“ Genre: Food & Drink / Dieting / Author: Sophie Grigson / Hardcover / 448 Pages / Book is published 2006-10-02 by Collins „
This book is subtitled 'the definitive guide to delicious cooking and eating', and you know it's not far off.
Of course, however, this is a book based proudly around the use of vegetables in cooking, but do not let that put you off, there is a massive amount of information here.
The book has a woven style cover, it is in hardback with a strong spine and glossy pages, as well as a woven bound-in bookmark so it give the impression of physically being good quality and easy to place and cook from.
There is an introduction by Grigson where she basically talks about why she chose to write a book about veg and some introductory tips about why she has written it the way she has. This is followed by some cook's notes where she gives some basics about vegetable preparation eg hot to clean it, information about quantities and some tips to do with accompanying incredients such as olive oil and eggs.
Each section focuses on a different family of vegetables. Each vegetable has a thorough introduction where Grigson talks enthusiastically about the ingredient and its different varieties. Then she moves onto tips about how best to buy it, eg what it should look and feel like to ensure that it is fresh and in good condition. She then moves on to 'cooking' which details various methods (where appropriate) of how to prepare and cook the veg. She then moves on to 'partners' ie what foods and accompaniments work particularly well with these vegetables.
Some more unusual veg have all of the above but no suggested recipes.
Grigson then gives a few example recipes with a short introduction for each with details of its origin and additional tips.
Example recipes for the roots section include carrot falafel with tomato and carrot salad, carrot cake, roast chicken with apple, celeriac and hazelnut stuffing, chicken and Jerusalem artichoke pie, smoky Parmesan roasted kumara cubes (really stunning.), Thai -curried parsnip soup, mash, roast new potatoes with thyme and lemon, Indian stuffed potato cakes, seabass with rosemary and radish stuffing, peppery mashed swede and carrot, Cornish pasties. Sweet potato and red lentil soup iwht mint (really great in winter), Southern sweet potato pie, glazed turnips with orange and honey.
Following this is shoots and stems. Recipes include: asparagus and salmon lasagne, roast celery and flageolet soup with coriander and lime pesto, fennel gratin, smothered links and kohlrabi.
Next up is 'squashes' which includes: courgette gratin, bread and butter pickles, Greek salad, pumpkin and chive cornbread.
Pods and seeds include recipes on: broad bean, yoghurt and mint soup, two bean chickpea and tomato salad, ratatouille, crushed peas with mustard, canneline and coriander bandade, sweetcorn and saffron mash, sweetcorn soup with chilli and garlic cream.
The onion family includes: chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, smothered leeks with parsley and lemon, a really great and satisfying leeks with lentils, chorizo and eggs, braised sausages with chestnuts and onions, upside-down shallot tart and thyme and orange crust, wild garlic and new potato risotto, .
Then we have brassicas including, broccoli with chilli and breadcrumbs, gratin of Brussels sprouts with lardons, cream and almonds, slow cooked cabbage with sausages (really simple but really effective.), deep-fried cauliflower with sweet, sour and hot dressing, potato and cauliflower curry.
Green and leafy includes: sausage and kale risotto, spinach and ricotta gnocchi, chicken and chickpea stew with spring greens, gratin of chard and new potatoes.
The final chapter is on salad leaves. Recipes include: caramelised chicory, French dressing or vinaigrette, Italian curly endive and bean soup, grilled chicken skewers with rocket pesto and soured cream, sorrel and new potato frittata and twice-baked watercress soufflés.
I think this is a really good cookbook. Grigson has packed so much really useful information into this. Often vegetables are kind of sidelined in recipes, but her enthusiasm for them really comes through and I particularly value the emphasis she places on describing each piece of produce, even down to helping the reader identify when a vegetable is at its best.
Although it may not seem so when you look at the recipes, they really are deceptively simple, with fancy techniques substituted for really good flavours - placing emphasis on bringing out the fine natural flavours of the vegetables.
Grigson does not hold back when enthusing about the vegetables and describing their individual qualities, but this is not offputting, more encouraging. In particular, it gives you confidence to perhaps try purchasing different types of veg that you may have seen in your supermarket or farm shop but not bought because you were not sure what to do with it.
The book itself is really well presented. Although it is imparting a lot of information, the text is clear and it does not look overly busy. The pictures are also nice in a rustic kind of way.
A lot of thought has obviously gone into the recipes that she has chosen and I think there is a very good, varied mix. There are some really great 'classic' types right through to others which embrace a number of different cuisines. It is also a really good all-year-round cookbook in that you can dip in and out of it as your wish as vegetables enter their seasonal times.
I will be the first to admit that it may not be perhaps an everyday cookbook, and that some of the vegetables are so unusual that they may not be particularly easy to source. However I really would not let this put you off. It works on so many levels, not just as a reference book for all things veglike but as a good stand-alone source for recipes which are satisfying, tasty, not overly fussy and which you can do again and again.
Grigson is a knowledgable and empassioned writer, but not offputtingly so and this would make a really great addition to any keen cooks bookshelf, even at a fairly basic level - it is certainly one of my favourites.