I really wanted to give this book five stars - it's the sort of hearty, meaty fare I love cooking and eating. Unfortunately there are a few really annoying inconsistencies that cause me to dock at least one star and I very nearly docked two - consider this a 3.5 out of 5 rating.
The one that I'm really struggling with is the table giving cooking times for roasting meats on page 103. These are laid out in two columns - one for minutes per pound, one for minutes per kilo - but the actual cooking times vary massively depending upon what unit you weigh your meat in. If, for example, if you weigh your chicken in pounds you will end up cooking about 9% longer than you would have done if you'd weighed it in kilos. That's not too bad, but if you do the same for pork you'll end up cooking for 18% less time than if you weighed it in kilos - with lamb the discrepancy is even greater - 25%. Eg, if you have 2.5 kilo/5.5 lb leg of lamb, the cooking time is almost half an hour different depending upon your choice of unit of measurement. That is really sloppy work by both the authors and the editors, and really affects the confidence in have in the accuracy of everything else in this book
Other things irritated me too - for example, the ingredient list of the standard bread recipe doesn't list water, but step 2 of the recipe itself tells you to "pour in 530 ml of water". Now, I know enough about bread making to have spotted that before I started, but I still think that all the ingredients should be listed - even water.
The section on hot water pastry starts with a page talking about how hot-water crust pastry is "particularly suitable for making hand raised meat and game pies ...[where] the pastry is rolled out in the usual way, but a mould...is placed in the middle and the pastry is raised up around it and patted into shape. After chilling the mould is carefully removed..." Very interesting, but the only recipe they give involving hot-water crust pastry, and the double page photo spread, involve the pastry being place inside a mould. OK, so by now I might have started getting picky but there were enough oddities (there are several others I haven't listed) to mean that I would be uncertain about how well some of the recipes would turn for someone who wasn't a confident cook.
Given all of those complaints, the fact the book till gets 4 stars from me must say something. There is much to admire here, but it does seem slightly carelessly put together in places.
This is a handsomely produced book by the owner of the Ginger Pig chain of butchers and well known food writer Fran Warde. Although the book is meat heavy, there is a wide variety of other recipes around the farmhouse theme.
The book begins with an introduction to curing meat which, whilst interesting, and with instructions which seem very clear and well thought out is not something I am likely to do. If you do fancy trying out preserving your own ham, bacon, pancetta, pastrami, beef or veal, amongst others then I think you'll find this section very useful.
The chapter covering patés & terrines offers up some wonderful recipes. There is a layered terrine which includes 4 pheasant breasts, 6 pigeon breasts, 4 wild duck breasts and 24 rashers of bacon, plus a pork stuffing and chicken liver paté - a very expensive mix for a standard 2lb terrine dish. A more modest recipe is for smoked pigs' cheek terrine and there is a very simple oxtail terrine too, plus a mixed game paté and another for spiced rabbit.
Not surprisingly there are plenty of casseroles and stewed meat dishes, although many are staples of farmhouse & meat cookbooks e.g. blanquette of veal. More interesting is the Malay lamb dish using inexpensive neck fillet enlivened with spices. Back on the expensive side there is a lovely recipe for poached Bresse chicken but the chicken for this dish will costs around £35.
The roasts again cover a wide range, from traditional stuffed shoulder of pork to rib of beef, beef wellington (including the pastry recipe if you are so inclined - for me making puff pastry from scratch is too much of a chore when you can buy good readymade all-butter puff pastry at the supermarket!) and on to a three bird roast for special occasions. There is a good & economical recipe for spiced chicken wings and some Indian spiced game birds too (for me quite cheap as I can buy pheasant in season as cheap as bog standard supermarket chicken). On the meat front there are also pies & puddings. There are some non-meat quiches albeit vegetarians will need to substitute lard in the pastry for e.g. the Wensleydale and onion tart.
