A Taste of the Country by Jimmy Doherty
|A Taste of the Country by Jimmy Doherty|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Not the book of the series but a book to accompany the series and which gives somne good advice about food and some excellent recipes. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: September 2007|
|Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd|
Jimmy Doherty first came to our attention back in 2004 when Jimmy's Farm appeared on BBC2. Jimmy and his girlfriend Michaela struggled to renovate a derelict farm in Suffolk and turn it into a viable business. The second series is now upon us and Penguin has released A Taste of the Country to accompany the series.
I'm generally wary of cookery books 'which accompany the series'. Initially they were very good. Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course set me (and my daughter) on the road to producing good, home-cooked food. I still have a food-splattered copy of John Tovey's The Miller Howe Cookbook and it's a book I'd be very reluctant to part with. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall naturally has a place on the bookshelf but apart from that many have been a sad disappointment and ended up in charity bags. I'm not firmly convinced that A Taste in the Country is one of the greats, but it's not leaving the house just yet!
Whilst the book is there to accompany the series, it's not the book of the series. This really is a food and cookery book and not the story of the trials and tribulations of farming in the early part of the twenty-first century - for that you might like to look at A Place in My Country by Ian Walthew. My other worry was that it would be 'River Cottage lite', but whilst there are similarities, it escapes falling into the trap. So, what is it?
Jimmy Doherty wants it to be 'a slice of the Good Life for everyone'. I wasn't certain whether that was a reference to the iconic television series or not, but there are no hints that anyone should be going for self-sufficiency. The aim is rather that people shop with knowledge and buy better food; meat form an animal which has led a happy, stress-free life or fruit and vegetables which have not been forced into tastelessness. If people want to move further along the line to growing a few vegetables, keeping a few chickens or even having a small holding then the encouragement is there but I would regard this book as even more of a taster than the River Cottage books. Be enthused, but then go and get the books which cover the subjects in more detail.
If you eat the way that Jimmy suggests then you will eat well. There's no faddiness, no nods to fashion. The meat has all been reared in such a way as to allow muscle to develop and if you're a beginner to the subject you might find help in the diagrams which show where the various cuts of meat originate. The recipes tend towards the traditional and the simple - toad in the hole, liver and bacon and shepherd's pie are all there along with some sensible instructions on roasting the larger joints of meat. Most recipes serve four people - occasionally there are more or less, but not often.
Doherty's passion is the meat but he also has a lot of enthusiasm for collecting food from the wild. He gives some sensible rules and guidelines for collecting food in the countryside and generally restricts himself to that which is readily available. He covers the different seasons, including fish in summer and wild meat and game in the winter. He obviously enjoys cooking outdoors too and whilst you might not want to build a campfire many of his recipes will adapt quite easily to the BBQ.
Advice on growing fruit and vegetables is basic but sensible. You might want to branch out if you find that the subject interests you, but you'll not go far wrong if you follow the advice given. I particularly liked his advice about gardening without a garden - I know from experience that it's possible to grow a lot of food in containers and hanging baskets. His recipes for Tomato and Onion Marrow and Cabbage with Onion and Bacon have already had an outing as September begins to cool a little.
I liked his section on the kitchen. He revives some techniques, such as bottling, which have slipped from favour with the advent of the freezer and I thought his attitudes more down to earth and sensible than some other books. I loved his recipe for gingerbread pigs (they didn't last long, I'm afraid) and whilst his tea bread is tasty I think I'll stick to Jane Grigson's recipe in English Food, as it omits the butter and has less sugar.
Photographs are by Chris Terry and so far as the food goes are rather in the style of Jonathan Lovekin in some of the Nigel Slater books - and that's quite a compliment. I could have done with fewer pictures of Mr Doherty gazing out soulfully but no doubt there will be many for whom that's the best part of the book. Do me a favour though, Jimmy - buy Michaela some new clothes - she looks as though she only has the one outfit.
I'd like to thank Penguin books for sending us a copy to review. It's been great fun.
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