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Book review: Squirrel Pie by Elisabeth Luard

05 August 2016
Book review: Squirrel Pie by Elisabeth Luard

Bloomsbury, £9.99

This is not primarily a cookery book. It's a collection of food-based anecdotes and a memoir from one of our most respected and well-travelled food writers, Elisabeth Luard.

Each chapter finishes with recipes, and there are 50 recipes in total, so plenty for those wanting to make use of the author's expertise. But these are not central to the book, just as the recipes in Elizabeth David's An Omelette and a Glass of Wine are only part of the reason why it is such a good read. It's about Luard's personal take on what she sees and tastes.

The introduction, in which there is a down-to-earth account of an Australian bush tucker expert skinning and dismantling a wallaroo, sets the tone. She writes: "The demonstration comes to a triumphant conclusion as Vic chucks the tail joints and meat chunks into an empty beer keg and adds the contents of a Foster's six-pack, a handful of desert limes, reddish salt crystals and a fistful of Tasmanian mountain pepper berries… to reappear with the appetising scent of slow-cooked bush meat fragrant with herbs and citrus".

Luard has lived in some fascinating spots. She was educated in Montevideo and then later moved to Spain with her novelist husband Nicholas and her children. After residing in a globeful of places, she settled in west Wales. Every location is observed with an intelligent and witty eye on what's being served for dinner.

The Spanish sections are seriously knowledgeable, especially on ham and truffle hunting. José Luis of fabulous Joselito ham fame shows what to look for in the product, while Juan Antonio, his chief herdsman, shows what to look for in the Iberico pigs. It's priceless stuff.

By Shaun Hill, chef-proprietor, the Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

If you like this, you might enjoy these

  • An Omelette and a Glass of Wine Elizabeth David
  • Good Things Jane Grigson
  • European Peasant Cookery Elisabeth Luard

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