Book review – A Country Cook's Kitchen

19 March 2012
Book review – A Country Cook's Kitchen

A Country Cook's Kitchen
By Alison Walker
Jacqui Small, £25
ISBN 978-1-906417-56-7

The sort of home cooking that would once have been passed down to the next generation, most likely from mother to daughter, was all but lost when modern woman broke the link and sought to rely on quick and convenient food as they strived for full and enriched lives.

But traditional culinary skills are back on trend, there's no doubt about it. Championed by British chefs and the subject of much of the BBC's endless stream of food porn programming, this revival of artisan skills has inevitably resulted in a book that aims to fill that skills gap.

A Country Cook's Kitchen is a collection of recipes that I would describe as knowledge-fillers and menu enhancers. The delicacies that can be produced from these pages are often not the headline on a chef's dish, but sometimes it's the support act that brings it all together.

Written by Alison Walker, food and drink editor for Country Living magazine, this cookbook manages to dip into your imagination and offer all the marvels you might expect to come out of a traditional country kitchen. And with mouthwatering photography by cookbook stalwart Tara Fisher, your imagination need not work too hard.

Opening with an in-depth chapter on baking, Walker covers everything from hearty breads and delicate tarts, to steamed puddings and game pies, not to mention all manner of cakes and sponges that look just like your grandmother made them. Assuming your granny was a canny cook, of course.

There follows an inspiring look at dairy and how cream can be transformed into golden butters and tangy yogurts, clotted cream and soft cheese, using contemporary equipment to speed things up and make life easier.

Where the book really comes into its own, and could transform a pub kitchen serving simple fare into a cosy Sunday afternoon comfort food haven, is the curing and potting.

Whereas preserving was traditionally a matter of survival, there's no denying the pleasure that comes from a salty smoked trout or an unctuous and flavoursome potted ham. Served with home-made tartare sauce, or red onion marmalade from the chapter on preserving, you have the makings of a winning British menu.

Because while the sisters (and brothers) are once again doing it for themselves, let's not forget that modern life is a bit rubbish. Most of the time they'll be queuing up at professional kitchens for the pleasure of "home-cooked" fare made by hands more skilled than their own.

If you like this, you'll love these:
The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook Cheryl Day
â- The Best of Traditional British Cooking Annette Yates
â- Complete Traditional Recipe Book Sarah Edington

By Janie Manzoori-Stamford

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