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My wife (Sue) is a secret cookery bookaholic and in particular loves books covering a specific topic (such as Chinese, Indian or Mexican), written by the likes of Hugh (Fearnley-Wittingstall), Gordon (Ramsey), Nigella (Lawson), Nigel (Slater) or Jamie (Oliver) or ones like the BBC Good Food Guides that we always assume must be full of interesting recipes and tips. In fact our bookcase is like a who's who of catering.
In fact we had never heard of Simon Hopkinson before July 2011 and it was purely by chance that we first caught site of his tv series on BBC as Sue and I were flicking through channels one evening looking for something to watch. His book - The Good Cook which is based on the tv series was released as the series was coming to a close and is published by Random House for the BBC at a recommended price of £25 (hardback).
Although the series was interesting, like many of Sue's books they are mainly for reading and have very little practical appeal.... that is to say apart from his Tandoori Chicken and Rice Pudding the latter being the best Sue has ever eaten (and that is saying something)! For a cookery book this is rather "poncey" in terms of many of the recipes such as salad of broad beans, smoked cods roe, ricotta and olive oil - certainly not the type of meal we would want to cook as our main family evening meal.
The Good Cook is 320 pages long with 5 pages (plus 1 full page photo) of index and relatively short (3 pages) of introduction.
The contents and selection of the recipes detailed in the chapters are:
Anchovy and aubergine - salad nicoise, aubergines parmigiana
Cool cucumber, hot horseradish, bitter endive - tzatziki, pot roast pork with endives
Cheese and wine - Parmesan biscuits, coq au vin
Oily vegetables - Piedmontese peppers, gazpacho
A mix of mushrooms, pasta, garlic and parsley - mushroom broth with tarragon cream
Smoky salty fish - smoked haddock & spinach with chive butter sauce
Lovely lamb - marinated butterflied leg of lamb with Asian green sauce
Nice rice - buttered rice with mozzarella, garlic & basil, risi e bisi
Chicken with livers - homemade tandoori chicken, spiced chicken liver pilau
Ham, bacon & a little pig - braised pork shin with saffron mashed potatoes
Four small birds, a big duck, a small bit of rabbit - roast teal with orange gravy
Prawns & shrimps on toast, a prawn salad & a creamed lobster - lobster gratin
Two salmon, a soaked mackerel & a butter sauce for fish - salmon cooked in spinach
Big cow, little cow - steak, kidney & potato pie, oxtail 'nehari' with potatoes
Scallops & mussels - scallop mousses with mornay sauce, scallop & parsley soup
Potato & pulse - potato soup with soured cream & chives, pea & ham soup
Desserts & puddings - a rich figgy pudding, sticky toffee pudding, rice pudding
Conversion chart - weight, volume and oven temperatures
The book contains good quality full page photos although not every recipe has one but there is enough to provide a good enough impression of what to expect from other dishes, and Simon does go in to enough detail for you to recreate dishes. The Good Cook is a good read - but not my cup of tea as there is less than half of his recipes that I would be interested in eating. Still as Christmas is coming, this is something to consider as a gift to add to anyone's cookery book collection.
I bought the book for Sue almost as soon as the series had finished for just under the recommended book price from amazon as part of her Christmas presents and is available through Amazon for £16.75 with free shipping or from one of its many sellers in new or used condition.