Book Reviews

The Mushroom Feast by Jane GrigsonThe seasonal rush of books for the Christmas market is only around the corner (one I just can’t wait to see is Carmel Somers’ Eat Good Things Every Day, due to hit the bookshops in October), meanwhile the short lull allows a little time to catch up with some others.

For example, anyone thinking of joining one of the many mushroom-hunting and other foraging outings on offer in the coming weeks, such as the annual event at Longueville House, Co Cork, would find the late Jane Grigson’s classic The Mushroom Feast (Grub Street, hardback) a particularly enjoyable read and - with over 250 recipes and masses of tips for picking and preserving the best varieties - a practical one too. First published in 1975, it pre-dates the ‘all-colour photography’ era but more than compensates with some charming line drawings, and wonderfully wide-ranging and beautifully-written text; re-printed in hardback in 2007, both this and a 1987 paperback edition are easily available online.

Two recently published books that should be read by anyone with so much as a passing interest in food (or health, wealth, the environment and just about everything to do with the human condition) are In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan and Waste by Tristram Stuart.

in Defence of Food - Michael PollanMichael Pollan’s In Defence of Food (Penguin, £8.99) follows Pollan’s recent bestseller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was a thought-provoking production-to-plate analysis of the choices and responsibilities facing us when deciding what we can/should eat for dinner. The new book looks at the more positive side of the coin, inviting readers to ‘junk the science, ditch the diet and rediscover the joys of eating well’ – although equally scholarly it’s ultimately a cheerier read altogether, not least because it finishes with a chapter of pointers towards eating better, and more healthily, which put us back in control. Even if you were to skip the rest and just read the final chapter, it would be worth buying this book: the sub-headings in a chapter that gives the reader an encouraging sense of empowerment include Pay More, Eat Less (quantity v quality), which seems a very sensible mantra, debunking the persistent post WW2 line that food should be cheap; Eat Meals (ie proper meals, not on the hoof); Don’t Get Your Fuel From The Same Place Your Car Does (much of the food sold at garages is highly processed and non-perishable); Eat Slowly (see And he keeps the very best bit until last; in order that ‘eaters can involve themselves in food production to whatever extent they can’ Pollan urges: ‘Cook and, If You Can, Plant A Garden’. I’ll vote for that - what could be more satisfying?

Waste - Tristram StuartTristram Stuart’s Waste (Penguin, £9.99), on the other hand, is a chilling indictment of a widespread uncaring attitude that allows vast quantities of food to be dumped or written off in all sectors of the developed world – crops written off in the field, discarded fish dumped in the sea, fresh food thrown into supermarket bins and, at a domestic level, uneaten food is binned from our fridges. Perhaps there is no food shortage, just mismanagement on a vast scale. Reading this book will open our eyes and, at the very least, persuade us to be less wasteful personally – and it will undoubtedly influence many key decision-makers in the food industry.

Delicious Magazine - One Pot RecipesOver to less contentious matters and a new trio of cookbooks from Delicious Magazine – Frugal Feasts, Baking and One-Pot Recipes. Each little book offers 100 accessible recipes (all with a photo) and, coming in at under a fiver in the UK (approx €6), at a very recession-friendly price. They remind me of Neven Maguire’s earlier books – the simple inexpensive ones published when he was the chef on RTE’s Open House: the production standard isn’t fancy and you won’t find too many surprises here, but they’re down to earth, don’t use expensive/obscure ingredients and anyone could cook from them. A handy reference for younger people running a home under pressure for the first time – and maybe a useful aide-memoire for more experienced cooks who may be reacquainted with some old favourites that lapsed from the repertoire during the Tiger years.

RECIPE from Delicious Magazine’s Frugal Feasts (£5 in UK)

All-in-one baked lemon and rosemary chicken

Delicious Magazine - Frugal FeastsThis super-simple one-pot chicken recipe from Delicious Magazine's Frugal Feasts (£5, UK) requires almost no prearation and is ready in less than one hour.

Click for recipe

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