‘The River Cottage Year’ – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Hodder and Staunton – 2003
Photography: Simon Wheeler
There is a lot of introduction in this book which is hardly surprising considering the amount of food philosophy that goes into Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cooking. It’s not just a food it’s an attitude and a lifestyle. The book is set out month-by-month emphasising the quality of seasons that we get in Britain as well as the benefits to people that you gain by seasonal eating. There is an introduction to each new month with a contents list as well. At the front of the book before the main recipes start there are seasons charts showing what is in season when for meats, veg, fish and fruits. This bit alone is brilliant and would be especially useful if you’re mainly shopping in supermarkets where it can be hard to tell now what is really at its best.
There are some nice splash pages dotted through the book showing a number of steps in a specific recipe. The photography is generally excellent and really nicely styled to match the tone of the book overall and the recipes specifically.
One thing that I found annoying was that there are no ingredients lists for the recipes – I’m a very organised cook (no surprise to anyone who knows me) and I like to get everything out ready to cook when I start. If nothing else, at least check that I have everything for a recipe in the house, this is much harder without a list all in one place. The font is not the easiest to read but it certainly isn’t too bad although recipes very often cross over pages so you can find yourself flicking backwards and forwards while you are cooking.
There are lots of quite different flavour combinations but at the same time quite a lot of the recipes are really very tame almost to the point of being quite dull. I found the monthly round-ups at the start of each chapter a bit tired and not something I would sit down and read through once. Having said that I love my copy of Tessa Kiros’ ‘Twelve’ which has something similar and I find myself reading each new month as it comes around year after year, I have a strong suspicion that I would do the same with this book. My favourite recipes were the Kale and Chestnut Soup, the Wood Pigeon with Red Wine and Raisins and the Chocolate and Chestnut cake.