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Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary with Recipes
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
There is something very special about Slater's books. They are as much creative non-fiction masterpieces as they are compilations of easy-to-put-together recipes. He combines playful and insightful impromptu with his vast cooking experience to create dishes that will delight you. Sometimes his combinations are almost whimsical and amusing, sometimes so very simple and tasteful that they are masterful. Sometimes they are a marvel in basics. If you are a cook, looking for a serene and peaceful, thoughtful read, complete with wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures, this is a book you should pick up.

Slater does not cook for a large family, not even a small family. He cooks for one or two. He does cook for friends. I didn't really think about how that affects the tone of a cookbook until recently, when I went from reading this book to one written by a woman--possibly about the same age--who had a large and loving family for whom to cook. I realized these two different family situations resulted in a totally different tone and attitude in a cookbook. That's not to say that if you cook for many, you won't get anything out of this book. You will--no matter how large an audience you have. There will always be a need for the type of dish that Slater creates. If, because of your lifestyle and your responsibilities, you are a busy, no-nonsense, hurry-up-and-get-something-nourishing-on-the-table type of cook, you will find help in this book. You will even find some respite from the frantic activity.

But if you need to find recipe instructions and ingredient lists very quickly and at a glance, well, then, maybe this book is not for you. Or, maybe it is, most definitely, just what you need. Be aware that you will need to read through tips, interesting tidbits of information, descriptions of how a fish glistens or figs drop and stain the flagstone, the state of the weather and stories about the author's house renovations, the status of his garden and his vacations--just to get to the recipe's ingredient list.

In other words, when you are in the right frame of mind, this book is a wonderful experience: Helpful, thought-provoking; stirring your creative juices and tingling your intuition. Not in the right frame of mind though, you might be irritated by a fish recipe, followed by a plum tart, followed by a simple stir-fry, only because that is what the author happened to cook that week: Because he passed by the fish market, or because his neighbor's plum tree was exploding with ripe fruit, or because he worked all day and needed quick, easy sustenance from what was handy in the frig and on the shelf.

His other fairly recent books, Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch and Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard, are written in the same style: Great story-telling, beautiful creative non-fiction writing and pictures worth studying; and wouldn't you know it, there are hundreds of recipes in there, too! The predecessor to this book is The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater.

As you can tell from the above paragraphs, I highly recommend this book. If you are still undecided--and if you have time to read more--I have gone into more detail below and I've listed some recipes, too:

It seems these recipes were born of opportunity: A lot of them were created from what was in the larder at the time and from the food he "happens upon" as he moves through his day. (And that is how I cook, so obviously I like his style.) Slater finds inspiration by walking through his garden, through his favorite shops and farmer's market, checking out what's left in his pantry and on his shelves, and gazing at leftovers in the frig. So, he creates a recipe to fit what he has "in the larder", then he writes down--on whatever piece of paper is handy--his recipe and his thoughts at the time and he dates it. For this book, he took his notes from a three-year period of time and compiled them by calendar date, not year. He ended up with a recipe and a story for almost every day of the year, plus he was able to fine tune some of those recipes over three-year's time and was able to pick and choose (probably) which notes from which year told the best story.

There is so much information in this book, and so many different types of recipes, that it's hard to give recipe examples that are representative. It really is a mixed bag. I can say that--even though this publication is written for an American audience--the type/style of recipes and ingredient lists still retain their British flair. (You won't find hamburgers, bratwurst, steaks and chicken on the grill, Italian/American dishes, etc.) You won't find white rice, a lot of pasta recipes, heavy-handed cheese layers. Because Slater is health-conscious, you will find brown basmati rice, a decent amount of grains, and fresh veggies and fruit in season. You will have to take into consideration that London's seasons may not mimic your own. (His zucchini overflows in August and September, mine (in Texas) overflows in June.) And, when I run across the name of an ingredient with which I am unfamiliar, I go to a UK website and ask.

Let me sum up with a mention of some of my favorite recipes from this book. (But, actually, some of the best ideas come from the very simple dishes he throws together on a moment's notice and scatters throughout his prose--there are no ingredient lists for those, and you can't really call them "recipes".):

