Saturday 28 July 2007

Time of Trial.....

Of course the challenge presented by the growing pile of as-yet untested books isn't limited to where they're going to live, and dinner menus this past week were significantly devoted to giving a few of the recipes a test flight, to see whether the books actually merited the bookshelf challenge anyway! The main publications under review were Moro (2), Richard Olney's Simple French Food, and The Chocolate Bible (Christine Macfadden's version, rather than The Chocolate Bible I've known and loved for many years by Christian Teubner).

From Moro, the highlight was definitely roast Skate Wing, closely followed by Lamb roast with Honey; Olney's contribution was a dish of Chicken with Fennel and Garlic, and something from his dessert section; and the Chocolate contributions were a Phyllo 'coil' of Chocolate with chopped dates and ground almonds, and some individual steamed Chocolate puddings with apple and Cranberries inside.

And the verdict? Moro got a definite and resounding thumbs-up. I like their style of cooking - in many instances the main ingredients are very little mucked around, and are cooked very simply, either baked or roast or grilled, and the interesting accents come from the addition of a well-flavoured sauce at the end. The Chocolate Bible got qualified approval - the recipes as they stand are a little too close to nursery food for my liking, but they provide an interesting basis from which to work thereafter. For instance, next time, I'll add some praline paste to the steamed puddings, to lift them to another level; and I'll adopt the chocolate-date-almond combination to be used in an entirely different way (the Phyllo 'coil' seemed deeply questionable as a presentation method - a kindly critique would say it looked like a worm cast; an unkind one might be rather more graphic....)

And Mr Olney? Well, there was a bit of a surprise. He's been on my hit-list for longer than I care to remember, and has been enthusiastically mentioned in passing over the years by many of the greats. I don't really know why it's taken me so long to get around to him......And, having now done so, I'm afraid the jury remains out. The Chicken dish - which read splendidly on the page - should have been great....but somehow wasn't. I excused it on the basis that the chicken was naturally rather flavourless. The dessert - Pudding Creme aux Pommes - was........odd. Bread pudding, with a layer of cooked apple over the top, effectively. Alright, if you like that sort of thing, I suppose. Frankly, I concluded, having looked through the rest of the rather slim dessert section, Mr Olney was not a desserts man.....So, I expect I'll give him another go...but maybe not just yet.....which perhaps speaks volumes.

Tonight's Dinner:

Tartes aux Moules (Pomiane version).

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce, and Broccoli Puree.

Pommes Normande with Vanilla Ice Cream.


Joanna said...

Sorry to do this to you, when I know you're trying to get rid of cookery books, but on French country food, one of the best writers around is Geraldine Holt - intelligent, interesting, sense of history, sense of place, good complex recipes which translate into simple actions in the kitchen ... I've never understood why she isn't better known, because she's definitely one of the best British food writers. Then you could throw away the Olney.


Pomiane said...

I looked her up on Amazon after your previous comments about her - with not much luck (not readily available). I'd better try Abe, I guess.
Still not entirely convinced about Olney, since so many others have lauded him to the heavens. Definitely not feeling warm, perhaps I should go with my instincts.

Anonymous said...

I think, well actually I know, the lady's name is GeraldEne. There are copies on Amazon.