River Cafe Cook Book Green
is the latest instalment in its authors' quest for perfection. (That this austerely high-minded project should be taking place in one of London's more expensive restaurants only adds a pleasing Zen-riddle quality). In the first River Cafe Cook Book
, illumination was achieved through the wood-fired grill. That was OK, because one of those ridged grill-pans would do at a pinch, though we were left in no doubt it came a very poor second. By the time River Cafe Cook Book Two
came out, the famous wood-burning oven had been installed, to the despair of many. In the new volume the focus is on the ingredients, specifically fruit, vegetables and herbs. Quality, freshness and seasonality, of course, have always been paramount at the River Cafe, and are now boosted by, wouldn't you know it, the adjoining organic vegetable garden. Combined with the Cafe's unbeatable network of organic suppliers, this may make some readers wonder whether it's worth trying to keep up any more.
Emphatically yes, must be the answer. The River Cafe phenomenon has always been inspirational, if not aspirational; and the new book is packed with astoundingly good, simple recipes and ideas. It is constructed round the appearance of individual fruits and vegetables in the garden or the market. Perhaps in part to distinguish themselves from the rather many cookery writers who have previously adopted this approach, Gray and Rogers work through the year month by month rather than by season. Thus May brings apricots (Apricot, Lemon and Almond Tart, Apricot Jam Ice-Cream), asparagus (in Risotto, with Anchovy and Milk Sauce, in a salad with gulls' eggs), broad beans (in a Minestrone), melons (Melon and Lemon Sorbet, Melon Marinated in Valpolicella with Vanilla), spring carrots (Braised Spring Carrots and Artichokes, Carrots Marsala) and spring onions (Peas Braised with Spring Onions, Spring Onion and Thyme Pizza). So it goes on, beautiful, simple, delicious. And if our carrots aren't quite perfect, well, we can have a word with our greengrocer, or join an organic box scheme. Or we can just aspire. Not the least achievement of Gray and Rogers is to restore to this simple food the magical allure it possessed when most people knew it only through the early books of Elizabeth David. --Robin Davidson
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Like Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book, written way ahead of its time, I have a hunch that this willl turn out to be similarly far-sighted." Harpers & Queen "this is as dazzling and imaginative a collection of vegetable recipes as you are ever likely to find in one book...it has barely left my kitchen all summer" Nigel Slater, The observer "It is the most wonderful book - it looks beautiful and makes you want to get chopping and stirring and picking and eating straight away" Nigella Lawson, Vogue "Their two astonishingly successful books have already sold over a million, but in many ways the latest is the best of the lot." Sunday Express