“Cooking Through the Year”, published by Dorling Kindersley, is one of those heavyweight cookbooks you could search through all day: with an impressive 1,000 recipes it is a true compendium of everyday, simple dishes.
The book’s title reflects the mission of the compilers, to take you through the four seasons, highlighting the different meats, fish, fruits and vegetables which are in season across the year. From the start of spring through to late winter it showcases recipes which are made only with seasonal ingredients.
The intention of “Cooking Through The Year” is to revolutionise the “bland-tasting food in your shopping trolley”, allowing you “to feel a connection to the land by cooking with seasonal food”. The logic is that by educating and informing us of exactly which ingredients are in season, and then showing us how to use them once we have bought them, we will feel more confident and aware of cooking and eating with the seasons, as opposed to yearning for food grown in other climates and time zones.
Each chapter also includes informative pages on the origins of different fruit or vegetables, the range of varieties that are commercially available and how they differ from each other, as well as how to prepare the produce.
The layout of the book could be considered as old fashioned, reminiscnet of the Reader’s Digest seasonal cookbooks because of the huge number of recipes included. As many as three recipes are featured on just one page. If you are the sort of cook who prefers a highly illustrated cookbook, have no fear because there are a large number of clear photographs.
Many of the recipes presented in “Cooking Through the Year” are certainly family friendly and they vary in difficulty, although none of them look particularly daunting to make. They contain ingredients most children should be willing to eat and, as the ingredients used are all seasonal, the recipes are affordable. In addition, none of the ingredients would be difficult to obtain – you should be able to find all of them in your local supermarket or farm shop in the right month.
The variety of categories is very wide, ranging across all the main meals as well as techniques such as baking and preserving. The time it takes to prepare the dish and whether it can be frozen successfully is indicated, as well as how to grow, source and store ingredients.
To test out the empirical accuracy of the recipes, I turned to the autumn section and made a Hungarian beef stew with dumplings followed by apple and cinnamon cookies, the instructions were precise and clear, and both turned out as described and looked in the book. The cookies were so good I think they are going to become regulars in my cooking repertoire.
I would happily recommend this book to anyone interested in seasonal cookery, and it would make a useful gift for students and families with young children. The only drawback that needs to signposted is that, owing to the huge choices available, you will be quite hard-pressed to make quick choices!
Dorling Kindersley: www.dk.co.uk
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