--Marmalade chocolate chip ice cream;
--A risotto of smoked cod and spinach;
--A can of butter beans with mustard, crushed tomato, hot peppers, molasses and herbs;
--Pork and mushrooms, hot peppers, garlic and oyster sauce;
--Bulgur and bacon, with onions, mushrooms, dill and parsley;
--A stir-fry of spring greens, mushrooms and hot peppers, with ginger, soy and cilantro;
--A salad of radishes, scallions, fennel, lemon, mint, capers and sprouts;
--Ricotta, green onion and cilantro omelets;
--Mint and raspberry sugar for strawberries;
--Tuna, pickled ginger and cucumber salad;
--Sole, simply fried in a bit of oil and topped with lime butter;
--Slow-cooked oxtail with five-spice powder and tamarind;
--Tomatoes, onions and bell peppers in coconut cream with ginger, hot peppers, mustard and turmeric;
--Orzo with zucchini and Grana Padano;
--Pork rib ragout with pappardelle;
--Pork rillettes made with pork belly; (I make mine with domestic duck, and I never thought about using pork belly, but it makes perfect sense.)
--Salmon soup with cauliflower, rutabaga, potatoes, tomatoes and cream;

**I received a temporary download of this cookbook from the publisher, through NetGalley. I have been scrutinizing it and working with it for several months. I've got to give up the download now, and buy my own copy!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2013
This very weighty tome is a kitchen diary offering many observations, facts, happenings and of course over 250 different seasonal recipes from acclaimed British food writer and broadcaster Nigel Slater.

Would it be fairer to describe this book as a more edited, polished memory dump from the author, providing a little bit of everything along the way that is wrapped around a diary? The author is clear to note that whilst items follow over the course of a year, they are not a strict chronology but more a focussed collection of events that have happened over the years, so something that happened on a given November day would have happened on that given day, but not necessarily in the same year as the previous or subsequent diary "entry". Not that it makes a difference in the grand scheme of things though!

This is a book that, to be fair, you will get as much out of it as you put in through reading and comprehension. If you use the book solely as a source of recipes then, whilst you will invariably find many interesting recipes from the sheer multitude on offer, you will be missing much by ignoring the surrounding text.

When browsing through this book one notes that whilst the recipes have been "translated" to U.S. imperial units, at the same time ignoring their metric equivalencies, there are many cultural references that might have non-native Britons scratching their head in puzzlement before seeking clarification to a small, possibly insignificant point. There are a number of average to relatively good photographs to break up the text but they just don't feel like they fit, feeling instead that they are there solely as filler material to "illustrate" the book. Technically the photographs are quite good, particularly when they accompany a recipe yet many just feel out of place. It would have been better to have had smaller photographs accompanying EACH recipe and then use a few hand-drawn illustrations if one did need a "barrier" or "filling" image. A small thing that doesn't detract from the overall delight of this book, but when you pay a premium price for something one becomes invariably more picky over the smallest of things.

The end of the book featured a very detailed index to the recipes, referenced by key ingredient) which is a Godsend when you see the sheer bulk of this book. It would have been nice if each chapter (month) had a separate list of the recipes within to help navigate as the internal signposting is quite sparse... but it was not to be. Even a mini index to some "key happenings" or traditions would have been appreciated.

This book was an enjoyable gambol throughout a typical "year" of a British food writer and active cook. If you have enjoyed other books by this author then you won't be disappointed but if the name Nigel Slater doesn't mean anything to you, it could also be a good introduction to his work, his viewpoints and style - and after that there is no shortage of other Nigel Slater books to keep you occupied for a long time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2015
My first Nigel Slater cookbook...I think this is such a 'beefy', interesting,informative book! For those of us who LOVE cooking and interesting stories and really good and plentiful pictures and super recipes shown during the year from this lovely man. There are several of these 'note'books. From the Larder is wonderful, in my opinion. Even though Nigel is British...the recipes have been translated into American measurements! How
thoughtful! This is one of those cookbooks that you can sit and open to any page and read and enjoy! Looking forward to using his recipes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2014
Loved the style and ideas behind this book, which chronicles a year in cooking, celebrations, and everyday comforts. Nigel Slater is a wonderful writer and his recipes come alive through his anecdotes so well. Highly recommend.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2013
Nigel Slater's Notes from the Larder is full of season-appropriate recipes and he never fails to amaze me!
It's fun to open the book to the time of year and see what he is cooking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2014
Not very far into the book but loving the casual tone of voice and the honest commentary. It truly is a cookbook you read as a novel -- or better yet as a personal glimpse into a journal.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2013
Fantastic, usable, luscious recipes, and the writing is enchanting!...he makes even a cold winter's day or a rainy spring one cozy again with his recipes...ty, Nigel!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2014
Am excellent book with a plethora of meal ideas to keep you going for a whole year through. This is my go to book when I need an idea of what to feed the family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2013
Nigel is a true british food treasure. I loved his autobiography or memoir as you call it and the whole layout of the book and the book jacketl.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
Not well known in the USA, Nigel Slater is an easy-to understand chef that uses fresh veg and his talents for dishes anyone can enjoy. Beautiful photography and easy-to-understand. He also does not write "down" to the reader. His TV shows are tops. I own all his books.
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