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River Cottage Handbook No.5: Edible Seashore – Book review

22 May 2009
River Cottage Handbook No.5: Edible Seashore – Book review

River Cottage Handbook No.5: Edible Seashore John Wright, introduced by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Bloomsbury, £14.99
ISBN 9780747595311

In what is becoming a superlative series of books, the River Cottage Handbook No.5 is an in-depth and brilliantly illustrated look at the possibilities of coastal foraging, courtesy of River Cottage‘s briny seaside scavenger John Wright.

It may sound like smoke-blowing hyperbole hot on the heels of a glowing write-up to the series's bread handbook in this slot two weeks ago, but it really is no exaggeration to say that Edible Seashore is set to become a modern classic in its genre.

The secret to the series's success is the amount of information it packs into a book the size of a VHS cassette, courtesy of an expert author, and the excellent photography that illustrates some very visual topics. As River Cottage founder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says in his introduction, having the sturdy little hardcover in your rucksack is as close as you can get to going foraging with the man.

The dense but well-presented overview of the topic covers everything from the myriad of strange rules and regulations governing coastal foraging - for example, that it's illegal to collect six prawns in Northumberland, but five is perfectly legit - through to a breakdown of all the various plants, seaweeds, molluscs and crustaceans available, plus a selection of intriguing recipes. From more popular forage-ables like sea kale, cockles and razor clams, through to gutweed, sugar kelp and dog whelks, each possible ingredient comes with information on seasonality, where to find it, how to cook it, what it eats like, as well as any possible confusion in identification, plus reams of other facts and snippets.

Wright's collection of recipes show how to treat each ingredient with modern, tasty and generally wild-themed delicacy. Dishes like razor clams with almost wild gremolata, oyster risotto with deep fried gutweed and seaweed and elderflower panna cotta display a genuine creativity with their somewhat diverse ingredients.

If you live anywhere near the sea and want to give your menu genuine personality, you won't spend a better £15 this year.

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