Imagine you and all your food-loving family and friends spent years together cooking for each other, entertaining each other, sharing your favorite recipes, and making sure you used the best ingredients you could find. Then, you decided you wanted to put all of your recipes, and some stories behind the recipes, in a book so others could cook and share meals the way you, your family and friends do. What you’d end up with is something like “Leon Family & Friends” by Kay Plunkett Hodge & John Vincent. 

Leon is a healthy fast food chain in the UK that serves fresh, wholesome food. The founders of the chain are also involved with creating an action plan for implementing healthier food within schools in the UK.  The recipes may be UK-inspired, but the book has been published for the U.S. so readers don’t have to convert measurements from metric.

Since Leon is a UK-based restaurant, I had no idea what to expect when I opened the cookbook I was sent to lookover. The book is not organized the way most cookbooks currently are – usually divided into categories like breakfast, meats, vegetables, desserts, etc. Instead, it’s divided into the three following sections.

  • Today - including great breakfasts and brunch ideas and post-school meals
  • Tomorrow - for those occasions where some planning is involved - weekend lunches, birthday parties, Christmas and picnics - and finally
  • Yesterday - a culinary celebration of family food memories
You never know what type of recipe or cooking technique will come next when you turn the page, and while it that may not work for many cookbooks, it works here simply because it’s novel for those of us used to the formal format of American cookbooks. And, since this book is compiled of recipes from all aspects of the authors’ lives – the restaurant, home, entertaining, and even recipes from friends and family – it has great variety.

Leon Family & FriendsThe section on Afternoon Snacks is my favorite. There’s a two page spread for “Things on Potatoes” that turns baked potatoes into a snack with toppings like cheese, spinach & mushrooms or beet, crème fraiche & chives. There’s a similar two-page spread for “Things on Toast.” (Goat cheese, honey, thyme & walnuts – yum!)

Last night, I chose two recipes from “Leon Family & Friends” to cook for dinner. I made St Clement’s Salmon, one of three easy salmon in a bag recipes. Fresh dill, garlic, orange, lemon, & olive oil are trapped in a parchment paper bag with a fresh salmon fillet and baked in the oven for 20 minutes. The end result was a mild, but tasty, salmon that was quick and simple to make.

I also made Will’s Onion Rice, a simple way to add a little flavor to plain white rice by sautéing onions first and adding a little chicken flavoring to it. You can see in the photo above, the meal wasn’t fancy, but it was healthy, good, and came together in 30 minutes.

I have a bunch of recipes marked to try, and with the season of fresh, local produce quickly approaching, I’ll be getting a lot of use out of “Leon Family & Friends.”

If you come across this cookbook at your local bookstore, pick it up and flip through the pages. You may find, like I have, that you’re delighted with the different format and recipes than you’re used to.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

'Leon Family & Friends' offers a great variety of recipes
This cookbook from the UK healthy fast-food chain Leon is a compilation of good food for every day and entertaining in your home.