Advantages Seasonal food at its best accompanied by beautiful photographs.
Disadvantages None that don't sound far too picky!
One of the many problems I have with supermarkets is that they try to persuade me that any fresh fruit and vegetable I want is available all year round. I can eat fresh raspberries in January, green beans in February, leeks in June, asparagus in October and strawberries for Christmas dinner. The problem is that they'll have been flown half way round the world and taste of little more than wasted money. What I needed was a book to flag up when food is at its peak and give me some hints as to how it can best be used.Nigel Slater is an obliging man. For more than a decade he's written a food column in The Observer. I've read him slavishly and he's had more influence on the way I buy and prepare food than anyone else. I think I've read just about everything he's written and when I thought of a book I needed he wrote "The Kitchen Diaries".
For a year he recorded his food shopping expeditions and the food he cooked and ate. He goes out to shop for food most days and frequents farmers' markets, health food shops, the local deli and artisan producers. He lives where he does because it's close to good shops and he has a proud boast that he has never set foot in a branch of Tesco. He cooks in a normal kitchen. It's not a restaurant kitchen or a high-tech theatre which costs more than most people's homes. It's a family kitchen with doors which open out onto the garden. He has the sort of pots and pans that we all use.There's a peel-off label on the front of the hardback book saying that it contains over 300 new recipes from Britain's best-loved food writer. I'd quibble slightly with this as some of the recipes are distinctly familiar to me as a reader of The Observer Magazine. I've certainly not seen them in any of his other books though. Anyone buying Delia Smith books these days is likely to find that the books are compilations of recipes that she's published previously or re-workings of older recipes. On that basis the cover price of £25 for "The Kitchen Diaries" (available for £15 on Amazon in October 2005) is very reasonable.
Each month some fifteen to twenty recipes are given. They're listed at the beginning of the month and also covered in the excellent index. The recipes are almost incidental though, as the book is written in the form of a diary. Not only do we see how food varies in the course of a year we see how it changes in the course of a month. As Nigel points out the beginning of May and the end could be two completely different months from the point of view of the food available.Nigel's principle is simple. It's the way he begins the book - "Right food, right place, right time". He believes and shows that this is the best recipe of all. Refreshingly it's not all about preparing difficult recipes with hard-to-get ingredients. It's about eating fish and chips on the beach or ordering a pizza and then ringing up afterwards to say how good it was. I've read right through the book now and re-read September and October. I haven't seen one recipe that I've thought looked complicated and most have a very limited number of ingredients.
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New with light wear to cover, reflected in price. A superb collection of recipes by the inspirational chef and well known TV personality. (cook)
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