I review many cookbooks in the course of a month but this one has had me waiting in eager anticipation. It has arrived, and is just what I had both expected and hoped.
Lotte Duncan will be a familiar face to those who watched and loved the much-missed Good Food Live on the UK Food TV network. She demonstrated delicious dishes and presented the show when Jeni Barnett was away. She has also hosted her own series. She is well-respected in the British food industry, being a skilled professional and a remarkably nice person – those two virtues not being commonly found ensemble in the world of Media. She is also a rose addict but I am sure that is her only vice.
This stunning book is a paper representation of the lady – it’s pink and pastel-coloured – and the photography by Lara Holmes is superb. The location scenes are in fact shot at Lotte’s chocolate-box cottage from where she runs her celebrated cooking school. Her kitchen is quintessentially Lotte with patterned cups and cake stands, two cats and an Aga. Yes, indeed this volume considers the owners of that great iconic stove, with every recipe giving Aga-appropriate directions. Lotte runs classes to demystify the beast.
The book looks terrific but a cook does not cook by looks alone. The recipes need to be good, quite simply they need to work, and these do. The dishes are scrumptious, simple and sensible. It’s British cooking at its finest. There are classics with a twist (Mince Pies with Orange and Almond Pastry) and some departures. Spicy Flatbread might not seem very British but present it wrapped around some marvellous lamb and you have the epitome of evolved British cuisine. A reflection of our contemporary tastes. This is no dry old-fashioned tome.
I am waiting for September to try Lotte’s Winter Tonic Jelly. Her Dried Berry Scones will be a delicious vehicle for that, but Lotte’s Salmon, Pea and Mint Fishcakes are already a regular lunch chez nous. Serve with home-made tartar sauce and feel like a pro. Making mayonnaise isn’t rocket science but it always gives me a kick when it works. Lotte gives tips on mayo retrieval should disaster strike.
Try a few of Lotte Duncan’s recipes and you’ll have confidence in her judgement when it comes to the unlikely sounding Chicken and Anchovy Trust-me-pie. It’s probably well named, as the combination of poultry and oily seafood might not, at first, sound enticing. Consider anchovies as merely a seasoning. They impart an agreeable salty tang rather than evoking the memory of kippers. You’ll not be disappointed and nor will your guests.
Raspberry and Rosewater Cream Tart is an easy dessert. You have permission to use commercial pastry, and that is reassuring for the less experienced or for those of us who are strapped for time. It’s as pretty as a picture and the ideal end to a summer meal. The rosewater gives a delightful hint of exotica rather than a slug of “evening in Paris”. It’s the sort of recipe which I seek out. Looks sophisticated but little effort to prepare.
Lotte’s Country Kitchen is gift quality but it’s far from a coffee-table volume. It’s a cookbook that will serve you well through the months. A book to admire but definitely to use. Its pages might well become smeared with meat juices and a splash or two of gin but that’s the way it should be and I am sure Lotte Duncan will take it as compliment. She is that kind of girl.
Lotte’s Country Kitchen
Author: Lotte Duncan
Published by: Absolute Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018