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A BOOK REVIEW: CORNISH COOK BOOKS

Posted on Nov 10, 2014 by

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working my way through this pile of Cornish cook books, firstly reading them, and then trying out a selection of recipes in the kitchen. The books are varied in style and content but also have much in common. The chefs and compilers are all passionate about Cornwall, seasonal produce and its provenance.

From complicated seafood dishes for adventurous home cooks to the simplest grilled fish; from foraging to feasting; and from Emma Gunn’s first to Rick Stein’s 24th volume, there is a book here to suit all tastes.

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THE PADSTOW FESTIVAL COOKBOOK

This is the second collection of fabulous recipes from chefs with a connection to the annual Padstow Christmas Festival. Contributors include Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth, Angela Hartnett and Mitch Tonks.

I loved reading the chefs’ biographies and discovered some interesting facts. For example, did you know that Rick Stein is DJ Judge Jules’ uncle? Or that Georgie Stevens used to be a Russian Oligarch’s private chef? Or that Adrian Oliver is (probably) the longest serving Head Chef in Padstow?

Each chef has submitted a recipe, some cheffier than others, but plenty for you to try at home without needing any special gadgets or hard-to-locate ingredients.

There are three recipes for cured salmon, one of the fads of the moment, and I had great success with Ben Bass’ recipe for coriander cured salmon. Typically for a collection of recipes from Padstow there are plenty of fish recipes, but Andy Appleton’s venison with squash and chestnut caponata caught my eye, and I’ll be trying it out soon.

Published by The Padstow Christmas Festival & Breakfast Book Ltd.. Paperback, 96 pages, ISBN 978-0-9555930-6-2, £9.95, available from selected locations across Padstow and at the festival, and available by post from the Padstow Tourist Information Centre.

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NEVER MIND THE BURDOCKS by Emma Gunn

Emma Gunn is a qualified designer, artist, florist and foraging expert who has written (and illustrated) her first book, cleverly titled “Never Mind the Burdocks”.

The first of four seasonal guides to foraging, Volume 1 is the Spring Edition (March to May) with the winter edition coming out soon. Beautifully illustrated, clearly laid out and well written, I really enjoyed reading this. There are plenty of foraging tips, and a foraged ingredient is described for each day of the season. There are lots of recipes which require freshly foraged ingredients, so most of them were a bit tricky for me to try out during winter, but the “scallops with chorizo and pea purée” was easy to make and delicious.

Refreshingly, the index works! There is a comprehensive glossary of terms as well as three indexes, organised by scientific name, common name and recipe.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the next instalments of the series.

Self-published by Emma Gunn. Paperback, 214 pages, ISBN 9780992969301, £12.99 + £2.20 p&p, available online.

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THE GREAT CORNISH FOOD BOOK

The Great Cornish Food Book is a collection of stories, cooking tips and recipes from the members of Cornwall Food and Drink.

It is an informative guide to Cornish food, with chapters on fish, wild food, farming, drinks and traditional fare, and articles about related topics, skills (such as sausage making, crowning a pheasant and picking a spider crab) and local producers. Reading it makes you proud to be part of the Cornish food scene, whether as a consumer, producer or chef.

This is the second edition of the book, and now includes three more mouth-watering recipes: Nicky Grant’s rose macarons, James Nathan’s cassoulet and Steve Marsh’s fish and chips.

I tried out the recipe for cream of caulifower soup with black pudding and (non-Cornish!) truffle oil and it was gorgeous, perfect for a cold autumn day. Also on my hit list are Ben Prior’s roasted venison loin with cauliflower purée and a red wine and damson jus; Neil Haydock’s beef stroganoff and Woods Café’s carrot cake with Cornish crème fraîche.

Published by Cornwall Food & Drink Ltd.. Paperback, 168 pages, ISBN 978-0-9926586-0-1, £17.99, available online.

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FISH AND SHELLFISH by Rick Stein

I don’t know how Rick Stein manages to come up with so many new dishes on such a regular basis. By my calculations this is his 24th book and is fresh and original, with yet another wonderful collection of recipes.

Nearly a third of the book is taken over with detailed, easy-to-follow cooking and preparation techniques, which are then referred to in the recipes, and the last section of the book is a very informative description of fish, grouped into seafood families.

Using my newly found papillote skills, I tried the recipe for “hake en papillote with oven-roasted tomatoes and tapenade”, and it was delicious. When flicking through the book “swordfish passanda with chilli, almonds, yogurt and cardamom” caught my eye. I tried it with tuna and, wow, I can highly recommend giving it a go for a pre-dinner treat for friends.

Published by Ebury Publishing. Hardback, 354 pages, ISBN 978-1-849-90845-0, £25, available online.

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THE NEW WEST COUNTRY COOK BOOK by David Griffen

David Griffen is a talented food photographer and he has compiled a stunning collection of recipes from seventeen chefs across the South West, including Chris Eden, Michael Caines and Jack Stein. If you enjoy drooling over gorgeous pictures of food, then this is the one for you – a coffee table recipe book. It really doesn’t need any words; the images alone would suffice.

But it does contain recipes, and very good they are too. Neil Haydock’s venison stew is amazing, and I’ve cooked it for several dinner parties, thanks to my fabulous local venison supplier. Paul Ainsworth’s sticky Cornish fudge pudding is divine, and Pete Biggs’ grey mullet with Cornish crab and sweetcorn is perfectly balanced, one I’ll be making again no doubt.

Published by Diligence Publishing. Hardback, 312 pages, ISBN 978-0-9576238-0-4, £20 + £3.95 p&p, available online.

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Nathan Outlaw’s FISH KITCHEN

Nathan Outlaw’s first book, British Seafood, was a joy, and I must have cooked the pan-fried bream with spring vegetable nage a dozen times. I was thrilled to hear that Nathan was bringing out a second book and it didn’t disappoint.

It is elegantly laid out, with a mouth watering selection of recipes and wonderful photographs by David Loftus.

Divided into twelve sections (e.g. raw, cured, smoked, poached, grilled…) there is also an illustrated section on fish preparation and a collection of basic recipes such as stocks, mayonnaise, flavoured oils, pickles and bread.

We loved the oh-so-fresh crab with celeriac and apple salad with a chunk of sourdough, and there are many other recipes I want to try: smoked trout and tomatoes with horseradish and rocket mayonnaise; lemon sole steamed in wild garlic leaves with lemon sauce; scallops with celeriac and apple, cider and mustard sauce; the list goes on…

Published by Quadrille. Hardback, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-372-7, £20, available online.

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Thank you to everyone for kindly sending us copies of their beautiful books. We promise they’ll be well loved by the Barefoot team.

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