What a book - typically Rachel - down-to-earth and passionate!
Between Rachel on the front cover and the 'Raspberry and Amaretto Tart' on the back, we find a splendid mix of recipes, where old favourites such as 'Steak au Poivre', 'Roast Pork with Apple Sauce' and 'Coq au Vin' mingle with the, perhaps, lesser well-known 'Thai Noodle Broth', 'Game Terrine with Celeraic Remoulade', and 'Spinach Soup with Rosemary Oil'.
Whether casually serving 2 or more formally entertaining 12, there is something for all occasions, with all levels of ability catered for and Rachel's gently authoritative but unassuming personality rings out, throughout.
From the back cover:-
'Sharing irresistible food and having fun with those you love is what Entertaining at Home: Inspiring recipes for all occasions
is all about. It's as simple as that!
Whether you want a casual supper with your nearest and dearest or a big feast to mark a special occasion, Rachel gives you all the inspiring ideas and achievable, delicious recipes you'll need to make any meal a celebration.'
Measuring in around 25.25 cm x 19.75 cm x 3 cm, this is a chunky tome of 352 quality pages, split over main chapters:-
* Brunches and lunches (pg 14-61)
* Casual meals (pg 64-85)
* Eating outdoors (pg 88-119)
* Canapés and small bites (pg122-153)
* Small celebrations (2-4 people) (pg 156-201)
* Dinner parties (4-8 people) (pg 204-263)
* Larger gatherings (8-12 people) (pg 266-313)
* The buffet party (pg 316-343)
sandwiched between an introduction and an 8-page index, with Rachel in her yellow marigolds winding up the very last page - the acknowledgements!
The book is complete with a mid-pink ribbon marker to keep the page!
From the introduction:-
'Friends, family, good food, good times - this is what entertaining is all about. It can be as relaxed as flopping down on the sofa with a few friends to share nibbles and drinks, or as formal as getting out your best china and ironing your tablecloth for a three-course meal. How you choose to share your time and your cooking creations with your loved ones is entirely up to you. What each kind of gathering has in common, however, is a happy, welcoming atmosphere, and the main ingredient for that is you......'
which goes on to chat about:-
* your guests
* your home
* your table
* what to serve
* preparing ahead
and, probably, the most important.......
* keeping calm!
This is a beautifully produced book with that special Rachel Allen feeling which is so hard to put in words.
Each chapter opens a double-page spread, with white type on coloured pages, showing the dishes in a menu list on one page and opening narrative on the other.
Each recipe is clearly laid out with the title, number of servings, the list/s of ingredients, an opening note and a clear, numbered method. The inclusion of whether it is a vegetarian choice is useful as is the detailed size of dish for some recipes which I find most welcome, e.g. six 100ml (3.5 fl oz) ramekins or ovenproof dishes for the very first recipe:-
'Baked Eggs with Creamy Kale', which is also the first I tried....lured by the enticing photograph and substituting Gruyère for the Irish recommendation of Glebe Brethan, as advised.
I have gone on to find firm favourites in 'Ballymaloe Glazed Loin of Bacon with Spicy Mayonnaise', and.... with Christmas in mind (at the time of writing).....the fantastic, 'Chocolate Roulade' from page 312, using a 20 cm x 30 cm Swiss Roll tin & a simple holly leaf embellishment, and the 'Spiced Raisin Tart', from page 256 - a recipe of Mum's, from the 70s & 'fabulously retro' - and heaven served with the recommended 'Cinnamon Ice Cream', two pages away and a dark espresso!
Each chapter closes with menu selection ideas in the same colour combination as the opening pages apart from the last chapter which has a buffet party plan.
A small taste of the other recipes within:-
* Lazy weekend Bloody Mary
* Isaac's frittata
* Skirt steak with spicy potatoes
* Tuscan beans on toast
* Tagliatelle with smoked salmon and avocado
* Salade niçoise
* Pork rillettes
* Venison sausages with celeriac purée
* Orange meringue roulade
* Apple snow with shortbread biscuits
* Chilli sin carne
* Chicken and olive tagine
* Chinese-style ribs with coleslaw
* Mild lamb curry
* Apricot crumble
* Middle Eastern chilled cucumber soup
* Salmon Teriyaki
* Broad bean and pancetta salad
* Spicy pastry straws
* Parsley pesto
* Onion Jam
* Hollandaise sauce
* Summer pea and mint ravioli
* Chicken confit
* Garlic and herb pork chops
* Beef and wild mushroom lasagne
* Watercress mousse
* Fluffy mashed potato
* Chocolate crème brûlées
* Tuiles biscuits
* Decadent mushroom tart
* Fish stew
* Pot-roast pheasant with bacon and brandy
* Beef wellington
* Soy and sesame pak choi
* Zingy Asian prawns
* Ballymaloe cucumber relish
* Roast haunch of venison
* Rosemary and garlic bread
* Rhubarb and ginger crumble cake
* Egg mayonnaise
* Horseradish Sauce
The recipes are sometimes more than one to a page, e.g. stocks & marinades and some, e.g.:- 'Blueberry and Custard Tart', & 'Decadent Mushroom Tart' span more than one page. The main text is broken up with a reasonable number of photographs, including some on-location, from Kate Whittaker, plus 'Rachel's Tips' and/or variations feature throughout, as usual, e.g.:-
'An easy way of checking if cooking oil is hot enough for deep-frying is to drop in a bread cube. If it comes back up to the top relatively quickly, the oil is the perfect temperature. If it immediately burns, the oil is too hot.'
along with additional informative snippets, such as:-
* Calculating cooking times for beef both on and off the bone
* How long to marinate meat
* Cooking a crab
* Roasting and peeling hazelnuts
* Choosing a cheese board