Posts Tagged ‘river cottage’

Which cookbooks are the most useful?

Saturday, September 24th, 2016 | Books, Food


We don’t often repeat recipes in the Worfolk household. There are so many amazing cuisines, cookbooks and ideas out there that we try something new almost every night. However, there are some recipes that are tasty enough, quick enough or reliable enough that they are reused on a semi-regular basis.

As you might imagine from knowing me, I keep them on a spreadsheet. I thought it would be interesting to analysis how many recipes from each cookbook made it onto the spreadsheet and therefore which cookbooks have stood the test of time.

I have linked through to the review, where one exists.

Recipe Count Cookbooks
13 River Cottage: Veg Every Day
11 River Cottage Every Day
6 Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites
4 Paul Hollywood’s Bread, Cakes & Slices, 30 Minute One Pot, Nordic Cookbook
3 River Cottage Bread*, The Fish Market, Curry Bible, Thug Kitchen
2 Baking: 100 Everyday Recipes, Soups, The Accidental Vegetarian, Paul Hollywood’s Pies & Puds, River Cottage: Light & Easy, Chocolate
1 River Cottage Fish Book, Kenwood, Moomin’s Cookbook, Linda’s Kitchen, Easy One Pot, Nordic Bakery
0 500 Ways To Cook Vegetarian, River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh’s Three Good Things

* indicates I am still working my way through this book.

This isn’t an exact science. I re-use some recipes more than others. If anything, Veg Every Day deserves to be higher because I use that a lot, whereas although I have marked Easy One Pot as having a recipe I would re-use, I certainly don’t go for it anywhere near as much.

It is also unfair on some of the books. A lot of the baking books for example are full of amazing recipes that I have yet to try, but one might day and find they are definitely keepers.

Based on these figures, it seems sensible for me to recommend River Cottage and Mary Berry cookbooks. River Cottage consistently does well. The original River Cottage Cookbook isn’t really a cookbook, it’s more of a book about self-sufficiency, so it is not surprisingly it did not do well. The River Cottage Fish Book did not score so well either, but it was fun read. At the other end of the table, both of my favourite River Cottage cookbooks are storming ahead.

Mary Berry is also on the recommendation list because I am working through my second cookbook of hers at the moment and that is also going to score well. Plus they’e excellent for easy meals and dinner parties as they almost always contain instructions for making in advance.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I have finished working my way through Mary Berry Cooks that added 8 new recipes onto my spreadsheet. That puts it in third place behind the two River Cottage books.


Monday, September 19th, 2016 | Food


The last time I tried to make brioche, it was a total disaster. The recipe book made it out to be this terribly complicated process. The River Cottage bread Handbook dismisses this as nonsense however. Following the much easier to understand instructions, I managed to successfully produce two lovely looking loaves.


Friday, August 5th, 2016 | Food


I recently picked up a copy of the River Cottage Bread Handbook which has lots of fun recipes in. I gave the breadsticks a go as they are pretty easy to make and complete a wide variety of meals. At first I tried rolling the dough out with a rolling pin and rolling them up, but that doesn’t work too well. Much better to get rolling with your palms and roll it into a long sausage shape.

River Cottage Cookbook

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016 | Books


The original River Cottage Cookbook as it proudly exclaims on the cover has now sold over half-a-million copies, apparently. It comes as a hardback with an embossed cover and a ribbon marker.

It calls itself a cookbook, but that is perhaps misleading. It is not a cookbook as you might expect. It is more of a handbook for River Cottage. It is broken down into sections: herbs, vegetables, fish, poultry, etc. Each one contains a lengthy guide to the subject followed by a few recipes.

In a way it follows the River Cottage TV show. It goes into more detail on each topic but not into the same detail as something like John Seymour’s Self-Sufficiency. This makes for interesting reading if you want to make your own River Cottage adventure. There is some information of city-dwellers too, though not as much.

