Great Cookbooks for Families
Reviewed by Katy Killilea
Two dead rabbits hang by their feet from a weathered fence in the opening photograph. This image tells you a lot about The River Cottage Cookbook. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is known in Britain for his commitment to growing and raising his own food and then writing about it. Great recipes and photography, and very engaging writing about using local foods and family cooking are accompanied by tips on which bucket to bring to the slaughterhouse, i.e. for bringing home the blood. For those of us who don’t shoot squirrels for dinner, there is instead The River Cottage Family Cookbook, which offers the same wonderful writing and cooking style, with a little less viscera.
The Family version is likewise geared toward people who grow their own produce and raise their own animals, but the emphasis is on home cooking with kids. The book is written for children, and the author suggests that any ten- to twelve-year-old can make anything in the book pretty much on his or her own. (Vivid red “warning–boiling sugar!” headings tip parents off to the least safe choices.) Each recipe is beautifully photographed and explains what is or should be happening. (For example, in the Victoria Sponge Cake recipe: “After a little while, you’ll notice that the mixture becomes quite fluffy. And if it doesn’t, you should keep going until it does!”) Although this kind of instruction might be unnecessary for an experienced cook, the recipes are not childish–any home cook would do well to follow them. And for some of us, it’s reassuring to have a little coaching built in to a recipe.
Each chapter is organized around an ingredient (e.g., milk, eggs, fruit). It’s a British book, tweaked slightly for the American reader, but it still feels foreign in the nicest way (a “pancake” is a crepe and a “drop scone” is a pancake). You’ll find recipes for basics like sourdough starter, jam, and yogurt, as well as Rhubarb-Ginger Smoothies, Vegetable Fritters, and Spanish Omelettes. And if, by chance, you want to make your own sausages, that’s here too.
The River Cottage Cookbook
By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
2008 Ten Speed Press
The River Cottage Family Cookbook
By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr
2008 Ten Speed Press