I adored Alison Roman’s first book, Dining In and have long been looking forward to this, her second. Nothing Fancy — a brilliant title — just makes my love even deeper. Like her, I have an allergy to the concept of “entertaining” (“which”, she writes in her introduction, “implies there’s a show, something performative at best and inauthentic at worst”) and want only recipes that lower stress and maximise joy. And Nothing Fancy is full of just such recipes: you can’t read it without feeling like you want — and would be so easily able — to gather your good friends around the table and feed them. Roman’s attitude is invitingly laid-back, and her food bright and buoyant: there’s a joyfulness in these pages that is just infectious.
From Caramelised Garlic on Toast with Anchovies (just my sort of thing), to Chicory with Preserved Lemon, Yogurt and Mint (ditto), Creamy Cauliflower and Onion Gratin, Slow-Roasted Oregano Chicken with Buttered Tomatoes, a glorious Lasagna (she, more modestly, calls it A Very Good Lasagne), to Sour Cherry and Sesame Galette and Upside Down Apricot Tart (yes, all my sort of thing, too), this is a book that is just designed to make your life easier and more delicious. There’s not a recipe here I don’t want to make, but I had to choose the Spicy Pork Meatballs in Brothy Tomatoes and Toasted Fennel. I have long believed that meatballs are a great way of feeding a tableful of people with ease (yes, you have meatballs to roll, so it might not be a last-minute option, but they can be made in advance, which is often the easiest route when having people over) and her recipe, here, just makes me want to scuttle into the kitchen instantly.
NOTHING FANCY: Unfussy Food for Having People Over by Alison Roman (Hardie Grant, £22)
Photography: Michael Graydon & Nikole Herriott