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Reviews Written by
Colin J. Herd "colin j herd" (Edinburgh)

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by Stéphane Reynaud
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rustic comfort food that is stylish, delicious and subtle too., 9 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Rôtis (Hardcover)
This book is another corker from Reynaud. What's that now? 4 in the last year and a half or something?

I love Reynaud's idiosyncratic cookbooks. The way he has organized all but one of them around a theme, so 'Pork', 'Terrines' and now 'Roasts'. I loved 'Terrine', the obsessiveness, the inventiveness of writing a book with such a vast array of dishes all centered around terrine-moulds. Those qualities are still present in 'Rotis', but it's a cookbook I'll find myself using much more often. I guess I'm more likely to shove something in a pan in the oven than in a terrine first, but that's my prejudice and I'll eat it.

I like the name of this book. It so much more captures the spirit than the English word 'Roasts' would have but I guess what a reader of this review is really wanting to know is, Are the recipes as good his other books?

I think the recipes are absolutely tremendous. They have the same rustic, honest charm, and they always (in my experience) work, and they always look and taste great. Reynaud's food is traditional, sure, but often stripped-back, uncomplicated, yet with a slight twist, a particular flavour-pairing that really works. He is a master of flattering meat and fish. The chapter on roasting fish is particularly interesting, exciting and tempting to me, with a couple of unusual tuna recipes and a delicious monkfish roast with cockles that I tried this evening to great success.

He resists repeating recipes, (I think... I haven't used a tooth-comb...) but there are thankfully a lot of overlaps in technique, style, humour etc. (I wouldn't have him any other way).

Valvona & Crolla: A Year at an Italian Table
Valvona & Crolla: A Year at an Italian Table
by Mary Contini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.30

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valvonaandcrolla-licious, 1 Oct. 2009
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Valvona and Crolla is an Edinburgh institution, and rightly so. Many delicatessens and gourmet shops have sprung up over the years, but none compare to Valvona and Crolla on Elm Row. Nothing I have ever bought from there has been a banger (except from the exquisite Fonteluna sausage that is!). The staff are always warm and particularly knowledgable, friendly and helpful.

All of which to point out that i was expecting big things from this book. It doesn't disappoint. Mary Contini writes with a good sense of humour and a talent for relating food-anecdotes. It's a style that will be familiar to readers of her other books. But the difference with this one is that it is much more concertedly a 'cookbook', which means the test is in the recipes and there are loads of good ones from Roast Goose to Crab pasta to meatballs to delicious salt-cod, to hazelnut cake etc etc.

I highly recommend this BEAUTIFUL book.

by Blake Butler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.50

5.0 out of 5 stars hard and bendy, 24 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Ever (Paperback)
Blake Butler is heading places (he recently announced a book deal with Harper Perennial on his blog) but I seriously doubt he'll be taking the simple route to get there. This is a difficult, absorbing, exciting, surprising, funny- ("ha ha" and "odd") book. An infuriating, tortured book. There is a plot of sorts, and definitely a narrator, but this slim (beautifully-designed) volume is more concerned with form.

Butler obsessively engages with forms of many kinds: form of sentences (I have never seen another writer so explore the potential of the bracket), form of rooms, buildings, book-form, body-form, word-form, and then form of objects in the novel as well as little things like forms of society and forms of psychology etc. etc.

I love Blake Butler's writing because it isn't how I think, I don't think. It is a book which is at once frighteningly hard and spookily bendy.

Tender: Volume I, A cook and his vegetable patch
Tender: Volume I, A cook and his vegetable patch
by Nigel Slater
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

251 of 262 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How on earth does he do it?, 16 Sept. 2009
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I ADORE THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK. It makes my heart melt as if it was the swede in his pasty recipe (560), or the centre of his chocolate beetroot cake (p.78), or the gratin of white cabbage, cheese and mustard (p.156) or the pumpkin scone (502).

