It’s official – good things come in small packages. In the late 1970s and into the 1980s the supermarket Sainsbury’s published a series of small, glossy paperback cookery books by Josceline Dimbleby. These were a huge success, raising the author’s profile across the country and she consequently went on to write over twenty more cookery books. The reason for her popularity, in my opinion, is her delicate use of spices and aromatics which permeate her recipes in both savoury and sweet dishes, reflecting the fact that as a child she lived in many different parts of the world. Her mother married a British diplomat who was ambassador to Syria, Peru, Switzerland and Denmark.
Cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, caraway, mild chilli powder, paprika and other spices appear time after time, transforming even the most simple dish into something special.
The final book in the series was “Marvellous Meals with Mince”, and what a joy it is to find that this has been reissued by Quadrille Publishing. Now in hardback in a slightly larger format and with a rather more attractive layout and photography by Steven Joyce, we find, thank goodness, that the recipes are unchanged. Each is now forwarded with a short note as to its provenance, for example Atlas Mountain Soup: “It was a trip through the Atlas mountains of Morocco in 1970 that inspired this family standby”. O there is a reason for its inclusion such as Kate’s Pie: “From the age of three my youngest daughter Kate liked pies above all else”.
The book is divided into five sections outlining the different types of mince: Beef; Pork & Veal; Lamb; Chicken & Turkey and Fish. It might seem surprising to include fish but this is essentially a family cookery book and the recipes include a wide range from simple fish cakes to sophisticated quenelles and rather exotic sesame bites (little fish balls rolled in sesame seeds). They are a good introduction for children who might be reluctant to eat fish.
The other sections also range from the simple Beef and Onion Flatbreads, Beef and Anchovy Meatballs and Stuffed Tomatoes, through to more elaborate pies including Spicy Lamb Pies with Capers, Kate’s Piglet Pie and Hunter’s Pie, which is similar to a game pie. There are also a few somewhat more sophisticated recipes using wine or cream, taking a little longer to prepare such as the Pork Stuffed Rolls in White Wine and Mousselines in a Pea Sauce described by Dimbleby as “a dreamy dish”. Having tried one or two of the recipes I found them to be reliable and well written and have obviously been tested for the domestic kitchen. Economic, versatile and adaptable, mince must be one of the most useful ingredients in the cook’s repertoire and this book should surely be a cornerstone in every kitchen library.
For those whose original copies of this excellent little book have fallen apart from use or have never had a copy, I urge you to buy this marvellous little book as soon as possible and immerse yourselves.
And please, Quadrille Publishing, will you now reissue “Curries and Oriental Cookery”, the equally excellent little book by the same author.
Josceline Dimbleby is on Facebook: /josceline.dimbleby
Quadrille Publishing: www.quadrille.co.uk
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