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Book review – At Elizabeth David's Table

17 December 2010 by
Book review – At Elizabeth David's Table

At Elizabeth David's Table
Compiled by Jill Norman
Michael Joseph, £25
ISBN 978-0-06-204972-8

It is hard for many of us of a certain generation to imagine, but some of the young chefs working in the industry today will not be acquainted with the writings of Elizabeth David. For many of the more senior members of the industry - such as the likes of Rowley Leigh, Sally Clarke and Rick Stein - the writings of David were enormously inspirational in encouraging them to seek out the freshest ingredients and cook them in a simple, honest way.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that many of the new kids on the block will pick up one of David's revered tomes, such as A Book of Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking or Italian Food, in which she provided a tantalising glimpse of the local foods and culinary traditions of the places she visited.

In a fast-paced world where recipes can be so easily obtained from magazines, the internet, and now even iPhone apps, why would a food-obsessed youngster plough through a David epic, which is every bit a wonderful work of literature as it is a collection of culinary tips?

However, the publication of At Elizabeth David's Table may just be the opportunity to introduce the uninitiated to her sublime cookery advice. For the first time, David's recipes are illustrated with colour photography that not only appeals to those inspired by visuals, but also clearly illustrates the extensive variety of recipes she produced.

The 12 chapters guide the reader through every step of David's culinary repertoire and incorporate some of her most famous dishes, including gazpacho, tarte à l'oignon, spaghetti with clams, ragoût of shellfish, best end of neck of lamb with haricot beans, and pears baked in red wine.

Meanwhile, the final chapter on bread and yeast gives a glimpse of David's 1977 book, English Bread and Yeast Cookery, which remains the most comprehensive book ever written on English baking.

The recipes are not difficult, but they are honest, taste good and always work. Many are written in the narrative style that David made her own, which may put off some readers, but I would urge you to persevere, as the rewards of becoming acquainted with the writings of perhaps the greatest British food writer of all time is worth the journey.

There's still time to request this book as a Christmas gift. If you have a moment to spare in the midst of the season's festivities, this would be the ideal book to settle down with to provide you with an understanding of why David inspired a whole generation of cooks and chefs.

If you like this, you'll love these:

French Provincial Cooking Elizabeth David

â- Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen Elizabeth David

â- An Omelette and a Glass of Wine Elizabeth David

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