The ‘Spotify’ of Cookbooks and a bread and butter pudding
- Credit: Archant
Crouch End entrepreneur Matthew Cockerill is trying to haul the cookbook into the 21st century with a subscription service offering foodies access to hundreds of recipes
Are your shelves groaning with cookbooks? Have you been banned from buying any more? Is it difficult to find which recipe is in which book? (I’ve colour-coded my 500 strong collection, which makes them look prettier on the shelf but requires a photographic memory for the colour of the spine.)
Cookbooks are unique as both instruction manuals and aspirational items for your coffee table. However on average we only cook one recipe from a cookbook and most people have about six off-by-heart recipes in their regular repertoire.
Entrepreneur Matthew Cockerill, 49, seeks to change all that.
He lives between Crouch End and Highgate, with a view of Ally Pally from the top of his vertiginous back garden where he cultivates wasabi plants. (Coincidentally, Ham and High columnist Frances Bissell used to live in the same house.)
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Having spent 15 hugely successful years creating the Open Access model in scientific publishing, Matthew is attempting to haul cookbooks into the 21st century.
He’s transitioned from traditional science to domestic science.
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“Back in 2015 I contacted hundreds of chefs and food writers asking for their top ten cookbooks for a site called 1000cookbooks.com. We’ve seen the revolution in the music industry with musicians streaming on platforms like Spotify. Nobody buys CDs anymore and artists earn money from downloads and live concerts. The same is happening for filmmakers and documentary makers on Netflix. I wanted to create the same concept for the food publishing industry. For a monthly or annual subscription fee you can have access to hundreds of cookbooks.”
But how do publishers feel about the service?
“At first they were resistant, but increasingly they realise it’s the way forward. It leads to diversification, rather than the latest trends in publishing or whoever has a show on TV at the moment. People want to access cookbooks online AND have a hard copy. So I crowdfunded ckbk.com, as a Spotify for cookbooks. It’s a way to discover new voices, rather like the serendipity involved in finding books in a book shop. We have expert recommendations from chefs and writers, who have an interesting take on food. We hope to broaden your tastes. For instance, if you are a fan of Ottolenghi, here are the ten books that most influenced Ottolenghi, which include M.K. Fisher and Claudia Roden. The world of streaming is good for discovery.”
Matthew is at the beginning of a venture that has worked in other countries.
“In Japan Cookpad has two million subscribers. This year VAT was removed for online books, so it’s cheaper than hard copies and you get access in perpetuity to cookbooks. In the future we will have ‘smart kitchens’ so we are working with e-grocers (think Ocado) and firms like Neff, Bosch and Siemens.”
Lockdown, he points out has “been good for home cooking”.
Neff told me they are selling more cooking equipment than ever. People have the time to make their own sourdough. In the long term, city centres have emptied, people are no longer surviving off sandwiches from Pret. We are spending less time commuting. Fortunately our office lease in the centre of London came to an end in February so we’ve all been working from home.”
As for which recipe is currently trending it’s “the Eight-Texture Chocolate Cake by Peter Gilmore in his book ‘Quay’. It’s not an easy recipe.”
His own preferences lean towards the sweet side.
“I’m very into puddings, bread and butter pudding is my ‘death row’ dessert. For a savoury dish, I’d choose roast chicken. Currently I’m a fan of Stephen Raichlen’s ‘Planet Barbecue’, there is a fantastic grilled tuna recipe with wasabi. I like slow cooking. I grew up on a farm in Yorkshire so I like carefully reared, small-scale, high standard meat. In terms of vegetarian, I love tofu stir fry. “
Recipe for Rose and pistachio bread and butter pudding (serves 6)
I’ve done my own take, adding some Middle Eastern exoticism to the supremely English comfort dish.
20 x 10cm baking tin
8 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut on the diagonal
50 g salted butter, softened
200 g Rose petal jam
2 whole eggs
300 ml whole milk
50 ml single cream
25 g caster sugar
2 tbsp pistachio nibs
rose petals for garnishing
Grease the baking tin with butter. Preheat the oven to 180C
Butter the bread slices, spread with rose jam and cut into triangles, overlapping the slices on the baking tin.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, sugar and saffron. Pour over the bread.
Scatter with pistachio nibs and bake for 30 minutes until golden. Serve immediately, garnished with rose petals.