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Percy's Cookbook – Book review

24 July 2009 by
Percy's Cookbook – Book review

Percy's Cookbook
Tina Bricknell-Webb
Unwin Books £20
ISBN 9781906122140

If TV characters Tom and Barbara Good had taken time out from tilling their suburban front garden and drinking parsnip wine with neighbours Margot and Jerry Leadbetter long enough to write a recipe book, it probably would have looked a little like the Percy's Cookbook, whose author, Tina Bricknell-Webb, runs Percy's Country Hotel & Restaurant, near Launceston, Devon.

Chefs' recipe books pictorially depict an increasingly idealised world. Even Jamie Oliver's grittier, more urban backdrops feature London food markets where traders' offcuts and mess are air-brushed out and with expletives bleeped from the TV version. Percy's Cookbook continues the trend.

Judging by this publication, Bricknell-Webb occupies a world where sunlight dances permanently on the leaves of the blackcurrant bush; where plump apples bend down the orchard branches; where mud-free piglets smile as they suckle on their mothers; and where sheep doff their caps and bid "good day" to passing villagers (OK, I made that last bit up).

As well as running a restaurant and hotel, Bricknell-Webb farms a 130-acre organic estate nearby, rearing pigs, sheep, geese and chickens; and grows much of the fruit, vegetables and herbs featured on her menu. Cue shots of her traipsing through leafy copses at dawn, hand-feeding geese (aren't there machines for such things?) and chatting to her border collie.

Realistically, a professional chef is never going to buy a recipe book for the light it casts on how to cook meat, make a Hollandaise or poach an egg. Nor, nowadays, do they need educating in the ways of seasonality. What they seek is juxtapositions of ingredients that set their minds turning - and, in this, Percy's Cookbook delivers.

Bricknell-Webb's kitchen credentials demand respect: her uncomplicated cooking has won plaudits from the likes of Observer Food Monthly, Waitrose Food Illustrated, Condé Nast Johansens and Harden's. And her earthy creativity throws up marrow, bean and onion chutney; hazelnut, mace and squash cake; dark chocolate beetroot cake; and many other appealing combinations.

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