Book Reviews,  Cookbooks,  Historical Fiction,  Non-Fiction

Book Review: The Official Peaky Blinders Cookbook

The Official Peaky Blinders Cookbook: 50 Recipes selected by The Shelby Company LtdThe Official Peaky Blinders Cookbook: 50 Recipes selected by The Shelby Company Ltd by White Lion Publishing

The Official Peaky Blinders Cookbook pays homage to the eccentricities of dining during the interwar years, honing in on British fare of the 1920’s as imagined by the drama series, Peaky Blinders. The recipes are inspired by what might have been served to the show’s protagonist, Tommy Shelby, during each stage of his social climb from Watery Lane to the Arrow House. The recipes have been somewhat modernized for today’s taste buds and cooking techniques, but remain grounded in the past.

As an example recipe, let’s look at Roast Rabbit with Bacon and Mushrooms in a Whiskey Sauce. This one gleefully breaks plenty of healthy-eating rules, but rules are made to be broken and no one knows that better than the Peaky Blinders. Really, though, they are mostly just minor infractions. 3-1/2 tablespoons of Irish whiskey are added early enough to cook off the alcohol while retaining the flavor. Chicken can be substituted for rabbit, because after all, as the cookbook advises, “Known in the 1920s as poor-man’s chicken, rabbit was available to anyone who could hunt it down. And if you want to take Polly’s advice, remember that ‘Bucks taste better.'”

That roast rabbit/chicken recipe calls for seventeen ingredients as well as two vegetables as a side-serve. But don’t panic! The instructions are well focused and clearly written, and will lead you easily through the preparation process. If you have your ingredients and equipment ready and waiting, and follow the instructions to the letter, even a novice cook should end up with an impressive meal. Flip ahead to Creamy Baked Rice Pudding with Berry Compote and you’ll have a excellent dessert to finish this feast.

Not every recipe is as easygoing as the Roast Rabbit, though. Adventurous foodies might want to try Pork Scratching Sticks with Smoked Paprika and Sea Salt. All you need are some seasonings and salts… along with a one pound slab of pork skin, a blowtorch and scissors. What could possibly go wrong? Try asking your butcher to sell you the pork skin—by order of the Peaky Blinders.

The photography is such a treat. There’s plenty of shots of the show’s cast in iconic settings that will please the most avid of fans.

But oh, the food. Those photos begin with Chapter 1 at family table in Watery Lane. For this setting, the lighting is warm, with a golden, homespun glow.

In Chapter 2 we head for The Garrison for some pub food. The dishes now seems darker and moody, with food served on sturdy, rustic plates and boards.

Chapter 3 finds us having lunch at The Derby, with well-lit, bright, colorful food, such as Angels on Horseback, served on fine china.

Chapter 4 takes us to dinner at the Eden Club. The golden glow of chapter 1 is back, but now illuminates elegant yet decidedly masculine place settings.

And for the grand finale in chapter 5, we are invited to a feast at Arrow House. We are given a printed formal menu to stir our appetite. The canapes look fun to make and sound delicious. I’m not entirely convinced about the Pea & Lettuce Soup with Feta, but I’d be willing to give it a try. In a Peaky Blinders dinner party situation, one must be willing to take these things in stride. Most likely there are people watching that you don’t want to upset. The Chicken & Pork Terrine with Brandy & Apricots, we are assured, “looks far harder to achieve than it is. Definitely one to impress the guests”. To my middle-class sensibilities, unfortunately, terrine looks like Spam and Sushi had a baby. I suppose I should try it before passing judgement—and before judgement is passed on me.

I recommend The Official Peaky Blinders Cookbook to fans of the series, adventurous cooks, curious kitchen novices, photography buffs, and cookbook collectors.

My thanks to author Rob Morris, Quarto Publishing Group – White Lion, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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