Anybody who has read Driving over Lemons or any of Chris Stewart's other books, or indeed attended one of his lectures, will know that he is a born raconteur. His latest offering Last Days of the Bus Club is every bit as entertaining.
I made the mistake of reading one chapter on a crowded commuter train and his recount of the filming procedure when chef Rick Stein came to visit embarrassingly had me giggling out loud. Be warned.
Anybody, who has had a brush with officialdom when filling in forms will appreciate the chapter dealing with Chris and his wife Ana trying to complete a form for their daughter's education, and again the problems involved when seeking a permit to work in the river following a torrential storm that resulted in damage to their valley.
Again there are delightful vignettes of their Spanish neighbours, so beautifully and affectionately described that they become alive on the page.
It is another delightful read, and one day, I might even try and make his Bitter Orange Drizzle Cake – I have some Seville oranges tucked away for future marmalade use in the freezer.
Last Days of the Bus Club. Chris Stewart. A Sort Of Book. ISBN: 978-1-9087454-3-9. £8.99. Available on Amazon.
A London Pub – for every occasion
I'm not quite sure why I opened this book with a moment of trepidation, but I did. But within seconds, having read the Introduction I was not only reassured, I loved it.
The contributors to the book like me 'have a preference for pubs with real ale, real fires and little or no music; for friendly staff, dim light and a couple of animals roaming around [and that don't have] large TVs, blackboards with humorous sayings or fashionably abbreviated names'.
The guide starts with 'It's not too early is it?' ie, listings of pubs open from the early hours of the morning till 11pm. I knew a couple of them, from my days when I used to work close to the old Smithfield's meat market, and jolly good they are too.
There are dog friendly pubsand pubs where there are cats. Pubs for the family; pubs for when you are alone. Pubs with entertainers; pubs with views. Interspersed between the texts of this pocket-size book are delightful black and white illustrations.
The index sensibly lists pubs alphabetically and also by postcodes, and tucked into the back of the book is a terrific pull out map, showing their locations.
If we have a complaint about the book it's because only 161 pubs are listed – please bring out another guide with more!
A London Pub For Every Occasion by Herb Lester Associates (Ebury Press). ISBN: 978-0-09-195827-5. £9.99. Available on Amazon
The Kitchen Magpie
In his introduction to The Kitchen Magpie author James Steen owns to his career having taken him into scores of professional kitchens both to cook and to interview chefs and cooks.
The material for this highly entertaining, and indeed informative book, is the result of those interviews and forays into kitchens, serving up a banquet of culinary stories, tips, memories and indeed recipes for the reader.
It is absolutely fascinating. On first inspection I dipped in and out of it, but quickly realised that the best approach was to start at the beginning and work my way through so as not to miss a nugget of information.
Otherwise I might have missed out on facts such as the origin of Bovril, how Francis Bacon met his death, how a menu got its name and that cherries might ease a headache and jet lag.
Included along with some really useful tips, like how to roast beef when the oven isn't on, and some not so useful ones,but which make entertaining reading, are some recipes too – the recipe for Scotch Eggs looks good. Marcus Wareing offers advice on how to choose bananas and his accompanying banana bread recipe sounds delicious; whilst Mary Berry talks fennel.
Buy it as a present for a foody friend, and treat yourself to a copy too.
The Kitchen Magpie. James Steen. ISBN: 978-184831663-8. Icon Books. £12.99. Available on Amazon
This delightful book for children written by Amanda Overeynder is not only a story of a family who enjoys food and loves to cook but also a gentle introduction to the beautiful city of Bath. The illustrations by the talented artist Susie Grindey are enchanting.
The story involves three generations of a family – a grandmother, her daughter, and her two daughters – hence Four Bath Buns - as they move and eat their way round Bath.
Included in the book are favourite family recipes ranging from a soup and smoothie to sausage rolls and a pasta dish to cakes and puds. At the back of the book is space for Baking Notes and some cards waiting to be coloured in.
In honour of the city they love a recipe for Bath Buns has been included in the book. We are indebted to the author for allowing us to reprint her family's favourite recipe for these iconic treats.
450gm (16oz) strong flour
1 sachet dried yeast
50gm (2oz) caster sugar
50gm (2oz) melted butter
2 beaten eggs
150ml warm milk
175gm (6oz) sultanas/currants
Grated zest of 1 lemon and orange
10 sugar lumps
1 beaten egg and sugar nibbs (crushed sugar cubes) to glaze
Large lightly greased tray
- Put flour, yeast, caster sugar, lemon and orange zest and sultanas into a large mixing bowl or bowl of a food mixer.
- Add the melted butter, beaten eggs and warm milk.
- Mix to a soft dough, using the dough hook or a wooden spoon.
- Knead for 5mins, cover and leave to rise for 45mins or doubled in size.
- If using a food mixer knead again, then tip out the dough onto a floured surface, otherwise tip out the dough and knead.
- Divide into 10 equal pieces and shape each piece into a bun, placing a sugar lump in the middle before placing on the greased baking tray.
- Leave for 45mins to double in size. Heat the oven to 190˚C.
- Brush each bun with beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar nibbs (that is what makes them a Bath bun!).
- Bake in the oven for 15-20mins until golden brown and hollow when tapped on the base.
- Cool on a wire rack. Serve buttered.
Four Bath Buns. Amanda Overeyner with illustrations by Susie Grindey. ISBN: 978-190305-636-3. Brown Dog Books. £9.99. Available on Amazon
Books not seen but sound interesting:
Kiddie Cocktails. Derek Yaniger and Stuart Sandler. Korero Press. www.koreropress.com
Drink recipes that are sharp and tangy, smooth and sweet, fizzy but never flat, crisp and fruity, or rich and creamy; and alcohol free.
Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes. Jamie Geller. HarperCollins. www.harpercollins.com