I bought this 101 Simple Suppers book one Christmas in conjunction with the 101 One Pot Suppers (see previous review) as stocking fillers for my husband in an attempt to get him in the kitchen more. He is not a very confident cook and, whilst he has no problems with pasta bakes, jacket potatoes and the like, give him more than one pan to worry about and he just can't cope with it. So the very fact that the title of this book stresses "simple" meant I was hopeful he might at least sit down and have a look through it...silly wife!
Like the other books in the series it is produced collaboratively between the BBC and the GoodFood Magazine. It is only a very small book, measuring about 5 inches square and about ¾ inch thick but the front cover is reassuring in that it states that all recipes have been tried and tested, so you know that, theoretically at least, each recipe should work. The back cover tells us that it is full of (101, surprisingly!) recipes which are fast, easy to make from fresh and don't compromise on taste. Sounds good to me!
To be honest I don't find the front cover to be very inspiring. I certainly wouldn't want to eat the dish pictured (which looks like some kind of breaded fish with a lentil dish or something - a quick flick through the recipes proves that it is, indeed, Horseradish-crusted Cod with Lentils, definitely not one I'll be trying!), it looks very bland and dry to me. But I didn't buy it for the front cover, I bought it for what was inside.
Inside it is broken down into the following sections:
-Introduction (which includes a section on measurement conversions, which is always useful)
-Starters and Salads
-Snacks and Light Meals
-Pasta and Rice
-Poultry and Meat
-Fish and Seafood
I like the way these sections have been broken down as it makes it easy to find what you're looking for if you have something specific in mind and the index further helps in this task. One thing I always appreciate in a cookbook though is a separate Vegetarian section. My mother-in-law, and several of our friends, are veggies so it is particularly helpful for me to have a section dedicated to this when they're coming for dinner as I don't like serving people the same things all the time so am always looking for inspiration when it comes to non-meat meals. So, for me personally, this would have been helpful.
The layout of the recipes is very user-friendly with each recipe taking up a double page spread. The recipe, brief introduction, list of ingredients and method on the left hand side with a photo of the finished dish on the right hand side. Nutritional information for each recipe is also provided. One of the things that make this a "simple" cookbook is that each recipe has no more than 3 or 4 steps to the method, making it a very easy cooking process to follow.
One minor annoyance for me with the layout is that there is no clear divide between the sections. Normally in a cookbook you would get a title page for each section, maybe with a brief description or introduction, but not in this case. Here each section runs into the next so the only way you can tell which section you're actually in is by looking for the small wording at the bottom of each page. It's certainly not a deal breaker but it is a little niggle and does seem to be the case in all the 101 series of cookbooks.
So how does it perform in regards to it's "Simple Suppers" claim? Well, I've certainly got no complaints in this department. Like I said before, I don't like to get stuck in the rut of eating the same things week in week out so do like to experiment as much as I can in the kitchen. This book has certainly helped in this aspect, especially during the week when I don't have lots of time, or inclination, to spend cooking, but I do still like to cook from scratch as much as I can so that I know what's going into our food.
I have tried many of the recipes in it now and none of them have disappointed. Although, as with any cookbook, not all recipes are going to appeal to everyone (horseradish-cod a prime example in my case!) so there are several in there that I haven't, and wouldn't, try, but the ones we have tried have all been tasty, fresh and relatively quick and easy to make.
Some of our favourites and definite "againers" are Vegetable and Cheese Soup (although to be fair, I could probably have created something not dissimilar myself without the aid of a book), Chicken Salad with Honey Dressing (absolutely delicious on a hot summer's evening with a glass of chilled white!), Cheese and Onion Potato Wedges (a great alternative to chips), Aspargus Carbonara (I use mushrooms instead of ham to keep it veggie-friendly), Smoked Salmon Frittata (my personal fave!), Ham and Courgette Tagliatelle (great for using up my inevitable glut of courgettes every summer) and Tartiflette.
The good thing for us is that the majority of the recipes are for 4 people (or can easily be adapted for 4) and so whatever I make usually provides enough leftovers for packed lunches the next day, which means less cooking again! Whilst we have already tested many of the recipes in this book there are still many many more that I would like to try so it is a very versatile book and certainly helps add variety to our weekly meal plans. The recipes all use readily available ingredients that most people would have/buy/use anyway, it just shows you ways to combine them that you may not have thought of before. I, for example, would never have thought of putting smoked salmon in a frittata and would usually just have made a vegetable one or used sausage.
The two sections I find the most uninspiring are the Salads and Desserts. I prefer to just throw whatever I have in the fridge into a salad to use things up and generally serve it as a side rather than a main dish. I'm not really a pudding person either so none of the ones in here really appeal to me that much, but if you do want something quick, easy and sweet to finish off your meal I don't think you'd be disappointed.
All in all I have been quite impressed with this book. For £3.99 (down from £4.99 at the time, but available even cheaper now on Amazon) I think it is a good little find and has certainly helped me to introduce greater variety into our week to week diet and to increase the number of fresh ingredients I use too. The book definitely lives up to its promise of providing quick and easy dishes and I have been surprised by how much use I've got out of it, although less surprised by how little use husband got out of it! To be honest, many of the recipes I could probably have produced something similar without their help as they really are so easy, but it's nice to have this to fall back on when inspiration fails me. So whilst it won't challenge adventurous or confident cooks, it will surely help in making the mid-week meal planning easier and more varied and would be a definite plus on a less-adventurous cooks shelf.
101 - no not Dalmatians, Simple Suppers
On the back of the book the information given is as follows, "These Days we all want fast, everyday meals that don't compromise on taste. Good Food 101 Simple Suppers gives you the answer - a vast choice of ideas for easy-to-prepare, delicious meals, night after night."
I completely agree with that statement. I not the biggest cooking fan but I like to prepare healthy fresh meals for my family. I don't have a microwave so I do like to cook things from scratch but hate to slave over a meal that takes just a few minutes to eat. I find that a complete waste of time and want to make good meals, fast.
This is the beauty of this book. It is a BBC book and all the recipes have been taken from the BBC Good Food Magazine. It's small and not overly complicated looking from the start which I think often puts people off so many recipe books these days. It's A5 size so I often find myself slipping it in my bag and taking it to the supermarket so I know what ingredients I need to get instead of having to write them down all the time.
The book is broken down into different sections depending on what kind of meal you want to make. There is a section of Starters and Salads, Snacks and Light Meals, Pasta and Rice, Poultry and Meat, Fish and Seafood and Desserts. Each recipe is extremely easy to follow. The title of the recipe is at the top of the page. Then the ingredients are listed on the left hand side. The instructions are on the right hand side and what's great is that there are only 3 steps per recipe making them all extremely quick and easy recipes to follow. On the opposite page is a colour photo of the dish showing you how it should turn out. I like that photos are included as it helps me to pick what dishes I want to make as I can see whether I will like them or not.
The book costs £4.99 and is one I definitely recommend.