Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: The Cookbooks

After our article about the cookbooks of Heston Blumenthal the other week, today we’re moving onto another of my foodie heroes, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Hugh is best known for The River Cottage TV series, where Hugh gave up life in “The Smoke” and re-located to the country to live as a smallholder. As the years have passed Hugh has moved on from the tiny River Cottage and now runs a successful business based around the River Cottage name. Whilst some of you will remember “TV Dinners” and “A Cook On The Wild Side”, some of Hugh’s earlier work (yes, I have the DVD’s and cookbooks), I’ll concentrate on his River Cottage years in this article.

First of all came The River Cottage Cookbook. In this book Hugh collected together recipes and stories from the early River Cottage TV series. I love this book, it’s full of great recipes (especially for those of us with livestock and/or Organic Veg Boxes) whilst containing enough text to be able to sit down and have a good read as well.

The River Cottage Cookbook

Next came The River Cottage Year. This was The River Cottage Cookbook part 2 in effect. What made this different was the fact that this book is laid out almost like a food diary. Hugh takes us through the seasons and months letting us know what’s in season and more importantly, what to do with it. This is an excellent idea meaning you can always find recipe ideas which involve what you’re likely to have available. So good in fact others have copied the idea!

The River Cottage Year

Next came one of my all time favourites, The River Cottage Meat Book. If, like me, you have an excellent local butcher you’re always looking at trying new meats or cuts of meat. Hugh guides you through the different types of meat along with loads of excellent ideas (plus the basics of course). I actually found some of Hugh’s timings seemed to leave the meat rarer that it should be, this turned out to be my cookers fault, not his!

The River Cottage Meat Book

Now we come to the latest book from Hugh, The River Cottage Fish Book. I’m afraid it’s so new I haven’t got it yet so let’s see what have to say about it!

More than just a cookbook, this beautifully produced volume in three parts promotes a total understanding of British fish, from their natural habitats to what sauce they go best with to how to respect their seasonality, in keeping with the River Cottage ethos.

The first part is dedicated to understanding fish – Hugh and Nick explain the ins and outs of procuring a good fish, discussing fish farming, aquaculture, sustainability and harvesting issues, how to buy and catch fish in an ethical way, and how to prepare it for the kitchen.

Next they open up a whole world of fish cooking – pickling, salting, barbecuing, frying, potting, stewing, smoking and more are explained in depth, each technique followed by classic recipes from gravadlax to kedgeree, from sashimi to chip shop battered cod.

Finally, Hugh and Nick present Britain’s best fish by species, giving portraits with notes on seasonality and ecology, as well as listing the relevant recipes from part 2 with alternatives. “The River Cottage Fish Book” is the only book on fish that the adventurous fish lover will ever need.

This is going on my Christmas list!

The River Cottage Fish Book

One final book from Hugh, Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All: Dispatches from the Gastronomic Frontline. A bit of a mouthful, ignore that pun! This book covers Hugh’s writings on food from his humble beginnings to his time as a writer for a broadsheet newspaper. I really enjoyed this book, it’s layout means you can grab it for a quick 10 minute read or spend longer reading a whole chapter of musings on a particular subject. If you know someone who likes food and/or has views on food and it’s production this is a fantastic book.

Dispatches from the Gastronomic Frontline


About itsfood

An IT Manager with an interest in tech (because he's a geek who enjoys his job too much) and food & wine (because he enjoys eating and drinking when not working).
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3 Responses to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: The Cookbooks

  1. houseofyes says:

    HF-W is the man. I ordered the most recent Fish book from Amazon UK on a Friday, and it arrived in Virginia, U.S.A. on the next Monday. I wish I had access to the coast more regularly, but even with my land-locked position, I find the reading worth my time and capable of lots of inspiration. I spent new year’s day preparing crispy ears with Hugh’s tartar sauce from the RC Cookbook, and open the RC book of Meat daily. Glad to know others appreciate Hugh’s work.

  2. itsfood says:

    Nice to hear there are some non UK fans of Hugh!

  3. Pingback: Big Food Fight: Hugh’s Chicken Run « ITs Food

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