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Wonderful seasonal cookery
on 23 April 2011
This is a really lovely seasonal cookbook with hundreds of recipes to choose from, covering everything from snacks & starters, main courses, desserts, cakes & biscuits, jams & preserves and even a selection of drinks to make. At the front of each section there is a list of the recipes which follow for that season, divided into groups for starters, mains, etc.. There is still a conventional index at the back too. I found this arrangement very useful as an aid to menu planning as you can see on a two page spread all the recipes for that season. There is something for everyone here, including a decent selection of vegetarian recipes and others which could be adapted easily to cater for non-meat eaters. The recipes are straightforward - there is nothing complicated or finicky here. There is also plenty of easy and/or prepare ahead dishes if you are hosting a party.
By way of example, spring offers spicy cauliflower, cumin chunky chips, Persian jewelled rice, slow-cooked shoulder of lamb, lamb rissoles, pork rogan josh, game pie, prawn korma, sweet & sour trout with lemon & ginger, After Eight chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake with lime, blood orange with grapefruit sorbet, lemon & passion fruit meringue pie.
The section covering summer recipes is probably my favourite. There is so much to choose from and there are recipes for convenient barbecue and picnic food. To give you an idea here are a few examples: split pea & minted croquettes; pea, chilli & coriander soup; marinated mozzarella with basil & prosciutto; tomato, basil & mozzarella salad with artichoke hearts; a gorgeous summer vegetable risotto; summer garden fritto misto; fasolakia (greek bean stew); stuffed courgette flowers with honey; langoustine with basil mayo; pork & porcini casserole. Suggestions for the barbecue and picnics include lamb kebabs with spiced aubergine sauce, Persian butterflied leg of lamb, aubergine & mozzarella stacks, chicken breast stuffed with garden herbs, a lovely stuffed pepper recipe and courgette & mascarpone frittata. For the sweet course there are things like blackcurrant mousse ice-cream, strawberry & basil ice-cream, baked vanilla & lemon cheesecake with marinated strawberries, lemon tart topped with raspberries, summer berry bakewell tart, peaches in sweet rosé wine with lemon verbena. I also liked the drinks - lemon thyme vodka lemonade and summer berry bellinis among others.
For autumn you could try spiced toasted chick peas (a great snack or party nibble); pumpkin & apple soup; mulligatawny soup; wild mushroom lasagne; mussels in a creamy curry sauce (an interesting variation on the idea of moules mariniere); Moroccan lamb shanks; rabbit pie; fennel & parmesan gratin; creamy thyme leeks; toffee apple pie (think banoffee pie with apples instead of bananas); pear parcels with star anise; pumpkin seed & cinnamon brittle; blackberry & apple curd; chilli jelly (a fabulous accompaniment to roasted or barbecued veg, meats & fish). Again there are a few drinks, including fabulous spiced pear bellinis.
The winter recipes offer a lovely collection of warming, nurturing dishes: leek, sage & butter bean soup; cream of celeriac & Jerusalem artichoke soup; cardamom parsnip soup; pigeon breast salad; celeriac salad; red onion, parmesan & rosemary tart; cauliflower & chick pea curry, Indonesian fish curry; scallops in cream chilli sauce; halibut steak with lentils; a couple of Brussels sprout recipes that almost converted me; marmalade & chutneys, plus recipes for Christmas & Christmas leftovers.
In her introduction, Sarah Raven says that she "tried to make this a one-stop book that you can turn to for inspiration all year round". I think she succeeded.