy Butter and Fregola; Roasted Tomatillo and Poblano Soup with Shredded Chicken; and Rhubarb Mess with Bay and Cardamom. That’s a decent amount. Onward.
Step 3: Do I like cooking from it? Do the recipes work? Are they overly-complicated and cheffy (unless you don’t mind that)? Are they easy to follow? For Colu Cooks, the answers are yes, no and yes. These recipes were a reasonable amount of work, and they were good. The peppers were nice and garlicky and spicy, the mushrooms were crispy (although less so once placed on top of cold yoghurt). The shrimp was quick, a meal in one with a wallop of flavour. The tomatillo soup was simple, making use of store-bought stock and rotisserie chicken, but authentic-tasting with toppings added – tortilla chips, cheese, radish, avocado and green onions. I love rhubarb and it was perfect when I needed a gluten-free dessert.
To me, a good recipe is a flexible recipe. I put the mushrooms on Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream. I added spices to the tomatillo soup. I added extra cashews, lime and spice to the coconut rice, plus threw in some green beans. We couldn’t find fregola for the shrimp so we used orzo. I left out the bay leaves from the rhubarb. It all worked. And in my heart I believe that Colu Henry would be OK with that. Check done.
There are other considerations – do you have similar books? Do you have space? Remember, the library is great for trying out books, that’s what I do. There’s always room for good books in my kitchen so the decision was easy for me – I hope this makes it easier for you too.