Diana Henry is coming to The Buttercup!

Yes it’s really true. Our favourite food writer is coming to The Buttercup Cafe. We are delighted to announce we’ll be hosting An evening with Diana Henry at The Buttercup in Lewes on Friday 26th October.

Diana’s new book

Diana Henry was named ‘Cookery Writer of the Year’ by The Guild of Food Writers in 2009 and in 2007 for her column in the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine. In addition to writing a weekly column for Stella, Diana is the author of several cookbooks including ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’, ‘Cook Simple’, ‘Roast Figs, Sugar Snow’ and our absolute favourite – ‘Food From Plenty’.

Diana is loved and respected by many great cooks and food writers. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall described her writing, “Diana Henry’s passion is infectious and her recipes tantalising”. Diana’s book Food from Plenty inspired Claire when she first opened The Buttercup Cafe. It was Billie from Lewes’ Leadbetter & Good who first introduced us to Diana’s work. We’ve been great fans ever since.

A brilliant cookbook: Diana Henry’s Food from Plenty

Diana will be at The Buttercup on Friday 26th October from 7pm to 8pm to introduce her new book, Salt Sugar Smoke, giving guests a few tasters, sharing top tips and taking any questions.

She’ll be signing books too. Following this Claire is cooking a three course meal using Diana’s recipes – including Turkish lamb kofta with cherries and yogurt, Moroccan seven-vegetable couscous, Warm barley roast squash and chilli salad, Blood orange and cardamon jellies, Wine soaked autumn pudding and more!

It promises to be a very special evening. Tickets cost £30 per person. Call us on 01273 477664 or pop into the cafe to book your table.

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We love vintage cookery books

Delia (1977) on the cover of "Recipes from Look East 3"

Over Christmas while visiting relatives we raided their kitchen shelves for old cookbooks. How can you resist a 1977 Delia cover?

Recipes from Look East cost 45p and was sent out to viewers of the BBC’s Look East programme. Delia appeared each week on their cookery spot; a star of 70s East Anglia TV. The recipes in the book are mostly traditional (Toad in the hole, rabbit pie etc.) but there are a few, like gnocchi, which must have seemed exotic and daring at the time.

Delia writes about exciting new ingredients like anchovy fillets arriving in English food shops; new, strong tastes to use in the kitchen. How bland much of post-war Britain’s food must have been.

We found this great clip on YouTube of Delia talking about vegetarian food, including an interview with the fabulous Kate Bush. Do watch, though be warned the non-meat loaf looks atrocious.

Mmmm. The delights of "Family Circle's Illustrated Library of Cooking" 1972

Looking at old cookery books, you can’t help but notice quite how bad food photography was in the 70s. Claire fished out an old favourite of hers Family Circle Illustrated Library of Cooking which has fantastic headers like, “Go gay with kebabs” and the most unappetizing food photos we’ve ever seen.

But in amongst the 70s finger food buffets and lurid colours are some great recipes. Ingredients and recipes which are back in fashion (with just a bit less gelatine and dayglo food colouring). It is the photos which make vintage cookery books so enjoyable – and there are loads of retro cookery books lurking in Lewes charity shops waiting to be re-discovered.

The wheel of food fashion comes full circle: 1972 hors d'oeuvre featuring "Bitsy Burgers"

Love the backdrop for this plastic looking shot of "Maryland stuffed ham"

Family Circle Illustrated Library of cooking: Terrible coffee. Great cups.

The Buttercup Cafe’s bookish review of 2011

Sarah Weal's Book Christmas Tree. Photo taken from sarahweal.blogspot.com

We’ve been inspired by this amazing book tree on a fellow Lewesian’s blog (Sarah Weal’s Tales Through a Lens). It made us think that maybe we should start building a book tree here in The Buttercup Cafe – made from everyone in the cafe’s best reads over the next 12 months. Anyone up for joining a Buttercup book club for 2012?

Every newspaper, TV show and radio programme seems to have had their review of the year. So why shouldn’t we! Here is The Buttercup Cafe book-loving team’s very own literary review of 2011.

