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Gill Holcombe's follow up
Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet... - Gill Holcombe
Member Name: cerys82
Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet... - Gill Holcombe
Advantages: Great selection of highly useful recipes, excellently written
Disadvantages: A paperback so not the easiest to cook from at times
".... affordable, everyday food and family friendly recipes made easy (for busy people with a lot on their plate...." to give it its full title.
I have previously revied Holcombe's first book "How to Feed Your Whole Family...." and gave it 4 stars. With such a good impression it is probably not a surprise that I also snapped this, the follow-up.
Just to recap on Holcombe. She is a single mum who has become something of an authority on presenting recipes which are good and wholesome whilst also on a budget. She also set up a website to accompany this book - "www.fish-pies-and-french-fries.co.uk" which is also well worth a look.
This book is a natural successor to the original - containing 200 slightly more adventurous recipes which in some cases are less traditional but not to the point where they are intimidating or betraying of Holcombe's ethos.
It starts with an introduction from Holcombe in which she sets the tone as being encouraging and reassuring. Then onto "Good Beginnings - store cupboard ingredients." - which promotes the notion of ensuring a good supply of basic essentials and non-perishable items. She gives some space over to which products fall under this - by staples, condiments, fridge and freezer items, herbs and spices, chillies and stock. In many places giving ideas and justifications for her choices. She then gives definititions of what she means by quantities, servings, measurements, oven temperatures and equipment - especially useful if you are like me as it actively promotes the prevention of food wastage and energy misusage.
The first actual recipe section is "mood food - classic" which contains recipes such as chicken chasseur, shepherds pie, goulash, chicken kiev and a lovely stew and dumplings recipe. I would also like to make a special mention for barbecue beans which is a great standby recipe as well as sausages in onion gravy with root vegetable mash.
The next chapter is on soups. I am a huge advocate of soup preparation for an main meal as they are so easy to make ( the bulk of the work is in the preparation) and a great way to use up excess veg. Particualrly good recipes in this section are "cream of tomato soup" and "roasted parsnip".
Next we move on to the Pot Roast section - this is not something I have tried personally but is definitely on my to do list. With a short preparation time and economical ingredients, the notion is a fantastic winter warmer idea which can be frozen/cooked in advance. Particularly appetising ones are the basic "beef and potato" variation but also the more fancy "chicken and rosemary in white wine stock."
Then onto curry, another particularly good section. It begins with a list of 10 spices which are claimed to be all you will ever need for an everyday curry. You have your traditional "chicken tikka masala" to the more unusual "Green banana curry". She also includes a rice and lentil recipe and one for naan bread.
Following this is the "cool dinners" section aimed specifically at the warmer months and dishes to be served cold - "asparagus quiche", classics like "coronation chicken" and "scotch eggs" and rice and bean salads. The leads on quite nicely to the classic salads section and does exactly what it says on the tin featuring - "salad nicoise" and "caesar salad". There is a very short section following this on equal dressings which includes homemade mayonnaise.
After this, and of particular interest, is "credit crunch cuisine" - essentially imaginative ways of using economic ingredients - eg "beef teriyaki", "cauliflower cheese souffle", "ravioli" (this does contain an introduction on how to make homemade pasta - so be warned!) and a variety of different pestos.
The next section is called "kids favourites" but don't let that put you off if you wont be cooking for children as there are plenty of really good ideas here. I must give specific commendation to the "chicken curry" recipe which has now become one of my staples - relatively easy to make and incredibly tasty without being too spicy. Others in this section include "chicken nuggets", "sticky ribs", "crab cakes" and "bean burgers." Here there is also a short subsection which gives some basic pizza recipes ie bases and rolls followed by some suggested toppings.
The next, and very useful section, is on leftovers - as you would expect thsi contains very useful ways of using up leftover meat and vegetables. The dishes themselves have a lot of thought put into them so that they do not appear as though they are afterthoughts - "leftover chicken pie" (which also incorporates leftover cooked vegetables), leftover chilli recipes - "stuffed marrow" and "chilli with tortilla chips", left over sausage - "sausage and potato omelette" and finally leftover vegetable - the obligatory "bubble and squeak" and stuffed cabbage leaves."
Next is a chapter specifically given over to potatoes. There are some great bulky use-up ideas here if you have a lot left at the end of your weekly shop - cheesy potato bake, hash browns, gnocchi (slightly more elaborate but very impressive) and potato salad. This leads on to a selection of fishcake recipes.
"Take One" follows this and is a really useful section - listing a number of ideas which have quantities for good, easy meals for just one or two people eg "lemon and lime fish bake", "rarebit" and a number of variations on this recipe. Towards the end there are some suggestions of recipes that feature elsewhere int eh book that can be easily adapted for solo cooking.
"For starters, mains and just desserts" gives a number of set dinner party menus which are easy to prepare and affordable. There are some really great set menus here - "deep fried camembert, beef in beer, chocolate mousse," "cool cucumber soup, sausages and warm potato salad, strawberries and cream sponge." There are quite a number of ideas here which are great for mixing and matching as well as taking one or two in isolation.
Next on to the concluding recipe section - "something sweet". This section, perhaps more than any of the previous has a particular onus on traditional stule desserts or puddings, as is your wont - "gipsy tart", "steamed syrup sponge", "rice pudding", "bakewell tart", "trifle" , "baked alaska" and "quick queen of puddings." Less traditional however are the sweet pizza recipes and variations - including "apricot and marshmallow" and "chocolate orange and ginger" to name a couple.
The final chapter "a lot on your plate" captures the recipes and puts them into weekly menu plans in order to help the reader get the most out of a 7 day shop.
In conclusion, this is a great book and certainly meets if not surpasses the quality of Holcombe's first book. The recipes are carefully considered and the ingredients lists and methods are presented in a not too daunting, and actually highly motivating way.
Holcombe has a distinctive voice throughout. The whole book begins each chapter with some blurb of her own which largely draws on her past experiences. For instance, the "kids favourites" chapter has a lengthy introduction which encourages frustrated parents to not be afraid of cooking for their children in case that they don't like it or are fussy.
The recipes themselves do not contain pictures of the finishes dish. But to be honest, these are not really necessary as presentation is not one of the key focusses in reality. There is a nice touch in that Holcombe has punctuated the chapteres with inspiring quotes from chefs such as Julia Child.
On occassion she follows up a recipe with some ideas for alternative ingredients and methods for selected recipes and to cater for varying tastes.
Perhaps my only gripe is the same as the first book - in that it is a relatively small paperback which means that it can be a little difficult to bend back and cook directly from. The pages are slightly absorbent when it comes to splashes!
However, that is a small criticism as I believe this a book which would suit a lot of keen cooks who just need a little bit of a confidence boost and who want to cook great, impressive but economical meals within the boundaries of limited time and resources.
Summary: A very useful addition to most cookbook collections
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