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Will I use it?,
This review is from: Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes and Knives from a Travelling Chef (Hardcover)
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This is certainly a very handsome book - a vibrant blue cloth binding which is a bit of a rarity these days. I also like the Leon cook books so I was hoping for great things. But, of course, you don't buy a cookery book for its cover. I liked the concept of a travel memoir with recipes, combining my two favourite pastimes. For me, though, the cover was the best bit of the book.
Each chapter covers a different place or country that Allegra has visited. Whilst the little stories about her trips were quite interesting, I found the recipes uninspiring. The photography is awful. I don't think photos are essential for a cookbook (Elizabeth David can conjure up an image with just a few words), but if you are going to have them then I think they should make you want to cook - and here that isn't the case. The pictures of some of the dishes put me off completely - egg & artichoke salad, asparagus & morels on toast, avocado & palm heart salad, and, probably worst of all, cauliflower & eggs. In some ways the photography reminded me of some old vegetarian cookbooks from the 1970s (when vegetarianism was regarded as somewhat exotic) - dull & uninspiring. Where I did see something that appealed, invariably I already had one or more recipes for it and there wasn't anything original about the recipe offered here.
The book certainly covers the globe: Asia is represented by Burma, Japan, China & the Philippines; the Americas by the USA, Cuba & the Caribbean islands, Brazil & Mexico; Africa by Morocco, South Africa (which includes Allegra's own favourite recipe in the book Snail & Spinach Quiche) & Malawi; the Middle East by Turkey & the Lebanon; Europe by Spain, Portugal, France, Italy & Norway.
Probably the most interesting section was on Japanese food - something that has never really appealed to me before. There is a nice confit salmon served with ginger juice (recommended to be served at room temperature, although I would have preferred warmer). There is also an unusual recipe for sweet & sour aubergines. From the Philippines there is a sweet pickled veg condiment which I will try once I have a free kilner jar. Another one I will try is a Malawian pumpkin curry. The berries in shiraz jelly recipe included in the chapter on South Africa is actually very nice, however I must have fifteen or more recipes on this theme so nothing really new. The Lebanese dishes were also quite appealing, but again, having several middle eastern cookbooks there was nothing particularly fresh.
Overall, I was unimpressed. The book might work for someone who wants to try out a few more adventurous styles of cooking before going onto specialist cookbooks, but for me there wasn't enough that was new or appealing.