Book Club Tuesday: A Generous Meal

Dinner is a meal worth lingering over. (1)

I really appreciate the importance placed on the opportunities home cooking offers us in Christine Flynn’s new book, A Generous Meal. As she says, whether food is meant to bring people together or to offer a restorative break from a busy life, she emphasizes the idea that the act of feeding ourselves needn’t be onerous: “…little is required to be kind to yourself and to others and how easy it is to create a thoughtful, nourishing meal.”(1) Her previous book, How to Eat With One Hand (review here), co-authored with Emma Knight, was a commiserative lifeline of recipes and real-talk passed to new parents and, in her new book, Flynn is looking to continue offering homey, delicious, accessible recipes in addition to thoughtful essays.

The recipes, along with 9 essays, are organized into 7 main chapters: 1) Breads, Spreads, and More, 2) A Side of Vegetables, 3) A Centre of Vegetables, 4) Delicious Fishes Dishes, 5) Meat the Mains, 6) Just Desserts, and 7) Condiments and Other Necessary Recipes. Flynn also offers helpful information to home cooks in the opening sections – Pantry Essentials and Tools and Equipment. She understands the importance of having a repertoire of key ingredients handy so that when suppertime rolls around, no one is making a mad dash to the store. There’s comfort in this type of readiness, and, having a young (-ish) family now, I appreciate anything that helps me from floundering.

More and more I’ve been gravitating towards books that show originality and have a distinct voice.  Aside from the introduction and recipe head notes, it’s not easy for cookbook authors to offer in depth discussions surrounding their feelings or thoughts on food, which is why I enjoy Christine Flynn’s books. In How to Eat With One Hand and A Generous Meal, Flynn offers poignant and candid talk about her connections and influences that have guided her food. She’s funny and thoughtful and, while the recipes she offers are delicious, the real gem of her work are the essays. Not to be missed, her team of stylists and photographers (Suech and Beck, Lindsay Guscott, Andrea McCrindle) have captured Flynn’s modern/vintage aesthetic in saturated and luxurious scenes. There’s an elegant hominess to the book that compliments both the writing and recipes.

Lentil Soup, p.130

One of my favourite recipes from the book is for Lentil Soup. Like all good, hearty soups, this one begins life in a large Dutch oven, and, from there, carrot, celery and onion is cooked until softened. The flavours continue to build with the addition of garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and red chili. The base is one of vegetable stock and canned whole peeled tomatoes which have been crushed, with the crowning glory – split red lentils – being the last to grace the pot. Served with lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, we enjoyed this soup with some crackers on the side. Not only deeply comforting and delicious, part of the magic of a soup recipe like this is that you’ll have enough for leftovers too!

After making Flynn’s recipe for Dutch Baby w/ Berries and Crème Fraîche, I’ve learned that not all Dutch baby recipes are created equal! Flynn’s is just as she describes in the recipe notes: “…a giant puffy cross between a popover and a pancake” but, as I have found, none of the other recipes I’ve tried to this point give a result as true and dramatic as this one. Don’t ask me what the difference is – whether it’s in the technique or ingredients —  because I’m just happy to enjoy this marvelous recipe. Served with a generous spoonful of whipped Crème Fraîche and berries, my daughter and I savored this on a lazy Sunday morning. Surprisingly there was a leftover portion which she took for lunch the next day much to her delight.

From the Just Desserts chapter, I had an early opportunity to try a few of the recipes that made it into the book – the Apple Tart with Rose Cream, Marble Cake, and Sweet Potato Bread Pudding. Flynn gives much thought to her recipe development and, the combinations and flavours she comes up with are interesting and delicious! Take the Marble Cake – she uses black cocoa powder, which creates such a dramatic contrast with the other layer and, it compliments the hints of orange in both the batter as well as in the glaze. In the notes for the tart recipe, she tells us that, “If you cut into the right apple, it will smell exactly like a rose”, so adding rose water to the whipped cream presents this experience of cutting into the right apple to home cooks. The flaky pastry, lush baked apples, topped with the rose cream is a sublime experience. Finally, the loveliest of autumnal desserts: Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, where the secret to the recipe is baking a sweet potato cake loaf first. While the loaf is perfect on its own, by adding cubes of loaf to a baking dish – along with eggs, cream, maple syrup and chopped, toasted walnuts – the resulting dessert is both cakey and custardy with the perfect amount of fall spices. Great on a dessert table or even served as part of a weekend brunch.

With A Generous Meal, Christine Flynn offers home cooks a beautiful guide to cooking meals for yourself as well as your loved ones. Her thoughtful essays and recipes are meant to be enjoyed and lingered over – just like a good dinner.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Penguin Canada for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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