Over the years I’ve come to realise that book launches are a bit of a waste of time (a view that publishers tend to share). All the key journalists have got the book by the time it takes place and those who take the trouble to come to the launch would almost certainly have written about the book anyway. Sure it’s an opportunity to have a great party and that’s not to be sniffed at but it’s not actually necessary.
This week however we found the perfect solution - a combined book launch and celebration of frugal eating organised by the local Bristol convivium of Slow Food at the local tapas bar Ocean. What was particularly nice was that a couple of the people who had contributed a recipe to the book came along - fellow food writer Andrea Leeman (second from right in the picture) and chef Stephen Markwick of Culinaria (the one diplomatically browsing the book!)
The menu was created by chef Stuart Seth in a classically thrifty manner from ingredients he had left over from the weekend including several dishes from the book (a chicken terrine, fromage fort (a spicy, leftover cheese spread) a game pilaf, a lamb tagine and a splendid de-luxe bubble and squeak which he embellished with all sorts of leftover veg. (The picture above doesn’t do it justice)
We also had ham and split pea soup, fabulously gooey cheese croquetas (one of the best ever frugal recipes, I’m rather sorry I didn’t put in the book) and two tasty offal dishes, a casserole of lamb hearts with lentils and lambs’ liver with pinenuts, raisins and sherry which even the offal-haters in the party happily wolfed down. Oh, and a chocolate bread and butter pudding on which I was slightly less keen but I like my B & B pudding unadulterated.
He managed to produce this blow-out for just £18 a head including wine thanks to a bit of arm-twisting of two of my contacts in the wine world - The Sherry Institute and Wines of Navarra. The choice wasn’t accidental. Spanish wine has always been and continues to be great value. Sherry is one of the most underrated drinks on the planet and Navarra provides well-priced competition to neighbouring Rioja. (I’m not just saying this because they helped us out. I could easily have gone to Gallo ;-)
The whole event was not only a great illustration of the ethos of the book but very much in the spirit of Slow Food - convivial sharing of traditional home-cooked dishes. It also proved how well you can entertain on a budget and that there’s nothing wrong with basing such a meal on humble ingredients and leftovers. Result!