on 5 December 2003
I cannot praise this lovely book too highly. It has all the David magic - exquisite prose, trenchant opinions and luscious recipes: some are of academic interest but nonetheless fascinating; most are dishes of simplicity but also subtlety and finesse. The closing essay 'Para Navidad' is perhaps one of the most perfect writings about food I have ever read. Congratulations too, to the book designer and the photographer. The beautiful cover is a true indicator of the delights within and Elizabeth David, who had a keen visual sense, would have loved the photographs which are not so much of cooked dishes but of simple, pure, beautiful ingredients that make you want to dash off to the kitchen and set to. This is the second book that the editor, Jill Norman, has compiled since ED's death, using the author's notes and files, and a worthy successor to "Is there a nutmeg in the house?" Both show great skill and a light hand - ED's unique voice rings clear and true from every page. Brilliant!
This book was put together after Elizabeth David's death by her long-time editor, Jill Norman, although they had first discussed the project back in the 1970's. The book collects together recipes drawn from Elizabeth David's books, themselves drawing on earlier books, & notes and her many years of journalism.
It is perhaps somewhat surprising to learn that Elizabeth would have preferred an omelette and cold ham with a glass of Alsace for lunch on Christmas Day and a smoked salmon sandwich with champagne for supper. I think she speaks for many of us when she writes: "The grisly orgy of spending and cooking and anxiety has to be faced."
This collection is presented in the usual Elizabeth David style so don't expect a list of ingredients followed by the method/recipe. Hers is a more narrative style, often with historical information about where the recipe derived from, remembrances of earlier Christmases (an amusing story of Christmas lunch in war-time Egypt). It is interesting too that in some recipes (for example for a white chicken cream, a kind of mousseline), the advent of modern kitchen equipment makes what were once very time consuming recipes much quicker and easier to prepare. As she says: "Pounding and sieving the chicken meat took so long that I made the dish only for very special occasions. Food choppers and processors have now changed all that, making it feasible to experiment often and with any amount of variations."
There are lots of traditional recipes not often seen these days, and ideas for using leftovers. For example, there is potted spiced beef, lots of pates & terrines, a small number of soups including potato, tomato & celery; mushroom cream; pumpkin & celery. As you would expect in a Christmas cook book, the turkey appears alongside goose, capon, pheasant, chicken & duck. There is a number of interesting stuffing suggestions - pork & mushroom, an Italian style stuffing with sausagemeat & chestnut puree, pork & chestnut puree. Other meat suggestions for the festive period are spiced beef, baked fillet of beef with tomato fondue (my plan for a quiet Christmas after travelling to stay with family for the day itself), cold baked salted silverside, suckling pig. There is an excellent chapter on vegetable accompaniments - cream of parsnip with ginger & eggs (lovely & warming), jerusalem artichokes with either cream or tomatoes & herbs, pumpkin & tomato gratin, followed by good selection of salads to accompany cold meats & terrines. Then follow sauces & pickles including all the usual Christmas sauces - cranberry, cumberland, bread sauce, apple sauce plus some more unusual things such as Sweet-sour tomato & orange pickle & spiced quinces amongst others. Then there is a raft of puddings & cakes - plus recipes for mincemeat, mincepies (lemon or orange mince pies from a recipe book published in 1834). You could try Chestnut & chocolate cake, apple & almond cake, or orange & almond cake, or maybe apricot ice-cream, or frosted tangerines filled with tangerine ice.
As with most, if not all, of Elizabeth David's books, this is as much a book to curl up with on the sofa as it is a cookery book. It would also make a lovely gift for a foodie friend.
on 25 May 2013
Although the book was compiled posthumously by Jill Norman David shines through, her enthusiasm for food and history can't be quenched by the grave.
I gained many ideas and was very surprised by some of the information, it seems that our beliefs about the past aren't always right, dishes were far more diverse than they are today.
Recommended for people who want to know more about our past, Christmas dishes, those who want to try to recreate them (not always possible because of the difficulty of obtaining some ingredients, those who enjoy spending time in the kitchen or even those who like to sit and read good words.
on 15 November 2003
...the typical Elizabeth David way.
'The celebrated food writer, who died in 1992, apparently always meant to write a book called 'Food for Christmas' and had not only collected recipes and useful quotes but written the introduction, which makes clear her preference for smoked salmon and a glass of champagne without all the commercial fuss...'
Compiled by Jill Norman, the preface goes on to explain that the idea of the book was first hatched way back in the seventies...not just a book of recipes, but one which gathered all ED's Christmas material in one neat little volume.
Measuring in around 22 cm x 15.5 cm x 1.75 cm, it has dark red board covers with gold lettering to the spine and is simply dressed in a dust-jacket.
