Over to you Aoife:
I have an admission. My mind was already made up about this book before I’d even laid my hands on it. I wanted to like it. When I finally received a copy, its production values did not let me down. A beautifully styled and shot photograph on almost every page, a rarity in these straightened times. Very few photographs of the author himself (a pet hate of mine) apart from an ill-advised come-hither shot on the recipe for lemon posset. Descriptions of kind of food that I dream about; pickled onion, steak and ale pudding, anyone? Primarily traditional and hearty, with a sprinkling of recipes from Mexico and Spain.
There are so many cookery books on the market that shout loudly about making it easy, or making it quick. The bish bash bosh school of cookery. I think it de-skills us. For those of us that cook regularly having a nice, well written tome full of detailed instructions on how to make suet pastry, assemble faggots or confit duck is not only a rarity, it’s a treat for the seasoned food lover. The Good Table has plenty of simple and straightforward recipes in it to make it accessible to the inexperienced yet enthusiastic cook but more than enough to keep the old-hand interested.
The best way to get to know a recipe book is to try out the recipes. I really did want to try out the pickled onion and steak suet pudding but didn’t seem able to find the time which I think says a lot about the book itself. Many of the most enticing recipes require a considerable time commitment.
In the end I opted for carne con chile (a posh chilli con carne) and frijoles de la olla (stewed black beans from the pot). Both recipes called for ingredients that I found difficult to source; ancho chillies and epazote (a pungent, weed-like herb).
I found an online store selling them, and 24 hours later I was ready to cook. The instructions were easy to follow although both dishes took about three hours in total for preparation and cooking. However, the results were very good indeed. The carne con chile was subtle in its spicing, the addition of cocoa added depth and warmth. Adding epazote (it is optional) to the black beans provided a deep liquorice like flavour. Both dishes went down a storm.
So who is this book for? Primarily, it is for the cook that likes to be challenged, be it sourcing new and unusual ingredients or setting aside a large portion of a day to get down and dirty at the kitchen table. It’s also for the person that collects cook books to read in bed at night, Valentine Warner’s comforting prose are perfect for winding down at the end of a busy day. The design, photography and writing are first-class.
While, there are enough recipes for those new to cooking, I would say this book, is a cook’s book. In my opinion, there is no greater compliment you can pay the author of a cook book.