the great british vegetable cookbook
Untoasted walnuts are the harbinger of doom.
When I'm deciding whether to make a recipe, I tend to scan it for certain elements, many of which I'd find difficult to innumerate on cue but that often stand out as either clinchers that the recipe is sure to work or red flags that the recipe should be regarded with a suspicious eye.
Case in point: when a recipe contains a nut, but there's no indication to toast it, it's usually not a good sign. Sure, there are recipes out there, I'm sure, where the nuts shouldn't necessarily be toasted, but I haven't found one yet. Toasting nuts gives them tenderness (but not soft, mushiness) and deeper, richer, flavours, including bitterness and toastiness.
Anova Books gifted me a preview copy of this book through Netgalley. It's published by the National Trust and reading through the book, it has some promising elements that I enjoyed. There's a seasonal chart indicating the months all the vegetables in the book are at their prime. Rich photographs and a helpful metric to U.S. measures conversion chart contribute to making the recipes look tasty and easier. The recipes are grouped by season, which is my favourite way to experience a cookbook, and each recipe has a See Also: addendum, which is an indication of other recipes in the book that would go well with the recipe viewed; great for developing a larger menu.
You guys all know how much I love my British chefs. So although the recipe I made from this book, Celeriac, Apple and Walnut Salad warned me by giving no indication that the nuts should be toasted, I decided to try it because the overall ingredients looked complimentary and because I had a head of celeriac giving me the dirty eye.
And yes, I betrayed the recipe by toasting the walnuts. But otherwise, I followed it to the letter and the final result was... uneven. The textures blended well together, and the dressing - creme fraiche, wholegrain Dijon, lemon juice - was definitely the best part of the salad. But the ratio of celeriac to walnuts and to apples was off, with the pungent and fibrous celeriac dominating the salad. Also... had I not toasted the walnuts, as the recipe indicated to just add them raw, it would have been rather more bland. Truth be told? I tossed the remainder of the salad after serving it to guests and just receiving polite silence while they ate.
So, I'm not saying untoasted walnuts destroyed the salad; just that failure to advise on techniques like this can indicate a larger issue with the recipe.
I wanted to love this book - hey, it's British and veggies! - but I'm definitely not in love with it yet. I would like to try the Carrot and Cardamom Cake next. At least the whole almonds placed on top in the lemon icing should be "lightly roasted"....