I buy cookery books all the time. None are as useful or as beautiful as Nigel's. If I come across an ingredient in my veg-box or in the fishmonger or wherever, and I think to myself in the shop, "how could i turn this into my dinner?", the recipes and ideas that spring to mind are almost always from Nigel's books, or the folders I have full of Nigel's Observer newspaper recipes. Leafing through 'Tender' this morning with a cup of tea (I did preorder it for yesterday but I was out when the citylink van turned up) it is clear that this book will become the most well thumbed of all my collection. Cooking with a Nigel Slater book liberates you very quickly to cooking in a certain way, adapting recipes, swapping flavourings etc.

'Tender' carries on the precedent set by Kitchen Diaries for breathtakingly beautiful book-design and photography.

I have already decided what we're having for dinner, and everything is already in the house... it's on page 506.

Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2012 12:40 AM BST

Mister Lonely [DVD]
Mister Lonely [DVD]
Dvd ~ Samantha Morton

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a breathtaking must-see scene in a very good film., 23 Mar. 2009
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This review is from: Mister Lonely [DVD] (DVD)
Harmony Korine makes (all too few!) bizarre, mesmerizing, stunning, moving, loving, stylish, funny, startling films. This, the latest, contains one of the most breath-taking feats of filmmaking (and acting) I have ever seen. I don't want to spoil it by saying any more about what that scene might be but you will know immediately upon watching the film because it will be the one that makes you gasp and shake your head in disbelief, pinch yourself to ensure you ain't slipped into a dream.

Featuring Diego ("Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN") Luna and Samantha ("Sweet and Lowdown" Morton") as Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe impersonators respectively, the film studies, observes and orchestrates a group of impersonators who live in a commune in the highlands. The characters shuffle about, moving from mood to mood, enticement to enticement to disappointment to great imaginative fulfillment. It is a bored film in some ways and an enraptured film in other ways.

It has received some dreadful reviews and I'm prepared to be paint-balled for positively reviewing this, but I think the detractors are ungiving, ungenerous and cruel.

The Vicar's Wife's Cook Book
The Vicar's Wife's Cook Book
by Elisa Beynon
Edition: Hardcover

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am in love with the Vicar's wife!, 5 Mar. 2009
And I haven't said THAT sentence since, erm, at least last Tuesday. Elisa Beynon won the Waitrose Food Illustrated Foodwriting competition, and this book has come off the back of that, and what a treat it is!, it certainly proves the acumen of the judging panel (which included one of the finest food-writers ever, nigel Slater, no less). Beynon's writing is very down-to-earth, honest, witty, and yet her penchant for a touch of glamour shines through in her recipes, which include 'Crab Cannellonni' (can anyone wait to try that and see if it tastes as good as its alliterative moniker suggests?), Pan-roasted Halibut on Clam Stew, as well as more hearty grub such as fantastic Lamb stews, Beef stews, Roasts, etc. etc. and some very appealing, stylish desserts like Gooseberry and Elderflower Custards and Lavender Shortbread with Blackberries in Muscat and Lemon cream.

My favourite chapter is the Sunday Lunch one. Beynon's writing captures the sense of unfussy friends-and-family ceremony that this meal ought to be about. I really think this book will become a classic. I am desperate to try so many things here.

Kind of Intimacy, A
Kind of Intimacy, A
by Jenn Ashworth
Edition: Paperback

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Kind of Fabulous, 5 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Kind of Intimacy, A (Paperback)
Jenn Ashworth's debut had me hooked from the first page. In Annie, Ashworth has created one of the most interesting, mysterious, endearing but at the same time terrifying characters I have ever had the uncomfortable pleasure of encountering in a book.

There are times when I felt that I simply wanted to hug Annie and make it alright. Tell her that everything's o.k. and that she IS beautiful. I balk when I read that sentence back, too, but that is what Annie does to me... I had that feeling a lot reading this novel, and each time i had it it made me feel uncomfortable, sensing that Annie was more than she seemed, feeling inadequate and arrogant: my hug wouldn't be enough, and would i be able to give it, and would i be able to cope with the consequences.

