The Flexible Pescatarian Cookbook Review

Steamed Mussels Creamy Cider Broth
Printed here with kind permission of White Lion Publishing

The Flexible Pescatarian is Jo Pratt‘s latest cookbook, of which the title is along a similar line to her recent publication  The Flexible Vegetarian.   The concept of both books is simple and yet timely, as lots of people are cutting down the amount of meat in their diets and looking for flexible recipes that work with or without meat, and with or without seafood.

One of the things I like to do when reviewing a cookbook is try several recipes out, then with the author’s permission share a recipe from the book here so my readers can have an insider view of the contents – a kinda “try before you buy”.  Being a blog, I also have the luxury of space that other reviewers like newspapers cannot afford.

Whenever I get my first glimpse of a new cookbook it doesn’t take long for it to make a first impression. Just like perusing a menu at a restaurant, if after a few minutes I am torn between three or four choices then the author has achieved their first aim, to make me want to go back to it again and again.

In the forward Jo explains that all of the recipes have been tried and re-tried by herself and friends and family to make sure they work, which is not always the case with some cookbooks. Jo thinks along similar lines as I do when writing a recipe; I want readers to be able to buy all the ingredients easily from regular supermarkets and local stores.

The book consists of 75 easy to make recipes and Jo breaks these into 4 helpful sections: Snack and Small Plates, Broths Soups and Curries, Mains and Sharing and Salads and Sides.

Many of the recipes offer flexible tips at the bottom that suggest imaginative alternatives, turning a seafood recipe into a vegetarian recipe and vice versa. Jo’s recipes also offer other helpful suggestions on how to turn a side dish into a more substantial lunch plate.

As with any cookbook in such a competitive market, the photography can be a deal maker or breaker, so I thought it only fair to mention Susan Bell who’s work in this book is a key contributing factor in its ability to win us over.

At the back of the book is a very useful section called ‘Fish Preparation’ which covers: buying fish, choosing fish, types of fish and of course preparing fish. These pages contain many good and sensible tips similar to ones I wrote myself a while back called buying  & storing seafood such as, “take a cool bag with you when shopping for seafood”. And just like the title of the book, be flexible when shopping and buy what looks the best rather than whatever is on your shopping list.

Many of us have bookcases full of cookbooks, sometimes to the point of sagging under the weight, but how many of those books get used often? The Flexible Pescatarian is written in an assured and yet relaxed style, that helps make it very user-friendly. For example although the author is British, the recipes in this book have ingredients listed in both metric and pounds & ounces making it accessible to American audiences as well.  In years to come I suggest it will be hard to find a pristine copy of this book, as many of them will be well thumbed and stained from spending time in the kitchen.

The recipe I’ve chosen to share from Jo’s Flexible Pescatarian is Steamed  Mussels with Creamy Cider Broth.

Steamed mussels with creamy cider broth by Jo Pratt © 2019

This is my fruity twist on the incredible French dish of moules marinières.

Instead of white wine I’ve used cider, which works so well with the sweet juicy mussels, and the diced Bramley apple adds a sharpness to the creamy sauce.

This really can’t be eaten elegantly, so embrace it and use your fingers to pick up the mussel shells, and have plenty of fresh crusty bread on hand to mop up the juices.

Time taken 30 minutes Serves 4

1 kg/2 lb 4 oz fresh mussels

1 tbsp olive oil

50g/1¾ oz butter

1 leek, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 medium Bramley apple, peeled and diced

400ml/14 fl oz/1 2⁄3 cups sweet cider

200ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup single cream

2 tsp Dijon mustard

small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

crusty bread, to serve

Wash the mussels and pull off any ‘beards’ that are attached at the end of the shell. Discard any mussels that are open and don’t close when lightly pinched together, and any with damaged shells.

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted and starts to bubble, add the leek, garlic and apple. Sauté until the leeks are tender and the apple has started to break down to a pulp.

Increase the heat and add the cider, cream and mustard, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then throw in the mussels.  Stir around, then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 3 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times, then check to see if the mussels have opened. If not, replace the lid and continue to cook for a further 1 minute, or until the mussels are all open.

Scatter over the parsley and divide between bowls. Discard any mussels that have refused to open. Serve hot, with crusty bread to mop up the creamy cider broth.

Mussels aren’t available all year round. If you can’t get hold of any but see some clams, then grab a net of those instead. They are smaller but just as tasty, and work well with this sauce.

The recipe and photo reprinted here are with kind permission of White Lion Publishing

*If you read this review before 31st May 2019 then why not enter the contest to win a signed copy of Jo Pratt’s book.



18 thoughts on “The Flexible Pescatarian Cookbook Review

  1. Hello. Well, I have a question. I’ve seen cooks say that we shouldn’t wash meats before cooking. Even the label says otherwise. And that may be why some end up getting E-coli or salmonella. What is your opinion? Take care now.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There is no meat I know of that recommends on the label to wash it before use, either in the UK, USA or any other country I have worked in. Washing meat is an old fashioned idea that many mothers including my own would do before roasting a chicken, but scientifically washing meat, particularly any type of poultry only spreads any bacteria that is present inside the cavity of the poultry. If the poultry has been raised according to current EU guidelines on space and cleanliness the occurance of salmonella is very low and should eliminated with proper cooking. Salmonella occurs more frequenly in American chickens due the lower welfare standards the chickens are raised in and that is why American mass produced chickens are often dipped in a bleach solution when they are processed.

      E-coli on the other hand is a very nasty bacteria that naturally occurs in the lower intestines of cattle and can contaminate meat if the slaughterhouse is not following the strict guidelines that state that cattle should not be eviscerated in the same area they are killed. The most common contamination from E-coli is found in ground (minced) beef, but if the cattle are slaughtered and processed according to the law this should not happen. Real outbreaks of E-coli are rare and should result in the bacteria being traced back to the source. Anyone found to have breached the law will face stiff penalties because E-coli can be life threatening particularly to the very young and old age pensioners.

      Thanks for your question, I hope my answers clarified things for you.
      Best Wishes

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I always wash my hands before and after handling any meat. And I rinse chicken, roast beef those kinds of meats before cooking. I’ll use paper towels or put them in a colander to dry off. So, if I said wash the meat I meant rinsing the meat. And I have seen labels telling us to wash our hands if not to rinse meats here in the USA.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yes, people should wash their hands in hot soapy water before handling any food. I also like to use a nail brush to make sure my fingernails are clean as well. I also recommend for you to sanitize your hands if you have some santizer available. As I said before no meat shoul be rinsed or washed before use as it only spreads any bacteria that is present. Cooking meat thoroughly kills salmonella. Cutting boards and knifes should be washed and santized after using them for meat.

        I know there have been quite a few ground beef recalls in the USA since late last year 2018. This is more about supermarkets financial choices of where they import their meat from and it is also raising questions about whether U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection standards are rigourous enough?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks good, and even better – sounds simple. I like simple recipes. Good review too – full of useful information. I’m trying to break the habit of cook books as few of them actually make it into the kitchen. I buy them from charity shops and the pristine nature of them should be a warning. Having read them, drooled over them and stored them for a while they mainly end up back in the charity shop.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m really glad you liked my review and found it helpful. Too many so-called reviews are more like press releases and you can tell the reviewer hasn’t really bothered to read the book. I like your point about pristine looking cook books. Favourite cookbooks usually have some stains on them, at least they do in my kitchen!

      Liked by 2 people

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