Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is exceptionally good at teaching you to cook food you really want to eat. His deep felt belief in fresh, local ingredients, and from scratch cooking means River Cottage Every Day (Ten Speed 2011) is a gem of a book. Just like The River Cottage Family Cookbook (see review), Keep it in your kitchen and it will serve you well for practically every meal.
Above all, I intend to tempt you irresistibly towards a better life with food, with a whole raft of recipes that I think you will love…I hope that before long, cooking simple and delicious food from the best seasonal ingredients becomes second nature and a first priority to you, not just once in a while, but every day. (p. 11)
This is preaching from practice. His first chapter on Making Breakfast starts with his family – and encouraging readers to get their kids involved in making dishes. “Easy breakfast dishes are the perfect bunny slopes for young cooks, and a little coaching of junior members of the household so they can do their bit at breakfast soon becomes a great asset to the whole family. ” (p. 22) The recipes are easy to more involve for the weekends such as seasonal smoothies (pp. 26-29) to Baked Breakfast Cheesecake (p. 44) made with oatmeal and served with fresh fruit, and French Toast with Apples (p. 47) – Hugh has his own orchard so apples figure prominently in the book. The photos by Simon Wheeler of Hugh and his family, and the dishes are superb.
An even more indispensable chapter is called Weekday Lunch (box): Put simply: “If you want to improve the quality of your working day, then improve the quality of your daily lunch.” (p. 92). There are easy ways to do that if you have some cold cooked new potatoes, like Tomato, Chipolata, and New Potato Lunch (box) with Mustardy Vinaigrette (p. 97) – chipolata are a kind of thin French pork sausage – or Sardine Nicoise (p. 98). More involved is Chicken with Couscous, Honey, and Cinnamon (p. 104) with a sprinkling of fresh parsley or mint, or Three Frittatas (pp. 106-109), which are terrific cold. If you want to get in on the Cornish pasty crazy (see Meat Pie Fad: Pure Pasty), then try one of the three pasty recipes: Chicken and Leek Pasties, Leftover Stew Pasties, and Lentil and Squash Pasties (pp. 110-113). There are plenty more terrific recipes for spreads, salads, humus, and eggs.
River Cottage Every Day is a aimed at everyday cooking from Thrifty Meat (with burgers to rival anything Rachael Ray can dish out) and Vegetables Galore chapters, it is an inspiring book. Hugh has a way of writing directly with thoughtfulness. He encourages families to cook and eat together, while acknowledging our busy lives.
Cookbooks make terrific Mother’s Day Gifts – especially River Cottage Every Day since it’s about helping mothers – or fathers – cook and enjoy food every day.
RECIPE: Frittata Nicoise
2 tablespoons canola or sunflower oil
About 6 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
About 1 cup thickly sliced cold cooked new potatoes
About 1/2 cup cold cooked green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
About 3 ounces canned tuna, drained and coarsely flaked
About 20 pitted black or Kalamata olives in oil, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 F or preheat the broiler to medium-high.
Heat the oil in a 9-inch nonstick ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft, but not colored, then remove from the heat.
Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the potatoes, beans, tuna, and olives. Add the green onions, season, and mix well.
Return the frying pan to low heat and add the egg mixture, making sure the olives are evenly distributed. Cook gently without stirring, just letting the eggs set slowly from the bottom up. After about 5 minutes give the pan a little shake: the bottom half of the frittata should be set, with a layer of wet egg still on top.
If you’re baking the frittata, place it in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until just set. Or put the frittata under the broiler, ideally not too close to the heat, for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly (or completely) before slicing and serving.