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My kitchen is cluttered with a large number of recipe books, and every one of them has to earn their place on the shelf so they must provide maybe a couple of favourite recipes and generally be interesting to read and give lots of other ideas. Christmas books need to work even harder to earn their place, anything that is generally used for less than one month of the year needs to give much more than how to cook a Turkey.
Mary Berry's Christmas book is one of my favourite recipe books, because whilst it does what it says on the cover and tells me how to cook a turkey, mince pies and of course a Christmas cake, there are many recipes in the book that are useful all year round. It caught my eye to review today, in May when Christmas is a long way off, as it was out on top of the kitchen work surface having been used at the weekend.
This introduction is excellent; it gets most of the Christmassy bits out of the way in one fell swoop. There is a sample Christmas dinner menu, a shopping list of store cupboard and Christmas necessities essentials, the like of which would certainly make my bank account feel a little ill, Christmas day timings, things to prepare in advance and of course the necessary 'tips' for a stress free Christmas. Got that - good, now we can get down to the important bits in any recipe book the food.
With the exception of the mulled wine, which never tastes quite right when made from scratch I usually buy mine ready-made, there is nothing in this section that is limited to Christmas and they could all be equally used for a summer drinks party. Having said that with my particular group of friends canapés tend to be restricted to a bowl of peanuts. There are however some useful dips recipes and a nice smoked salmon canapé.
Any one of the recipes in this section works well for any dinner party, or even in the case of the soups for a regular family light lunch. My favourite is a Leek and Stilton soup which is great for using up left over stilton cheese but works just as well without it, I wouldn't buy the cheese specially. The great thing about most of these recipes are they are good ideas to use whilst not following the whole recipe for example there is a lovely asparagus and quails egg starter now there is no way my budget will stretch to quails eggs but it's a great starting point.
I always feel I'm never that adventurous when it comes to fish, there is a lovely parmesan crust salmon recipe that has a rich cream sauce, but we've had it in the spring with a lighter sauce. There is also an interesting fish pie recipe that could be used any time. There are not that many recipes in this section but they are all very approachable.
Yes it starts off with turkey, and some lovely ideas for stuffing and trimmings but it is a Christmas book after all. There is also the obligatory turkey stuffing recipe, and the goose option for those non turkey people. Then the book gets onto different things: A glazed duck which we have done and it was lovely and a great red wine sauce for chicken
Meat and Game
Not the most comprehensive meat section you will ever come across but there is a beautiful wild mushroom sauce to go with a fillet steak, which is on our menu for this weekend as it's our wedding anniversary and there is a lovely pork fillet with a madeira gravy. I haven't used this section as much as others as it is meat, and anyone who spends time in the kitchen who eats meat can cook a joint, but it is nice to salivate to and get ideas.
Vegetables and Vegetarian
This section is more to give you the vegetables to go with your Christmas dinner so not the greatest resource for lots of variation, and most people will already know what they are going to do with their potatoes and parsnips. It does have an interesting looking aubergine and nut roast in it, not one for me as Christmas is all about the turkey. There is also an interesting Parisienne potato recipe that I might try as a change one Sunday.
Puddings and Desserts
Ok I'll admit it - my favourite section, and the reason the book was out. In addition to the Christmassy things, pud, brandy butter etc... it has one of my favourite recipes ever in which is an almond and apple dessert cake also works very well with pears and chocolate instead. There is a really rich but very satisfying white chocolate cheesecake and a ginger spiced pudding. I'm afraid to also admit that my copy of this book naturally falls open around the apple dessert page. There is also an apricot brioch tart which, sorry Ms Berry, but from the picture looks like baby sick, the only one I don't fancy making.
Christmas cake, of course, mince pies and chocolate logs. I don't use this section much as I tend to use other recipes for all of these but no Christmas book is complete without it.
The book ends on suggestions for a buffet party and has a lovely picture of what must be the most expensive joints of beef I have ever seen. Some lovely party recipes here.
So there you have it, a Christmas book that lasts well beyond the festive season, if you want to know how to cook a joint and do roast potatoes there are far better, more comprehensive technique books out there. But there are some lovely recipes in here that means this book often makes it off the shelf all year round.
Currently available on Amazon from £3.62 which is excellent value
Thank you for reading
Digbycat aka MaryanneH