Wild Cooking by Richard Mabey

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Wild Cooking by Richard Mabey

Category: Cookery
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Discussion and recipes from a botanist who can cook and knows more than his onions. It's thought provoking and relevant - definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099522966

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It's become fashionable now to make do, to cut back - even for those who have no need to do so. Conspicuous consumption is frowned upon and thriftiness is the new black, so Wild Cooking, previously published in hardback as The New English Cassoulet is going to appeal to the mood of the moment with its approach of 'busking in the kitchen' and making do. Some of it might seem a little extreme – I really can't imagine that I will ever slow cook a Peking Duck in front of a fan heater simply because it might as well cook the food whilst it's heating the room – but I love the idea of using a glut to make broad bean hummus, or even of gathering up vegetables which have been left when the field has been harvested.

Richard Mabey is primarily a botanist and his cooking skills come from practice and his mother's pitch-perfect sense of taste which he seems to have inherited. The recipes in the book have mostly been developed at home with his wife and none of them require specialist equipment or too many obscure ingredients. Instructions are usually clear although you might need to be fairly confident of your cooking abilities before approaching them as quantities are often elastic and I suspect that there are many occasions when you're going to be proceeding on a wing and a prayer!

The recipes are not the main reason that you're going to be buying this book. It's a series of short pieces loosely set in each of the four seasons. They're much on the same lines as the Nigel Slater's articles in the Observer Magazine, with a discussion followed by some relevant recipes. Slater's articles lean more towards the subject of cookery, whilst Mabey is looking towards a new way of thinking about the food we eat. The content reminded me of the late (and much lamented) Jane Grigson but with perhaps less depth. That's not a criticism – a Jane Grigson book needs to be read and savoured over several days or even weeks, but Wild Cooking gave me a thoroughly enjoyable three hours in the sunshine this afternoon.

The approach is eclectic. Sometimes the dishes are food which he's met on his travels – and I was particularly impressed by his use of spices. The taste comes off the page as you read. There are considerable eastern and Mediterranean influences – if you like the food created by Sam and Sam Clark then you're going to feel at home in Wild Cooking. At other times the recipes are suggested by ingredients being available and needing to be used. I did wonder if I would use two litres of milk (preferably ewe's milk) to produce a cup of curd cheese (you'll need lemon juice, salt and a pair of old tights too, if you're thinking of trying it) but I might feel differently if I had a glut of milk.

The book is thought-provoking – particularly on the subject of what we are all doing to the planet and how the choices we make about our food impacts on us all. Food with air miles attached might be a better option than food grown locally but under glass. He's also particularly interesting on the subject of ownership of food which grows or falls onto common land. For me the book was worth reading just for those two subjects alone.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you're feeling the thrift bug then you might appreciate The Thrift Book: Live Well and Spend Less by India Knight. Food growing is relatively simple and we have books to help you if you're planning on producing in a small way or on a larger scale. We also think that you'll love The Thrifty Cookbook by Kate Colquhoun.

Buy Wild Cooking by Richard Mabey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wild Cooking by Richard Mabey at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Wild Cooking by Richard Mabey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wild Cooking by Richard Mabey at Amazon.com.


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