There is a chapter devoted to foraging & game - including mushrooms and wild herbs. My favourite part though is section on edible flowers. I have earmarked the elderflower champagne for next year - the recipe looks to be easy. Other suggestions include blackcurrant schnapps & hedgerow gin, alongside the more commonplace sloe gin & elderflower cordial. I also love the chapter on chutneys & preserves, in particular the classic tomato chutney which I made with a glut of cherry tomatoes which I grow in hanging baskets where they always do very well. The red hot relish is nice too. Other recipes include piccalilli and Italian mustard fruits i.e. mostarda (peaches, apricots, cherries & plums).
There are a few dessert recipes although nothing hugely exciting and many of which are dishes that keen cooks will probably have several recipes for but I will mention the pear & almond bake and the walnut & salted caramel pie - the latter is very sweet but gorgeous. The final two chapters cover sauces & stocks and then a useful exposition on the various cuts of meat.
I have to say some of it is a bit precious, for example he advocates wild game but cautions against buying game birds from large shoots where birds are bred in captivity and may have been dosed with antibiotics (he doesn't mention that the same can be true of small shoots). At the same time he mentions that he has difficulties finding enough wild game to supply his own small chain of shops! Some recipes undoubtedly contain expensive ingredients although this is balanced by cheap cuts.
Overall, it's a nice farmhouse cookbook but nothing particularly special, and very meat oriented compared to, say, the Yeo Valley Farmhouse Cookbook which I recently got. To get the best out of it you will need a good butcher - even a supermarket like Waitrose won't stock some of the ingredients.
on 24 July 2013
I've got the first Ginger Pig book so was delighted when the second one came out. They really know how to do meat..
I tried the Pulled Spicy Pork as it's one of my favourite things to eat at the moment and it was melt in your mouth delicious! So easy and so tasty - my fellow eaters were swooning in admiration - a reason to buy this book alone!
The book has the feel of a classic - simple design and some classic (mainly, but not exclusively) meat dishes. It's one of those books that I can imagine having for the rest of my life - that sounds dramatic but it's not faddy - it's definitely a stayer!
on 13 October 2013
Good section on curing, preserving and smoking (but I'm not going to do either the first or last of those and probably not the second either); useful explanations of what cuts are suitable for stews and casseroles (but the purchaser of this book would probably know that stuff already); good section on making your own terrines and patés, and on stocks and sauces. I probably liked the section on making chutneys and jams best. Section on foraging, which is a bit of a cult at the moment (started by a restaurant in Copenhagen called Noma). Nicely laid out, nice pictures.
I wouldn't say it was suitable for the 'basic' cook; it's definitely one for foodies. At the same time, most of the recipes are ones that one would be fairly familiar with from other books so the real interest is the more 'hardcore' curing, preserving, smoking, foraging thing. The truth is that there are far too many cookbooks being published and my main feeling was that I had largely seen it all before, including diagrams of the animals (again, the purchaser of this book is likely to be familiar with that) apart from the section I've referred to most. I liked it, especially as it was a gift, but I probably wouldn't have bought it. I think Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's meat book is infinitely better. There weren't all that many recipes that made me want to cook them or that made me hungry. I also found it a bit 'earnest', a bit gastro 'right-on', a bit Kentish Town foodie.
Far too many high end cookbooks are essentially frivolous, unrealistic, existing within a fantasy universe wherein one always has agave honey in the cupboard and some fresh persimmons in the fridge.Problem with those cookbooks, of course, is that they tend to teach the dish only, and not the cooking skills behind the dish. This, on the other hand, is a serious book for serious cooks. The methods are rigorously explained, and the ingredients aren't ridiculously obscure for the sake of being so, though you would need access to a proper butcher to make some of the dishes.
The first half of the book is devoted to multicultural, though mainly European meat dishes, supplemented with chapters on curing and preserving meat, and the second half devoted to related dishes - pickles, liqueurs, desserts and stocks, all falling within an identifiable aesthetic of highlighting the qualities of British ingredients. There's also a lot of useful information on sourcing ingredients, and information on roasting times for various meats and whatnot.
