on 17 November 2011
This book is based on menus Mrs Leyel served to friends as well as an excellent section at the end called The Alchemist's Cupboard which suggests ingredients to have in every kitchen store cupboard. There are recipes from across the UK, such as Daisy Wine from Yorkshire, as well as simple ones from Europe such as Keesel from Russia - a thick apricot curd-like pudding served with cream.
There is a conversion chart at the beginning of the book which is much needed because some of the recipes use measures I had never heard of such as 'a peck', and 'a gill'. The former being equal to 9 litres and the latter 150ml. It also outlines oven temperatures based on a conventional oven as all the recipes in the book use Cool, Low, Hot etc.
I love the way this book is chaptered. It starts with Sauces and a bold statement in the introduction that 'in England sauces are often badly made, badly mixed or not flavoured at all'. The range of sauces that is then presented must have been quite mind blowing for readers. One that I did try was Garlic Sauce which is simply olive oil with pounded almonds and garlic. I had it drizzled over some steamed fish and it was delicious!
The next chapter focuses on vegetables which she describes as 'the dividing line between good and indifferent cooking'. So true. Mrs Leyel berates the English 'method of stewing vegetables in water and then throwing away the water containing the most valuable properties' and calls this 'stupid and not economical'. It would have been great to see her telling Downtown Abbey's cook this!
There are then whole chapters devoted to fish, meat, poultry and game as you would expect but unusually there are also chapters for cold suppers, sandwiches and savouries because the recipes 'are arranged in a practical way' to do as the French do and shop first and then arrange the meals accordingly.
She has separated out chestnuts and mushrooms which I thought rather odd but she outlines that 'chestnuts are not appreciated in England' and 'are worth more consideration'. I'm glad she did this because there is a gorgeous recipe for Nesselrode Pudding which I tried and fell in love with. She goes on to describe mushrooms as 'the oysters of the fields' and suggests using a silver spoon to ensure that they are edible. The spoon will turn black if they are not.
The most intriguing chapter for me covered recipes using flowers such as primroses, violets, marigolds and acacias. I am still collecting my 'peck' of marigolds for the marigold cordial and aiming to grow the half a pound of violets to harvest next spring for the violet marmalade!
As an Indian, I found her chapter entitled Dishes from The Arabian Nights so fascinating. She must have met some amazing dignataries and been such an adventurer to know these dishes so well. She even has a childhood favourite of mine, 'Dhal Bhat', which is quite simply curried lentils with rice.
Finally and as expected there is a chapter on Cakes featuring sponge cakes as well as cheesecakes.
This book is as much a history book as it is a recipe book. It showcases much of today's modern gastronomy but illustrates how this stemmed from simple but innovative British cooking of old.
Nesselrode Pudding recipe can be found here: [...]
on 21 November 2011
This is one of a series of books published by Quadrille in the Classic Voices in Food series, reflecting recipe books of years gone by, this one from the series covers the gentle art of cookery. The chapters are divided up by sauces, vegetables, chestnuts (a whole chapter!), mushrooms, fish, eggs, meat, cold supper dishes, dishes from the arabian nights, rice, poultry and game, fruit, almonds, creams custards and jellies, sandwiches and savouries, wines and cups, cooking with children, flower recipes, cakes and finally the alchemists cupboard.
This is quite a decent size book with some 400+ pages. There are no photographs or pictorial illustrations as it is wholly text. It is reproduced to reflect the way recipes were written at the time. The recipes are remarkably simple (as the title infers) and easy to follow, and consist of just a few sentences in many cases. It's intriguing to compare books like this to current food/drink books from modern chefs, this book was first published in 1925 and little has changed in some respects, for example, a soup recipe then is not that dissimilar to now.
Some of the quantities in this book are huge, and though the recipes are perfectly doable and seem relatively easy to make they require a little bit of judgement both in execution and being able to translate some of the cake recipes into more family sized amounts (any ginger cake with 3lbs flour at its heart is going to be one really big cake no matter how tasty it is!).
If you are a novice cook, I think you would find a good number of these recipes more easy to follow than those of current TV chefs, which may surprise you. If you are a cook that relies heavily on seeing the finished dishes illustrated with photographs, then this book may not suit your style. The narrative can seem very old fashioned (as it should) but this adds to the charm somehow.
This would make a wonderful gift for someone who is interested in food history, or a person who loves to study the style of writing and language used in books in years gone by. The gentle art of cookery is a piece of food history, but that does not mean it has no role to play in the modern cooks kitchen.
on 23 April 2012
This is one of the Classic Voices in Food series re-issued by Quadrille in wonderful tactile cloth bindings that make you appreciate that these are books as much for reading as for cooking from.
Having said that, there is much of practical note to relish here. The chapters are grouped roughly by food group, and seem to be practical and easy to follow. They assume a knowledge of cookery that some modern cookbooks may not, so you will be told to "make a white roux" and add to milk to make a sauce. No detailed quantities of butter and flour are given, so it is obvious that the cook is supposed to be experienced enough to know how much he or she might need for the amount of liquid given.
