Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends
I love Jane Green. I’ve loved her books since Jemima J, which came out while I was a bookseller at Borders and I sold tons of that book, and the ones that came after. Jane was kind enough to visit my library when she was on tour a few years ago, and while we were waiting in the green room, she told me of her plans to write a cookbook. And now it is finally here!
Jane is fond of entertaining at home and even spent a few weeks at the French Culinary Institute, but she is primarily a home cook. That makes these recipes accessible and perfect for the home cook, like me. Don’t get me wrong, there are some spectacular recipes here, this is not meatloaf and mac & cheese by any means, but rather beautiful, delicious food. I’m all in on this one.
The book is divided into three sections; Beginnings, Middles, and Endings, and has about 65 recipes. Right off the bat is a fantastic Spinach and Gruyere Crustless Tart that is super easy, pretty enough for company and really good. And I really need to mention the pictures – every recipe has a beautiful photo and I’m sorry to say I really had to dig to find out who took them. Buried in the thank yous at the back of the book are photographers Tom McGovern and Kyran Tompkins, along with many of the other people who helped bring this book to fruition.
I love the little stories that accompany many of the recipes, and the pictures of Jane’s family – 5 children! And her beautiful home. These are the little touches that make this cookbook feel so intimate. Who knew that was even possible.
I tried a couple of other “Beginnings.” I love cauliflower and the Roasted Cauliflower with Olive and Lemon Vinaigrette lets that humble veggie shine. The Tomato Tarte Tatin is a snap to put together using frozen puff pastry and is simply stunning.
The “Middles” are the main events and include a lot of one pot dinners, always a favorite, like Asian Orange Chicken and several curries – Jane is from the UK, after all. The Loin of Pork Stuffed with Figs, Prosciutto and Sage is elegant yet easy. I laughed out loud at the directions for cutting the pocket, which included the hint “Think of the Muppets, and you will get the idea.” I couldn’t resist Salmon (Preferably not from the Man with the Van) Parcels with Watercress, Arugula and Cream Cheese – a great story and a great recipe. I haven’t tried it yet but Wild Mushroom Polenta – “I made this for Hugh Grant when I ended up cooking lunch for him rather than conducting our planned interview” is next on my list.
I hope you’re getting the idea of what a terrific cookbook this is.
“Endings” are desserts, of course. Almost Flourless Orange Cake with Marmalade Glaze is another spectacular and fairly simple cake. There are recipes for some classic desserts, too, like Pavlova, Chess Tart and the infamous Eton Mess. Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle is one of the more complicated recipes here which came from her mother-in-law. You have to make the gingerbread, then the pumpkin custard and whipped cream and everything needs to be baked and cooled before being assembled. That said, Jane does offer the advice that making gingerbread from scratch is “absolutely bonkers…I would strongly advise a gingerbread mix.” Either way, it yields a beautiful dessert that can be mostly made ahead, always a plus when planning a dinner party.
As cookbooks go, this is a winner. Small enough to not be overwhelming, yet enough inspirational recipes that turn out dishes so beautiful that you’ll want to show them off. Good for all cooks, from beginners to experienced, especially anyone who loves to entertain. And a beautiful gift book, too. This is a keeper!
10/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
GOOD TASTE: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green. NAL (October 4, 2016). ISBN 978-0399583377. 192p.