November is upon us, and Autumn has well and truly arrived. This is the season of change. The long evenings of summer have been cut short, and the landscape is steadily transforming into sunset shades of orange and gold. It’s also a time of harvest. Think apples, pears, plums, and colourful squashes and pumpkins. We’ve had our fill of barbecues and salads and we’re ready for warming soups and casseroles. The kids are back to school, and we settle back into our old routines. The hustle, bustle, and rush of daily life.
You might not think of the kitchen as an ideal place for taking a break. A space to unwind in. But when mealtimes are an essential part of our day, practising mindful cooking can bring inner peace to busy lives.
What is Mindful Cooking?
Mindful cooking is about being present in the moment. It offers an opportunity to focus on something simple, creating a nourishing meal and taking time away from distracting thoughts and daily stresses. Being present in the moment can improve your mood and aid wellbeing, so try mindful cooking as an act of meditation next time you’re in the kitchen. Whether you’ve got a whole afternoon, or just an hour after work, you can still give it a go.
Be aware of all your senses. Notice the colours of Autumn’s bounty. Listen out for the crunch as you chop through a crisp carrot. Feel the rough skin of a good old spud in your hand as you peel. Take a deep breath and smell the rich, warm broth bubbling gently on the stove as it simmers away.
Whenever you feel yourself being distracted by tomorrow’s to-do list, bring your attention back to your senses. Get lost in what you’re doing and stick to the step-by-step instructions of your recipe. We recommend the books below for some great recipes and for more information on combining cooking and wellbeing. You can find out more on the Mental Health Foundation‘s blog also.
If you’re short on time, you might prefer slow cooking options. Slow cooking lends itself to rich, hearty dishes that with a little preparation time will do most of the work for you, bubbling away in the oven. You can practice your mindfulness techniques while you prep, and then feel confident that with minimum effort and basic ingredients, you’ll still wind up with a delicious, comforting meal.
Or, if you’re the type that loves to get really lost in the process, with time aplenty to stand and stir, knead and bake, you might prefer the one-pot stove-top dishes and scrumptious pies and breads. Either way, feeling calm and content in the kitchen is every bit as satisfying as a delicious meal made with your own fair hands. And your friends and family will no doubt enjoy the results too.
Below are a small selection of books from our shelves that are sure to get your taste buds tingling.
The Calm Kitchen by Laura Salmon
The Calm Kitchen is a new offering from The National Trust for 2021, focusing on mental health and reconnecting with nature through food and mindful cooking.
Written by Lorna Salmon, it’s more than just a recipe book. It combines her personal experiences with food and mental health and is packed full of information. There’s a guide to ingredients that nourish both body and mind, carefully selected recipes, and a heaping of insight offering an innovative approach to self-care.
It makes the perfect beginner’s guide to mindful cooking, and its petite size is just right to dive into wherever you are, whether you prefer cosying up on the couch, a bit of bedtime reading, or finding a sweet spot to nestle it, open at a recipe, between the pots and pans.
Beautifully presented with clean, colourful illustrations, it’s the ideal book to begin your kitchen journey to peace of mind, and the scent of your own rosemary and sea salt focaccia baking away in the oven will soon have your kitchen feeling like a sanctuary.
Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter by Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater has been one of my favourite food writers ever since I read his food-filled memoir, Toast, in the early 2000s. An award-winning author and a food columnist for over 25 years, he has a whole collection of bestselling books. Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter is the counterpart to a Spring, Summer edition, and the perfect companion to the kitchen come the Autumn.
Published in 2019, it has a short introduction which you really must read, as it captures the essence of Autumn and its shift to slow-cooked comfort foods that nourish and restore.
And then we have almost 300 pages of glorious, sumptuous, comforting recipes, with photographs that will leave your mouth watering.
The ingredient list and recipes are simple. The titles of the dishes are named after their three core flavours such as Cheddar, Cider, and Mustard. Pumpkin, Chickpeas, and Rosemary. Mushrooms, Butternut and Soured Cream. Delicious. Considering the seasons and making the most of what’s on offer in the later months, it’s packed full of vegetable-based recipes that will still satiate most carnivores.
A must for Autumn and Winter cooking. (Also available as an eBook on BorrowBox)
Slowly Does It by Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping’s ‘Slowly Does It’ is a cookbook for those nights when you’re short of time and energy.
The actual cooking time might still be a good hour or two, longer for the casseroles, but the prep time is short, so once it’s in the oven or simmering away on the hob, you’ll have your evening back until the timer goes off.
It’s a traditional recipe collection – a mix of meat, fish, and vegetable-based dishes, soups, and desserts – for the oven, the hob, and the slowcooker. There’s also plenty of options for one-pan meals that not only save time whilst cooking but save on the washing up too.
It’s full of classic meals like Beef and Guinness Stew and a warming Winter Casserole, plus a host of Christmas recipes. There’s even a helpful section on the basics which is ideal for beginner cooks. Though it’s not strictly an Autumn cookbook, these slow-cooked recipes lend themselves to cooler days when you want to fill up a deep bowl with something rich and hot.
Slow Cooking by James Martin
A great recipe book for when you’ve got plenty of time, but not much motivation, is James Martin’s Slow Cooking. The cover claims mouthwatering recipes with minimum effort, making this a great go-to cookbook if you love entertaining.
When you want to impress your friends and family, without spending the whole day in the kitchen, treat them to leek stuffed belly of lamb with herb crumbs, or Hungarian pork goulash – neither of which are as complicated as you might think.
‘Slow cooking is the ultimate in foolproof, stress-free food. It’s all about minimum effort and maximum flavour, mainly because it usually involves using cuts of meat and vegetables that aren’t too expensive’ writes James in the introduction.
With a great mix of classic and contemporary dishes ideal for the cooling weather, it’s a great recipe book to practice mindful cooking with.
Divided by the seasons, the National Trust’s Comfort Food is a great cookbook to refer to year-round.
The Autumn section offers a nice array of veg and meat-based dishes, like Mushroom Stew & Dumplings, or Sausage Rolls with Apple, but it’s the dessert recipes that really shine. Gingered Treacle Tart, Pumpkin Pie, and Apple Tarte Tatin to name a few. They’re indulgent, sumptuous, and make the most of seasonal produce.
Most of the recipes here involve a good deal more preparation time than some of the other cookbooks I’ve mentioned, but that can bring its own benefits. If you’ve time to spare and love methodical, careful, considered cooking, then you’ll find the process as comforting as the results.
Take your time, and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, hearty meal full of Autumnal flavour.
If all that has got your mouth watering, you’ll be pleased to know you can find a wide array of cooking books in your local library, or you can search for a particular title on our Warwickshire Libraries Catalogue.
You’ll also find a huge range of cooking and baking magazines if you head to our eMagazine collection through the Libby app. Right now, they’re full of soups, stews and Autumnal/Winter ideas.
And we also have a selection of cooking eBooks, over at BorrowBox, so be sure to check those out too.
Whether cooking for yourself or for family and friends, enjoy the process and let us know what delicious meals you plan on making this Autumn.