Top critical review
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old recipes with added lentils
on 2 July 2011
I was looking forward to receiving this book because I enjoy cooking and the idea of the "secret supper society" has always interested me.
I have been a member of a "secret supper club" for a number of years. A secret supper club is a good way of keeping in touch with old friends; people who you may lose contact with due to work or physical distance. So, any recipe suggestions are (usually) welcome.
The outer appearance of the book reminds me of an old notebook; the sort of notebook that my maternal Grandmother and great Aunts used to use to write down their favourite family recipes.
The first problem I encountered was with the dish titles which are in a script font (one similar to "mistral") which makes it difficult to read them at times.
There is an introduction to each of the recipes which, after a while, I started to skip. They came across as self-indulgent and on occasion irrelevant to the recipe that they had been attached to.
I as I was making the "belly pork with cider and lentils" recipe (p56) and I had a sense of de-ja-vu and went searching through our other recipe book and there it was, in an old farmhouse kitchen recipe book, "Pork and Cider Casserole". The differences were few but included, the quantity descriptions (the old recipe is given in imperial measure and this book is in metric), and the exchange of barley (old recipe) for lentils (this recipe), along with the addition of a small amount of tarragon.
As I compared the recipes I was a bit shocked and disappointed. Where the author has rashers of smoked streaky bacon finely chopped, the farmhouse recipe has bacon lardons, and the farmhouse recipe says finely chopped parsley where as this author says flat leaf parsley. The recipes were different only with the addition of lentils and tarragon - everything else was semantics.
It wasn't the only recipe where this was the case. In one recipe there was the addition of chilli which was the only difference (stuffed tomato - p104), and so on.
Then there are the recipes for (tinned) sardine sandwich with tartar sauce though it does have a recipe for tartar sauce if you like it (p72); or Soviet (tinned) salmon soup (p69);
There is "beetroot soup with goat's curd" (p99) though I prefer our old recipe for "borsht with floating cream islands". Goat's curd is an acquired taste that I don't have.
I realise that there are only so many recipes in the world, and it might only be coincidence, but it was a disappointment when I realised how many were similar to ones that we already have.
Then in the chapter entitled "Exploring Cheap Cuts" the author has recipes for pork ribs, duck and veal. I don't know where he shops but if he can get any part of a duck or cut of veal at a cheap price he's incredibly lucky.
There are also a number of specialist ingredients were the author says go down the road to your specialist supermarket or outlet, I live in a small village where specialist dealers are none existent. In fact the closest one would be in the city centre about 20 miles away, a long trip for one or two specialist ingredients. I take it that the author lives in the city were specialist dealers and markets are prevalent, unfortunately not everyone else does - not his fault, not my fault, just the way it is, but the assumption that all readers will have access to such facilities added a feeling of insult to injury.
In saying all that I must admit that some of the recipes are good, some are bad and some are ok-I-suppose, but that's a cook book for you. The problems are mainly mine, because I own so many of the families old and antiquated cook books there are usually one or two similarities in books (though this is the first time I have noticed so many similarities).
All I will say is: if you don't have any older recipes books to refer to, or you like lentils, spice and specialist ingredients then this book may be for you.