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The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery

The Mushroom Feast

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Cookbook Collection:
Jane Grigson

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The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery

The Mushroom Feast

The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food

Grub Street publishes cookbooks and all manner of food-related tomes but they have also taken on the mantle of preservers of our own culinary heritage and characters. The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food is one of their latest classics.

The Best of Jane Grigson A few decades ago we English had a deservedly poor reputation for cooking – or lack thereof. But we did have fine cooks, and fine cooks who wrote, and they were the cornerstones on which our now more illustrious food fame was later to be built.

Talk to any celebrity chef (if you can get near enough) and they will likely present such worthies as Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson as a couple of their culinary muses. Much has been made of Ms David’s writing and quite rightly so. She was, in her day, an almost lone star in a squid-ink-black firmament, and noteworthy for her lifestyle. But there was also Jane Grigson who is possibly less well known by the general public but who could also claim her own place. She was a happy wife and mother, a sensible and practical woman who therefore tended to be overlooked.

Jane Grigson was born on 13th March 1928 and died too soon on 12 March 1990, just before her 62nd birthday. She was a food columnist with The Observer from 1968 until her death. She won many awards for her cookery books, including the accolade of having her Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery (1967) actually translated into French - a unique honour.

The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food doesn’t have dozens of colour images but it’s no worse for that. It’s that style of cookbook that will likely start on the bedside table before migrating to the kitchen where it will find a permanent home. It offers some quintessentially English recipes in the At Home in England chapter. Queen of Puddings uses simple ingredients to make a comforting and traditional dessert which is hardly ever seen these days.

Ms Grigson didn’t, however, confine her interests to France and the UK. The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food is a collection that contains a surprisingly broad spectrum of international cuisines. There is the very retro Fried Chicken Maryland with Corn Fritters. Jane introduces this recipe with these words: ‘This dish has lost its charm by over exposure in cheap restaurants.’ So went the way of many a good dish. We can now recreate for ourselves this standard, and appreciate why it became so popular in the first place.

I have many pick-of-the-book recipes. Jefferson Davis Tart is, unsurprisingly, an historic American recipe and takes advantage of light brown sugar and dried fruit to produce a truly sweet confection. Old-fashioned and not exactly a health food, this falls into the ‘a little of what you fancy’ category.

The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food evokes memories for cooks of a certain age. It will surprise and enchant younger would-be chefs. It’s a book to read, to use and to inspire. The food scene in Britain has changed so much and for that I will be eternally grateful, but this book allows us to walk along something of a time-line, and a delicious one too.

The Best of Jane Grigson – The Enjoyment of Food
Author: Jane Grigson
Price: £20
Publisher: Grub Street Publishing
ISBN-10: 1909808288
ISBN-13: 978-1909808287

food and travel reviews Jane Grigson

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery

This book has been around for a good many years and that’s a good indication that it’s a worthwhile read. You can bet that any book that is reprinted as many times as Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery is a winner with the public. I have been looking forward to delving into the pages and it has not disappointed.

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery The name Grigson will be familiar to any cookbook-reading, food TV-watching gastronaut but most will have Sophie in mind. Jane was Sophie’s mum and has still a reputation that is right up there with the likes of the great Marguerite Patten, Elizabeth David and Gordon Ramsay... OK, so I put that last one in to check if you are paying attention!

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery has, as the name suggests, a French slant. Written in the 60s, it offered a glimpse into what seemed at that time the strange and exotic world of “foreign” food and memories of holidays daringly taken on the wrong side of the Channel. Attitudes have changed and we now delight in the prospect of eating and hopefully cooking items that we have marvelled at - noses pressed up against the windows of charcuteries all over the Gallic world.

If you are a lover of pies, patés, sausages, hams with a few nice sauces then this is the book for you. This isn’t a book stuffed with colour photos but it’s solid writing with recipes that are surprisingly simple and easy to follow. Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery is probably even more relevant now than when originally published.

The recipe for Sausage Meat (Chaire à Saucisse) has several delicious variations with advice on turning the sausage into paté or stuffing. There are country sausages, Toulouse sausages, Alsace sausages and boiled sausages.

White pudding, as opposed to black pudding, is seldom seen in the UK. Admittedly it isn’t a thing of beauty but it can be tasty comfort food when made with a recipe that includes enough spice. Jane Grigson has Boudins Blancs de Paris that will take you right back to that little bistro just between the metro and the bike shop.

You don’t need to be an expert in the kitchen to find Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery of value. There are plenty of tips on sauces. I think all the classics are here including mayonnaise, parsley sauce and mustard sauce. None of these are over-taxing and a home-made sauce will elevate an ordinary roast bird or pork chop into something special with very little effort.

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery is an essential volume for any serious cookbook collector, any lover of fine food, all those who seek out the ready-prepared dishes in French Charcuteries and any of us who want to make those dishes ourselves. Yes, we can do it. Read the book!

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery
Author: Jane Grigson
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £14.99
ISBN 1 902304 88 8

food and travel reviews Jane Grigson

The Mushroom Feast

The Mushroom Feast Jane Grigson is one of Britain’s most celebrated food writers. Her untimely death in 1990 left a big gap in food journalism. Her legacy is a list of amazing books and daughter Sophie who has taken up the baton of culinary education in fine fashion.

The Mushroom Feast was originally published in 1975 but perhaps it’s more pertinent today than when it first graced bookshop shelves. The only mushrooms readily available in the 70’s were the cultivated, round and regular sorts found in supermarkets. Things have moved apace in the fungi world and now there is an amazing variety of mushrooms in greengrocery aisles all over the UK.

Jane was lucky to live in France for many years and was able to take advantage of local know-how when it came to such passtimes as wine making and mushroom hunting. France has a long tradition of wild mushroom collecting and chemists run a “spot the deadly mushroom” service. Not sure what kind of advice you would get from Boots on the high street but it’s likely to be “think you want Waitrose mate”.

Eating your own freshly collected mushrooms isn’t as chancy as you might think. There are relatively few that will kill you outright but there are a number that will give you a nasty tummy upset and you wouldn’t want that. Best thing is to collect with an expert... or a doctor. I’ll stick to shop-bought.

There isn’t much you can do with a mushroom that you won’t find in this volume. Jane was as thorough in her research for The Mushroom Feast as she was for her other books. She starts with Preserved Mushrooms and progresses through main dishes to mushrooms as side dishes for fish, poultry and meat. There is a chapter on Japanese and Chinese use of mushrooms which hints at our contemporary love of the Shiitake.

The recipes have a French bias as you would expect but there are nods to other culinary traditions as well. Smoked Haddock Kulebiaka is a pie of fish, rice and mushrooms and is a winner for a smart lunch. Jane also offers a salmon version with which I am more familiar and I believe is more authentic.

Mushroom Ketchup is a condiment appreciated by the English since the days of Mrs. Beeton. This sauce imparts an almost meaty quality to dishes. It’s rich and flavourful and worth the effort of making yourself and especially if you have a supply of cheap or free mushrooms. No need to use the exotic varieties, the common ones will work.

I was bound to enjoy The Mushroom Feast. It’s a book for those who love to cook but you don’t have to be an expert. Jane’s recipes suit a range of proficiency and taste and will also be enjoyed by any serious cookbook collector.

The Mushroom Feast
Author: Jane Grigson
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £12.99
ISBN 1-904943-89-6

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