Virginia Barton

Cookbook for the glutton at Christmas

Catholic Herald, 27 November 1992    


Review: Leith’s Complete Christmas by Prue Leith, Caroline Waldegrave, Fiona Burrell (Bloomsbury, £14.99)

christmas pudding with custard

Had I been given this cookery book as a bride, I would never have included turkey liver in the stock, thus rendering the gravy beastly bitter. Neither would I have produced a pudding fit only to be “wrapped in a clean cloth and tossed out of the window. . .”

If the nervous cook still exists (young moderns appear supremely competent), this is the ideal gift for them. As a Christmas present it is an obvious choice: a guide to transform the amateur into a gifted cook.

The chapter on basic recipes and techniques includes conversion tables, party planning, how to make a bechamel sauce, how to bone a bird. Even the clumsiest should be able to manage the latter with the aid of a clear text and simple illustrations.

I know someone who reads cookery books instead of novels. She will love the large format of Prue Leith’s book (which stays open when you lie it flat), legible print, and photos as good as any in the genre.

The huge range of recipes is arranged around a 10 day holiday break (the mere thought of which exhausts one). The food is unashamedly greedy. Even the vegetarian dishes and “creative leftovers”, so often an excuse for a gobbet of warmed, over-mashed potatoes punctuated by sweet corn and multi-coloured peppers, are yummy. And there are plenty of lighter menus to  balance the heavies – salads undreamed of, stir-fries, mousses. Each recipe is accompanied by a suggested wine, an excellent idea and one I haven’t seen before.

This lovely book should help postpone the day of the Christmas takeaway.



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