Sue Lawrence came to prominence in 1991 when she won Masterchef – those were the days when I actually watched it and the programme was more about the judged than the judges. She has made numerous TV appearances since then and has received awards for her writing.
Eating In is a very personal cookbook. You can actually hear Sue talking as you roam through the chapters. A lilting Scottish accent and great good humour garnish every paragraph, making this book very much a culinary conversation rather than a text book. The recipes are just what you would hope from Sue, with plenty that reflect her passion for all Scottish food.
The chapters are divided by event and occasion rather than season or course. Hogmanay, Burns Night and Hangover Breakfasts are included as one would expect, but you don’t have to be a Scot or under the weather to enjoy everything here. There are dishes for Sunday lunch, family celebrations, Christmas, and TV suppers, along with much more to help those of us who are strapped for ideas for family events.
There is an appealing mix of tradition and innovation from Sue. Yes, plenty of haggis in various guises but this isn’t a cliché ingredient. It’s a delicious staple that should be made more of. It has a particular savoury roundness and a comforting texture. The recipes that take advantage of this are not edgy or weird but present a bit of inspiration for us haggis lovers.
Hummus with Haggis and Pine Nuts is my favourite of several haggis recipes. It couldn’t be easier to prepare and the end result is flavourful and has a pleasing crunch from the nuts, missing from the Middle Eastern original. It’s heartier than the common version of hummus and it’s moreish. A striking dip for bread or crackers, and it also works as a light lunch with a mixed salad.
Scots are famed for their sweet teeth and baked goods. Plenty here to tempt one away from the diet. If you are going to slide off the low-calorie wagon (probably a tea trolley) then do it with style with Treacle Tart Bars. They have that old-fashioned taste that seems to have almost disappeared. Golden Syrup is a unique confection that is underutilised and underrated. OK, so it’s not like it’s one of your five a day, but indulging periodically is good for the soul.
These bars are simple to prepare as Sue uses ready-made shortcrust pastry for the base. This is a great recipe for using up your leftover white bread. Sue suggests day-old sourdough but I have had good results with cheap and nasty white sliced. The lemon zest and juice are crucial to the tray-bake: the citrus helps to cut through the extreme sweetness.
Porridge makes a healthy and sustaining breakfast but it does get boring after a few days. Sue offers us Coconut Milk Porridge with a garnish of fresh fruit. A sprinkle of toasted coconut continues the exotic theme. I am not persuaded by the addition of puffin to porridge, as they would have eaten on the now uninhabited isle of St. Kilda. I wonder why its population left. I suspect they were in search of a cornflake.
Eating In is a garland of little nuggets of sensible food. Ordinary ingredients simply prepared. Lots of twists on the Scottish classics. A book to use all year. This will be on the list of my favourite books for 2011.
Author: Sue Lawrence
Published by: Hachette Scotland
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018