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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2003
Personally, although I think Hugh FW is a fantastic advocate of self sufficiency, I wondered whether it was worth buying this... And that's hard for me to admit.
It's broken down into months and gives recipes utilising seasonal produce. Very good idea, I'd been searching for a book like this for ages. BUT the recipe's are not what i'd call "everyday". In fact the only one i've used since purchasing the book in May is deep fried elderflowers - and jolly yummy they were too! A random dip in the book: cock pheasant au vin (Jan), nettle risotto (Mch), radish leaf and mint soup (may), bacon with fresh pea puree (july).
Hugh still persuades us to grow our own or purchase local seasonally produced over imported organic, and I do everything I can. So if you want an "after a busy day in the office" menu planner, look elsewhere. It's very good for "interesting" ideas and reinforcing a grow-your-own mentality, but forget it if you have a picky family or are on a diet. Maybe I'm being unfair, I wouldn't want to put anyone off even if they just grew a lettuce in a window box.
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on 11 May 2004
This month, my imagination has been captured, bound and gagged by "The River Cottage Year"; a book I have had a great deal of trouble putting down.
As the title suggests, it walks you through 12 months with Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, better known perhaps as the shaggy-haired master of all food, free and frugal.
Watched on Channel 4 by devoted following of downshifters, thrifty and experimental cooks, HFW has inspired the nation with his waste nothing style of cooking.
7" by 9 1/2", it gives you a full 1 1/4" of good quality paper, a fabulous smattering of images from his kitchen and a delightful collection of seasonal recipes.
With around 9 recipes for each month and a super preamble to each month preceding them, he writes with a style that makes you think he is an old friend sat at your kitchen table, chatting away, whilst enjoying a large bacon sandwich.
Relaxed, pleasing to the eye and easy to read, each recipe is almost a story and a thorough pleasure to follow, or just flick through with a nice cup of tea.
The pictures by Simon Wheeler leave you entertained and salivating. He seems to have captured Hugh, his kitchen, family, garden and usual surroundings like a professional fly-on-the-wall and even though there are not pictures to accompany every dish, somehow just it doesn't matter.
One of my favourite images is the one underneath the dust jacket, which invites you to open the book to full spread to enjoy something steamy and mouthwatering being pulled from the oven, by a white shirted Fearnley-Whittingstall.
What was that meal I am left wondering?
This is not a traditional style recipe book, it is two steps better in my opinion. It opens eyes to new possibilities and gives frugal food positive sex appeal!
By highlighting the importance of seasonality and where food really comes from, he is challenging the way people view the delights on their plates - to great and positive effect!
With recipes like "Lightly salted relatives of cod in beer batter" to "Flatbread stack with roasted peppers and borlotti beans" right down to good old "Mushroom soup" and "Blackberry, apple and almond cobbler", you cannot fail to find something that makes you want to rush out into your garden to see what you can throw in the pot.
The book and all the food splashes on my favourite pages, sits pretty in a handy place in my kitchen.
If you want to see food in a new light, put it on yours too!
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VINE VOICEon 13 September 2005
If you were to judge this simply on the recipes then this is much the same as many of hugh's other books, lots of recipes but a fair chunk of text given over to the lifestyle and, lets be honest, that's where Hugh's books are pitched in the market they are selling a vision of a lifestyle and not a manual on how to run your kitchen. In fact based simply on the recipes I'd say that this is probably not the best of his books but it wins on one major point. By dividing it into months it answers that question that so many of us may have wondered - what is in season now? It is, after all, too easy to stand in the local supermarket and be so isolated from the natural world that you have no idea that this is the time of year when if you see aspargus on the shelves then its probably been air freighted half way around the planet.
Buy this, read the recipes by month and go to the grocers and markets rather than supermarkets. Its one simple step to feeling better about consumption.
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on 29 May 2003
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a national treasure. The quality of his writing, the conviction of his beliefs and the down-to-earth deliciousness of his recipes put him head and shoulders above other TV cooks. This latest installment from River Cottage arranges recipes by month and HFW's primary ambition is to persuade us to cook with fresh, local produce, rather than consume mountains of mange-tout flown half way around the world. I haven't tried to cook any of the recipes yet (see below), but they are again pleasingly of the inspired/homely variety that filled his first book. But there is a problem with this book. And it's a BIG problem. If he has any sense (which, as we all know, he does) HFW should hammer on the door of his publishers and demand that his latest book is re-designed and re-formatted. Glorious photography, but unspeakably irritating design. The wonderful section on the seasonality of produce (complete with a chart that should be every cook's Bible) is almost illegible in pale green type. Most annoyingly, ingredients aren't listed at the top of recipes, but highlighted in the text. Although the author has set out to write a very useful and practical book, his publishers and designers have conspired to ensure that it will live on the coffee table rather than in the kitchen. A shame.
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on 4 September 2006
Set out in a monthly format,with each month / section starting with an introduction from Hugh outlining what's seasonal at the time & offering some marvellous recipes .
There is a fantastically useful guide to seasonality at the start of the book , allowing you to see when your fruit & veg will be at its best & when fish & game are in season
My copy is very well thumbed, I go back to it on a very regular basis - the recipes , as ever where Hugh is concerned, are easy to follow & really tasty - the recipe for cock pheasant au vin in particular, is an out & out winner - delicious.You really should try the Blackcurrant double ripple ice cream as well - decadent or what ?
Treat yourself & get cooking with a seasonal bent.
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on 6 June 2003
You will either love this chap or find him long winded.
He is not just a regular 'TV Cook' - He is a Gentle fellow who cares about life, the world and what we consume and how we go about that in a realistic balance. He does not preach.
Very easy read.

