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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Elizabeth David collection....with a pinch of colour...., 21 Oct 2010
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This review is from: At Elizabeth David's Table: Her Very Best Everyday Recipes (Hardcover)
Compiled by Jill Norman, this is an illustrated collection of the very best of Elizabeth David recipes interspersed with a selection of her culinary writings, often fondly referred to as 'essays'.

When Elizabeth David's first book, 'A Book of Mediterranean Food' was first published 60 years ago, the trend for 'cookery books' was simply black & white, with some simple line drawings breaking up the text.
This 60th anniversary celebration volume is a compilation of some of her very best 'everyday' recipes, accompanied by full colour illustrations. Measuring in around 19.5 cm x 25 cm x 3.5 cm, this more 'trendily-produced' hardback is a fitting tribute to the late cookery writer, but still retains that inimitable je ne sais quoi one associates with the timeless work of the stylish lady, Elizabeth David.

'Duck with Figs', from pages 274/5, adorns the hardboard cover which opens to 383 quality matt pages, split over main chapters with capitalised titles:

1. Starters & Light Dishes
2. Soups
3. Eggs
4. Pasta
5. Vegetables
6. Rice
7. Fish, Shellfish & Crustacea
8. Meat
9. Poultry & Game Birds
10. Sauces
11. Sweet Dishes & Cakes
12. Bread & Yeast Baking

sandwiched between an introduction, a list of books and a concise index.
The book starts with a foreword in tributes, including Simon Hopkinson, Rose Gray and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

From the introduction:

'At Elizabeth David's Table: Her very best everyday recipes contains a combination of easy, quick recipes that fit into today's busy schedules, and classic dishes that may take longer but once put together are often left to cook slowly and can be prepared well before the meal. Some recipes are kept in the narrative style, but where there are many ingredients they have been listed at the head of the recipe....'
In between these chapters are the aforementioned typically atmospheric 'essays', on different topics, (with their origin) written during her life's journey, entitled:

* Fast & Fresh
* Fresh Herbs
* Confort Anglais, French Fare
* Pasta Asciutta
* The Markets of France : Cavaillon
* My Dream Kitchen
* Italian Fish Markets
* Dishes for Collectors
* Wine in the Kitchen
* Para Navidad
* Banketting Stuffe
* The Baking of an English Loaf
* The Italian Pizza and the French Pissaladière

Each chapter has a simple beginning, with the title in olive green capital letters and a charming black and white illustration on one page, relevant narrative on the other, in simply black on white!
Each recipe is simply laid out in the same colour scheme and is headed by the English title and foreign equivalent, if applicable, followed by opening narrative and the required ingredients, the latter occasionally mingling with the instructions.

From the introduction written by Jill Norman:

'The instructions may be brief and sometimes sketchy, and were not written in the formulaic style that is considered appropriate today, but they do not let you down. She assumes her readers are intelligent, curious and able to think for themselves. Her writing is clear and authoritative; she tells you the correct way to make a risotto or pilaff, ossi buchi or Boeuf à la Bourguignonne.'
She wrote as she cooked: with respect for tradition and provenance, with passion and knowledge. She celebrated the pleasures of the table in simple, authentic recipes and evocative recipes on the markets of France or Italy, on dishes discovered on her travels, or describing the food of the past.'

A small taste of the other recipes contained within:

* Coriander Mushrooms
* Provencal Tomato Salad
* Aubergine Chutney
* Chicken Liver Paté
* Rillettes
* Gazpacho
* Spiced Lentil Soup
* Tian with Spinach and Potatoes
* Tortilla
* Oeufs en Cocotte
* Pipérade
* Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce
* Macaroni Carbonara
* Green Gnocchi
* Slow-Cooked Beans
* Peperonata
* Gratin Dauphinois
* Spinach Pie
* Chicken Risotto
* Quick Kedgeree
* Fillets of Sole with Cream and Onion Sauce
* Scallops with White Wine and Bacon
* Sussex Stewed Steak
* Mutton Stewed with Brandy and Garlic
* Courgette Moussaka
* Pork Cooked in Milk
* Chicken Pot-Roasted with Fennel and Ham
* Welsh Salt Duck
* Turkey Breasts with Marsala
* Mayonnaise
* Aļoli
* Walnut and Horseradish Sauce
* Pears Baked in Red Wine
* Coffee Ice Cream
* Snow Cheese
* Torrone Molle
* Chocolate Chinchilla
* Chocolate Mousse
* A Basic Loaf
* Rice Bread
* Thick Parmesan Biscuits
* Pissaladière

Certainly all my favourites are here under one cover, including the economical and delicious 'Shoulder of Lamb baked with Potatoes', serving 6-8, from page 234/5. When the time is right, I often also serve 'Potatoes in a Paper Bag' aka 'Potatoes en papillote', from pages 150/151, a failsafe and refreshing way of turning out new potatoes using the oven.

Of course the extra bonus is the photography from David Loftus & the illustrations by Jon Gray which help to land this chunky tome slap bang onto the table amid the modern day offerings of many.
Having said that, the overall publication manages to retain its delicate old-fashioned charm, occasionally laced with the characteristic mild sarcasm, and familiar firmness, of the great lady, e.g.:

'......have the meat cut into squares about the size of half a postcard......', from 'La Daube de Boeuf Provencale', page 210.

Another usually reliable classic is 'Hollandaise Sauce', but ED opens with 'a vexed question'.....:

'...Purists claim that the one and only true hollandaise sauce should consist of nothing but butter, egg yolks and lemon juice. The truth is that the basic hollandaise is apt to be insipid and many cooks have discovered that the addition of a preliminary reduction of white wine or vinegar, as in a béarnaise, makes a better-flavoured sauce. A hollandaise sauce is served with asparagus, artichoke hearts, broccoli, poached salmon, sole and all white fish, chicken and poached or mollet eggs.'

The recipe includes some recovery attempts should your sauce separate (perish the thought!) and finishes on another possible reality:......'If the eggs have got so hot that they have granulated, what you have is scrambled eggs.' (eek!)

I am sure even the most sceptical of ED's fans will approve!

From Jamie Oliver, who opens the tributes:

'It's an honour to be asked to write a few words about the late Elizabeth David. I never had the opportunity to meet her; I so wish I had.........'

Sincere words which will echo the thoughts of many, I think.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Dec 2013 17:26:13 GMT
Henry VIII says:
Fantastic review and thank you. So much better than the usual, glib, comments that ignore content.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jan 2014 15:13:05 GMT
Book Beaver says:
Too true. I'm surprised that the reviewer does not have a position in the Amazon 'league table'.
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