Canteen: Great British Food by Cass Titcombe, Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake

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Canteen: Great British Food by Cass Titcombe, Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake

Category: Cookery
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: If you're nostalgic for good British food then this really is the book for you. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Ebury Press
ISBN: 978-0091936327

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I love food and I can happily read a recipe book for fun and for inspiration. It's always good to see what cookery books spawned by restaurants offer. Just occasionally you spot a combination of foods which you would never have thought of, but which works brilliantly, but more often I've found myself wondering two things. Who, in their own home, would go to the trouble of creating these dishes and, more importantly, who would want to eat them? At the other end of the scale you find Canteen: Great British Food and you heave a sigh of relief.

Canteen, originally in Spitalfields Market in London, isn't a long-established restaurant, only coming to fame in 2005 but what took everyone by surprise was the fact that it concentrated on real British food and took pride in doing so. Devilled kidneys on toast made a welcome return. Pork pies became restaurant food and the good old treacle tart was given the setting it deserved. It's all good, honest food.

If you're not keen on nostalgia then the cookbook will probably not appeal to you, but it's a collection of a hundred and twenty recipes featuring good, affordable food. The layout is classic, with chapters devoted to particular meals or classes of food. I like the simplicity of this. If I'm looking for inspiration for breakfast or a starter before the main course I like to know exactly where I'll find it.

Breakfast is grouped with those all-day foods which we substitute for a meal when we're in a hurry or just feeling lazy. Roast tomatoes on toast makes great breakfast. Forget tinned tomatoes and cheap bread - this is made with fresh tomatoes, garlic and herbs and is served on sourdough bread. It's good in the winter, but probably best when you have a glut of tomatoes from the garden. For a complete change try rhubarb compote with yoghurt and granola – it's particularly good with the first of the spring rhubarb. For snacks there are recipes for Scotch eggs and sausage rolls – and they taste far better than anything you'll find in the shops.

For starters there's a glorious recipe for Coronation chicken. There's a long list of ingredients but don't be put off as much of it can be done in advance and anything that's left over makes the most wonderful sandwiches. It also works well for a picnic. If you'd like something more 'traditional' try British salad with salad cream – and yes, there is a recipe for the salad cream. There's a recipe too for a cauliflower soup which is very subtle in flavour and looks stunning, but my favourite is the vegetable and pearl barley soup.

For main courses you have to try the slow roast pork belly with apples. Much of the fat renders in the course of the cooking (and the aroma will have you drooling, I promise) but the result is still rich and the cider and apples help to cut through this. If there's anything left over this is something else to use in sandwiches. But if you'd like something which doesn't take quite so long to cook then try the sausage, mash and onion gravy. It's not just jokes where the old ones are best, you know. My favourite in this chapter is macaroni cheese – or wireless pudding as a friend of mine always calls it.

In the chapter on pies I can recommend the chicken and mushroom pie. As it uses chicken thighs it's relatively economical to make, but the addition of dried porcini gives it a depth of flavour that chicken pies can sometimes lack. There's the British classic steak and kidney pie but for those who like to be a little more adventurous you could try the duck, chestnut and prune pie.

The weather seems to be a little warmer now but over the winter I've relied heavily on stews. The beef stew and dumplings is a delight with the dumpling recipe using less suet than many traditional recipes – and it works just as well! The Lancashire hotpot uses mutton rather than lamb – a good butcher should be able to supply this with no problems although it's not so common in supermarkets – and the choice is reflected in the flavour. You could use lamb but you might be surprised at how much better the mutton tastes. There are a couple of good vegetarian stews too.

'Roasts' are not just restricted to the usual beef, lamb and chicken. There's an excellent recipe for roast duck legs with a fool-proof way of serving them moist. It's great with red cabbage. Chops are not forgotten and nor are those essential accompaniments – Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and the accompanying vegetables. I've served the roast field mushrooms on toast for breakfast.

Fish cakes must, of course, be served with mushy peas. I know it's easy to buy them frozen from the supermarket, but try these and you'll see how much better they taste. I haven't tried the fish and chips with tartare sauce but that's because it's deep fried and over the years I've found it better not to have the means of deep frying for fear that I would use it too often. I'm afraid that I'm more of a smoked haddock spinach and mash person! Something else which is worth trying is the herring and potato salad.

Puddings and desert are my weakness and this book will sorely tempt you. It starts with steamed syrup pudding (go on – it's not that difficult) and then it gets better. Apple brandy syllabub is delightful, but definitely not one for the kids – they'll have to settle for rice pudding with jam. There are jellies, tarts, ice creams and even a Christmas pudding. When you follow that with the chapter on cakes and biscuits you know that you're in serious trouble!

Some of the cakes are unusual – chocolate and beetroot cake, for example – but they work. So do the more conventional cakes such as the Victoria sponge and the shortbread. They're two recipes which have saved me on many an occasion when I've had to produce cakes and biscuits at short notice. There's a final chapter on the basics with such varied recipes as onion gravy, mayonnaise, pastries and jams.

It's all good food. There's nothing fancy about it, but there is a lot of good honest food in this book. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you and you'd like to look at similar food in more depth then we can recommend English Food by Jane Grigson.

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Buy Canteen: Great British Food by Cass Titcombe, Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Canteen: Great British Food by Cass Titcombe, Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake at


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