Ashworth really keeps her cards close to her chest, maintaining mystery and surprise throughout, revealing pieces and dropping hints of the fullness of Annie's past, the horror of her present, past and future.

This book is a love story of sorts, a crime novel of sorts, but most of all it is a tender and compassionate portrait of a lonely young woman, emotionally battered and psychologically disturbed.

Mike's Murder [1984]
Mike's Murder [1984]

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death by Frustration, Or, The Wrong Way Round, 1 Mar. 2009
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This review is from: Mike's Murder [1984] (VHS Tape)
There is plenty to love in this James Bridges 'thriller' from 1984. Debra Winger, for a start, is always terrific, and her performance in this film is no different. She is fragile, curious, strong, deeply-in-love, afraid, sexy, cautious, bold etc, all in what is a fairly short film, albeit one in which she has most of the screen-time. There are also moments of characteristically stylish beautiful and interesting directing from Bridges. The 'climax' is one such stunner, which surfs on murder-mystery conventions to very striking effect. Oh, and there is also a great performance by Paul Winfield who plays a rich movie-producer, in a fabulous robe, who is also in love with Mark Keyloun (and who can blame him?- jeans and bomber jacket never looked so great). I also love the shots of Mexican-American food, especially at one point when you see a chilli burger getting cooked.

Still, this film is one of the most annoying I have seen in ages. This version, at least. Supposedly Bridges intended for this film to be shown in reverse (like Irreversible I guess), so that we have the denouement first and rewind from there. You can really see how this would make for a tense and thrilling film... that climax scene, for example would be incredible i think. But as it stands, all the tension is sucked out because the studio has released this version, in which the film is reedited to play forwards. We are left with a weird choppy structure and very little suspense because we already know there's a murder (it's in the title) and there isn't any mystery as to why or who. Scenes that ought to be very frightening and eery indeed, such as when debra winger goes to the scene of mike's murder, are instead lifeless and limp.

I tried rewinding the film and watching it during the rewind but it didn't help.

Good Food Subscription Gift Pack ( 12 issues)
Good Food Subscription Gift Pack ( 12 issues)
by BBC Magazines Ltd.
Edition: Unbound

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CAN COOK, WILL COOK, 14 Dec. 2008
Other food magazines have arrived, 'Olive', 'delicious', and now even Jamie Oliver's 'jamie', but in my opinion there is nothing like BBC Good Food for a huge variety of quick, healthy, fun, challenging and exciting recipes in every issue. You might not always learn something new, it's not always cutting edge, but what you will ALWAYS get without fail is a good recipe to try for any occassion: TONIGHT, or AT-THE-WEEKEND-WHEN-AUNTY-MAVIS-IS-POPPING-ROUND or even, THAT-CUTE-GUY-FROM-WORK-WHO-IS-A-VEGGIE-IS-COMING-OVER-FOR-A-CANDLELIGHT-SUPPER-WHAT-ON-EARTH-WILL-I-COOK. invariably, my response to such dilemmas is along the lines of 'and me my apron and a glass of pernod, clear a space for me on the sofa, i am consulting BBC GOOD FOOD and WILL NOT be disturbed'... and usually i am not disappointed. my gran likes this magazine too.

Offered by marxwax
Price: £4.72

15 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexandra Burke is cool., 13 Dec. 2008
This review is from: Hallelujah (Audio CD)
A B= C= COOL! Alexandra Burke's version of this packs a real punch. It is emotional, powerful and soulful. She surely has what it takes to be a star and I loved her recent x-factor performances, especially with Beyonce Knowles. She rocks! Alexandra is, as we all have seen, slightly on the emotional side, and all that sensitivity and authenticity is captured in her version of this Leonard cohen classic via Jeff Buckley...

I love this version almost as much as those other renditions. Well done Alexandra and all the best!

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