The Women's Institute has a reputation for traditional home cooking that is second to none in the UK. The Best Kept Secrets is a series of cookbooks written by women who know all about cooking, homes and families from personal experience. They learnt to cook from their mothers and grandmothers, from family friends and from each other. They don't have to re-discover the British tradition of cooking because they never lost touch with it in the first place. Soup is pretty special. It can lift your spirits on a dreary day and warm you on a cold one. Yet nothing could be easier to make than soup. No special skills are required. As Dilwen Philips says in her introduction, anyone who can cut up vegetables can make soup. Today foodstuffs are available throughout the year, but there are still at least two excellent reasons to honour the seasons (lower cost and superior flavour) and so Dilwen divides the book into Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter soups. There are some time-honoured favourites here like Scotch Broth and Hearty Winter Vegetable.
But many classics have been reworked: Leek and Potato is given a surprising new twist by the addition of lemongrass or lavender, and the flavour of root vegetable soups is made more vivid by roasting the vegetables in the oven before pureeing them. There are also a whole host of new recipes incorporating all sorts of up-to-the-minute flavours and ingredients; there's Butternut Squash and Apple soup, Artichoke, Spinach and Hazelnut Soup, Chicken and Pesto Soup and Red Bean with Guacamole Salsa. This is definitely not the sort of cookbook which is destined to languish unused on the kitchen shelf. Its delicious, but uncomplicated recipes will provide inspiration for many cheering and satisfying meals.
Dilwen Philips is a home economist; she has taught in schools, further and adult education colleges and at Denman College, the Women's Institute College. For 10 years she was a member of the Executive Committee of the NFWI and served as National Vice Chairman for three years. As Chairman of WI Enterprises she co-ordinated the publication of the last series of WI books. Grace Mulligan is the co-author of THE WI BOOK OF SWEETS AND CHOCOLATES. She is a member of St Athan WI and is a member of the Food Standards Agency Advisory Committee for Wales.