Book Review

Market Drayton is known for being the ‘home of gingerbread’. The town is home to Billington’s Gingerbread, one of the oldest gingerbread recipes in the UK still being made and sold today.

We were therefore delighted to come across this brilliant new book, researched and written by Guild of Fine Food writer and food historian, Sam Bilton.

Sam has a passion for ‘the edible delights of yesteryear’, and reviews many cookery books herself, please see here.

So in the style of her regular book reviews, we are going to follow her own format in our blog post.

Here is what you can expect from this wonderful book all about gingerbread!

What is the essence of the book?

First Catch Your Gingerbread by Sam Bilton maps the history of gingerbread from its beginnings in the ancient world to the popular biscuit we know today. Sam takes us back into the biscuits intriguing heritage – including memorable historical anecdotes such as the flamboyant Tiddy Doll – and garnishes her research with welcome literary nuggets relating to the spicy biscuit. Additionally Sam provides approx 50 recipes from Britain and beyond.

About the author

Sam Bilton is a food historian, who runs the Repast Supper Club, which are food events with a historical theme. She is also a food and drink writer, with articles appearing in magazines and online with English Heritage. She works on historical recipes, recreating them for the modern day. Sam is also co vice Chair, and a member, of the Guild of Food Writers Committee, and on several other panels.

Who will like it?

Anyone who enjoys the history and heritage of food will devour this book. It’s easy and interesting to read and will appeal to those who find the history of gingerbread, biscuits & baking exciting. Also, because the book includes so many recipes, it makes a great recipe book investment, especially for those who like exploring heritage recipes.

Who won’t like it?

For those who don’t have an interest in food history, this may not be top of the book pile.

What do I like about the book?

I loved this book and read the history chapters it in a day. It is easy to read and an extremely enjoyable exploration through the biscuits history, taking in its many historical and current forms. Today’s commercial gingerbread has moved on significantly, & for those who want to understand its origins, journey and development, this book is the perfect read.

Also for those who wish to taste a more homemade variety of gingerbread, Sam provides a wealth of traditional heritage recipe options to try including a chapter on gingerbread in savouries.

Additionally I was delighted to see a reference to the Ginger & Spice Festival.

Would I cook from it?

Yes, yes, yes, absolutely! There is such a wonderful range of recipes to try and learn from. Sam categorises her recipes into Biscuits/Breaded Yeasted Cakes and /Cakes,  Savouries and Desserts/Sweetmeats.

I particularly love Sam’s research into savouries and gingerbread – something she says we seem to have lost compared to our European neighbours. Game Terrine, Langoustine and Crayfish Stew and Potted Mackerel with fresh Rhubarb Chutney Parkin to name a few! Enjoy trying them out at home.

Where can you buy it?

You can buy it via Prospect books or via Amazon

Review by Julia Roberts, founder of Ginger and Spice Festival

Other Reviews:

‘This is a total delight. And it has full colour pictures…bang on target.’ Dr Annie Gray, food historian  Kitchen Cabinet Radio 4 resident food historian

‘The remarkable history of Horsham and its gingerbread and the modern version is folded in, as molasses are to the oats and citrus peel, to create a delightful story of the gingerbread in Sam’s new book. Sam’s book is full of literary references to gingerbread spanning the centuries, born out of years of research in the British Library.’ West Sussex County Times

Don’t miss our online store The Spice Larder, full of lots of spicy goodies!