Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein

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Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein

Buy Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Cookery
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The book of the original television series on fish cookery has some reasonable recipes and guidance but is probably better borrowed than bought.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: June 1996
Publisher: BBC Books
ISBN: 0563387815

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Every so often I go through my cookery books and remind myself of the ones that I haven't looked at for quite a while. On the latest trawl I was pleasurably surprised to rediscover Rick Stein's "Taste of the Sea" and even more surprised to find that it's ten years since the paperback was published.

I don't think that Rick Stein could ever be in my first rank of food writers along with Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and Nigel Slater. He's a showman first, a restaurateur second and a writer only to mop up any income that hasn't been covered by the first two occupations. He's none the worse for that though as what he delivers is reasonable value for money if not inspirational.

We should eat more fish, you know. It doesn't have the saturated fats of meat and is completely lean and easily digestible. Rick Stein describes it as protein without tears as it has none of the side effects of fatty meat and most contains the cholesterol-reducing fish oil, Omega 3. Stein is a fan of the most comprehensive book on fish cooking, Jane Grigson's Fish Book and quotes her worry about the perception that fish is not as nourishing as meat, that's it doesn't really make a man's meal. He doesn't really answer this, to my mind. I'd like to have read more about the positive reasons why we should be eating fish rather than his simply countering the negative perceptions, such as the bones and the smell of fish. Once people are convinced that they should be eating more fish the other problems will fade away.

There's a good chapter on choosing, preparing and cooking fish, which I think is what puts the novice off trying fish rather than the smell or the bones. Whilst any fishmonger and those supermarkets with a dedicated fish counter should be more than willing to prepare fish for their customer it's good to have the basic knowledge of how to do the preparation should the need arise. The instructions are clear, simple and no-nonsense. The equipment required doesn't generally go beyond that found it a reasonably-equipped kitchen.

I did appreciate the very good pictures of the individual species of fish, particularly where similar fish such as the Pollack and the grey mullet have been put next to each other for comparison purposes. I was less appreciative of some of the other pictures in the book. There are a good number of "pictures of the recipe" photographs but also quite a few of the beach, the harbour, the restaurant kitchen which set the scene, but do suggest to me that they're there to bulk out a slightly thin text. The book has 224 pages, but only about 160 recipes.

I would have liked more logic in the way that the recipes are ordered in the book. Some chapters cover a class of food, such as the early chapter on soups, stews, pies and mixed seafood recipes, but the next covers oily fish and then there's one on Mediterranean fish. When I'm looking for inspiration I don't really know where to look and that's one of the reasons why the book hasn't been as well-used as it might have been. There is a good index but when you're looking for inspiration that's not necessarily your first port-of-call. It's too long ago for me to remember, but I've a lingering suspicion that the chapters follow the format of the television programme from which the book is derived.

The recipes are well-explained but often seem more like restaurant food converted for home cooking than the sort of food that's put on the family table - Panache of John Dory, Turbot and Red Mullet with Young Summer Vegetables, for example. There are some very good, classic recipes though. Certainly the Cod in Parsley Sauce will banish any memories of school dinners and it's all down to quality ingredients carefully cooked. The salmon in puff pastry is a personal favourite - fancy enough for guests but economical enough for regular family consumption. I'd have liked a little more in the way of inspiration, more along the lines of "if you can't get this you could use that" rather than leaving readers with the feeling that the recipes are set in stone.

My main reservation about this book is that it's essentially a book of the television series rather than a definitive book about fish cookery. If it's the ultimate book that you're looking for then you'd be best getting Jane Grigson's Fish Book or her English Food if you'd like good information and recipes about fish in amongst other excellent writing and recipes. You won't get any glossy photos though.

Buy Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein at Amazon.com.


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