Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hunt the recipe

As I might have mentioned I collect cook books –avidly. Currently I have about a 140 (if I count the ones about wine as well, which I do). It’s ironic because I once swore I would make do with Delia Smith’s complete cookery course and that would be enough to see me through. This example of youthful silliness was my attempt at rebellion, my mother has a far more impressive recipe collection and I foolishly thought I could deny what is clearly a genetic imperative...

I held out pretty well until a vegetarian boyfriend coincided with a job in a bookshop, searching for things to cook escalated into searching for cookbooks. The vegetarian is long gone, but the books remain and multiply, hopefully to give helpful council in situations like the one I find myself in today.

A mini clan gathering is in the offing I have offered to cook, and mum has offered some gift wrapped Partridges she’s just been presented with. Neither of us has cooked them before, but it seems a shame to look a gift bird in the beak and somewhere amongst the cookbooks lays the answer. With uncharacteristic restraint I’m only consulting three of them; otherwise I’m most likely to end up balancing a stack of books over a foot high and run out of time to actually cook in.

I love to cook, and generally the results are positive, but I am reliant on good clear instruction to achieve anything above the (very) ordinary. The more I learn about food the more I realise how much the little tips and tricks matter, and frankly I don’t trust people who don’t follow recipe’s – fine once you’ve mastered something. Time then to tinker to your hearts content, but I lack the natural genius which makes the throw it together and hope for the best approach work. I also lack the training to make books by professional chefs anything other than intimidating, but I do live in a city blessed with an excellent daily market which means a great range of cheap ingredients.

This naturally means a need for more cookbooks, which seems to be as seasonal as the produce I buy. From now until February is open season on game books. I found quinces for sale this morning which has given me the opportunity to use Prue Coats ‘The Poacher’s Cookbook’ (bagged late last season) I’m going to try braised partridge with quince and honey which looks reasonably uncomplicated and sounds good. I’m feeling pretty pleased that the obvious recipe turned up in this newish book, a little vindication never goes amiss, and it’s such an appealing book. No colour illustrations, but instead really nice woodcuts of bits of wildlife, nature and country pursuits. Each chapter deals with a separate beast and finishes with a suggested pudding or liquor generally based on hedgerow foraging. All sound good, but for me the most appealing thing about game and country cooking is the sense of tradition it brings. Most of the recipes in here sound like they’ve been handed down for generations and I like my food to have roots.


  1. oh, I have the same cook book addiction. I can't seem to stop buying them. However, if you do use them, it's really worth it. I think if you find even just one excellent recipe in a cookbook then it's so worth the price of the book!

  2. That is a seriously impressive cookbook collection. I have only a smattering of cookbooks, but I also love making recipes with a sense of tradition and history behind them. There's something very comforting about knowing I'm following the same recipe that my grandmother used 50 years ago. Although I strongly suspect she'd find my vegetarianism deeply boring!

  3. That's a lot of cookbooks! I too collect them, but have only a handful, predominantly baking themed.

  4. The Poacher's Cookbook...kind of an ambiguous title. If one didn't know better one might think that it is all about cooking things in liquid (poaching eggs, fish, pears...).

  5. I absolutely love reading cookbooks - I pour over the recipes with a cup of tea and make notes about all the dishes I want to try. The Poacher's Cookbook sounds wonderful - especially since I know nothing about cooking game. I adore the smell of quinces. I hope the braised partridge turns out ok.

  6. Hmmm, I don't have a cookbook for poaching things in water... now that's a gap.