This is a treasure of a book, and works at so many levels. If you just want to buy / cook / eat, it is full of excellent and original recipes - from simple but delicious to blow-your socks-off party pieces. If you want to save money, it shows you how to take very economical ingredients and use them to prepare superbly tasty food. If you fancy a forage-fest, it shows you how to locate and prepare all forms of wild food from seafood to salads. If you're having a bit of an artisanal moment, it shows you how to prepare hams, breads, and yogurts from scratch. If you want to go Tom and Barbara, it covers everything from keeping chickens to making your own simple stove-top smoker from a biscuit tin.
It is also full of fantastic tips, and far too many to share here. However, one of my favourites is when preparing gravy, to spoon off as much fat as you can from the roasting pan, then add icy cold stock. This solidifies most of the remaining globules of fat, which you can then spoon off. So clever!
When I saw the title, I was afraid it might be a bit old fashioned and perhaps not relevant to the modern cook. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is set to be one of the all-time classic cook books, full of nuggets of wisdom and expertise that has come down from the generations before, and yet practical, unpretentious and absolutely relevant today. So much of modern life has become sterile and bland, and this is a wonderful antidote that celebrates food and life, and belongs in every home.
Like some of the other viewers, this book takes me back to my childhood when we kept all sorts of animals. Although there are many Irish recipes, there are also a lot from other countries as well. The chapters are arranged as follows:
Foraging Fish Game Beef Dairy Egg and Poultry Pig Lamb Vegetables, Herbs and Salad Preserving Cakes and Biscuits Bread Household Tips
Not only are there recipes and cooking techniques, but also instructions on how to make you own smoker, sausage, cheese and butter making. Bearing in mind that the subtitle of the book is 'The time-honoured ways are best', there are useful tips on ways to use up left-overs and also to ensure that no part of an animal or vegetable is wasted. One of my favourites is to grow radishes in an old saucepan, eat the radishes, but to also use the leaves to make a delicious soup.
It is a hefty tome, but I feel that it will become a classic like 'Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management'.
I collect cook book and cook from scratch as much as I can - with the help of this wonderful book, I have, for the first time ever, made my own yogurt and butter - the yogurt is so easy and the most fantastic yogurt I have ever eaten, the butter - to die for. In fact the recipes are easy to follow and don't use ingredients that you probably don't already use. This book has enabled me to make food that we eat every day and use pre packaged food even less. The recipes do take time so not for everyone but, if like me, you are trying to cut down your reliance on supermarkets then this is the book for you.
Forgotten Skills of Cooking is a beautifully presented book. I purchased it as a present for a friend who's cook book collection is well over a hundred cookbooks - and this was a welcome and stand out addition for her. In fact, I loved it so much, I had to buy it for myself as well! 'Forgotten Skills' is laid out well chapter wise. Its chapters like "Foraging" early in the book are unusual and a delight to read (although probably not as useful on a day to day being a city dweller). Its individual chapters for "Preserving", "Bread", and "Puddings" are great as well, along with the various meat chapters. It's wonderful to read with an old-school, homely approach to cookery, ingredients and methods. The accompanying pictures and beautiful purple ribbon bookmark against the colours of the book, give reading it the feel that you are travelling back in time, and recapturing a time when food was down to earth, and honest. It visits some aspects of cooking that are almost secretive, and attempting certain processes in the book is like playing tribute to how your granny and how she cooked! Along with information about ingredients and techniques, Darina's dialogue of her personal tips throughout (linking it back to Ballymaloe or her childhood etc) provide a more intimate tone throughout the book (making it something I've found myself just reading just for sheer pleasure, when not even looking for a recipe). With regards to recipes - I've cooked a number from the book, each has always turned out well if you follow them step by step. I think part of the reason the book is so special as well, is because it has recipes for things like how to make your own black pudding or preserving, its has lots of little gems in there for everyone. Well worth purchasing, its pretty unique and you will love it!
I was in two minds about buying this book as I also bought Nigel Slater's wonderful "Tender" not so long ago and I still have plenty to explore there (absolutely LOVE it!). The reason I yielded (once again)-I know, yet another excuse to buy a cookbook!- is that I really rate Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery Course very highly and somehow I felt this could not disappoint. As she does not massproduce cookbooks I thought this had to be quality stuff and I must say the "nostalgia" angle appealed to me to warm up cosy evenings by the fire place (I wish!). Well, I was definitely not disappointed. This is a great read with loads to learn or/and to be reminded of. I was born in the 60s and my grandma used to raise her own hens and rabbits (and two pigs!), grow her own vegetables and fruits etc...to feed the family. Being a child I just enjoyed the offerings without wondering about the knowhow and this book brought back many, many memories I didn't even think were still there. The scene was France, not Ireland but definitely a lot in common! This is only one side of the book of course, please do not think this is purely aimed at the 40+! There is a lot to learn here, many techniques I had heard of (or not) and did not have a clue about how to implement. Some I will never use, true, but I still enjoyed learning about. Quite a lot I intend to try...one day. Whichever way the future goes, this book makes you feel like trying a lot of new things (or should I say old things?) and gives you very clear and concise advice on how to do so. Definitely a confidence booster and a motivator! On the doable front (as the henpen is definitely not for me) I particularly liked the advice (+ recipes of course!)on foraging for wild foods, making your own cheese and smoking fish but there is so much more this book will lure you into trying out, it is a real pleasure! A lot of lovely recipes for your home produced/collected food, I have tried about 20 so far and they did not disappoint, as per usual with Darina Allen instructions are clear and results very tasty. On top of traditional Irish recipes, there are quite a few traditional ones from other countries. However to me -yes I do have a lot of cookbooks already!- that is not the main appeal of the book as I just enjoyed reading and learning from the book so much (Last little gem discovered: How to smoke mackerel, chicken breast or duck breast in a simple biscuit-tin smoker, now how cool is that???). Definitely much more than a cookbook ! To finish I must admit that I intended to go through the book out of sheer curiosity and then pass it on to someone else for Christmas, but not tonight Josephine!
I came across this title by chance. The author is not in the front rank of celebrity chefs. I ourchased a copy for myself three years ago and I have just (October 2013) purchased a copy as a gift. The title really says it all. Not only does it provide a wise range of straightforward recipes but more importantly it gives a wide range of techniques and lots of information about indicvidual ingredients and their uses. It concentrates on fresh fish, meat, vegetables and fruit such as are available within the British Isles and shows ;ittle or no interest in imported fresh or frozen items. Although I consider myself to be an experiened cook, I continue to refer to this book every few days of the three years that I have had it. Alhough one can always complain that it does not have everything in it that one might want, I recommend this book without hesitation to anyone that wishes to understand cooking with fresh seasonal ingredients rather than follow elaborate recipes from ego-tripping celebrity chefs.
I gave this book to my sister for her birthday and she loooves it. She wrote me in an email: "it is full of recipes for preserving your own French beans, building your own smoking oven, boning big pieces of beef, making sausages and so on. All admirable kitchen projects that I will probably never undertake, but where I do want to know everything about!!" So maybe it's more of a reading cookbook than an actual cooking cookbook, but I know that the reading type of cookbook can be very satisfying indeed.