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Book review – The Kitchen Magpie

24 October 2014
Book review – The Kitchen Magpie

The Kitchen Magpie
By James Steen
Icon Books, £12.99

Described as a "delicious mélange of culinary curiosities, fascinating facts, amazing anecdotes and expert tips for the food-lover", The Kitchen Magpie is the latest book from award-winning writer James Steen.

Steen famously ghost-wrote Marco Pierre White's The Devil in the Kitchen, Raymond Blanc's A Taste of My Life and Keith Floyd's Stirred But Not Shaken. His other books include Marco Made Easy and Kitchen Secrets.

However, The Kitchen Magpie is something altogether different. It is a wonderfully witty, well-written book that shares old recipes and gastronomic traditions, ranging from centuries-old to the modern day. Steen's light, humorous style makes for a captivating read.

He is clearly an inquisitive author with a fondness of gastronomic history, and has devoted thousands of hours of research to bring together an assortment of culinary interests, from ‘drinking toast' to a ‘cure for the Black death' (page 7, if your kitchen should ever come down with the
14th-century pandemic).

It's often when researching certain aspects of a cuisine when a nugget of historical importance pops up and it all starts to come together. This book compiles all those interesting morsels that inspire conversation about our dining experiences through revealing who ate what, why, when and where.

You can also find out how to make the perfect pork crackling, the finest fried egg or roast beef in an oven that's not even switched on.

Any book that captures the historical stories and myths, enriching our wonderful journey of gastronomy, is a must on any shelf - or, as Waitrose Kitchen's editor William Sitwell puts it: "A lovely, little, bonkers book. Every loo deserves one."

By John Campbell, chef-proprietor, the Woodspeen restaurant and cookery school near Newbury, Berkshire

If you like this, you may enjoy these:

•The Edible Atlas: Around the World in Thirty-Nine Cuisines, Mina Hollan
•The Recipe Wheel, Rosie Ramsden
•Great British Bakes: Forgotten Treasures for Modern Bakers, Mary-Anne Boermans

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