I was staying with a friend who had watched the BBC Two series Rick Stein’s Long Weekends (and never missed one). However, I had caught only one or two but just had to have his Long Weekends book. When I opened my package in the presence of my friend and revealed the contents it was almost a quarrel as to who should have first look!
Of course, Rick himself graces the fly cover but underneath is revealed a beautiful oh-so-European hardcover. As I flipped through I reached for my book markers and placed a few for future culinary creations.
To quote Rick: “The intention of this book is two-fold. First to persuade you to go Bordeaux, Berlin, Reykjavik, Vienna, Bologna, Copenhagen, Cadiz, Lisbon, Thessaloniki and Palermo.”
I can but assume that the second part is to bring us weekend cookery, or, is it to bring us the flavours of his ten different cities? Having finished the book I am still not sure. This may seem, ‘nit-picky’ but for a book of this quality, my expectations were slightly subdued.
The layout of the book does not follow his first intention which is the focus on cities that he visited. Instead, it moves from Friday night to Saturday Brunch or Bunch, to Breads, Pastries & Afternoon Cakes and so on until we arrive at Sunday night. This approach really works.
There is no shortage of recipe choices in every section and it is here that Rick has cleverly woven in the cities identified with their particular cuisine. I loved the way he recommended various restaurants and/or discussed various chefs and how he may have altered their recipes to suit his own style. Rick has included a page of information leading into each chapter and it really is well worth taking the time to read every word; so many insider tips and I especially liked the tips on advance (as well as last minute), preparation.
My friend put it rather succinctly as an overall summation. The television series brought it to life and gave it a visionary context that made you think, “I want to try that”. The book, however, is a very thick volume and the list of ingredients can be quite extensive and also, unfortunately, not so easily found in Australia, for example, duck livers (p. 188) whole chestnuts (p. 194) and flageolet beans (p. 248). This is understandable as it is based on European regional culinary delights and there are so many straightforward recipes where one can tick all the boxes for ‘easy to find’. Many of the ingredients are also quite expensive in Australia.
The ingredients list can be extensive. For example, Veal and Pork Dumplings with Beetroot & Tabasco has 25 ingredients. On the facing page (205), Duck Ragu with Tagliatelle has a list of 23 ingredients.
The photography is realistic and, as glossy paper has not been used, is somewhat subdued.
If you are seriously interested in travel and food, especially European food, and if you love food preparation and the resulting culinary delights this is a must have cookbook. I would also add that if you are an experienced cook, some recipes, such as the one from Iceland, called Smashed Liquorice Meringues with Berries and Chocolate Cream, could be easily adapted to what we have available. In this example the liquorice powder could be left out and a few tiny pieces of soft liquorice sprinkled on top. The idea of smashed meringues really appeals to me! And yes it did make me want to visit Copenhagen among others.