Newest Review: ... other suppliers beginning at about £9.50 and there is a text only Kindle edition for £4.99. My opinion: I find the library is a great... more
Fast and easy food from Ireland's answer to Delia Smith
Easy Meals - Rachel Allen
Member Name: ladybracknell
Easy Meals - Rachel Allen
Advantages: Quick and easy recipes, well laid out with plenty of photographs
Disadvantages: The No Cook section is mainly salads and cold soup
Rachel Allen, for those who don't know, is something of an Irish Delia Smith. She has a pleasant and easy going attitude to cookery and doesn't go in for any of the 'cheffy' tricks that the likes of Messrs Blumenthal, Ramsey or Oliver adopt. Jamie Oliver may have created 30 minute meals but they take most cooks (well me at any rate) far longer than that to prepare but Rachel is all about good, simple food which tastes delicious and are actually easy to prepare and make. Rachel learned to cook at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork run by her, now, mother in law, and apart from her TV work, Rachel also lectures at the school.
Price and availability:
Easy Meals was published in September 2011 and offers 352 pages and 180 recipes with something for everyone. The price for the hardback edition is currently £14 from Amazon although new copies are available from other suppliers beginning at about £9.50 and there is a text only Kindle edition for £4.99.
I find the library is a great way to try out a recipe book and if it proves to be contain enough recipes that I'm likely to use, I'll then buy my own copy. After road testing this book and deciding it would be one I'd use frequently, I opted for the Kindle edition even though it doesn't have any photographs. This review, however, is based on the hardback edition.
As a non meat eater, I find that many cookery books tend to be too meat heavy to be worth buying. Although, like most general cookery books, this is mainly aimed at meat and fish eaters, there is a goodly proportion of recipes suitable for vegetarians (indicated by a (V)) and a good mix of meat, fish, vegetarian and dessert recipes to make it worthwhile buy for vegetarians. I should add that many of the recipes which include meat and fish could easily be adapted to suit a vegetarian diet either by substituting Quorn or something similar or by just leaving out that ingredient altogether.
The book is very simply laid out with a brief introduction at the beginning which explains the reasons for why Rachel wrote the book. She maintains that the book is for when you want to cook a great meal but don't want to go through all the complex steps that so many recipes require. As she says 'Truly great food can often be made in minutes and only using four or five ingredients'. The book ends with a very comprehensive index at the back and sandwiched in between the introduction and the index are the six main sections of the book:
Fast and Fabulous
Five Ingredients or Less
Fuss-free Extras and Side
The recipes are all laid out in a very easy to follow style showing preparation time, cooking time and how many servings. Even for those recipes not in the Five Ingredients or Less section, the ingredients lists tend to be pretty short and don't call for much in the way of the exotic. You won't find Rachel expecting you to have truffels or caviar to hand and even when a recipe calls for something rather more out of the ordinary, such as artichoke hearts, she expects these to be from a jar or tin in your store cupboard.
Each of the sections has a good mix of recipes from quick brunches and suppers to full scale main course meals and with roughly a third of the recipes being desserts. Possibly the One Pot section is less vegetarian friendly than the others, unless they're soup loving vegetarians but this is counter-balanced in the other sections and the whole book is lavishly supplied with great colour photographs showing how the food is supposed to look.
Although I only had the book on loan for three weeks, since buying the Kindle edition several of the recipes have found their way into my not very extensive repertoire. For me, the most versatile section is the Store Cupboard section and I can especially recommend the 5 Minute Pea Soup which is as quick and easy as opening a can and twice as delicious. The Minestrone from the One Pot section is another great soup recipe and is substantial enough to be a meal in itself and as for the Conchiglie with Spinach, Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts, it tastes gorgeous even when I make it. If you're a fish eater, like me, there are plenty of delicious recipes in this book. I can highly recommend the Yoghurt Masala Fish.
So what don't I like about this book? Well, the No Cook section is pretty much salad in its many and varied forms with the odd gazpacho and sandwich thrown in for variation. There are a couple of tasty puds in this section, however, which goes some way to make up for it but personally, I'd have preferred more recipes in the other sections and left this one out of the book altogether. The One Pot section is very meat orientated which makes it not much good for non meat eaters, especially as the long cooking times make it difficult to substitute the meat for any other ingredient and for me, the fish recipes do tend to rely heavily on shell fish, including squid, scallops and mussels, none of which I eat. However, apart from those little gripes, I think this book is a good investment for busy people who don't want to spend too much of their free time in the kitchen.
Summary: A great recipe book for busy people who don't enjoy cooking
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