Five Go Feasting sounds like an average day in the Famous Fives’ world, but is in fact a new(ish) recipe book. It came out in 2018 published by Seven Dials, which is an imprint of Orion Publishing which, in turn, is a company owned by Hachette. Hachette also owns Hodder & Stoughton, Hodder Childrens’ Books and Enid Blyton Entertainment, so the connection is clear.
Anyway. This is an unusually small book for a cookery book. They are usually large hardbacks, but this is A5 in size. That makes it feel more of a book you can sit and read rather than just a collection of recipes. It is winning points from me for its cover alone – a Soperesque (really done by Ruth Palmer, who worked on the Famous Five for Grown Ups books) illustration of the Five having an enormous picnic.
The book itself is by Josh Sutton, a freelance writer and illustrator with a focus on food and travel. He is also a Famous Five aficionado, so I’m hoping he does the series justice!
Five Go Feasting
The last Blytonian recipe book I looked at was a bit of a disappointment in terms of traditional Blyton recipes.
The introduction touches on something I’ve pointed out before, that Blyton’s Famous Five menus are a strange mix of war-time food and also almost glorious excess. She doesn’t include exotic foods like bananas – because these weren’t available during the first half of the series, yet the children eat far in excess of what would be available on rations. Of course the Famous Five’s Britain was never at war – that would have hampered their free travel and seaside holidays!
Anyway, the introduction notes that wherever possible the recipes stick to authentic ingredients for the 1950s, giving me much hope!
This book divides them into five categories:
- A jolly good breakfast
- Perfect picnics
- Scrumptious suppers
- Cracking cakes and tasty treats
- Lashings of delicious drinks
Jolly good breakfasts
I’m glad to see these are all gloriously authentic. It starts with porridge and cream, then goes through cooked breakfasts of eggy bread, bacon and eggs with tomato and fried bread, dippy egg and soldiers and sausage sandwiches, and then to sweet breakfasts of freshly made warm toasted crumpets, stewed rhubarb, strawberry jam and orange marmalade. Being, I suspect, aimed at adults, these are actually recipes to make jam not just how to spread jam on toast.
I love that they have even included boiled tongue, below the notation:
Possibly the least tempting dish on the entire menu throughout the series, boiled tongue nevertheless gets a mention in three of the stories and is usually devoured between slices of buttered white bread.
Boiled tongue is not something I would cook (though I actually like ox tongue with mustard!) but I love that it’s in the book, giving it a really authentic flavour (pun intended).
Some perfect picnics
It’s just as well this chapter is perfect picnics, plural, as if you tried to even have a bite of everything included you would explode.
There are recipes for a loaf of ‘new bread’, which can be made into sandwiches filled with anchovy paste, home-cooked ham, potted meat, eggs, ham and mustard, tuna, sardines or brawn (almost as unappetising as tongue sounds, but a grand inclusion all the same).
Then there are the salads, radish and spring onion (this isn’t authentic but they get away with it by saying as much in the note, and adding that the Five eat these two items separately, along with a quote proving it), cold meat salad, hard-boiled egg salad and a salad fit for a king. There’s even a recipe for your own home-made salad cream.
Phew, next up is pies, with a pork pie and a farmhouse pie and also sausage rolls (no honey this time!) and scotch eggs. Not forgetting the home-made pickles (cabbage, onion and beetroot) including making your own pickling liquid.
I’m not sure if coleslaw is true to the books but at this point I can’t bring myself to mind. I like coleslaw!
And finally; the picnic puddings: drop scones, Aunt Fanny’s best scones, ginger biscuits, lemon biscuits and the ubiquitous jam tarts.
related post⇒ Jam tarts from the Jolly Good Food Book
Truly scrumptious suppers
The Five eat a lot of picnic teas so this section perhaps takes a few liberties, but it ensures no-one will go hungry.
There’s Aunt Fanny’s tomato soup (made with real tomatoes, as Dick exclaims), pea and ham soup, chicken soup, roast chicken, chicken stew, rabbit stew, sausage, mash and onion gravy, veal and ham pie and meat pie. And also new potatoes with melted butter and parsley, poached fish with new potatoes and parsley sauce, fried plaice and chips, a famous (turkey) Christmas dinner, and an accompaniment of tiny boiled carrots and peas.
The only odd one out is stuffed tomatoes, which the book points out is ‘somewhat exotic’ for the Famous Five. It seems a strange one to include when there’s already pages and pages of great authentic recipes. There are 80 recipes, though, so maybe they needed that one to round up the 79 they already had.
Cracking cakes and tasty treats
Well, you can’t have supper (or lunch, dinner, tea, breakfast…) without dessert, not in the Famous Five’s world anyway!
Let’s start with the array of cakes. There’s fruit cake, ginger cake, Christmas cake and chocolate cake.
There’s tarts and pies; apple, cherry, plum, treacle plus custard and ice cream for on top.
And also jammy buns, ginger buns, doughnuts, gingerbread, shortbread, almond macaroons, trifle (one of my favourites), milk pudding and fresh fruit salad for the more health-conscious.
If that’s not enough there’s also recipes for mint humbugs and toffee for in between meals.
Lashings of ginger-beer (and other drinks)
Lastly, there’s a selection of drinks to wash down all that food.
Unsurprisingly there’s lemonade and ginger beer, but also orangeade and lime juice. There’s warming cups of cocoa, as well as raspberry syrup and elderflower syrup.
So what do I think?
I think this is a great little book. The recipes have been chosen extremely well. Most are exactly as you’d expect them to be in the books. A few are slightly anomalous – but leeway is given as this is always stated in the recipe description.
For example, the chicken stew contains paprika and chorizo instead of hare and hedgehog, that’s pretty reasonable, I think! The trifle contains bananas, which as above were not available in war-time and thus aren’t in the books, but again, this is explained. I think the book strikes a good balance between authentic recipes and modern readers’ palates.
What lifts the book above just a good collection of recipes is all the additional comments and quotes. Every recipe has some sort of comment on it, sometimes mentioning which book the food came from, the origin of the dish or an explanation of any changes to its authenticity. Lots of the recipes also have little quotations from the books mentioning those foodstuffs.
And lastly, there are decent illustrations too. The copyright page mentions original illustrations by Eileen Soper, but I couldn’t see any, I assume they mean that they were done by her not that they have been included. Instead we have illustrations by Emanuel Santos. They depict the Five and the food in a 1950s style which fits with the original books and the contents of this one. They remind me a bit of Eric Parker’s illustrations for the short stories, actually, but perhaps not so heavy on the lines.
I think you can tell that a lot of work has gone into this book. The author clearly is a Famous Five fan, and has put a lot of attention into the details of which food was eaten where and when and by who! There are some funny puns and jokes scattered throughout, and the icing on the cake is the paragraph that explains the Five never had lashings of ginger beer.
I definitely recommend this recipe book to anyone who wants to dabble in a bit of Blyton cookery, or to just reminisce about the best foody bits of the books.