I found the recipes a little boring. I think I have used maybe two of them. This is due to a combination of having tried basically the same recipes in other River Cottage cookbooks, or often because the recipe is something I have already tried, but with an ingredient I cannot get. Therefore, if you are looking for a good cookbook, this is not it. However, if you like River Cottage and want to read more, with a few recipes, this might be worth a glance.

The River Cottage Fish Book

Saturday, February 13th, 2016 | Books, Food

I have already written some stuff about January being fish month. See raw fish, turbot and shellfish. What was it all in aid of you wonder? I have been working my way through the River Cottage Fish Book. Co-written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his aptly-named friend Nick Fisher.

It is a comprehensive book. Hugh talks a lot about conversation before moving on to fish skills. Things like how to prepare fish, skin them, clean them, dress shellfish, etc. There is then a large selection of recipes broken down by cooking method. Finally, the book finishes with an in-detail description of the fish you can find around Britain.

I have gone into detail about some of the recipes below.


Chinese fish parcels. You make a bed of vegetables, then layer up fish fillets and soy sauce. Wrap it neatly in kitchen foil and roast the whole thing. It is difficult to get out of the parcel gracefully, but great for eating outdoors when you can eat it straight from the parcel.

This was a great chance to try out the cutting blades on my food processor. They are pretty brutal.


Slow-cooked squid. While it does produce a rather tender squid, I was not a big fan of this dish. Even when I tried it’s close-cousin the stuffed squid.


I also tried the slow-cooked mackerel with similar results. It does have some bold flavours, but it was not quite to my taste.


The squid rings proved more to my taste. Even the homemade garlic mayo was acceptable. This was a good chance to attack my fear of deep-frying. I have always been dubious about doing it at home. At McDonald’s, I knew I had a ring to pull that would coat the entire kitchen in foam if things went wrong. Without that safety net the prospect of heating a large pain oil to 180 degrees Celsius has always been a frightening one. But I did it and the results were good.

Overall the book is excellent for those who love fish and want to do interesting things with them. Will the recipes make it into my regular rotation? Maybe. Though River Cottage Every Day still provides my every day basic fish recipes. It was also an interesting read though, one that you could do without even looking at the recipes.


Raw fish

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 | Food

I am currently working my way through The River Cottage Fish book. I will be writing about the book itself later, but here is a progress update. I started with the raw fish chapter. After much research, I have decided that I do not like raw fish.


Gravad max. If any of them were enjoyable, I think this leads the way. Based on the Swedish gravad lax it uses mackerel instead of salmon. You put it in a cure of salt, dill and a few other things and leave it in the fridge for a few days.


Salmon tartare is a take of steak tartare. Raw salmon chopped up with capers, gherkin, parsley and seasoning. If you’re going to try it, ask if your fishmonger if they have any sashimi-grade salmon. Mine had none on display, but when I asked, she had some in the back.


The fact that sashimi-grade fish existed is something I wish I had known before the first dish I made: home-made sushi. The recipe book never mentioned it. Lesson hopefully learned. It turns out that sushi made with hot mustard tastes mostly of raw fish and hot mustard. Who could have predicted that? Let it never be said I do not try things.

River Cottage: Gone Fishing

Monday, January 25th, 2016 | Distractions


River Cottage: Gone Fishing is a series of three 45-minute long episodes of Hugh sailing round trying to eat unusual fish. It follows the usual River Cottage format. There is some footage of Hugh doing something, and then cooking the bi-product of whatever he has been doing. There are no formal recipes as such, it is just him and his friends catching and cooking various fish.

In episode one they tour the Channel Islands on a boat, spending some time on Guernsey. In episode two he visits the Scottish Highlands to see some of the remote islands and fish farms in the Hebrides. Finally, in episode three, he visits local fishing around Devon and Dorset.

I am not really sure if I learnt anything. That is pretty useful with River Cottage: you come alway having been entertained and maybe an action point to see what your local fishmonger has. However, you don’t come away with “I’m going to buy a garfish and make a special kind of soup” because where would you buy a garfish? As a piece of entertainment though, it does its job well.

