2018 will in future be known as the year of the Great West Norwood Cookbook Cull. But which books to get rid of, and which to keep? The Random Recipe Adventure will help us decide (you can read a bit more about the premise here). Each week, a book will be taken from the shelves, examined, and cooked from. Losers go to Oxfam – winners stay on the shelves, with a promise that they will no longer be neglected quite as much as they have been for the last decade or so.
How/where/when did I get it?
Inherited from my mother’s shelves after she died.
Have I used it since then?
What Did The Random Recipe Generator throw up?
Boiled salted ox tongue with caper sauce. This elicited not a little nose-wrinkling and perturbation within the familial unit. I’m not in this to force anyone to do anything, and in a busy week I was going to struggle to source the ox tongue, so we drew again. We got Roast duck with cider, cream and apples. Noses unwrinkled, perturbation dispelled.
So, what about it?
You know how I feel about Simon Hopkinson. I wrote about him a couple of weeks ago.
Nothing has changed. The duck was sensationally good, even if his estimation of how many people it would feed was, let’s just say ‘not entirely in line with our own experience’ – he reckoned a 1.5kg bird would feed two. It fed four comfortably. What can I say? The man has an appetite.
Also superb (and exceptionally simple to make) was the mandarin granita we had to follow it. This was a welcome fillip after the confidence-knocking disaster that was last week’s gnocchi. (On the subject of which, there’s a full-page photo of some particularly successful gnocchi opposite the foreword of Week In Week Out, almost as if to troll me on last week’s atrocity. There’s also a recipe later in the book – one day, when I’m feeling stronger, I might try it.)
Week In Week Out is more lavish than its predecessor, Gammon and Spinach. Coffee-table format, colour photos. It’s pleasing, then, to read this in the introduction: ‘I very much hope that you will enjoy reading it, cooking from it and, although I know it is colourful, glossy and coffee-table in size, I really won’t mind if it becomes well-stained from regular use.’
Week In Week Out’s subtitle is ’52 Seasonal Stories’, many of them with punnish titles of the kind I both abhor and adore. ‘Squids In’, ‘Having a Good Grouse’, ‘Rabbiting On’. Each ’story’ either deals with an ingredient (’Spud-U-Like’, for example) or a genre (‘Salad Days’). The format is entirely successful because of Hopkinson’s extraordinary ability to find different ways with things without ever seeming to run out of ideas. Six horseradish recipes, without repetition, hesitation or deviation? So ordered.
Particularly enjoyable are the introductions to each recipe. Some of them are very short indeed, others more expansive. They are always pithy, sometimes dismissive. Here he is on a tempting recipe for Roast Best End of Lamb.
‘Some might say that the accompaniment of a slightly over-sweet sauce is quite out of order with the French potatoes. Well, you know, I honestly couldn’t care less.’
There are recipes in this book I’ll never cook, for one reason or another – the boiled salted ox tongue is probably one of them. But when a book is so richly rewarding to read, so eminently dippable-in-to, what does that matter?
The Verdict: Keeper or Chucker?
I couldn’t possibly comment.
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