"Mary Berry's Favourite Recipes" Cookery Book Review
Who Is Mary Berry?
Mary Berry CBE is a British chef who has been appearing on television cookery shows and launching books since the 1960s. These days she is perhaps best known for The Great British Bake Off, a television show where ordinary people compete each week in a series of tests to be crowned Best British Baker. Mary has become known for her “soggy bottom” catchphrase because a soggy bottom on a pastry is a pet peeve of hers.
Mary is more than a celebrity in her homeland; she is an institution, and as well as her television career spanning many decades, Mary has produced many cookery books. Today I am reviewing my favorite, Mary Berry’s Favourite Recipes.
The Great British Bake Off
The Great British Bake Off was a BBC television program that ran for 7 series. It was presented by judges Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. The show was sold to UK's Channel Four in 2016 and Mary, Sue and Mel decided not to go with the show. The team of Mel, Sue, Mary and Paul and the obvious rapport and sense of fun they shared gave much to the success of the show. The show became a surprise hit and is credited with a resurgence of interest in baking.
Contents of Favourite Recipes
Mary begins her book with an introduction and explains that the recipes in this book have all been asked for by friends, viewers and readers time and time again.
- Good Soups
- Appetizers and pates
- Fish courses
- Meat dishes
- Poultry and Game
- Pasta, Rice and Quiches
- Vegetables and Salads
- Old-Fashioned Hot Puddings
- Cold Desserts
- Family Cakes
- Teabreads, Biscuits and Scones
- Food to go with Drinks
“The recipes in this book all have one thing in common – they have all been asked for by friends, viewers and readers time and time again. Some have appeared in other books, some in magazines. I have made a few small alterations here and there to bring them into line with today’s tastes and growing interest in healthy eating, but essentially they remain the same well-loved recipes. “— Mary Berry
The opening section is titled Good Soups and is introduced by an advice-packed paragraph reminding us that home-made soups are cheaper and better for us than commercially bought soups.
The first actual recipe in the book is carrot and orange soup, and this is an incredibly easy recipe that produces delicious soup and is a firm favorite with the reviewer.
Other soups include mild curried parsnip soup and watercress soup, the latter being a vitamin and antioxidant-packed and one of the most overlooked healthy vegetable choices that is good for us in so many ways.
“Watercress also contains significant levels of glucosinolate compounds and many studies now suggest that these have anti-cancer effects. Eating these compounds appears to help inhibit breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancers. Flavonoid antioxidants in watercress (carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin) also support good vision, have benefits for the cardiovascular system, and help protect cells against damage from free radicals”— Blythman J
Appetizers, Pates and Fish
"Appetizers and Pates" contains a range of interesting recipes including Mary’s version of favorites garlic mushrooms, hot cheese soufflés and salmon mousses well as some unusual choices such as the wonderful, light cucumber mousse.
"Fish Courses" begins with a fish pie, and here Mary leads the cook through an easy step by step guide to making an impressive home-made fish pie using smoked and unsmoked haddock in equal quantities. If I spot some nice smoked haddock somewhere I always think of this recipe and often buy the ingredients, open up my book and make the pie.
Extraordinarily Good Double Fish Pie
Extraordinarily Good Double Fish Pie Recipe
This is Mary Berry's Fish Pie, found on page 41.
Preparation and cooking time: 55 minutes
For the filling:
- 12oz (350g) smoked haddock
- 12oz (350g) fresh haddock
- 1 pint (570ml) milk
- 2 oz (50g) butter
- 2oz (50g) plain flour
- 6oz 175 g button mushrooms sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Juice of half a lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the topping:
- 1lb (450) potatoes
- Milk and butter for mashing
- 4 ox (100g) mature cheddar cheese, grated
- Freshly ground black pepper
- (Preheat the oven 425F 220C Gas Mark 7. Grease shallow 3 pint (1.75 litre) ovenproof dish.)
Boil the potatoes for the topping until they are tender. Meanwhile, put the fish in a pan with the milk and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the fish can be flaked with a fork. Strain and reserve the milk. Skin and flake the fish. (I actually pull it into 1/4" - 1/2" pieces.) Remove any bones.
Rinse out the pan. Melt the butter add the flour and cook for one minute, then carefully blend in the reserved milk and bring to the boil stirring until thickened. Add the mushrooms and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the nutmeg, lemon juice and fish, mix well, taste and check seasoning. Turn into a shallow 3 pint (1.75 litre) greased ovenproof dish.
Drain the potatoes and mash with plenty of water milk and butter, then stir in three quarters of the cheese and seasoning (the mixture should be fairly soft, like whipped cream). Transfer the potato to a piping bag fitted with a nozzle, and pipe zigzags over the fish from side to side over the dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the potato.
5. Cook in the oven at 425F 220C Gas Mark 7 for 30-40 minutes, until the topping turns golden brown.
Classic Fish Dishes
As might be expected from a book of favorites from an older chef, some of the old classics are here and the book includes Mary’s take on sole Florentine, cod Provencale and haddock kedgeree as well as other ideas such as stuffed plaice, Mediterranean fish casserole and quenelles with spinach and sorrel sauce. Mary also gives the reader an easy to follow guide to make an impressive buffet center piece that anyone can follow being fresh Scotch salmon.
