With a cover photo like the one on April Bloomfield's new cookbook A Girl and Her Pig, you'd think the recipes would be carnivorous and primarily pork. Surprisingly, the recipes I chose to cook from it--and fell in love with--were the vegetable ones. Her recipe for Swiss chard is the only way I'll ever cook it again; the simple ginger cake may just become my go-to cake recipe; and a salad of oranges, roasted carrots and avocado was packed with more flavor that it's simple name would lead you to believe.
Bloomfield is the chef and part owner of Spotted Pig, the famed NYC gastropub that opened nearly 10 years ago and brought the term 'gastropub' to the U.S. from England. Her cooks describe her as "anal rustic" because she cuts radishes a precisely rustic way, so their browned tips fall off in a sauce; she likes to mix, toss and plate dishes with her hands; and she prefers pan liquid to complicated sauces.
If there is one common theme in the recipes, it's Bloomfield's love of Maldon sea salt and her gratuitous use of olive oil, which is usually listed in recipes as "a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil." Other than those two ingredients however, and some specialty cuts of meat, most ingredients are available at the supermarket.
Throughout the book are stories about how Bloomfield went from a teen in Birmingham wanting to be a police officer, through culinary school to her jobs at reputable kitchens in London. Recipes headnotes are dedicated to describing the balance of flavors in a dish, various ingredients, or the history and inspiration behind the recipe. There's comfort food from her childhood, like her granddad's porridge or her father's ginger cake. And there are recipes such as sausage-stuffed onions and mussels stuffed with mortadella, inspired by travels around Europe.
The book is divided into chapters by course, as well as by major ingredients. There's breakfast, nibbles and sweets, as well as birds, 'fine swine,' and a 'little lamb.' And while some dishes, such as gnudi, cassoulet and roast suckling pig are more complex, many dishes are simple, comforting and easy enough for a weeknight. Some recipes are for typically British dishes, like faggots, Eton mess, and banoffee pie. But there are recipes for several of the dishes Bloomfield has become known for at her restaurants, like smoked haddock chowder, beef and bayley hazan pie and devils on horseback--bacon wrapped prunes. It isn't like a visit to the Spotted Pig, but it may be equally delicious.