So, if you're wanting to serve up a lychee and goats cheese risotto with a charcoal oil frisson this weekend, this isn't the book for you. If you want to know how to cook a really good pork pie or cornish pasty, look no further.
This is not a fluffy vegetarian cookbook, this is a hard hitting book aimed at serious carnivores.
It is beautifully illustrated and laid out, the recipes are very informative and easy to follow, just be careful because the ingredients on how to make some of your fav dishes may put you off for life, for example the pork pie recipe tells you that you have to use pigs trotters for the jelly, that was enough to put me off. Gross.
However i have already made the corned beef which turned out amazing.
One of my fav things in the world is Chorizo, and there is a recipe in this book for that, it was so simple and it tasted better than any shop bought chorizo i have ever had, personally however i used hungarian smoked paprika which has a better flavour.
There is a fantastic roasting table in the book too, which gives you the perfect roasting times for all meats,poultry, game etc, in gas and electric, celcius and fahrenheit, and mins per k and mins per llb. Very handy.
There is also a handy guide in the back of the book to the different cuts of meat and where abouts in the animal they are from.
Plus a fab section on jams, marmalades, chutneys, piccalli etc.
Things I like about this book:-
* Heavy on traditional British recipes like roasts, casseroles, fruit crumbles, chutneys and jams, including many family recipes straight from the farmhouse kitchen.
* Superb photography - wafer-thin slices of bacon wrapped round a rabbit terrine, curly-coated livestock in drizzly fields, and frosty lanes begging to be walked on a winters morning.
* There are guides to the various cuts available from each animal, including game - I've not seen the latter before.
* A few unusual dishes to surprise and delight such as Whortleberry compote, and blackcurrant schnapps.
Not so keen on:-
The fact that a fair number of recipes don't have an illustration. But that's the only real drawback to this book.
Overall, pretty impressed.
This is a book I would gladly turn to for good honest food if I was ever fortunate enough to find myself having had enough of the Michelin starred variety.
It's a book for people who have the inclination to buy really expensive meat and who have access to genuine old-fashioned High Street butchers who sell the same, so if you are on a limited budget and have to rely on supermarket meat because of where you live - steer clear.
I find the section on curing meat quite terrifying. Would I ever have the courage to hang a piece of meat in a shed for eight months as recommended in the book, then actually eat it? Whew, I don't know ! Similarly with the section on foraging and collecting wild mushrooms - I could seriously poison us all.
Having said this, there are some perfectly straightforward recipes and some good tips on making the more unusual kinds of pastry (two lessons on puff pastry ??) but I would say this book is not for the fainthearted and not a `must have' for every bookshelf.
I already had, and love, the Ginger Pig Meat book - a wonderful tome full of knowledge and ideas. This is produced to the same physical high standards but is lacking variety and that bit of spark that really engages you as a cook. I was expecting a selection of guides that would see us serving up memorable sunday dinners but nothing really stands out. There's useful advice, some genuinely stunning food-photography and the recipes themselves are dependable and well described. I was expecting a bit more, given the extremely high production values and it's superb forerunner.
A very well produced book with clear print and photos on good quality paper with very useful ribbon marker, as is generally the case these days. The unique selling point of this book is its concentration on ways of preserving and preparing meat. If you want to have a go at salting, pickling, curing or making your own corned beef then the instructions are all here. The different cuts of meat are explained and there are plenty of recipes for things to do with meat, either after you have treated it in some way or straight from the butcher. The recipe for a pork and walnut terrine was very simple and tasted great. I have taken one star off because there is a sizeable part of the book taken up with general recipes for cakes, puddings and even alcoholic drinks. I think this was a missed opportunity to pack the book with even more information and recipes about meat, which must be the main reason for buying it in the first place. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend the book but not, of course, to vegetarians.