Magazine article The Spectator

Back to Classics

Magazine article The Spectator

Back to Classics

Article excerpt

The truth is, we could probably all get by with three or four cookbooks;

half a dozen at most, which makes my own collection of dozens seem a bit OTT.

But what you need among them is a book that covers all the essentials, so that if you're stuck to know what to do with a pheasant or how to make pastry or need to do something imaginative with cauliflower, you've got it all to hand.

One all-purpose volume is the classic Constance Spry Cookery Book (Grub Street, £30), by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, first published in the Fifties and now reissued with metric as well as imperial measurements.

It's very much of its time, obviously, and unabashedly French in temperament, but it's a cracking, really useful book. And it covers all the ground, from how to make a forcing bag for icing to the original recipe for Coronation Chicken to 25 ways with potatoes to little sections on train food and shooting parties.

From the perspective of the Fifties, the author writes:

Remembering as I do the days of immensely long, boring, wasteful dinners, remembering too the starvation which was all too often at our very doors, I cannot forbear to remind you how much respect ought to be paid to food, how carefully it should be treated, how shameful waste is.


But even all-purpose cookbooks need to be supplemented, and fans of the tomato may like to know about an updated edition of The Big Red Book of Tomatoes (Grub Street, £15.99), from the admirable Lindsey Bareham. It's not the best time of year to think tomato, given the horror of off-season ones from Holland, and the praise lavished on Italian and French varieties can make the reader depressed, but if you want to know how to stuff the things, roast them, turn them into sauce or salads or sandwiches, this is your one-stop shop.

If you don't yourself own a big collection of cookbooks, why not turn to someone who does? …

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