Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Food for thought

Today I had a positive windfall of cookbooks turn up to my desk, an embarrassment of riches no less. The first one I started poring over is Rose Prince’s new book The New English Table. And I utterly adore it already. It’s a book that manages to make you salivate but feel also slightly guilty at the same time. Rose’s rather fetching rose coloured tome is a manifesto for eating well, eating cheaply and eating ecologically. The subtitle of the book is “over 200 recipes that will not cost the earth”. She explains how diversity is essential for us and also absolutely everyone. If we just eat the same foods all the time we run the risk of being dependant on a dwindling set of ingredients that if some pestilence or disaster befell them we would be scuppered.

In the beef chapter she wags her finger at those of us who leap straight for the fillet steak when there are so many other cuts available. As the fillet is a relatively small part of a cow and if we always favour that cut, surely somewhere there should be a glut of all the remaining beefy parts. I recall considering such a conundrum many years ago when a crowd of us spent a happy afternoon in a tapas bar in Brussels and ate primarily chicken wings. In fact the European chicken wing mountain nonetheless! And whilst washing down these little poultry flying limbs with a glass or two of Sangria I started to worry about all the rest of the chicken, and how those flocks of wingless chickens were doing. Hmmm, maybe there was quite a lot of Sangria involved! But you get the point.

However all is not lost; Rose gives us lots of alternatives especially if you can find a meat purveyor that can butcher in the continental style. It seems that there are some great unconventional cuts that lend themselves to a medium-rare or even better, rare cooking and I can’t wait to locate such a knowledgeable butcher.

And it’s not just beef, my thoughts have been provoked by her prose on apples, asparagus, bacon, beans, barley and blackberries. Yes I'm already a fan and I haven’t even finished the B’s yet.

I’m not surprised I have fallen for this book as I was impressed by Rose when I first met her when she hosted a cookbook event alongside Jeremy Lee at Blueprint Café to launch A New English Kitchen a couple of years ago. In fact much of the barley chapter is inspired by Jeremy or strictly his mother who seemed to really know her barley.

I would wax more lyrically about this impressively substantial pink volume but I want to go back to absorbing it and having my conscience pricked further, so if you’re interested you should get your own, I don't think you'll regret it!

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