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European Festival Food

European Peasant Cookery

The Food of Spain and Portugal

Tapas – Classic small dishes from Spain

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Cookbook Collection:
Elisabeth Luard

On this page:

European Festival Food

European Peasant Cookery

The Food of Spain and Portugal

Tapas – Classic small dishes from Spain

European Festival Food

cookbook review European Festival Food This is a book that you’ll find on the shelf in the cooking section of any good bookshop. You’ll flick though the pages. Your shopping bag will then be placed neatly on the floor between your feet. Next a glance around for one of those squidgy sofas to rest for just a short while as you browse. You might be lucky enough to have found a bookshop with a coffee shop. A wander through even just a few pages and you’ll likely be addicted. I assure you, dear reader, that if you are in any way a consummate foodie or a serious cookbook collector then you will want to own this book.

Be warned, this is not a glossy coffee-table tome full of appealing shots of delicious food. No moody or romantic stills of mist-enveloped valleys nor toothless natives in national costume doing something ethnic with a sheep’s bladder. This is cover-to-cover writing of the finest sort.

Yes, European Festival Food is a cookbook, but Elisabeth Luard has worked her usual magic. Winner of the Glenfiddich Award for Best Cookery Writer and Winner of the Glenfiddich Trophy, she has long been respected for attention to detail but also for her style. This is literature, with food as its vehicle. It’s not a dry and worthy textbook but a thoroughly accessible good read. A book for bedtime as well as the kitchen.
Elisabeth is well placed to write of the food of Europe. She has lived in a lot of it, and has learnt to cook traditional dishes in the kitchens where those dishes have always always been cooked, from the (mostly) women who have always cooked them. This book is a veritable archive of culinary history but it’s also a social history describing festivals that are less often celebrated.

The pages are awash with charming stories and legends that help to put the foods into context. Christmas Eve offers Mince Pies if you are in England. Records of these go back to the 16th century so it’s likely they existed before that date. The mincemeat really did contain meat in those days, but now only suet remains to remind us of the original ingredients.

European Festival Food does not only catalogue religious feast days but also other annual celebrations. The Glorious Twelfth is noted throughout Britain as not only my father’s birthday but the first day of the grouse season. No surprise that there is a recipe here for the aforementioned bird, roasted, and with its accompanying bread sauce and fried breadcrumbs. There is a cod festival in Lofoten, an island off the coast of Norway, and pig-killing festivals seem to be popular in every country that ever owned a pig. Whenever man has celebrated or commemorated an event then food has played a major part.

This is another terrific book from Grub Street, one of my favourite publishers. It’s a gem of a volume that offers seasonal recipes which have stood the test of time. They are a marvellous collection, presenting dishes from the cold wind-swept north of Europe with its Viking heritage to the soft warmth of the south with its more exotic influences. A masterwork.

Cookbook review: European Festival Food
Author: Elisabeth Luard
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £20.00
ISBN 978-1-906502-45-4

food and travel reviews Elisabeth Luard

European Peasant Cookery

European Peasant Cookery I have two big “thank yous” to start this review. First to the author Elisabeth Luard and secondly to Grub Street publishers who have presented me with this amazing book which I have so wanted to review. European Peasant Cookery should be recognised as an “important” work and I am sure it will be sought out by passionate cooks.

If you are a Food TV fan you might not have heard of Elisabeth Luard. She has been only seldom seen on the small screen but she is one of the most respected food writers. Respected by chefs, cooks and food journalists, and there can surely be no higher accolade than to be well regarded by one’s peers. 

Elisabeth has an almost poetic style of writing. If you enjoy Elizabeth David you will be equally enchanted by the books of this other Elisabeth. Every paragraph reflects culinary experience and presents detailed information and advice. No corners are cut and nothing is omitted. You’ll read this book rather than flick through its pages. The anecdotes will bring vivid images of lively markets, sunshine and real people. Not “farmers” markets but markets populated by those who understand quality ingredients and accept nothing less. Those are often simple ingredients which are later transformed into the most splendid of feasts.

European Peasant Cookery has over 500 recipes from 25 countries. It’s a weighty tome but there is no padding. This is quality food writing from cover to cover. The recipes are divided by food type and include such things as Reindeer and Kid (No, dear reader, it’s not a small child but rather a young goat.)

Each recipe has a little history and indicates the country of origin. It’s peasant cooking so these dishes are not technically difficult nor will they require you to spend a fortune on a battery of kitchen gadgets. For the most part it’s all quite simple. Buy the best produce you can find and you are almost assured of a terrific meal.

Many of the dishes are what we now think of as classic although we could equally describe them as dishes that have stood the test of time. They are still with us because they are delicious and simple and have been popular for generations. This is a collection of recipes that work.