Claire’s first recommendation is Alan Bennett’s Smut. “Observational, dark and of course very funny in that Bennett way.”, she says.

Claire’s dad (aka Pappa Buttercup) has chosen Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, a novel based in Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia. “Takes a while to get into but is brilliant.”, he says.

Dani-Lola's best read of 2011: Patti Smith's Just Kids

Another team pick is Patti Smith’s autobiography, Just Kids. A great description of a hip, New York world of artists, writers and musicians in the 1970s. Oh, and it has a very cool photo on the cover too.

Helena’s picked the moving and very cleverly written Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters. Make sure you’re feeling robust before reading this bleak biography.

Amanda says, “In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan (first published in 1968) is a perfect balance between beauty and tragedy.”

Harvey’s picked Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. “A brilliant interweaving of fairytales. Dark and captivating.”

Flora recommends Ottolenghi’s Plenty. A collection of vegetarian recipes from Yotam’s Guardian column which has been running for the last 4 years. “An elegant cookbook; fresh recipes that work well after inevitable over-indulgences of Christmas cooking! Try the globe artichokes with crushed broad beans”.

Claire says The Healing Code will change your life! “And Sue Minns’ Soulmates is a great book to reflect on both good & bad relationships in your life.” Ideal for those New Year’s resolutions.

Puff G (known as Geoffrey to some) is king of the audiobook. Crime, murder and extortion are his favourites. A wonder that he sleeps at night! He’s picked Nemesis by Jo Nesbo (Scandinavian crime fiction) as his best this year.

Sophie says Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend is her read of the year. Mr & Mrs Boffin, Mr Venus and Mr & Mrs Veneering – surely some of the best character names ever. (And yes, we’re all very excited about Great Expectations on the telly this Christmas. BBC1, Dec. 27th, 9pm)

Will's pick of the books for 2011: Dick Francis' Whip Hand

Will says his pick of the year has to be a Dick Francis. He’s chosen, Whip Hand, “a classic racing thriller”.

Flora’s pick for younger Buttercup visitors is The Doll’s House Fairy. “A beautifully illustrated, magical book by Jane Ray about a wild, chocolate eating fairy that moves into a doll’s house and causes havoc.”

And Jasper says his best book of the year will always be The Beano Annual. Unbeatable.

Happy reading to one and all!

p.s. Have you spotted Ilaria’s handmade paper christmas trees in the cafe?They are made from the Guardian’s The Guide supplement. The mag makes the most robust of Christmas trees. Who would have known! A great piece of recycling which we’re sure the Guardian would be most proud of.

Lucas Hollweg cooks a feast at The Buttercup Cafe

Lucas gets to work in The Buttercup kitchen

Last night we handed over the controls, frying pans and oven gloves to Lucas Hollweg. Lucas is The Sunday Times’ resident food writer whose lovely cookbook Good Things to Eat was published earlier this year. He came to The Buttercup Cafe to cook for twenty lucky eaters; a menu of good food using great local produce.

The cafe was lit up on a cold autumn night and as one guest said, “ooh, it looks like Narnia!”. Lucas (and his ukulele!) cooked away, chatted about his recipes, his ideas about good cooking and the food he loves. It was an amazing chance to see up-close a cook at work and watch his cookbook come alive in our kitchen. A pretty special evening celebrating the end of another inspiring Lewes OctoberFeast.

Lucas' Good Things to Eat

Here is Lucas’ delicious menu for The Buttercup Cafe, using fish from Lewes’ Terry’s Fisheries in The Riverside, Barcombe Nurseries’ organic vegetables and meat from Boathouse Organics:

Squash and five-spice soup
Newhaven Plaice ceviche
Beef carpaccio with dill and mustard
Lamb meatballs with salted yoghurt
Chard and Feta
Quince and almond tart

Fingers crossed Lucas will return next year. We’ll let you know soon as we hear anything.

p.s. You can borrow Lucas’ cookbook from Lewes library.

A cosy night in at The Buttercup Cafe