Bods’s Cookbook Collection Reviewed – Cranks Recipe Book

Published on 9 March 2010 in , ,

All this week I’m reviewing some of the recipe books that fill my book shelves. And we start with a classic.

Cast your mind back to 1961. It’s the swinging sixties and you’re on Carnaby Street. Far out man. There’s fashion everywhere. And a restaurant.. And oh look it’s vegetarian. That’s good healthy food man!

What started as one restaurant grew into lots of the things. And then less so – the chain, having been through many owners, shut up all but one of its outlets in 2001, and the brand became mostly a purveyor of sandwiches and ready meals.

However the restaurant legacy remains in the form of a single outlet in Devon and a series of six cookbooks, mostly written by Nadine Abensur. Three of the Cranks books form pride of place in our collection, including the original “Cranks Recipe Book” by David Canter, one of the founders of Cranks.

Published in 1982, the year after David died, the Cranks Recipe Book seems like half recipe book, half historical document. It offers a glimpse into the food the nation ate in the 1960s and 1970s – an era of good old fashioned British veg. Nowhere to be seen is the Mediterranean diet many of us seem to live on know. Pasta recipes are macaroni based, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any noodles. Lemongrass and chopped coriander? Don’t make me laugh!

Instead you’ll find stews and casseroles. Pies and savoury crumbles. Things not often mentioned in many modern cookery books – and ironically that’s where the book really comes into its own, because it offers a perfect collection of comforting winter food.

In an era when you can buy almost any fruit and veg you want any time of the year, many people have completely forgotten that food is seasonal. And we had too until we first started getting a vegetable box delivered. Packed full of seasonal produce like swedes, celeriac, parsnips and kale, I suddenly found my other cook books severely lacking. Yet here was a book rammed with such recipes and good ones too.

True, some of the recipes in the book seem rather dated – the curry recipe (made with real, genuine curry powder!) could be described only as “brown” and “70s” and whilst I did make it once, I never made it again. It reminded me of curries by mum made when we were young – and I didn’t like them then.

However for every dated recipe, there’s a classic recipe. Vegetable fricassee, homity pie, carrot portage, vegetable crumble and more.

During the summer, Cranks Recipe Book never gets a look in, however come the winter, it’s well thumbed and regularly used. Like veg, it’s seasonal. And long may it be around.

If you want it, you can find Cranks Recipe Book on

Tomorrow, it’s a book from the queen of UK cooking.

1 Comment

  • Diana Matthews says:

    I came across your blog because I Googled for the cranks curry recipe. My English mother-in-law (I’m in the US) brought me a copy of the original Cranks recipe book decades ago. It’s been one of my favorite books. I still have it but I recently moved homes and it’s still packed up somewhere. It is falling apart, splattered with sauces – but their basic recipes were so simple yet tasty.
    Thanks for your interesting review.