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Posts Tagged ‘Octopus Publishing’

If there’s one thing that chefs and keen home cooks are (over?) protective about it’s their knives. Most cooks will have their favourite, some knives have a long history, some are just for show whilst others come in for a daily battering. Like one of the family, chefs will take their, often supremely expensive, knives with them everywhere they go and god forbid anyone who dares pick up and use them!

It’s this tool of the chef’s trade which is the unusual starting point for the hefty new book, Bought, Borrowed & Stolen. Allega McEvedy loves knives, buying a new one in every country she visits to add to her well-used collection. Each knife (bought) tells a story and has a purpose unique to the country from which it originated. This, along with tales of her travels and a short fact-file, serves as an interesting introduction to the country and the recipes within each section.

You really get the sense that this book has been years in the making. All those childhood years travelling with her historian father, accompanying him on research trips and being encouraged to keep a travelogue (but actually only managing to keep a food diary), has seemingly culminated in a book that makes you want to travel, visit markets, eat at family-run restaurants and discover local delicacies. Allegra’s engaging personality comes out in her informal style of writing, you really do feel like she’s talking to you and you’re travelling with her.

This is the first book by Allegra (of Leon and Economy Gastronomy fame) which doesn’t contain her own recipes. Instead she has collated recipes for dishes of particular significance (cultural, historical or nostalgic) she has eaten around the world. She shares recipes with us she was given by people she met along the way (borrowed) as well as those she has recreated (stolen) using her taste memory, scrap book notes and the odd dodgy holiday snap (which, as a nice touch, we can see for ourselves in the book).

Whilst the photography didn’t grab us or fulfil its role of enticing us into making the food, once a decision to cook had been made, the food we tucked into was full of bold flavours and simple to make (though we weren’t short of leftovers, many of the recipes being for 6 to 8 people and difficult to downscale).

In our short trip, we visited Norway, Malawi, the Philippines, Mexico and a couple of US states sampling salmon and leek soup, chicken and peanut rice, pumpkin curry, homemade peanut butter, pork adobo, green juice, oaty buttermilk pancakes, apple and chicory slaw with pecans and blue cheese dressing and a West Coast ricotta cake. We also shared the stories behind our favourite knives; surprisingly they weren’t all kitchen knives.

Bought, Borrowed & Stolen is a book I can relate to on several levels. My dad is a geographer; for me every holiday was a fieldtrip and this travelling had a huge influence on my passion for languages and, in part, my fascination with food and cooking. I too was encouraged to write a diary as well as put together travel scrapbooks and photo albums which became increasingly focussed on the food we cooked and ate. The tradition continues today, in my recipe folder, in my, as yet, unshared food diary and on my blog.

The book also serves to confirm that people interested in food do apparently strange and random things – I’m not the only one and I’m not crazy. Or, at least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

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Vegetarians look away now!

There’s more to meat than a Sunday roasting joint, chop or pack of mince and if you’re going to eat meat I strongly believe you should know where it comes from. I don’t mean the butcher, market or supermarket but the provenance; how it has been brought into the world as an animal, cared for, slaughtered, hung, butchered and sold to us.

The Ginger Pig Meat Book, a collaboration by Tim Wilson, the farmer behind the Ginger Pig chain of butchers, and Fran Warde, cook and food writer, is more than just a cookery book. It tells the whole story, from terre to table, of the pig, the cow, the sheep, birds and game animals.

It’s an easy to read and skilfully produced reference book on the characteristics of different breeds, what is good and bad husbandry, humane methods of slaughter, good butchery as well as what quality meat should look like, how to pick the right cut for a dish and how to store, prepare, cook, rest and carve it.

Not only does it serve as encouragement to us all to choose our meat well,  but also to the growing number of farmers working to bring back traditional British breeds of animals, so-called rare breeds, pushed to the verge of extinction as a result of intensive farming.

