I loved Rick Stein’s TV series earlier in the year, Rick Stein’s Long Weekends (click here for review), so was delighted to see a book accompanying the series has just been published, and of course I had to buy it. There are many things I love about this series but I suppose above all it appeals to me because I love going away for long weekends too – new cities, old favourites; somewhere vibrant with lots of things to see and do but of course great food as well. I’m never interested in visiting places that don’t have fabulous food!
Rick’s book contains over 100 new recipes, all dishes you will have seen in the series (plus the next 5 destinations to come in the autumn run). I like the way they’ve been presented in the book, not an obvious division by each city visited, but by some interesting ‘eating’ times: ‘Friday Night’, ‘Saturday Brunch & Lunch’, ‘Breads, Pastries & Afternoon Cakes’, ‘Saturday Night Nibbles & Starters’, ‘Saturday Night Mains’, Saturday Night Desserts’, ‘Sunday Lunch’ and ‘Sunday Night’. This fits so well with our lives, the way we actually eat, and the way we sometimes search for recipe ideas. Each ‘chapter’ has a great introduction by Rick. ‘Do you suffer from Sunday night blues?’ he asks in the final chapter, where he offers ideas for cheering us up at the end of the weekend with Monday morning looming, while Saturday night ‘is a night to let rip’ and perhaps the night we’re most likely to entertain so suggestions for nibbles and starters is perfect.
Rick is always an easy but interesting guy to watch in TV. He doesn’t just cook but – particularly in this series – gives us a background to where he is, what he’s cooking. The series – and thus the book too – is also about travel and I can promise you, if you haven’t been to some or any of Rick’s destinations, then he’ll make you want to go. Rick likes his poetry, history, meeting the locals, and so gives us a full background to where he is. But then of course there’s the food and he’ll make you want to eat it. The book has a great section of Travel Information at the end where he summarises the best things about each city: what you must do and see, where to stay, where to eat, where to shop. It’s a highly illustrated book with photos not only of the recipes but the cities he visits too.
When, many years ago, I was a cookery book editor, whenever a book looked interesting I would try out some recipes to see how they worked before recommending publication. Thus, before recommending Rick’s book to you, I thought I should try out some recipes. So, last night for supper I made a chicken recipe that Rick says is Sicilian-inspired. He spatchcocks the chicken and suggests finishing it on the barbecue but I decided to joint my chicken (click here for how to joint a chicken) before roasting it. The recipe is really simple but no less wonderful for that. A gorgeous sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, chilli flakes, chopped tomato, green olives, pine nuts, raisins, capers, oregano and salt & pepper is put over the roasted chicken right at the end, once the chicken is out of the oven. The chicken is then covered with foil and left for 5-10 minutes before serving so the sauce can warm and infuse the chicken a bit. It was really great, and had a nice freshness to it because the sauce wasn’t cooked, and we all loved it.
I also made German Apple Cake for dessert, which Rick recommends serving warm with whipped cream.
This was great too. Rick’s recipes are very accessible; they’re authentic and exciting but also simple to follow and prepare. Rick is the cook in the kitchen, more like us than a chef preparing something complicated that takes hours. I suppose they’re ‘laid back’ recipes, much like the man himself. There are lots more recipes I want to try – and I am very much looking forward to the next series on TV, which should be with us soon.