3 May 2011

“Real Food from Near and Far” by Stevie Parle ~ a review

You know how I’ve been banging on about wild garlic (yawn) well I’m still enjoying it; I had it mixed into cheese on toast for lunch and then I made wild garlic mayonnaise and ate it with a baked trout I had done à la Stevie Parle.  Segue - da da!   I am about to review his book …

“Real Food from Near and Far” by Stevie Parle

This is the second of the books that were waiting for me on my return to Cornwall a few weeks ago and is one of a series called New Voices in Food published by Quadrille.


Like Mark Hix’ book, which I reviewed recently, this book is divided into monthly chapters but there the likeness ends.  Where Mark Hix’ book is all about British food Stevie Parle’s is very much not!  He is well travelled and has collected delicious ideas from across the globe.


Actually I feel I have a fair bit in common with Mr. Parle; he lives on a houseboat, I used to (and still often do) live on a boat, he is well travelled and so am I, he’s a chef and so am I (though “resting”) he has written on umami and so have I, he called it “savoury deliciousness” whereas I have always thought of as “delicious savouriness”.   Furthermore I very much like his writing style, for instance on page 27 when referring to anchovies on toast he says to “involve a boiled egg to great effect”.


I have tried to adhere to the book season-wise when trying out his recipes, hence the trout and this Asparagus Risotto.

A Baked Fish – as mentioned above, served with a sauce of my own devising (I’ll give you a clue; it had mayonnaise and wild garlic pesto in it!).  I really enjoyed this meal and would not have gone to the bother of cooking a trout just for me (real man had a burger) without the excuse of reviewing the book so I am well pleased.  Thank you to Quadrille and Stevie Parle.

To be utterly, utterly honest I would have cooked both these dishes pretty well exactly as he instructed without reference to his book but you, dear reader, might not and his recipes are delicious and sound.  One thing I did like was the way he advised coarsely chopping the asparagus and cooking it in with the base vegetables in the risotto rather than adding cooked asparagus at the end which is what I would probably have done.  It gave a much more asparagussy flavour.


I also made, for my lunch (yes, I did it suddenly) Cacio e Pepe Pasta which is a simple dish of freshly cooked pasta tossed with a little of its own cooking broth together with yummy olive oil, lots of pecorino Romano and loads of freshly ground black pepper, I like it when pepper is a major flavour in a dish and not just a background taste.  It’s a really quick, easy and excellent lunch that may well appear here again – maybe with a picture next time if I don’t slop it about too much and have some parsley to hand!


In addition to inspiring recipes the book is full of useful info, good ideas, and amusing asides and is a strangely pleasing in itself; a low key cardboard coloured cardboard cover reveals under its flaps lots coloured photographs of food, dishes and Mr. P himself.  Other than these photos the book is illustrated with attractive and in some cases informative (for instance on how to prepare an artichoke) drawings by Ros Shiers. 

I have a second volume in the series; Alice’s Cookbook by Alice Hart to review soon and I believe a third new voice, Small Adventures in Cooking by James Ramsden has just been published but I haven’t seen it yet.

Real Food from Near & Far was published in paperback by Quadrille Publishing Ltd  on 2 July 2010 : ISBN-10: 9781844008490  ISBN-13: 978-1844008490

I had intended cooking the Cherry Clafouti but can’t get the cherries yet – when I cook it I’ll let you know.

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