France is well represented as you would expect but let’s not be food snobs. Every one of those 25 countries has contributed something noteworthy. Beef and Beer Carbonade is a rich stew from Belgium, Pickled Vegetables is from Bulgaria, Bean Stew with Serrano Ham from Spain, and Lancashire Hot Pot from England - and it’s appropriate to mention that there are a good many entries from the UK.

I have been looking forward to reading European Peasant Cookery and it has been as wonderful as I had hoped. It’s quite remarkable food literature, and great value.

European Peasant Cookery
Author: Elisabeth Luard
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £15.00
ISBN 1-904943-36-5

food and travel reviews Elisabeth Luard

The Food of Spain and Portugal

The food of spain and portugal Elisabeth Luard has written this Regional Celebration of the food of Spain and Portugal, and there is nobody better placed to do just that. She is considered one of the best writers about Spanish food in the English language and with Elisabeth’s background I am inclined to agree with those opinions.

Having been bought up in both Europe and South America, Elisabeth moved at age 21 to the Andalucian hills and learnt about real Spanish food from the locals. The cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula is enjoying immense popularity at the moment and this book will help to bring that trend to your table. If you can’t have a real Spaniard in the kitchen with you, this might be the next best thing.

The Food of Spain and Portugal is a delight. Photographs by the talented Jean Cazals are marvellous and shots of food are punctuated with landscapes to present a combined travelogue and cooking lesson. There are even a few Old Masters. You don’t have to be a budding chef to appreciate this book - a love of Spain and Portugal is enough.

Elisabeth writes with passion and intelligence: “The gentle braising tenderises the meat of a well-grown mountain lamb, allowing the flavours to melt into each other and form a rich sticky, little sauce.” It’s enough to turn a vegetarian’s head!

There is something for everyone, be they vegetarian, carnivore, practised cook or raw beginner. Roasted Red Peppers with Anchovies only has three ingredients and is easy yet vibrant of colour and taste. Cream Cake with Sour Cherries is sophisticated but wouldn’t be too taxing. My favourite of all, Spiced Chicken with Peppers: simple, delicious and a true taste of Aragon.

The recipes are enticing and broad-based covering the most rustic to the most refined, leaving the reader wanting to linger over ingredients and pictures, but anxious to turn another page to discover more. It isn’t a book to skim through nor is it a volume that you’ll read only once. You’ll dip into it and use its mouth-watering and authentic recipes but you’ll visit again to enjoy the countryside and the history.

The Food of Spain and Portugal
Author: Elisabeth Luard
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-1-85626-712-0

food and travel reviews Elisabeth Luard

Tapas – Classic small dishes from Spain

cookbook review It’s the modern way of enjoying a meal out. Perhaps not even a full meal, but a few small and perfect plates to graze on while sipping a glass of sherry, a full bodied red or a crisp white. Tapas is indeed more popular than ever outside Spain, its country of origin.

Tapas are rumoured to be the contemporary descendants of rounds of savoury-topped bread, that were used to cover glasses to keep dust and flies out of one’s chosen cold beverage. They have developed into the centrepieces of convivial gatherings.

Any book by Elisabeth Luard is bound to be worthwhile. She is rightly considered one of the best of the English-speaking world’s food writers. She has a lilting and almost musical way with words. She embroiders phrases that are almost poetic, often amusing and always apt.

Classic is a word that is oft used but in this case it’s an honest description of this collection of tapas. If you have enjoyed tapas in an authentic bar in Spain then you will find recipes for those familiar dishes here. Croquettes are ubiquitous simply because they are delicious, moreish and the ingredients are inexpensive. Shrimps are a smart filling and this recipe stretches the seafood to the extent that just 4 tablespoons will produce 20 or so croquettes, enough for a starter for four. The key to flavourful success is using a good, rich fish stock to make the basic sauce. The chicken version uses only 4 tablespoons of chicken meat and once again it’s important to use a strong chicken broth for best results. These are perhaps my favourite croquettes.

Small pasties are popular all over South America and Spain. Each country or region has its own filling and each one reflects the best of local ingredients. There are a variety of pastry options ranging from ready-made pastry to a rich oil pastry reminiscent of that used in British pork pies. Many of these Empanadas contain meat and spices, others have tuna or vegetables. They are ideal finger-food for drinks parties or as starters.

Salt cod is something of an acquired taste but Bunuelos de Bacalao are popular on traditional tapas menus. I personally adore that creamy, salty, fishy potato mash inside a crispy fried shell. They take a little time to prepare because the dried fish needs soaking in several changes of water, but the end result is worth the effort.

The ubiquitous tapa, and a favourite with even the fussiest of eaters, is Spanish omelette. It has few ingredients and it’s a simple dish to cook. There is a knack to turning the tortilla and this might fill the novice cook with fear, but persist and you will have a potato cake of which to be proud. Serve cut into substantial wedges along with a few of the other suggestions from this delightful book.

Cookbook review: Tapas – Classic small dishes from Spain
Author: Elisabeth Luard
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £15.99
ISBN 978-1-908117-02-1

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