After reading the introduction I jumped into reading May. Since then (I promised myself to wait month by month) I found myself saying 'I wonder what I have to look forward to in June' - This led to Christmas and then I started to flick and ended up READING a book that is at its heart a 'Good Seasonal food - Cook Book!'..

What is the point?
Seasons come and go - we should revel the very difference and what comes and what goes.
Stop allowing the Super Markets to spoil us for Choice, for choice wrongly leads us to assume that from all over the world comes the best to our door steps - That's not exactly true ! - They just want you to eat tomatoes all year round and Strawberries for as many as they can bully / coax / force..

Stop and wait.
Wait for when they are at their best.

Even better - Grow them yourself,
Or source them locally.
Go find that neighbour who sells surplus Fruit or Veg. (or Honey!)
Visit your local farmers market.
Find those allotment sellers and buy their wares.

Enjoy the book - Greatly.
This will get you in synch with the seasons and you get to feel the Fruit, Veg and Fish that are so tied to the passing of the year.

An easy to read and flick book and you may just try some of his gorgeous feasts and enjoy all the more the 'gathering' the ingredients. I now buy in the pride that what I don't buy is probably a tasteless and expensive perversion that was forced and flown in.

This is not about patriotic food - more about being aware that when it rains, its sometimes good to get wet and that the all mighty covered supermarkets are not all good.

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on 26 May 2006
Voted 'a corker' by Jamie Oliver, this is a book which challenges that all-year round availability of fresh ingredients, with a primary aim of re-educating the reader to think about how fresh, not to mention how tasty, e.g. the fine green beans are, that have just flown in from Kenya?

'Shopping seasonally is not a high-minded duty, or a restrictive choice, but a liberating pleasure.
The downside of the modern food culture of infinite year-round choice is a kind of options paralysis - there is so much on offer that you don't know where to start.
Understanding the seasons frees you from this ball and chain.
In a world where the production and marketing of food has gone mad, seasonality is sanity.'
It implies freshness, good taste and even good health. And it offers the best and quickest solution to the never-ending question, 'What shall I cook today?'

'The River Cottage Year' book has 255 high quality matt pages, split over the twelve months of the year along with a section entitled 'Why Cook Seasonally?' and an alphabetical guide to 'Seasonal British Produce', showing, monthly, both `'n season' and 'at it best' for vegetables/fruit/fish, shellfish & game and popular edible wild plants inc. fungi, herbs, 'greens', fruit and nuts.
Each chapter is headed up by information about the relevant month, followed by around 9 recipes.
Photography, by Simon Wheeler.

Even if you think you have no aspirations, or skill, as a gardener, this book could inspire you to literally sow your seeds and amble down that path called 'Grow Your Own'.
And from Hugh's description of his Dorset life, even the more apprehensive of us might be persuaded that it is all within reach, whatever the size of your garden, or window box.

Still not convinced.......amble along to a local Farmers' Market, offering only the best at the best time.

The only minor criticisms which have been aired are that there are not pictures of each finished dish, plus the recipes themselves don't have the usual `list' of ingredients - just highlighted text detailing the requirements, but with everything else in this book, you don`t really notice!

Recipes include:-

Mixed Wild Mushrooms on Toast

Raw Asparagus and Other Crudities with Anchovy and Caper Mayonnaise:-
'......In fact just cut asparagus is sweet enough to eat raw, and I urge anyone who grows their own to try it like this, dipped in a simple vinaigrette........, or as above.
The loss of sweetness in asparagus (as with many vegetables, including peas and sweet corn) is a simple function of time elapsed after harvest.
Sugar begins to revert to starch as soon as the plant has been cut. It can be fixed only by cooking or freezing - the latter is OK for peas and sweet corn but pretty detrimental to the fragile texture of asparagus..........'

Baby Broad Beans with Chorizo
'If I had to name my favourite first harvests of the year, I think it would be baby broad beans. Try as I might, I can't resist attacking the pods when the beans inside are scarcely bigger than my little fingernail. After a few portions of lightly cooked infants, adorned with only a little melted butter, I'll move on to some simple combination - and thin slivers of lightly fried chorizo is one of my favourites.'

Barbecued August Vegetables
Crushed Strawberries and Cream
French Beans with Tapenade and Chicken
Mackerel with Melted Onions and Black Olives

Autumn Bliss
' I worked this recipe out from scratch....... My plan was to celebrate the wonderful variety of autumn raspberry after which the dish is named. I wanted a dish that acknowledges the change in the weather, the creeping autumn chill and therefore takes the raspberry away from its usual summer association of chilled desserts and into the realms of hot puddings.'
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on 19 July 2005
I received this book for my birthday and was not dissappointed. I do receive a weekly delivery of organic seasonal local veg and found the book to walk hand in hand with this ideal. I am vegetarian and the book is filled with suitable recipes although I must admit when it comes to poaching season, I wont be able to find many recipes to use. I have made many of the recipes so far and each has been easy and a delight on the pallet. I have also found myself spurred on my Hughs enthusiasm for making up recipes and had the courage/confidence to make up a few recipes of my own that were brilliant.
If you love his series and believe in what he stands for then you will love reading this book. It is full of dreamy pictures of his life in Dorset and there are recipes a plenty.
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on 8 July 2004
Ideal for those with a veg-box or an urge to shop locally - the perfect antidote to out-of-season supermarket shrink-wrapped goods. The saintly Hugh has created another clarion cry to think before we buy, cook and eat.
The recipes are as yummy as ever.
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on 17 October 2006
Another wonderful book from HFW.

Once more there are great recipes that you actually want to eat - and as quickly as possible! I find myself leafing through my copy with anticipation on a regular basis to see what goodies will be in season in the coming weeks.

Good food, great philosophy, and again without pretention.

Inspiring stuff.
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