South, or to give it its full title South – Essential Recipes and New Explorations is the second book written by the renowned American chef Sean Brock.
Originally hailing from Virginia Sean was brought up to eat what his family grew and according to what was to hand and in season. It is a practice that he follows to this day. Sean’s message is to look out for local food producers, get to know them and support them; and when using his recipes to adapt them to what is available and also to your own tastes.
In his teens he moved to Charleston in South Carolina to attend a cook school. He fell in love with the city. We can empathise with that having visited Charleston for the first time a year ago. We were captivated by this historic city with its lovely architecture, friendly people and great restaurants.
Sean also spent time in other great cities of the South appreciating and learning more and more about Lowcountry cuisine and indeed of Southern food. Some of the dishes were partly influenced by the early settlers to the south, who incorporated into the familiar dishes from their homelands, what was available in their new world – Sea Island red peas, Jimmy Red corn, Carolina Gold rice.
And because the Southern states cover such a huge area the same ingredient grown in one region will taste different in another thanks to the different soils and climate inspiring many variations on a theme.
The American side of my family taught me to appreciate cornbread, but never in my wildest imagination had I realised there were quite so many cornbread recipes.
In all honesty living where I do it is doubtful that I will be able to cook many of the recipes in this terrific 376 page book.
But there are enough that I can try, or adapt to what I can find locally. Buttermilk is on my next shopping list; I am growing more tomatoes this year – I love fried green tomatoes; the recipe for slow cooked onions also sounds great, as indeed do so many of the other vegetable dishes – and as a family we do love veg!
Trying the plum upside down cake is going to have to be a ‘must’. And I must remember to save some of that buttermilk for the Buttermilk Pie and Blackberry Cobbler. And for sure several of the meat dishes can be adapted.
I have to say a special thank you to Sean for telling me how to season the old cast iron American cookware I have. Its heavy and I had got out of the way of using it, but it does hold the heat and cooks food so well – time it came back out of retirement and into the kitchen again.
This book fascinates me – it’s hard to put it down, and the photography by Peter Frank Edwards, is stunning – thanks so much Sean Brock for bringing the dishes of the wonderful Southern States to us.
South – Essential Recipes and New Explorations. Sean Brock. ISBN: 9781579657161. Hardback: £30. Artisan: www.workman.com