New British Classics by Gary Rhodes
|New British Classics by Gary Rhodes|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A well-researched book covering most aspects of culinary life, which is let down by the fact that most recipes are for an unreasonably large number of people. It's one to borrow and enjoy but probably not to buy.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 408||Date: September 2001|
|Publisher: BBC Books|
I've always had a soft spot for Gary Rhodes right from his first series for the BBC back in 1994. No, it wasn't the spiky hair (which I hated) or the puppyish charm (which grated) it was the fact that it did seem that the man could actually cook and his love of the food shone through in everything that he prepared.
It didn't even worry me that he's thin when no chef has the right to be thin. He's a cook; it's what his life is about, whether he's appearing on television, running his restaurants and brasseries or writing books. They are all part of a seamless whole. Go into the kitchens of his brasseries and you could well find that the chefs are working from photocopied pages from my latest find: his "New British Classics".
First published in 1999 "New British Classics" is not just a cookbook; it's a work of scholarship too. Gary Rhodes looks at the background to the food we eat, how it has evolved over time and how traditions such as Sunday lunch have affected our food. It was as late as the nineteenth century that it became standard practice to take a meal in the middle of the day and Sunday, the day of rest, became the day that families were able to eat together on a regular basis at lunchtime. The British Isles were renowned for their meat, so it was natural that a roast joint of meat should appear regularly on the Sunday lunch table.
As well as giving recipes to cover the joints which we all know and love - our legs of lamb and roast rib of beef, Gary moves the tradition on. How about having an individual roast beef, where a joint of sirloin is divided before cooking and each piece is individually roasted and served with bitter onions? There are recipes for all the trimmings that we would expect - the Yorkshire puddings, and roast potatoes and, a common feature throughout the book, cross-references to other recipes which would either supplement the recipes given (roast parsnips, anyone?) or could also be used on the occasion, such as roast Guinness Lamb.
There are over 300 recipes in twenty different sections, sometimes covering particular ingredients (such as cheese and eggs), a particular meal (Afternoon Tea and High Tea) or a type of food, such as soups.
Each section has the same carefully researched introduction. The weather's not good today, so let's have a look at Picnics and see if we can bring a little sun back into our lives. The idea of picnics began in the late seventeenth century and originally didn't necessarily mean a meal that was eaten in the open air and it was only in 1815 when picnics were given to celebrate Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo that the word came to mean a meal taken outside. There's a good variety of recipes, ranging from the perfect roast chicken sandwich, sausagemeat loaf, a couple of excellent recipes for vegetarians (all vegetarian recipes in the book are clearly marked) and even a homemade pork pie.
It might be that it's my sweet tooth, but the chapter which impressed me most was the one on puddings. I can personally vouch for the Scottish Fruit Tart with Whisky, a mixture of dried fruit, eggs, butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pastry case, but you might prefer a baked egg custard tart. There's Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding too and Strawberry Cheesecake Swiss Roll. Prefer something lighter? Well, you could try gooseberry sherbet.
In early December I was having a look at the Festive Christmas chapter. There's some good, common-sense advice about such things as having a cold starter on the big day and about what can be made well in advance. The recipes cover not only the traditional roast turkey and Christmas Pudding but post-Christmas treats such as Christmas Pudding fritters with cranberry ice cream.
Recipes are clear and without overly-long lists of ingredients. Most recipes are within the scope of the cook with a little experience, if not the complete beginner.
This book won't replace my tried and trusted books - the Elizabeth Davids, Jane Grigsons or the Nigel Slaters, simply because a lot of the recipes are for a large number of people. Recipes for four are unusual, six quite common and eight, ten or twelve not unusual. Now, on occasion, this is what's needed, but it does mean that this is, for the most part, a book you'd use for dinner parties rather than for everyday eating. It is a book, though, to use for inspiration and for the pleasure of Sian Irvine's photography.
You might also enjoy A Perfect Day for a Picnic by Tori Finch.
You can read more book reviews or buy New British Classics by Gary Rhodes at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy New British Classics by Gary Rhodes at Amazon.com.
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