The recipe section, complete with a collection of 100 recipes showing off head to toe cuts from all the great British animals featured in the reference section, are organised around a year in the life diary of a busy and bountiful Yorkshire farm.

The seasonal recipes cover family favourites (meatballs, burgers, casseroles), British classics (hot pots, pies and roasts), quick evening meals (I can vouch for the smoked bacon and cheddar tortilla, roast duck legs with lentils and fragrant lamb kebabs), dishes for entertaining (Navarin of lamb, roast Michaelmas goose) meals from around the world (Bogota bavette, goulash and lamb pilaf) as well as recipes for the more daring; curing your own ham for instance. There’s even a recipe for the Ginger Pig sausage roll which, according to Valentine Warner, is the finest sausage roll known to man.

In essence the recipes are for good, honest food, the key to which is quality meat.

The book has a charming rustic look and the beautiful photographs of happy animals in their natural habitat as well as the wonderful dishes they serve to create are plentiful. A real treasure and a fabulous book for any animal and meat lover.

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I’ve often thought of making your own drinks as the pinnacle of domesticity. Something I’ve dreamed of doing but never put into practice. Now a rare craft, it was on-trend in the seventies and eighties when it seemed that everyone was making their own cordials, wines and beers from anything and everything. If you didn’t have several demi-johns of your own gooseberry, or even more strangely, carrot wine, in your pantry or spare room you surely hadn’t lived?!

From the arrival of a new book, How To Make Your Own Drinks, by Susy Atkins (you may know her as one of the wine experts on Saturday Kitchen), combined with a renewed interest in foraging, growing your own, seasonality, using local produce, healthy eating and thriftiness, I think there’s going to be a revival of the home-made drink industry. The ingredients are cheap (if not free), the methods quick and simple and the results often spectacular. It’s all too easy to get the bug!

The variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks you can make at home is astonishing. There are several suggested recipes for cordials, wines, champagnes, beers, vodkas, gins and teas in each chapter but once you’ve got the know-how and the inspiration, there are countless possibilities to try.

The book is thoughtfully written with information on how to get started and equipment needed as well as tips on presentation so that you can make drinks to give as gifts and notes on which drinks freeze well enabling you to enjoy a glut of produce in drink form right through the year. Not only are there recipes for the drinks themselves but ideas on what to do with them – cocktails, desserts and food pairings, for example.

There are chapters on drinks you can make with foraged ingredients such as elderflowers, elderberries, blackberries, nettles and even oak leaves. There are recipes for citrus, orchard and summer fruit drinks, floral drinks, wines and grape drinks, teas and even store cupboard infusions. Something for everyone and any occasion.

Down to business! Camping in the Wye Valley last weekend, I spotted elderflowers growing in the hedge at the campsite so keenly picked my first harvest just before heading home. Armed with my new book I’d whipped up my first batch of elderflower cordial within half an hour. Just 24 hours later and I was sipping the fruits of my labour mixed with some sparkling water. Summer is here and it’ll be here for a while – there’s a large bottle of cordial in the fridge and another in the freezer to keep us going for months.

I’ve been eager to try making my own ginger beer but have been put off by complicated methods, the need for a plant and the amount of time required to make it. How pleased was I to read Susy’s quick and easy recipe using fresh ginger and fast-action yeast, ready in days?! 20 minutes or so of effort and I now have my own ginger beer fermenting. The hardest part is going to be waiting three days before I can drink it. I can’t wait to try it mixed with my own elderflower cordial and a squeeze of lime!

I don’t yet have the equipment to make the wines and champagnes in the book but I’ve still got plenty of cordials to get through. In fact, inspired by the recipe for rhubarb wine and spurred on by the success of the elderflower, the next harvest of rhubarb from the garden is destined for the bottle in the form of rhubarb and ginger cordial.

I’ve a feeling making my own drinks is going to get addictive. Best get onto the solicitor in the morning to chase up our house purchase. I’m going to need more room for all my creations! Bottoms up!

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