The meat section begins with beef and a lovely winter warmer if you live in colder climates is the highland beef with herbed dumplings that includes an incredibly easy dumpling recipe.
The beef recipes include classic dishes such as steak and kidney pie and steak and kidney pudding and boeuf bourguignonne as well as pepper-stuffed paupiettes.
Lamb recipes include the unusual honey-glazed lamb, Kashmir lamb and lemon lamb fricassee the latter being a favorite staple recipe if the reviewer for the rare occasions we have lamb, I think this is largely because it incorporates lemon and thyme; two of my favorite ingredients and I have also taken the recipe and replaced the lamb with turkey for a healthier option.
Pork has five recipes and they are good ones: Norfolk hotpot, utilizes a cheap cut of pork and is a nice stew, crisp roast pork with apples, Justin pork chops, sweet and sour spare rib chops and ginger spiced pork which is great as an occasional dish, but does contain rather a lot of sugar, so is not one I use much these days.
Poultry and Game
"Poultry and Game" begins with chicken and there are enough different ideas and recipes here to satisfy anyone who eats a lot of chicken. The beauty of these recipes is that they will work seamlessly for turkey as well. One I decided to utilize on my own trip to Badminton Horse Trials is Mary Berry’s Badminton chicken, which is a great way to use left-over cold chicken and makes a nice summer lunch with salad. Her chicken in cider with mushrooms is a recipe I have adapted to use with pheasant and there are recipes for pheasant, pigeon, turkey, rabbit, duck and venison here as well.
I have to admit I have not used any of the pasta, rice or quiche recipes and I think that is because I use Italian pasta recipes, a good base rice recipe from Gordon Ramsay and have my own “stock” quiche recipe that I adapt as I need to.
Vegetables and Salad
The vegetable and salad section, however, has seen some use, there is a recipe here called garden vegetables au gratin and basically you can use any vegetables along with onion and garlic with tomatoes and top with the cheese sauce in the recipe to make vegetables much more interesting.
An interesting salad is celeriac salad the real quick to make mayonnaise also in the book with mustard and lemon. There is also a page dedicated to basic salad dressings.
The mayonnaise is quick and easy to make and it will keep for up to a month.
Hot Puddings and Cold Desserts
At the start of the old fashioned hot puddings section, Mary wisely tells us that something else can be cooked for later in the week, whilst the oven is on. There are some great puddings here including her “my mother’s bread and butter pudding” apple and almond dessert cake and almond bakewell tart, all tried and tested and very good.
The cold desserts section begins with the advice that they should be made ahead and chilled really well, if you are having a dinner party; the great thing about these types of dessert is that they can be made well ahead of time, either in the morning or even the day before freeing up the time to concentrate on the other courses and getting ready.
Here she offers some of her versions of classics such as raspberry cream Pavlova, chocolate roulade, home-made ice creams, lemon cream, syllabubs and mousses, cream brulee, cheesecake and so on.
The family cakes section is my go-to part in this book, and I constantly use these recipes or my own variations of them when I am baking. This area includes some great tray-bakes that are surprisingly easy to achieve, perfect for those school bake sales and a favorite of ours is the coffee fudge bars. Others here include all in one Victoria sponge, cherry cake, two choices of chocolate cake and carrot cake.
The small teabreads, biscuits and scones nevertheless has some nice choices that are easy to produce.
Traditional British Christmas Recipes
The Christmas section is based on a Traditional British Christmas and tells the novice cook all they need to know to produce roast turkey, lemon and thyme stuffing, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, fresh cranberry sauce, Christmas pudding (make in advance), brandy butter and cream, mince pies finishing with a Victoriana Christmas cake which should be made well in advance to mature. The book ends with a few pages of nibbles to serve with drinks and the index.
The version I have is a paperback The Book People Edition with an ISB 0-7499-1622-2 measuring 9 ¾ x 7 ½ or 243mm x 190mm and it reaches some 253 pages including the index, there are very few pictures in this book, which is a shame although there are a few color prints. The recipes are easy to follow with clear preparation and cooking time given at the start of each one.
This is a book packed with lots of recipes, some are old favorites and some are just old fashioned, others though are a new discovery and there are many opportunities to pick up useful tips and ideas throughout the book.
The layout seems old fashioned and the lack of photos is a shame, but this is a budget buy book as a result because it is the color photos that cost the publishers so much to produce. I would suggest always read through the recipe before you begin.
The reviewer has tried and tested many of the recipes in this book and many have become firm favorites or adapted into my own recipes. The cakes in particular are easy, reliable and make a great base to create your own flavors and toppings. Mary Berry is prolific and has produced many books, some more niche towards a particular area of cooking, what is nice about this book is in a slim paperback she has packed 250 recipes over a wide range of cooking areas.
- Berry M, (1997), Mary Berry's Favourite Recipes, The Book People, Bath
- Blythman J, theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/20/why-watercress-is-good-for-you-potatoes-with-smoked-trout-recipe
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Lyn