If you hanker after good food for your table, Primrose Hill’s Melrose and Morgan can help you with that.

Good Food for your Table, a Grocer’s Guide’ is the new book by Ian James, Nicholas Selby and Louisa Chapman Andrews, the founders of Melrose and Morgan.

Part cookery book, part guide to the way we eat now and how to get the best out of the ingredients around us, GFFYT  effortlessly expresses the current kitchen zeitgeist of making the most out of the best seasonal ingredients, offering just the right kind of recipe and filling us in on the knowledge that our mothers and grandmothers took for granted, but that got lost along the way.

All this they do whilst maintaining the familiar Melrose and Morgan look.  The whole book is printed in red on white, with simple line-drawings rather than photos.  Chapters explore the possibilities of individual food groups, such as ‘Cheese’ or ‘Nuts and Seeds’, with advice and explanations interspersed with recipes.  I would have liked the chapter title or theme to have been printed on each page in order to help the reader who dips into cookery books randomly, but I was pleased by the tone of the book: information is delivered clearly but not patronisingly, with an assumption of a basic bedrock of knowledge and a respect for the reader’s interest in food.

If putting good food on our tables is the purpose of this book, however, simply reading it was never going to do it justice, so here at iLPH we have given it a thorough road-test by trying out the recipes.

How did we get on?

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake surprised me by turning out to be a doddle.  I am a big fan of food which is easy to prepare yet big on impact, and I was astounded when, after some fairly untroubling crumbling, melting, beating and baking, my tasters declared that this was the best dessert I had ever made.  My only slight disappointment came from my  own inexperience with baked cheesecakes: a bubble on the surface as it went into the oven had turned into a big brown pimple by the end of cooking, but now I know how to avoid that next time.

Next up was Bonfire Chicken, chicken wings marinated in, amongst other things, honey, soy sauce and ketchup, left overnight and then cooked in the oven.  Handily enough, I had eleven trick-or-treaters on hand to taste it for me.  “This chicken is amazing!” declared a ghost.  “I love it,” mumbled a skeleton with his mouth full.  “I wish my Mum cooked like this,” said some kind of spooky pirate.  “Is this teriyaki chicken?” asked Frankenstein.  “No, it’s called Bonfire Chicken but there’s quite a lot of soy sauce in it.” “Ah yes, I’m getting the soy.” Frankenstein evidently has a sophisticated palate.  To sum up, Bonfire Chicken turned out to be an easy to prepare crowd-pleaser with an intriguing flavour: definitely a winner.

So far so simple and successful.  Now for more of a challenge.  Three rugby-players to feed after training; cold and muddy, they might be expecting something meaty with baked beans or some pasta, so clearly Nut Wellington was going to be a surprise to them.  To add to the pressure on this recipe, I was cooking in the challenging yet normal conditions of the domestic kitchen: distracted, pressed for time and without quite all of the ingredients.  GFFYT was going to have to take the strain.  With peanuts substituted for the almonds I didn’t have, and with the egg left out all together as I am allergic to it and was hungry and actually wanted to eat this, the Wellington divided opinion.  The rugby-players ate up and found it pleasant enough; meanwhile I loved it, finding it to be filling yet wholesome, and I made a point of squirrelling the leftovers away in the fridge for later.  Note to self: make again but chose a more appropriate crowd.

Coffee and Hazelnut Fudge of course was universally popular and simple to make.  The addition of the chocolate gave a mellow depth of flavour, although I think I would have chopped the hazelnuts up rather than putting them in whole.  I also made the mistake of not quite dissolving the sugar enough, although the recipe was perfectly clear about that.  I will certainly be trying this again in order to perfect it.

Cardamom and Pistachio Cake was a dream, and my tasters were unanimously enthusiastic.  I served it as a pudding after a Sunday roast, and instead of icing it as per the recipe, I made my own cream concoction with mascarpone, cardamom, icing sugar and vanilla to serve alongside.  The 180C setting was too ferocious in my oven, so I removed the cake too soon and then had to put it back, having already removed it from the tin, but I should have avoided that as I know my oven is always on the hot side.  Joy, however, was unconfined when I presented it to the hoards, and I am sure the iLPH kitchen will be producing it again, often.

GFFYT is the type of book that will sit on the cookery-bookshelf to be pressed frequently into service, either for its recipes – taramasalata with a scant three ingredients is next – or for reference – ‘Which allium when?’ for example.  The best books about food end up splashed and stained and well-thumbed; this is going to be one of them.  It feels like an old friend already.

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