Inside are 214 matt pages, split over chapters:
♦ Celebrating Christmas
- Christmas is a family occasion
- Untraditional Christmas food
- Cooking for a family
- Christmas preparations
- Life after Christmas
- A country Christmas (George Eliot)
♦ First courses and cold meats
♦ Poultry and Game
- What to do with the bird
- Traditional Christmas dishes
- Christmas in France
♦ Vegetables and Salads
- The magpie system
♦ Sauces, Pickles and Chutneys
♦ Desserts, Cakes and Drinks
- Plum pottage, porridge, broth and pudding
- The pudding
- Frumenty or fermity
- Christmas drinks
- Para Navidad
sandwiched between an introduction and a list of other books by Elizabeth David.
Jill Norman explains:
'I have put it together now in the spirit which Elizabeth intended, with her introduction, the recipes and the articles that still have an interest today...the style of the recipes varies, as Elizabeth's writing changed over the years. The early recipes tend to be quite short, whereas later ones are often accompanied by explanatory notes', e.g.:
From, 'Apple purée or sauce', on page 133:
'Sometimes if making the purée just for myself, I leave out both sugar and butter. At one time it seems to have been customary to add mustard to apple sauce. One recipe I have, from 'Family Magazine' of 1740, directs that the sauce for a roasted chine of pork be 'made with lemon-peel, apples, sugar, butter and mustard.'
This would have been one of those sweet sharp sauces, something like Italian fruit mustards, which for centuries have been associated with rich, fat meat such as pork. A chine was a cut from the back of a pig, rather like a joint of back bacon in the piece. There is a high proportion of fat on a chine, so the apple and mustard sauce was an appropriate one.'
'Where necessary I have added metric measures and oven temperatures in Celsius. The recipes for cured meats call for saltpetre, which, unfortunately, chemists are no longer permitted to sell. The best solution is to find a friendly local butcher who pickles his own meat and ask if he will supply some. If you can't get it, you can cure the meat without it, for the purpose of saltpetre is not preservative but cosmetic: it gives the meat its appetising pink colour.'
The chapters open with the title on the right hand page, the left page is blank. The recipes have a simple title at the top and, for the main part, the required ingredients are generally scattered through the writing. Recipes most often spill over onto the next page.
16 full colour plates (2 sets of 8) of ingredients from Jason Lowe are the only illustrations in the book.
A small taste of the other recipes included:
* Prawn paste
* Egg mayonnaise
* Potted spice beef
* Terrine of pork and duck
* Pumpkin and celery soup
* Pasternak and cress cream
* Potage Saint Herbert
* To make stock from a poultry carcass
* Turkey with herb and butter stuffing
* Boned turkey, stuffed with tongue and forcemeat
* French sausage meat
* Giblet gravy
* Turkey breasts with Marsala
* Salted goose
* Oven-poached chicken
* Duck baked in cider
* Spiced beef for Christmas
* Baked fillet of beef with tomato fondue
* Rolled and glazed ox-tongue
* Leeks with red wine
* Brussels sprouts
* Carottes rapées
* Endive and beetroot salad
* Bread sauce
* Cumberland sauce
* Spiced quinces
* Brandy butter
* Atholl brose
* A Christmas recipe for an Old Testament cake
* Vanilla sugar
* Vin chaud a l'orange
on 15 February 2012
This book is a celebration of Christmas and a celebration in writing about food. It was an inspiration on the part of the publishers to gather together Elizabeth David's recipes and various articles directly or indirectly relating to Christmas and put them in one Christmas book. It's beautifully written and has David's chatty tone throughout the text which leads the reader on from one idea to another in happy anticipation . I cooked from a number of recipes for our family Christmas last year and I had a contented time in the kitchen and smiles all round at the dining table. Since then I dip into it just to read and relax and plan a few more tasty meals . Her books open up the world of food and eating and living like none other. If you are feeling a bit bored with food, low on inspiration or appetite for life, treat yourself to this nicely produced book. And enjoy !
on 9 April 2016
This little book is a gem. Any time of the year. I borrowed it from the library and resisted quite noticeably when it had to be returned. I decided it deserved a permanent place on the ever expanding shelves. There is a particular recipe on page 43 that amounts to just half a page of instruction and it is so simple, yet effective, that our whole family are now making it on a regular basis. This kind of sums up Elizabeth David's style. (Thumbs up to Alexander's Books for excellent service)
on 5 January 2013
I have been reading Elizabeth David's books since they started appearing in the 1950s. I have learnt to cook from them and still use her recipes. There are none better. The methods have changed now that we have wonderful kitchen electrical equipment so I have adapted recipes to up-date.
on 15 January 2013
I used this book this Christmas and it's everything I could have needed. There's no one better than Elizabeth David!
on 1 April 2013
Another beauty from Elizabeth David. They are all so easy to read and gain knowledge from. Like a visit from a friend.
on 3 July 2013
I shall be able to write a review when I see the book. Due to copyright, I had to have it sent to a friend in England until I can pick it up in November. The five stars reflect the usual service i receive from Amazon and their sellers.