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Chocolate in your oxtail

It’s fashionable but it works, says Joe Jenkins

River Cottage Every Day
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Bloomsbury £25
(978-0-7475-9840-4)
Church Times bookshop £22.50

WHETHER you are a fan of the crusading Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (photo, above) or not, there is an enthusiasm about both him and his food that cannot be denied. Not everyone loves the recipes he writes for his newspaper column, while others are less than keen about his television series, which can be so evocative of Cold Comfort Farm at times that the viewer might prefer to see someone cook something in the comfort of a minimalist, urban kitchen.

But he cares about produce, he cares about its origins, and he cares most of all about great flavours. This is what shines through in River Cottage Every Day. The recipes are gutsy and have “Eat me” written all over them. Although there might be limited appeal for yet another celeb cookbook, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good recipe-book that will inspire you to cook something really decent at the weekend, when you have a little more time to devote in the kitchen.

A bonus is that there are one or two ingredients championed here that most of us will not be all that familiar with. English rapeseed oil and spelt are well deployed, while less commonly used cuts of meat also crop up.

“Thrifty Meat” is a chapter heading that is perhaps 12 months out of date. A year ago, when even the supermarkets were catching on to the potential of cheaper cuts, this might have been a spot-on title. Now, even oxtail — one of the most under-employed of the best beef cuts — is rising in price at my butcher’s. All the same, the author’s oxtail stew with cinnamon and star anise (not to mention chocolate and a whole bottle of red wine) is a full-flavoured delight. He suggests serving it with some mash or noodles, but go for some french beans or steamed bok choi for a perfect midweek supper.

I have cooked roast chicken dozens of different ways, but I really enjoyed his method. It comes with a really zesty stuffing based on spelt — or pearl barley — with a little dried fruit, walnuts, lemon, and spice. You hardly need add another vegetable, but we had petits pois à la française, and it worked a treat.

There are a fish chapter, a breakfast chapter, and assorted ones on vegetables and fruit. But the “Weekday lunch(box)” stands out as a little different. Many of us have to eat in the office, or on the move, and his suggestions for simple yet tasty packed lunches are a welcome change from the supermarket sarnie or the salad you made at home the previous night. His spinach, bacon, and goat’s-cheese frittata is (yet again) packed with flavour.

I like this book very much, and will come back to it many times.

Joe Jenkins is deputy foreign editor of The Daily Telegraph.

Order Hugh's latest through CT Bookshop

RECIPES for Dr Rowan Williams’s ginger biscuits, “mum’s tablet” (fudge) from the Scottish MU, and treats by Kevin Woodford are includ­ed in Loaves, Fishes and More . . . Tasty recipes from church leaders and cooking enthusiasts (Congre­gational & General, £11.95; 978-0-9549254-6-8). A dona­tion goes to Christian Aid from every copy sold.

 

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