The gorgeous “The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater” and two delicious vegetarian recipes (including one for chocolate lovers)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I tend to turn to non-vegetarian cookbooks for my recipes. I do so because I find them not just superior, but vastly superior, than vegetarian cookbooks which tend to focus on getting your mouth wrapped around any old health food than getting it wrapped around glorious, glorious taste.

Of course, with more and more people joining us on the almost vegetarian bandwagon, or going all out and becoming full vegetarians or even vegans, I do expect this to change. For example, I am eagerly awaiting Mark Bittman's new cookbook How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian due this fall. But, you will note, Bittman is not vegetarian.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am about to introduce you to an amazing non-vegetarian book. Just ignore the meat-based recipes and enjoy the delicious vegetarian ones.

Nigel Slater's (who, actually, is a food writer and not a chef), newest book, The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater, is 400+ pages of what he has eaten over the course of a year as well as his observations about food.

And it is fascinating.

Even better, the book is loaded, just loaded, with recipes, as well as some glorious food photography. And those recipes are just what I like: Elegant in their simplicity, wonderful in their flavor.

Now, if you are a beginning cook, you might find the recipes a wee bit vague. Me, I prefer the vagueness. I prefer to experiment and figure things out, as opposed to slavishly following a recipe because it helps me learn how to really cook, as opposed to how to merely follow directions.

The other concern is that some of the ingredients are British. I say, go Google! That's what it's there for.

So what can we, as almost vegetarian's, expect? Everything from the super tasty Spiced Roast Potatoes with Yogurt and Mint to the fragrant Double Ginger Cake. As well as the wonderful treats, below.
Nigel Slater food recipe from The Kitchen Diaries: Onions baked with Parmesan and cream
onions – 4 medium to large
whipping or double cream – 1 1/2 cups
grated Parmesan – a good handful

Set the oven at 350˚. Peel the onions and bring them to the boil in a deep pan of water. Leave them at a bright simmer for about 25 minutes, until tender. Lift them out with a draining spoon.

Slice the onions in half from root to tip and put them cut side down in an ovenproof dish. Tip the cream over the onions. Season with salt, pepper and grated cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes till golden and bubbling.

If you get nothing else out of this following recipe than an introduction to Nutella, that's enough (the stuff is addictive; so good, in fact, that we are perfectly happy simply eating it off of rectangles of melba toast). If you are reading this at work and your tummy is grumbling, I apologize.
Nigel Slater food recipe from The Kitchen Diaries, Hot Chocolate Puddings
Little chocolate puddings, fluffy outside and molten within, a cross between a soufflé and a sponge pudding. I make them with the best chocolate I can get my hands on. The hazelnut spread such as Nutella or Green and Black’s sounds an odd addition, but in fact lends a lingering, nutty depth. If you feel the need to offer cream (and well you might), you might like to make it a jug of pouring cream rather than the rich, thick sort.
Serves 4

dark, fine quality chocolate - 7 oz
superfine sugar 1/2 cup
large eggs - 3
butter - 5 tablespoons
chocolate hazelnut spread - 2 lightly heaped tablespoons

Set the oven at 400˚. Lightly butter 4 small ramekins or ovenproof cups.

Break the chocolate into rough pieces and leave to melt in a basin suspended over gently simmering water. Let it melt without stirring, occasionally poking any unmelted chocolate down into the liquid chocolate.

Put the sugar into the bowl of the food mixer, separate the eggs and add the yolks to the sugar. Beat till thick and creamy. Whisk the egg whites till airy and almost stiff.

Stir the butter into the chocolate and leave to melt then gently stir in the chocolate hazelnut spread. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar then carefully fold in the beaten egg whites with a metal spoon. Take care not to over mix. Just firmly, calmly mix the egg white into the chocolate making certain there are no floating drifts of egg white.

Scoop into the four buttered dishes and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes till risen. The tops should be cracked and the centres still slightly wobbly.

What about you guys? What cookbooks do you love? And what food-oriented books are you reading these days?