But this is typical of cookbooks of this period (The Gentle Art of Cookery was first published in 1925) when most households with an income sufficient to merit an interest in their food, would have had a cook. It strikes me that this book is aimed at the genteel lady of the house who may want to dabble a little when cook had her day off. This isn't a criticism by the way, I love cookery books like this that evoke the time and feeling of an age now gone and unlikely ever to return. You just need a little more thought and understanding of your craft than you will find in a modern step-by-step recipe book.
Hilda Leyel was unusual in her time for her use of flowers, spices and herbs, and the chapter on the use of flowers in cookery is fascinating.
A useful and interesting book.
on 21 September 2011
These books look amazing. If you like to own books, feel them, sniff them, display them on your shelves and slightly drool over the quality of the paper and feel a bit pleased when there is a little satin bookmark.....these are just the books you are looking for. They are from a new series called Classic Voices in Food. They are re-published 19th-mid 20th century forgotten classic cookery tomes.
The binding of The Gentle Art of Cookery is beautiful: a deep green cover embossed with a silver dandelion and contrasting scarlet edged thick pages. I'm won over already. Originally published in 1925, one of the authors, Mrs C F Leyel, was a bit ahead of her time in the use of herbs and spices and includes quite a few Arabic dishes that would have been seen as very modern at the time. I particularly love The Alchemist's Cupboard section at the end of the book where she tells you all the best London shops where you should buy your Mushroom Ketchup, Parisian Essence (qu'est-ce que c'est?) and Cream of Hominy (dried maize kernels).
There's a hilarious recipe, The Ostrich Egg, that had me creased up. It is suggested that children will be enchanted if you get a pig's bladder and via a convoluted method, cook 12 eggs inside it so that you end up with one enormous giant boiled egg. My children would certainly be surprised if I made this and might think their mother had gone bananas.
The recipes are simple, a couple of lines long and don't specify quantities of ingredients. It's all far more free form than our modern recipe books. I love the old-fashioned-ness of recipes such as Prune Soup, Devilled Lobster, Green Foie Gras Sandwich (foie gras, slices of chicken and lettuce dipped in French dressing in between bread). In common with other historic cookery books, there are way too many egg recipes.
It's all very homely and you get the feeling that Mrs Leyel and Miss Hartley, the authors, were jolly nice womenfolk, and passionate about their subject.
on 5 September 2011
I tried a few recipes of this book and they worked beautifully. I was sent this book to review it by Quadrille and my thoughts are that the recipes are not for beginners but at the same time they don't contain overly complicated recipes. There are no photos or drawings. Measurements and weights are not always clearly stated. The reason is because this book was kept exactly as originally published. Recipe writing has come a long way since the 1920's. However, if you have some experience in the kitchen you will be able to follow the recipes and instinctively make the recipe up as you go along. This printed work were designed for the thrifty home cook. I can't think of a better time to re-release these series of classic books which shows simple and economically minded recipes due to the recent world economy downturn. Classic Voices in Food It's a series of unabridged cookbooks by Quadrille Publishing. A must for food lovers.
on 20 March 2012
Starting with The Gentle Art of Cookery, this book of 750 recipes fills 430 pages, including index and a rather wonderful chapter on "The Alchemist's Cupboard", which details all the dry stores a well equipped kitchen should have. The authors seemingly had a particular fancy for the Army and Navy stores, as well as long lost condiments such as Lazenby's Hervey Sauce.
Like many older cookbook, the recipes are short - this is not a book which takes the cook step by step through each dish, and it doesn't list ingredients at the start of each recipe. The recipes are divided by chapter; while many of the chapters themes are unsurprising (vegetables, meat, fish, for example), some of the others are more uncommon; chestnuts, "dishes from the Arabian Nights", Almonds, and Flower Recipes.
Of course, food is as subject to fashion as, well, fashion, and therefore this collection is not at the cutting edge of molecular cuisine. However, a good number of the recipes are worth trying, especially the more traditional dishes.
If selecting a recipe to try and one to avoid, braised pheasant with chestnut puree sounds interesting. As I really can't stand rabbit, I would avoid all the rabbit recipes as a matter of principle. Probably the hare recipes too.
on 8 August 2014
I've already got the Grieve and Leyel herb book, which I refer to frequently, and bought this as a companion to it . It's every bit as good and useful, lots of straightforward simple recipes which are just as relevant today as in the past. Not for a novice cook though, as sometimes you have to guess at quantities and cooking times.
on 5 June 2016
this book is exactly what i wanted and arrived in good order and time
on 5 October 2011
I was utterly charmed by this book, originally published in 1925. There is some beautiful food writing in here, particularly the chapter on cooking with children. Quadrille have done a beautiful job with the cover and book design. I am a very big fan of this series. A reminder that there was life before celebrity chefs, even though they would like us to think otherwise ;)
on 10 July 2014
The world before 'Masterchef'