Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Good Table - book review

This is a pear and chocolate frangipan tart I baked recently, the smell of this baking in the oven was divine and it was really delicious sliced and served warm and with some fresh cream. The pears were bought at a local farmers market and were just ripe enough. I loved the pastry for this flan which was made with butter, flour, sugar and an egg, it was beautifully short and I can see that I'll adapt this to use for other sweet flans/tarts in the future. The filling is a delightful combination of English pears, dark chocolate, ground almonds, fresh free range eggs, butter and sugar. This is not a quick recipe but its so worth the effort, trust me we all really enjoyed it.

The recipe is from 'The Good Table' by Valentine Warner, who is quite well known in food circles, he has made quite a few TV programmes, some scheduled on the satellite food channels as well as writing other books and he has a website (which has other recipes). He is an avid hunter/gatherer/forager type of cook...none of which apply to me I might add, but I could have easily made a lot of the recipes in this book without a hunt around the local woods or needing a trip to the local fishing lake. The notion of this book is very simple in that, what you are served and what you share at Valentine's table is 'good food' and judging by the recipes the title is spot on.
This book has a lot to offer most cooks and lovers of good food, it packs some lovely recipes, most of the recipes are supported by a photograph and the photography in this book is of a really good standard.  It is truly crisp and colourful and lends a pleasing detail to all the illustrated recipes. This book describes the kind of food you just want to sit down and enjoy with your family, or curl up on the sofa with (like the 'toast as a vehicle' chapter...which I really loved, being a toast addict myself I never thought a food writer would devote a whole chapter to toast, I love it!). Other chapters include, meat, birds, fish and shellfish, veg and foraged food, bread, cheese and eggs, puddings and drinks. I could easily make most recipes in this book and they would easily suit our tastes here.

Although I have highlighted two recipes from the puddings chapter, the savoury recipes are looking really good too, I have particularly earmarked the 'carne con chile', 'chicken stiffed with pearl barley, livers and walnuts', and 'mushrooms baked with hazelnuts and percorino' for future autumnal suppers. This is a book I will readily use time and time again, particularly when cooking for others.

I also made the 'Queen of Plums' recipe from this book, this may look a bit strange in my photos as this was one of my 'lets try and make a pudding in a jar' experiments but 'jars as a vehicle' aside, it was really a very good pudding indeed.  Valentine Warner has much more common sense than I do and makes his 'Queen of Plums' in a dish! 'Queen of Plums' is something of an adaptation from a recipe usually known as Queen of Puddings. I have never made either recipe before but I really liked this plum recipe, you start with plums and sugar and basically make your own fresh plum jam for the bottom of the pudding, the centre is a fresh cream vanilla set custard made quite cake-like with the inclusion of fresh white breadcrumbs. The topping is a light cloud like meringue. Not so much heaven on a plate on this occasion but most definitely heaven in a jar. This was lovely hot and just as nice eaten cold.

There is a lot of humour and little quirky anecdotes dotted throughout The Good Table and this is another of this books many appeals, it makes for a better read somehow. Going back to the toast chapter again, the recipe for 'black toast, boiled egg and black tea' really stands out, not so much for the faux recipe(!) more for the humour of it reminded me so much of my own childhood...I'll let you read this recipe for yourself, but it starts with..."Burn the toast to the point where you would normally scrape it with a knife, but don't"...and ends with..."put everything on a tray, take it to the invalid and remove, uneaten 1 hour later" true to life!

The Good Table is written by Valentine Warner, learn more about him on his website here and his latest book was provided for me to review by the publishers, Octopus Publishing Group.


  1. Your tart looks lovely and sounds so delicious. I love the way baking make the house smell good for ages afterwards. I've read good things about this book before, so it's good to be reminded of it.

  2. This looks like the perfect autumnal tart.


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Susan x