by Nigel Slater
Ten Speed Press, 544 pp., $40
Perhaps nothing is more universally entwined with the holiday season than cooking and sharing meals. And yet, for many of us, being in the kitchen is an everyday experience – one most often plagued with workweek shuffles but sparked occasionally by the elation of finding new artisan ingredients or delicious recipes sure to win over even the most skeptical houseguest. Nigel Slater, acclaimed British food writer, columnist, and broadcaster, chronicled his daily adventures as a home cook. The results are charming and stocked with stunning recipes. Brilliantly organized in monthly segments throughout a calendar year, Slater lends inspirational insight into his personal, sometimes quirky, preferences, while adhering to his professed adoration for all foods seasonal.
From November, a few recipes that will certainly make the cut in my home: venison with sweet-sour chard and a pear-and-hazelnut cake. Looking forward to December's busy schedule, and knowing solace is found in a home-cooked meal, Slater's entry about "a celebration of frugality" packs in multiple ideas for leftover scraps that go right alongside a recipe for Christmas Bubble and Squeak. The rest of the book will have the inspiration churning months in advance. From August, serving as a testament to preserving summer's bounty, the baked chicken with tomatoes and olives (including green tomatoes and six plump cloves) looks simple and divine. From May, I cannot wait for Japanese pork-and-cabbage dumplings and rhubarb with butterscotch sauce.
There are recipes for squid and rabbit and tarts, lovely encounters with using the wrong pan, and funny anecdotes. It is a heavy beast of a book, elegant and substantial enough to gift to any dedicated cook in your life, but written from the perspective of a friend (albeit one with stellar cooking credentials) who simply wants to share the love of very good food.
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