River Cottage Light & Easy

Monday, January 18th, 2016 | Books, Food


In River Cottage Light & Easy Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall presents recipes that are healthier than his normal stuff. Everything is wheat-free and dairy-free and comes with icons to mark recipes as suitable for vegans and 20 minutes or less. A welcome sight for a series of books that often involves long and drawn-out recipes.

The book is divided into breakfast, baking, soup, salad, fish, meat, veg, fruit and treats. It follows the standard River Cottage book format of having a page for the recipe and a full page photo opposite. This, perhaps more than anything else, is why I like the series.

This book has inspired me less than Veg Every Day and River Cottage Every Day. Some recipes have been popular though. Soups in particular: the fragrant Asian broth is wonderful for a light meal and the swede and bacon soup proves that you can actually make swede enjoyable in certain situations.

Fish was the other section that managed to catch my interest. Th fish and tomato curry was simple enough to make, as was the mackerel, spinach and spuds. In fact, most of the dishes are simple and true to the title “easy”. Beef and bashed beans and minted lamb with green beans spring to mind.

Whether it will stand the test of time as a cookbook that I reach for often remains to be seen. Perhaps the real test will be when summer returns, and we’re looking for lighter meals. It has provided us with some nice dishes already.

Raspberry trifle

Monday, September 28th, 2015 | Food, Photos

Cookbooks often come with chapters on breakfasts, desserts and sides. I usually ignore them. Not on purpose, but I usually work through the recipes for dinners, so they just do not get scheduled. For lunch, I’m normally eating whatever I cooked last night.

To correct this, I’m making an effort to try a few other recipes. Such as this raspberry trifle.


They may not look quite the same as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s, but they did taste good.

The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 | Books

It is quite a mouthful of a book title. It is also a very big book. At A4-sized in hardback it makes a good addition to the coffee table. Though if you have a coffee table you might not be the target audience.

It is written by John Seymour, now deceased, and updated by his protégé Will Sutherland who is himself now 70. It also comes with a wonderful strap line.

The classic guide for realists and dreamers

It covers everything about running a smallholding. Literally, loads of stuff. How to divide up your land, what to grow where, how to grow different types of plants, rearing animals, butchery, harvesting, foraging, making cheese, pickles, chutneys, curing and preserving meat and vegetables, and crafts and skills.

The crafts section alone is a treasure trove. Composting your toilet waste, renewable energy, wood and metal work, basket making, rope, pottery, spinning wool, building, thatching and even making your own soap are just a selection of the activities covered.

There is also a whole section on brewing beer and making wine. I am now forever going to be disappointed in any book that does not have a section on brewing beer in it.

The advice is literally down to the ground (and below) and practical. Sometimes brutally so. Check out this passage on lambing.

If a single lamb dies and you have another ewe with twins it is a good thing to fob one of the twins off on the bereaved ewe. Put the bereaved ewe in a small pen, rub the twin lamb with the dead body of her lamb, and try to see if she will accept the new lamb.

If she won’t, skin the dead lamb, keeping the skin rather like a jersey, and pull the skin over the live lamb. Almost invariably the foster mother ewe will accept him.

Genuinely good advice, but a bit of a shock to us city-dwellers.

In some ways this book put me off adopting a more rural River Cottage-style lifestyle (Hugh recommends this book in one of his River Cottage Q&A). It sounds like a lot of hard work. By comparison, going to work five days a week and using the money to get Sainsbury’s deliver me my weekly goodies is probably a lot easier, even if it is less satisfying.

John encourages the reader to start small however. Perhaps baking your own bread or a small vegetable garden (I know have both of these things). Or maybe even brewing your own beer. I have not tried that one yet.

If nothing else, it is a nice piece of escapism, away from the highs and lows of that Monday morning feeling and it’s far more pleasant companion, the Friday feeling. Though I do plan to try out a number of his recommendations.