Reviews and Recommendations

Books, films, restaurants, shops, beauty products!

There's nothing Raggedy Ann Girl likes more than sharing great things with  friends. So keep coming back  for reviews and recommendations. From books to films, restaurants to shops and beauty products to recipes. If we like it, and think you might too, we'll be happy to let you know!


Lotte's Country Kitchen - a book review

Let me begin by saying that I have dozens of cookbooks. And a very small bookshelf. I already have to do a seasonal rotation four times a year to accommodate them all, so to get a permanent place on my shelf, and become splashed with the traces of the favourite recipes within, a cookbook has to be very special. Lotte's Country Kitchen is a shoo-in. Author, broadcaster, blogger and self-confessed 'nutty bird', Lotte Duncan has produced something I had thought impossible - a real country cookbook with accessible, interesting, fun and non-stodgy recipes. Food that fills you up and nourishes your soul. Recipes that are as much of a pleasure to cook, as they are to share with loved ones. Menus that will impress your 'tasters' without leaving you a frazzled heap on the kitchen floor. Food that people love. This is real cooking for real people. From the delightfully stimulating salmon, leek and spinach lasagne to hedonistic hot cross bun chocolate and rum pudding, there is something here for every taste, every hunger and every occasion.

Even as a non-meat eater I still found plenty of choice and, believe me, I've read many a 'country cookbook' that relied solely on meat for savouries and suet for desserts! Now, I'm not going to suggest that Lotte's Country Kitchen is ideal for the constant dieter - that's not the point of the book. There are lighter options on offer but none of that all-very-healthy-and-pretty-but-leaves-you-hungry arty kind of food that takes hours to prepare and five minutes to consume. Who wants to be the hostess who leaves guests hungry and reaching for the biscuit tin as soon as they get in? Lotte's guests leave her home satisfied and so will yours. There is comfort food like the marvellous Mum's macaroni cheese, as well as posh nosh in the form of salmon, orange and bronze fennel pate. The decidedly grown-up plum vodka (which gives a fabulous kick to a mulled wine) is in perfect contrast to the gratuitously girlie Mr Darcy's pink glittery macaroons.

Helpfully the book is divided into chapters each of which are devoted to a month, so it is quite possible to join Lotte on a year-long exploration of seasonal ingredients and seasonally appropriate dishes. But I defy anyone not to rush right in to whipping up January's enticing nutty treacle tart. There are also lots of helpful tips and lovely snippets of life chez Lotte too. The photography is excellent, the recipes easy to follow, there are instructions for conventional ovens and Agas and, unlike most cookbook reading experiences, you’ll actually find yourself laughing out loud as you go!

But I'd like to offer a little warning. If you're one of those Bree Van der Kamp types, for whom perfection is everything, who has a huge granite topped kitchen with sleek surfaces and gliding draws and an array of barely touched gadgets on the counter top. If you need to be a domestic goddess a la Nigella (who I love, by the way, but no-one really lives like that, do they?) then you need to take in a huge breath, scrunch up those shoulders, let them go again and r-e-l-a-x before opening this book. "Lotte's Country Kitchen" is no place for anyone that takes themselves too seriously! This is one cookbook that will bear the splashes of the food you cook for a long-time to come!
Lotte's Country Kitchen is available now in the UK and from November in the US.