6 November 2010

Book Review : "My Kitchen : Real Food From Near And Far" by Stevie Parle

I was sent this book to review by the lovely people at Quadrille Publishing Ltd.  I am quite sure that, given some cash in my pocket and finding myself in a bookshop, I wouldn't pick this one up to bring it home.

However, if I were to trip over it at the Library, I'd definitely take it home to have a read of - not necessarily to cook anything from though.  I can't help but think that if a recipe book doesn't motivate the reader to cook anything from it, then it's a definite fail as a recipe book.

There are flickers of gold in the book with interesting new pieces of information to tuck behind one's ear for later - like the fact that small British Quinces are just as useable as the big plump ones that come in from abroad and what the heck Banh Mi is (a Vietnamese sandwich, apparently).

I have to say that I hate the unfinished feel of the cover.  I can't imagine the state it would get into in the kitchen, although the thought of handing on a dog-eared, oil-stained, half pickled recipe book to one's progeny does have an attractive air about it.  Much as I'd like to believe otherwise, I don't think this book has got the longevity factor required to become anyone's family heirloom.

The illustrations throughout are beautifully drawn by Ros Shiers, such as the fish for May, although the crabs depicted for April put me in mind of one of Giger's sketches for the Alien.

Having sat down and read through this book from cover to cover, I understand the layout of it - being a "cooking year" with recipes and anecdotes taken from all areas of the author's life.  However I do agree with my hubby in that the recipes do appear to be confusingly random.  Although there's no reason why recipes should appear all together under the heading "Pasta" or "Eggs" etc. as in a classic recipe book and I'm all for a bit of free-thinking, it seems to me to be extraordinarily difficult to refer back to the book once you've left it for a few days.  If you'd not looked at it for a few months and then tried to re-find a recipe that caught your eye, I suspect you might find yourself turning to alternative recipes via the internet, rather than have to trawl through the book looking - Index or no Index.

I have a slight issue with the ingredients used, too.  Although I can appreciate that bringing new ingredients to the forefront of people's minds is no bad thing - and we're all looking for variety - I have to take issue with Stevie's comment that "the truly delicious things are not always those that cost a lot", which could lead you to thinking that most of his recipes would be affordable.  I guess my "affordable" isn't his "affordable".  However, I do thank him for introducing me to a Nespole (aka Nefles or Loquats).  I have seen these in the ethnic shops locally and now I know what they are and what potential they have for cooking.

So you see, it's not all bad.  At a price of £14.99 I think I'd rather find a book which contains more appeal.  Having said that, however, I do think that the book is pitched at a bohemian audience which doesn't include me - even though I did spend 9 years living on a houseboat!

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