"The Gentle Art of Cookery" ~ a Review

~ Menu ~

Oeufs Mollets à la Robert
Sippets of Toast
A Whole Cherry in Brandy enrobed in Dark Chocolate!

Please read more about lunch towards the end of the post because I have something else I want to write about first..

The Gentle Art of Cookery

Quadrille have sent me this bloody lovely book by Mrs. C.F. Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley which is one of their new series; Classic Voices in Food. It is a strange delight and I am grateful for it.

On the back cover of this edition is a quote by Skye Gyngell with which I entirely agree …

… every time I go into the bedroom I sit down, read a little more and do a happy grin.

Miss Hartley is not mentioned in the preface or anywhere else and my research has revealed that she was the first lady’s assistant, and nothing wrong with that, but I think Mrs. L is the brains behind the work.   The recipes are not for a completely novice cook, they are however very much after my own natural style of cooking; “some …”, “a bit of …”, etc. and are fine with me. 

The 20 chapters are quite diverse; some are devoted to a general food group such as meat or vegetables or to a specific ingredient such as the interesting section on chestnuts.  Other chapters are much more “out there”,  there’s a tantalizing chapter called “Dishes from the Arabian Nights”, a fascinating section of Flower Recipes,  and another on cooking with children (as fellow cooks, not as ingredients) in which she advocated having the little darlings join you in the kitchen.

I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that pleases me so much about reading The Gentle Art of Cookery, a mix of several things I think.  The writing is funny,  poetic – “sprigs of parsley freed from their stalks”, informative, opinionated, enticing, modern – using chilli vinegar for instance - and yet also redolent of the past; she asserts that a silver spoon should be used when making mayonnaise and there is much passing of stuff through sieves and stoning of raisins. 

Much more butter is used than would be considered healthy these days and Harvey’s sauce is a common ingredient.  I googled this and found it to be a little like Worcestershire sauce with anchovies, soy, cayenne, walnut pickle, garlic and vinegar.  Apparently it is still available so if I see some I’ll try it.  (I am still on the hunt for Marmite chocolate by the way, I haven’t wimped out!).

As I read through the book I fluctuate from “yuk” (Lemon Cream Pie using potatoes and an unusual spinach dessert), “hmm interesting” as in savoury custards and Yummy! It is from the latter section that I have decided to cook my lunch - there I’ve mentioned it, read on!

Oeufs Mollets à la Robert

Which are soft boiled eggs (she gives no instructions on how to mollet one’s oeufs but I lowered mine gently into boiling water and cooked them at a gentle boil, or a violent simmer, for 6½ minutes) peeled and served whole in a creamy onion sauce to which one has added “a wineglassful of white wine”.   Mrs. L said the dish could be served “with or without a wall of mashed potato round the dish” and I plumped for without, serving instead some sippets of toasted bread.

This was an excellent dish, rich and delicious, which I thoroughly enjoyed in a guilty pleasure sort of way.  If I was still cooking brunch in the sun I would definitely put this on the menu.

Incidentally and by the way, I had a little leftover onion sauce so added it to this evening's mashed potato.  This went down very well with my darling who doesn't usually go for "fancy food"!

There are many other dishes I want to try but not many of them lend themselves to suddenness, no worries – the book is a keeper, I’ll get round to them.
Quadrille’s new edition of The Gentle Art of Cookery  is attractively presented as a sturdy, solid, reliable sort of hardback book, it isn’t illustrated, it just gets down to the lovely nitty gritty.  If you are interested in food and cooking, and presumably you must be, I urge you to buy this book!

Quadrille publish The Gentle Art of Cookery on 5th September 2011 ISBN-10: 1844009823
ISBN-13: 978-1844009824.  It is one of a series of four books; the first two Madame Prunier’s Fish Cookery Book and Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families were published on 4th April.  Xavier Marcel Boulestin’s Simple French Cookery for English Homes will also be published on 5th September and I hope to review it long before that.

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