Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The National Cookbook Review

This week I'm reviewing The National Cookbook: Recipes from the National Dining Rooms at The National Gallery by Oliver Peyton.

Quite excitingly this one is signed! I bought it from the National Gallery gift shop last year but it wasn't until this February that I ate there - and it inspired me actually pick my copy up and cook from it. There are quite a few dishes I recognised from the menu and it is all hearty, British food. The book is split into the four seasons and each season contains recipes for starters, mains, desserts and drinks. There are pictures for each recipe but not always of the food, there is a lot of the art work from the National Gallery which ties it in well with the museum. Ok, I like a photo of the food but I also appreciate the paintings and the small description included. Who says you can't be cultured while you're cooking?!

The book is really nice quality and is a good size. The recipes aren't intimidating and there an awful lot of recipes I'd want to make. That's why I've made a few more dishes than usual from this book, which in itself is a good sign!

The first I made was the Manx Kipper Pate from the summer starters. I didn't find Manx Kippers in the supermarket so I got ordinary smoked kippers. This recipe was a revelation and I will be making it again and again. I didn't have any clear whiskey so I just left it out but it had enough punch from the tabasco, cayenne pepper and plenty of lemon juice. It doesn't look particularly exciting but it is completely delicious. I made it with mackerel for my Mother's Day Afternoon Tea last week and I'll be trying it with salmon, and then trout, and anything else I can mush up with butter!

Next up was the Pork Belly with Black Pudding and Apple. Pork belly is really good value and very tasty, plus I was up for the challenge of making my first lot of crackling! The instructions were spot on and the meat cooked beautifully, though I did put it under the grill a little at the end to really crisp up the top but that's because our oven is rubbish!

The black pudding and apple was easy to fry together and made a lovely accompaniment. I was highly impressed by this recipe, it would be great to serve to guests as it looks impressive but requires no stress!

The Pumpkin, Spinach and Mushroom Wellington was the trickiest dish for me to make, and also the most disappointing which was a shame. I've never made a beef wellington before but liked the combination of flavours in this version. I made my pancakes, roasted the butternut squash as I didn't have pumpkin, blanched the spinach and cooked the mushrooms and onions. I was already a bit fed up with the dish!

It was ok but a little bland, even with everything in it. If it hadn't been the goats cheese I don't think there would have been enough flavour. I think it would have been ok without the pastry - not quite the point of a Wellington but perfectly acceptable. My pancakes certainly weren't fine enough but it was all ok, but just ok.

Lastly I made the Beetroot and Red Onion Tart with Wensleydale Cheese. I cheated and used ready cooked beetroot, allowed I'm sure! The tart itself was quick to make, I just made the onion jam in advance. It was really nice and the cheese counteracted the sweetness really well, with the beetroot balancing everything out. Again, I think this would be great food for friends with a nice salad.

All in all I was really happy with everything I'd made (bar the faff of the Wellington!) and I'm very glad I own the book and it's a great representative of the National Dining Rooms.

I won't be blogging for a couple of weeks as I'm off on my holidays, going to visit my Grandparents in France. I'm really hoping it'll stay sunny but it'll probably do what it alway s does and we'll be told by everyone "oh, it was lovely last week!"


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