Book Review ~ The Good Table by Valentine Warner and The Pickled Eggs Secret Society

~ Book Review
The Good Table 
by Valentine Warner
The Pickled Eggs Secret Society

The Good Table 

Valentine Warner

Imprint: Mitchell Beazley
264 x 194 x mm
5th September 2011
Valentine Warner takes us on a journey to home food heaven. By cooking and shopping with care and attention to detail you’ll learn how to use accessible ingredients in exciting new ways with one of the nation’s favourite chefs.

Further Detail:

The food you put on your table is at the heart of the house, as a matter of survival and joy. Everything we eat sustains family, friends and self, and The Good Table shows that it is best when sourced and cooked with love and care. Whether making comforting favourites such as Toad in the Hole or Paella, classic dishes such as Beef Suet Pudding or a Brandy Snap with Berries, or recipes from far-flung shores such as Lapland Fish Soup and a Spanish dish of Chorizo in Cider, Valentine’s omnivorous curiosity and attention to detail set his recipes apart. In this timely book, Valentine pays homage to the slow cooking of cheaper cuts of beef, pork and lamb, whilst encouraging us to enjoy less widely-used meat such as rabbit and venison. His ingredients are local, mostly inexpensive and easy to find, yet his dishes are often surprising, based on forgotten classics or hailing from distant countries such as Mexico and Morocco. For Valentine, The Good Table starts with good shopping, and he encourages us to not be afraid of buying new ingredients, especially when they are affordable and plentiful. He seeks out sustainable fish, creates luxuries from everyday ingredients such as bread and eggs, and cooks fruit and vegetables when they are in season.
With thanks to Fiona C Smith of Octopus Publishing Group for sending me this book to review just over a week ago. 
I knew as soon as I sat down to look through this book that it would be a much thumbed and highly valued book in my vast cookbook repertoire, and for many reasons; firstly, for me, the introduction says it all:
…..”I like my food to have a sense of roots : a kind of doffing of the hat to all that came before”…..
I am in accord, as the French say, with that sentiment ~ and you will find many other sentiments throughout the book in the same vein, that simplistic desire to source food and recipes that have roots and are in season. The book is a global collection of recipes with attributes to valentine’s mum, dad, neighbours, friends and also many other cultures whose family roots are strong in the kitchen. I also like the fact that he constantly champions the cause of sustainability and seasonality in food sourcing and cooking. His writing bounces from page to page with humour, eccentricity and dry wit ~ think Nigel Slater but a bit more “blokey”, there is a refreshing lack of platitudes when describing the recipes, and a rather wicked sense of humour pervades the whole book ~ one reason that my husband probably enjoyed reading this so much, he deplores the inane. 
 The chapters are diverse in what they cover and comprise:
Meat and Bird ~ Game Birds abound and Pies with pickled onions are suggested, along with cheaper cuts of meat that are small on the budget but big on flavour.
Vegetables and Foraged Foods ~ a plethora of seasonal vegetables are mentioned and include some favourites of mine such as Kale and Beetroot; there are also numerous recipes that include Pulses, another favourite cooking ingredient of mine. 
Sustainable Fish Dishes ~ Sweet and Sour Mackerel was one recipe that my husband suggested I make, and I agree with him! And I must aquire some Razer Clams too..
Bread, Eggs and Cheese ~ I was delighted to see a recipe for old fashioned Pickled Eggs, as you will have guessed by now.
Toast as a Vehicle ~ this chapter is a personal favourite of mine!
Puddings and Drinks ~ I was particularly attracted to the Poached Pear Autumn Trifle.
The recipes are well written and each one has a witty and helpful introduction, my favourite has to be from The Pickled Eggs recipe, which is the recipe I chose to make and review. Here Valentine echoes my own feelings about these sadly out of favour pickles:
Pickled Eggs:

….”Pickled eggs are becoming increasingly rare and are most likely to be found in establishments that themselves are sadly becoming extinct. To enjoy a pickled egg, especially one pickled in malt vinegar, is a ritual I will not rush. Whether you place one within a packet nest of salted crisps or harpoon it upon a cocktail stick then dust with cheap grey pepper, it’s an excellent accompaniment to a dark, flowery ale. There is also some innate joy in ignoring other’s disdain or relishing that “secret society” feeling in front of those who, although they toy with the idea, still cannot tuck in. Long may this endangered egg sink in vinegar and may my great grandchildren learn to savour them too!
Although the backdrop of a pub is an important contributor to this joy, I do occasionally make a stash of pickled eggs for home, as they are good companions for ham and cheese sandwiches, and are great for taking on fishing trips”…. 
 With a plea like that about this endangered old fashioned pickle, I set out to make this recipe for my review ~ one small snag ~ I cannot eat these yet as Valentine warns us……”do not consider biting the white for at least three weeks”……and I only made these a week ago, so the taste review will follow in two weeks! But for now, my review of the book is a hearty ten out of ten; for prose, style, Valentine’s own illustrations, photos, recipes, variety, seasonality, sustainability, originality, but mainly for the inedible burnt toast recipe that is served with a boiled egg and black tea……with the instruction that you should “put everything on a tray, take it to the invalid and remove, uneaten, 1 hour later”…..he even suggests we scrape the mould of chutney, my sentiments exactly! 
If there is one book that you must add to your cookbook collection this Autumn, make it The Good Table ~ a jolly good romp amongst “knobbly vegetables” and “thick wristed silent giants”……buy the book to read more!

NB: The Pickled Egg photos are mine; the jars are safely stored away for the grand unveiling (with a packet of crisps and a cocktail stick or two) in two weeks time.
Karen S Booth


  1. Cathy at Wives with Knives says

    Excellent review, Karen. I am an active supporter of our local farmers' markets and know I would enjoy reading this cookbook.

  2. Inside a British Mum's Kitchen says

    It looks like a beautiful, well written and researched book – lovely – thanks for a great review :)

  3. kellie@foodtoglow says

    My friend Hattie is his editor and she says he is such a lovely man. How lucky of you to get a freebie! His cookbooks are very readable. You gotta love a chapter called Toast as a Vehicle!

  4. Karen S Booth says

    That is SO nice to know Kellie ~ makes me like the book better! Toast as a Vehicle, what a GREAT name and yes, I have never had freebies much before, but I was delighted to receive this book.

  5. Janice says

    What a lovely review. I've seen Valentine Warner on TV but don't have any of his books. I like a cookery book with a bit of a story. One of my faves is Claire Macdonald who tells some marvellous stories about the food, the occasion and how the recipe came about.

    I don't think I've ever had a pickled egg but I am tempted after reading your post!

  6. Karen S Booth says

    I LOVE Claire MacDonald Janice, I have her fish and seafood book, just a little paperback but packed with great recipes!

  7. La Table De Nana says

    The photos alone make me want to make them..i'll wait for your review..2 more weeks:) can you wait?
    Love your hen! Well.. all of them..

  8. Hayley Wells says

    Great review, this sounds like one for me! I like non-fussy down to earth cooking. I also enjoy Nigel Slater’s writing, and this sounds like my kind of thing. I’m afraid I cannot share the same accord for the pickled eggs though, not my cup of tea!

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