Four Seasons Cookery Book Paperback – 30 Jun 2013
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The recipes stand the test of time and her writing is clear, concise and elegant. --Foodie magazine<br \><br \>Every enthusiastic cook should own a copy of Margaret Costa's classic --Telegraph Magazine
It celebrates the spirit of each season as much as the available produce. -- Oliver Rowee, Shortlist
There are certain cookbooks I could never live without, and one of them is The Four Seasons Cookery Book. The Proper Puddings chapter is worth the price alone. If these classic steamed puddings don't warm you up in this weather, nothing will. --Mark Taylor, Bristol Evening Post
At this time of the year there is scant comfort, and cold, to be found in a breakfast of orange juice and coffee and perhaps a piece of toast. When the mornings are dark, the flesh weak and the spirit weary, nothing comforts as a good breakfast can - and the comforting glow lasts throughout the day. There is no arguing with the tests that have conclusively shown that people who don't have a "proper" breakfast are appreciably less efficient, less productive, and noticeably less good-tempered than those who do. But the strongest reason of all for having a good breakfast is that if you don't you just won't get your fair share of most of the nicest English food, the kind we do best of all. - Nigel Slater, feature in Observer Food Monthly
If you don't already own Margaret Costa's Four Seasons, I urge you to buy it. I put her on a par with the great Jane Grigson and the mighty Elizabeth David: her book is simple, seasonal, wonderfully old-school recipes. --Thomasina Miers
About the Author
Margaret Costa came to prominence by replacing Robert Carrier as the Sunday Times cookery writer, and although this was her only significant book, it's hugely influential and was named by Observer Food Monthly as recently as 2010 as one of the Top 50 Cookbooks of All Time.
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Make no mistake, as Simon Hopkinson says, this book is "A seminal work ... Costa's food writing is up there with the greatest." But, not only is it a great cookbook, but it also serves as a more than useful historical/political document, and is, as they say - a jolly good read! Published in 1970, this book documents the full horror of British cooking before we joined the EU. Not, I hasten to add, that Costa's cooking reflects this horror, but she was one of a few crying in the wilderness. So, we learn, for example, that it was not unusual to make a dressing for salad using malt vinegar. Now, malt vinegar has its place; but not as a companion to olive oil - no matter how poor the quality of the oil. When politicians assert how much better off we would be outside the EU, it is good to be reminded that being part of the European family brought about an almost instant transformation in British cuisine and exerted an enormous influence on the quality and variety of food that we now take for granted.
Let's get one thing straight; the book won't suit everyone. If you like lots of pictures then it's not for you - there are none! But there are lots of recipes - hundreds of them, all meticulously-written with great economy of style which allows the author to easily provide a wealth of extra information where appropriate. Also, many recipes include a few sentences on variations - vastly increasing the number of recipes. These often take the form of quite tersely documented ideas, but since they essentially follow the procedure of the main entry that is all that is required. Beginning cooks might find this a little puzzling - being used to the relentless hand-holding of many modern cookbooks. Believe me, half of the joy of cooking is in having the confidence to experiment, to make changes to recipes - either because you don't have all the specified ingredients, or just because you want to see what happens when you express your creativity! Each section, and there are (I think) 56 of them, has an introductory element that is essential reading. They are full of very useful information about the main ingredient or product of the section, little snippets of advice on use, and entertaining historical insights. Some of the advice is out-of-date, for example, we've come full-circle with chicken since 1970 and it is now easy to get genuine free-range or organic or both. But I can well remember how disgusting chicken used to be until the dreadful life of the battery chicken was publicised. It does no harm to be reminded of the bad old days, because they haven't left us. There are still people out there who don't care about cheating, or even poisoning, the public - so long as they can make a bit of money. If anything, they are now more cynical and cunning, and successive governments have stupidly dismantled much of the food inspectorate in the name of "efficiency."
Finally, I have always been a great fan of Jane Grigson's for the sheer quality of her writing and her scholarly approach to her task. Costa was very different in style, but is equally readable and confidently knowledgeable. I usually take the blurb on cookbooks with a pinch of salt. You know the sort of thing - 'Bert is a genius!' - from one professional hoping for reciprocation when their own book comes out. However, I think in the case of this book, the effusive tributes from some of the more important British food writers are sincere - not least because reciprocation from the late Ms Costa will not be forthcoming! Enjoy!
I would rate myself as a good cook, quite experienced but ever eager to learn. The recipes pre-suppose a knowlege of ingredients, preparation,and an idea of what the finished dish would look like, as there isn't a photograph in the book.(again, I cannot speak for the latest editon). If a novice, perhaps, alongside, a picture-orientated manual to technique would help.
The author writes such un-cluttered, completely unpretentious clear instructions, which I find a total joy. She gives recipes, often giving variations, summed-up in a sentence, a wonderful touch.
Written season by season using seasonal food, this book is an indispensable addition to my collection. Definately not for the coffee table, this lives in my kitchen, alongside other classics such as Lindsey Bareham's 'Big Red Book of Tomatoes' & 'In Praise of the Potato', Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David, Simon Hopkinson, Josceline Dimbleby, Cladia Roden et al........
This is everything that some modern cookbooks ( compare it to Janny De Moors Dutch Cooking and some of the so called national cuisine series) are not. It is a book that you will keep with you, that will grow old with you and you want to let it go. It's the best cookbook in a long time. Thanks Margaret and thanks to those who managed to get re-issued some of us have been searching for this for a while