Book Review: The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Book Review: The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Heather Blaha
Mar 12, 2009

Last weekend my husband and I joined friends for a home cooked feast at their new apartment. Over incredible lamb shanks, parsnip puree and asparagus, we talked a lot about meat, where we buy it, how to use it, various recipes, and the fact that I am usually too worried about "messing dinner up" to have really learned yet how to handle and prepare the best meat dishes. At the time, I didn't realize how perfectly our evening would tie into my parting gift — an on-loan copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Meat Book (2004).

The 500+ page book is chock full of words and ways of both understanding and cooking all types of meat. At its core, of course, is caring about and knowing where your meat is coming from. Highlighted in Dana's Weekend Meditation, the practices that Fearnley-Whittingstall takes up include really getting to know his meat — from conception to slaughter. The book is packed with visuals showing what many often do not want to see, but depict how slaughtering is done when it's done right. While we can't all raise our own farm animals, we can make a larger effort to understand the practices that we participate in as the end consumer. That is the first reaching goal of the author...and his Meat Manifesto (see p. 9):

I condense the manifesto's tenets here:

Think about the meat you eat. Is it good enough?

• Think about the animals from which the meat that you eat comes. Have they lived well?

• Where do you get your meat? Might there be a different way of buying meat that works well for you...and give you a cleaner conscience?

• Think about the way you cook meat. Do you respect it?

• Are you adventurous with meat? Do you explore different tastes and textures?

• Are you thrifty with meat? Being creative with leftover meat means getting more from it.

In addition to some serious recipe action (with British leanings), the massive book contains a lot of the why's and how's that many cookbooks lack. This is one cookbook that reaches far and digs's been more of a nighttime read than a standing over the kitchen counter thumb-through read. From descriptions to the T covering the various cuts of beef, to hunting game, to jointing a rabbit, The River Cottage Meat Book spares nothing! Although we've yet to try any of the recipes, we'd love to hear from any readers who have.

A few recipes that are catching our attention:

  • Loin of lamb stuffed with apricots and pine nuts (page 242)

  • Pan-to-oven pork chops with garlic (page 342)

  • Seared spicy beef in a wrap (page 348)

  • Carpaccio of beef with shaved beetroot (page 349)

  • Duck or goose breasts with pineapple, chilli and soy (page 366)

  • Home-cured bacon (page 429)

  • Cider-cured ham (page 432)

...and a slew of good ideas to use leftovers.

Related: The Ambivalent Omnivore

(Image: via Barnes & Noble, where book is available for $32)

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