cover image The British Cookbook

The British Cookbook

Ben Mervis. Phaidon, $54.95 (464p) ISBN 978-1-83866-528-9

Fare magazine founder Mervis draws on four centuries of British food history in this sweeping collection of more than 500 recipes that “cut across time, class and culture.” Chronicling familiar and obscure regional dishes from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, the entries come fast and furious, two to four per page, with each sporting a brief historical note or preparation tip. Eggs and dairy, “the heart and soul of British cooking,” lead off the proceedings with options including Scotch woodcock, a Victorian-era breakfast of creamy scrambled eggs and anchovies on toast. Soups and stews run the gamut from a simple leek broth to the gamey bawd bree (“hare soup”). The seafood section finds breaded monkfish cheeks neighboring jellied eels and mash. A standout chapter of savory pies features pastries stuffed with everything from cod to pork to pigeon. Sweets include dessert pies, puddings, cakes, and buns. Mervis’s nose-to-tail sensibility is evident in dishes like brawn, a terrine made from a pig’s head as well as its feet, not to mention the holiday treat of blood tart, the main ingredient of which is drained from the Christmas goose. Though ingredient lists are unhelpfully center-aligned and instructions crammed in, nothing goes to waste in this bountiful feast. Anglophiles and hungry history buffs will find much to explore. (Oct.)