I think Jane Grigson’s English Food is a book that might very well grow on you if you have started to explore it. Whilst there is many recipes that would seem dated or inappropriate to prepare with today’s diet and palate, when you dig there is some beautiful gems that are really worth creating in your kitchen and sharing at your table.
She does well to prove even after 40+ years that there is some really quite beautiful English food out there which has not just arrived in the age of Nigella, Jamie, Gordon and Heston. What the chefs of today prove is that the food culture of the UK is alive and well, even if it does need a nudge above the bad reputation of chips at every meal and stodge not worth serving to your dog.
The wonderful cooks that contributed in the month of November to the Cookbook Guru demonstrated just how easy it is to create these foods without having to obtain weird and wonderful ingredients or spending ridiculous amounts of money on fancy kitchen equipment.
Please Pass The Recipe led the way showing us what to do with the cheese remnants of the party that you may have had a few days ago. Lady Red Specs’ Potted Cheese was a beautiful way of cleaning up your cheese odds and ends to make another treat worth sharing with your friends. I particularly loved the cheese roll in the photo and can’t wait to try this with the ends and bits gathering in my fridge. The big question is when can we hope to see the oatcakes to accompany such a delicious treat? I’d love to know if you’ve tried to make them again.
Keeping in the theme of cheese I decided to find out all about Welsh Rabbit and discovered that all is not as it seems… yes it has nothing to do with meat and a lot to do with cheesy sauce and red wine. What’s not to love?
From cheese sauce to asparagus sauce…one word…YUM! Here is Australia it is the right time of year to be eating asparagus fresh anyway you can get it. I’m a fan of roasting it with a few dabs of butter and plenty of cracked black pepper. Lona’s version of Asparagus Sauce served with spiced chicken sounded delicious. I particularly liked her modern version replacing the sour cream for yoghurt.
From summery sauces back to winter treats of parsnip. Having prepared this vegetable the same way for so many years, discovering a new and delicious version has really upgraded my opinion of this humble white root vegetable. Buttered Parsnips are the way forward.
Speaking of wintry food… is there anything better than soup for the colder months of the year? Nancy at Jamjnr produced a gorgeous slow cooked Oxtail Soup for her contribution and it sounds divine. I’d love to hear if you ever make it to the Muslim Market to try the whole oxtail that you mentioned looking at. The ingredients at local markets in Asian countries astound and intrigue me like no other that I’ve visited.
We couldn’t not have a sweet treat when we are contemplating what English food has to offer. I probably should have tried a pudding considering how much they epitomise English dessert for me, but with summer well and truly upon us here in Queensland I decided instead to try my hand at Walnut Biscuits. Buttery and sweet to balance out the dryness of the walnuts I loved the balance of flavours that these treats offered me with my afternoon coffee.
So this is what this month’s book club thought of Jane Grigson’s English Food:
Nancy’s feedback about the recipes being very plain is very valid in our flavour filled era where we now have access to such a large range of herbs, spices and ingredients year round. Lady Red Specs was of a similar opinion, struggling to find a recipe that appealed to her modern palate. Being Australian it’s something we’ve seen evolve in our food culture in the space of my lifetime and I have to say I love that we now combine different cultural influences into our food as much as it was fun to explore the simplicity of the English range for a little bit.
This month seemed to produce some really great challenges for people. Ultimately that is what I love about cooking and learning new things in the kitchen so I hope that Nancy, Lady Red Specs and Lona found it as fun to get involved in the Cookbook Guru as I did. Thank you for your wonderful contributions.
I can’t wait to see what comes out of everyone’s kitchens for December, if you’re keen to get involved we’d love for you to join us.
Happy Cooking and Happy Eating
Leah & The Cookbook Guru Bookclub.