Tamasin's Weekend Food: Cooking to Come Home To

by Tamasin Day-Lewis

Photography by David Loftus

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

140 pages, 2005


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Winsome Weekends

Reviewed by Cherie Thiessen

"The weekend starts here," promises master chef Tamasin Day-Lewis. "If you need to rediscover the pleasures of weekend cooking I hope this book will do it for you..."

If you only look at the pictures, it will do it for you. They're sumptuous.

A well known British food writer and cookbook author -- not to mention sister to actor Daniel -- Day-Lewis is less well known in North America. Her origins might present a slight problem to readers lacking a British background because not all of the ingredients and brands are available outside of the United Kingdom and sometimes we are not certain what kind of substitution we should be looking for. Ingredients, for example, like Innes Button cheeses, culatello, treviso or Dutch cabbage can present a real problem. In addition, some produce is known by different names on both sides of the pond. For example, what the Brits call courgettes, North Americans call zucchini. Likewise, that same Brit's aubergines are eggplants in the New World. The British love using French names. Even some of the cooking expressions will be new to many. I was left wondering whether "a splosh of wine" was a typo.

However most of us, in love with those photos and the very idea of rediscovering the pleasures of weekend cooking, will find a way to muddle through and improvise.

Tamasin Day-Lewis is a gourmet chef who uses only quality organic products. These are not macaroni and cheese and baked beans dinners; instead welcome to Winter Pasticcio and Pork Hock and Bean casserole.

Everyone knows that no cookbook can be reviewed by just reading it. I didn't feel that I would be cheating by not waiting for a weekend and dove in, aproned and with garlic press and balsamic vinegar in hand, prepared to give weekend cooking the best shot I could.

Not surprisingly, menus in this beautiful book are grouped under chapters beginning with Friday night and then proceeding to Saturday lunch and -- this gives its British roots away -- tea time. Then on to Saturday supper and Sunday lunch. Since there was no heading for it, I decided to assume that the British don't bother with breakfast on a Sunday.

Because my larder lacked many of the necessary ingredients, I did not have a huge choice in my selection of recipes. Not having anchovies on hand and not knowing what Innes Buttons were, I settled on layered pancakes with tomato sauce as a Friday night entrée. They were melt-in-your-mouth delicious and looked surprisingly appetizing on the plate. Whoever would have thought of them as a main course dinner?

Only two desserts followed, both of which would have taken me the whole weekend to prepare, so on to Saturday morning. A problem again finding some of those specialized flours, so I settled on Brown Soda Bread -- an easy and wholesome beginning to the day -- and for lunch can you believe Potato and Porcini Focaccia, a dish that sounds daunting until you realize you that porcinis are merely high faluting mushrooms. I substituted morels.

One of my favorite dishes, believe it or not, was a cracked wheat and nut salad, maybe because I understood everything on the page and had all ingredients on hand.

Do I recommend this book? If you're British or European, one hundred per cent. If you reside in the Brave New World, however and get your hands on a copy of Tamasin's Weekend Food, then have a British friend or neighbor on hand to translate and prepare yourself for frustration when, after the translation, you still can't find what the recipe calls for. If you're inventive and enjoy the challenges of substitution, by all means add this to your kitchen bookshelf. If you persevere you will find the dishes delectable. I'm keeping my copy, but then I'm married to an Englishman who was raised on flageolet beans and vanilla caster sugar. | October 2005

Cherie Thiessen has been a scriptwriter, playwright, creative writing instructor and -- for the past 10 years -- a travel writer and book reviewer. She was the review columnist for Focus on Women Magazine for eight years and has also written numerous reviews for magazines including Monday Magazine, Pacific Yachting, Cottage Magazine, The Driftwood News, Linnear Reflections and Douglas College's Event Magazine.