Sybil Kapoor the award winning food writer is an author who quietly seems to encapture the essence of British food in all its seasonal and regional nuances. Here, working in collaboration with the National Trust, she approaches the subject of baking from the angle of the produce and ingredients made available in abundance from the estates, country houses, walled gardens and orchards, farms and mills, the hedgerows and woods throughout the country as well as sugars and spices from the former colonies of the East and West Indies.
Some recipes originate from National Trust properties such as Cotehele, Buckland Abbey and Felbrigg, other traditional recipes stem from antiquarian cookery books such as an Iced Quince and Pear Pie from the 1685 edition of Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook, a custard tart from Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families (1855) and several from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) but, in the main, they are the author’s own which are, as always, focused on how to create delicious food at home.
Each section gives information and advice for the recipes that follow and throughout the book those that are gluten free are marked as such. I particularly like the look of the many types of breads and biscuits, the tarts and the custards.
I tried three recipes. The Sticky Ginger Tray Bake was absolutely delicious and together with a shot of malt whisky will prove to be a great warmer for the chilled to-the-bone and fishless angler or at sodden summer picnics! The oat cake recipe was easy to follow although I divided the mixture and cooked half in the oven and half in the traditional manner on a girdle. Whilst taking slightly longer to cook in this way they were extremely good as were the oven baked ones. The third recipe I chose was for the water biscuits simply because I am horrified to find that most of the commercial brands available contain the dreaded, and totally unnecessary palm oil. Again the instructions were clear and easy to follow and the amount given will produce a great quantity of biscuits which are a perfect partner for all types of cheeses or, as in my case butter and home-made mango chutney. I will try more but wish there were more savoury recipes, the few there are look to be very tempting such as the leek tart.
This is a beautifully produced book with the layout and presentation of the recipes being clear and easy to use. The matt paper perfectly presents Karen Thomas’s beautiful photographs. However, I find that the faint colour and small point size of the Index makes it difficult to read without a bright light and strong specs. And I do not like the end papers at all. On opening the book one is confronted by a double page image of cold, blue ice on which sits a posy of snowdrops, the rear end papers are the same but this time with a sprig of holly. Why? Both snowdrops and holly are not only inedible but poisonous so not a brilliant choice for a cookery book. The stylist has let both author and reader down.
“Dipping your hands into a bowl of flour and kneading silky, yeast-scented dough is one of the great pleasures of life.” Sybil Kapoor’s words warm the heart, smooth the brow and delight the stomach. This is a perfect Christmas present for anyone who loves both to bake and to eat.
Sybil Kapoor: www.sybilkapoor.com Twitter: @SybilKapoor
Anova Books: www.anovabooks.com. Twitter: @AnovaBooks
National Trust: www.nationaltrust.org.uk Twitter: @nationaltrust
Janet Clarke is an antiquarian bookselller, specialising in food, cookery, history of the table, wine, menus, guides, and wine lists. She lives in a village outside Bath. You can see an updated list of the books she has for sale in her website at www.janetclarke.com.