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Book review: stewed by Alan Rosenthal

Book review: stewed by Alan Rosenthal
Alan Rosenthal
Ebury Press
RRP £14.99
A fuggy, stew-scented kitchen is one of the most welcoming to return to on a chilly Autumn evening. Yet how many of us can honestly say we go beyond the realms of beef-and-supermarket-stew-pack, or a workaday chicken pot roast? Stew is easy, a fallback, something to serve the family, not classy enough for company.
Or is it? In 'stewed!', author Alan Rosenthal takes us on a worldwide search for bowls to excite the tastebuds and revive the spirit. The book's divided into geographical regions, making it simple to satisify a craving for flavours as diverse as Brazilian black bean stew, Cullen skink or Vietnamese beef pho.
The author is also somewhat an entrepreneur- launching his company 'stewed!' at London farmers’ markets and latterly in supermarkets nationwide. With passion to spare and the drive to share it, Rosenthal’s become a pretty decent food writer, producing a homely little tome pepped up by Nigel Slater favourite Jonathan Gregson’s ever-reliable imagery.
Rosenthal wastes little time launching into his rich, diverse catalogue of recipes. The lexicon encompasses dishes which challenge the common notion of stews as hearty, long-cooked stodge. Vegetarians are treated to fresh, healthy fare like Puy lentil, bettroot, pecan and goats’ cheese stew, whilst committed carnivores will drool over the Sticky spare ribs.
That’s not to say there’s no room for the traditional. Rosenthal revels in the comfort of classics like Lancashire Hotpot, whilst bringing others bang up to date with innovative  Modern British spins, as in the Game stew with cranberries and rhubarb. There’s a dedicated section for sides, too- all fairly classic starchy fodder but, with mains this tasty, anything more would surely be over-egging the cake.
Rosenthal clearly understands flavour, with ingredients lists regularly suggesting true culinary alchemy at work. The breadth of recipes is impressive, both in their geographic origins and use of diverse produce. Cooking your way through 'stewed!' is truly to take a worldwide journey of discovery- at the culmination of which you’ll end up better nourished both physically and intellectually. Consistently smart, surprising, sublime food…autumn eating covered.
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31 October 2010
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