Posts Tagged ‘hugh fearnley-whittingstall’

Hugh’s Three Good Things

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016 | Books

Three Good Things on a Plate is a cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I am a self-admitted Fearnley fan. This book does even more to reinforce that. Sure, he is an Old Etonian toff who’s recipes take hours to prepare because he has nothing else to do than mess around at River Cottage. However, it is unfair to level him as a one dimensional chef.

In River Cottage: Light & Easy he threw off his traditional indulgence in complicated recipes to demonstrate dishes that could be made in 20 minutes. In Three Good Things he shows us what you can do with three simple, easily-accessible ingredients.

If you have the title of the book, you have the whole concept. Each recipe is based around three ingredients. This does not include basics such as salt, pepper, oil, etc, but for the most part sticks to the rules. Don’t like one of the three ingredients? He even includes a “swaps” section to suggest other ingredients you can replace it with.

As with the River Cottage cookbooks it is beautifully presented in hardback with a full-page photo for each recipe. As is also typical, the book contains a lot of recipes, coming in at 400 pages.

One of the downfalls of simple recipes is that you have to get on with the ingredients. I found myself skipping past quite a few recipes because, even given the swaps, I couldn’t make them work to suit both my own tastes and those of Elina. Many of the dishes are quite light and therefore perhaps more suitable for lunches than dinners.

However, we did get plenty of dinners out of the book and those that we did were usually wonderfully quick and simple to prepare.



Saturday, February 27th, 2016 | Distractions


Scandimania is a 3-part TV series in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visits Sweden, Denmark and Norway to investigate their cuisine.

There is no Finland, but that makes sense given how much duplication there would be with the Swedish episode. While it is in theory about food, it more reflects Hugh’s views on conservation and sustainability. Some of it goes rather darker: discrimination in Sweden, crime drama in Denmark and Anders Breivik in Norway.

Each episode bases itself around a concept of modesty and simplicity. ‘Lagom’ means ‘just enough’ in Sweden. ‘Hygge’ means ‘coziness’ in Denmark. The Law of Jante teaches people to be humble in Norway. Perhaps this is another reason not to include Finland, who have ‘sisu’ which is all about having the stoic determination and guts to beat the Russians – probably not quite the character the show’s producers had in mind.

All of this means that there isn’t actually that much discussion of food. Therefore, while it was interesting, I think the Hairy Bikers did a better job of exploring Nordic cuisine.

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.

River Cottage Every Day

Friday, June 19th, 2015 | Books, Food


Hugh’s Veg Every Day! book is probably my favourite cookbook so far, so I was eager to see what River Cottage Every Day has to offer.

It’s not as good, but still useful. Mostly I think it is just a bit more hit and miss. The rabbit stew for example was rubbish. Whereas the home-cured bacon chops were pretty good and the breaded fish fillets were a winner.

The biggest challenge can often be getting the ingredients for the recipes. I haven’t dared schedule in devilled lamb hearts and oxtail stew yet in case my butcher can’t supply the foods, and the Thai seafood soup required squeezing a trip to the fish market into my lunch break.

The best part is probably the bread though. Hugh’s focaccia recipe has quickly found a regular place in our kitchen.

TV Dinners

Sunday, June 14th, 2015 | Distractions

TV Dinners is a show in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall investigating people’s dinner parties. Sort of.

As far as I can tell, it seems to be a show where Hugh travels round the country making fun of posh people. To me, the message seems to be “your life might have problems, but at least you didn’t spend nine months waiting for a custom-made table and multi-coloured chairs, and then make individual desserts for each colour, served by two hired waiters.”

And it goes on. There are men so obsessed with chilli that they put it in everything and brew their own chilli beer. This is all combined to make their wives their tenth wedding anniversary meal. The woman who goes to Harvey Nichols to get bones for her stock. The racing enthusiasts that hand out forfeits for forgetting to wear a club tie.

Of course it could be that you are incredibly clever and sophisticated if you throw a Futurist dinner party in which you blindfold your guests for the entrées, have a fish course that is just for smelling before going in the bin, and having a communal dessert that you all lick because cutlery is banned. However, I think we also need to face the possibility that you might also be a complete twat.

Luckily, there was a Yorkshireman to the rescue. He had a great recipe for puddings (I haven’t tasted them, but I’m judging it on proximity to my recipe) and when Hugh asked what he was going to do with his roasting joint, he replied that he was going to cook it. No fuss, just great meat. Champion.