Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Review: The River Cottage Year

There are enough recipe books already aren't there? There really are. There's no excuse to write another one.

"The River Cottage Year" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall isn't a recipe book. It's a treatise on the value of cooking seasonally. It's a hymn in praise of British food. It's a rallying cry to inject some fun and adventure into your shopping, cooking and eating habits.

Having taken the message of this book to heart, I never want to buy asparagus in November again. I don't want raspberries in January. Although I still buy the occasional exotic fruit (it's just not Christmas without satsumas is it?) I'm quite happy with English apples and pears until the rhubarb pops up again in spring. I enjoy hunting out the best local seasonal produce, and I'm so excited by the new foods coming into season that I hardly notice the ones that have just dropped out for another year.

This book can change your life? Yes, I suppose it can. And it's got some great recipes too.

11 comments:

Karen said...

Exotic though they might be, satsumas were still a seasonal fruit and only available at Christmas time when I was little.

Steph (Hedgewitch) said...

You're inspiring me to stop my avocado addiction. I know they are terrible on air miles, and I'm almost certain the people that grow and harvest them will be getting a bum deal too.

I must stop it! :-)

Anonymous said...

There is still a major need for good quality cook books on the topic of cooking gluten-free and for vegans! I was so please to find the new cook book Breakfast Lunch Tea. Has anyone tried out?

The brilliant thing about this book is its attention to maximising healthiness without compromising taste; there are many gluten free, low sugar and vegan recipes: finally cakes are not a crime!I defy anyone to look through this wonder of a book and not want to get busy baking cakes, tarts, pizzettes etc.

Also, I have always tiptoed around pastry and baking, made to feel like it is a slightly mystical art: easy to do but almost impossible to master and perfect. The thing I really like about Rose Carrarini’s approach is that she lets you into this hoard of little trade secrets and details that all the other cookery books perhaps take for granted eg how the weather, the temperature of your hands etc make all the difference.

With this advice I found classics: carrot cake, ginger biscuits, were reborn as mouth watering, exquisite treats and I progressed onto the more exotic recipes with confidence in my own judgement eg broccoli cake (sounds wrong but tastes so right!) . It seems even the snootiest of the baked-goods eating public, the French, have been won over by Rose Carrarini contemporary classics; the book documents the rise of the cult English bakery/tea room she set up in Paris.

If this book comes with one hazard it is a serious addiction to baking, eccles cakes and ricotta cheesecake are next on the list. On the other hand, do not underestimate how people warm to the bearer of baked goods! It’s got to be tried to be believed.

John Curtin said...

Have I mentioned Michael Pollan's book The Omnivores Dilemma - an excellent read if you care about how food is produced and how it gets to our table!

Melanie Rimmer said...

You have John and it sounds interesting. I'll certainly keep an eye open for it.

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