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As many of you will know, I am a lover of cooking and baking, and any opportunity to expand my already extensive (ridiculous) cookbook collection is greeted with open arms and purse. I've owned this book for a couple of years, having bought it in conjunction with another book in the same range on baking, which I have already reviewed.
The book is from a Love Food series, called "Frame by Frame". The idea being that all the recipes in the book contain step by step photos to ensure you stay on track during cooking. The RRP is £14.99 but I bought this half price in Waterstones in a sale so it cost me around £7.50. It is also available on Amazon for anywhere between £3 - £9, and I have also seen it stocked in The Works so it's worth keeping an eye out for it if you have a store near you.
It is a hardback book which is a bit wider than most cookbooks, allowing it to stay open at the page you're using rather than having to prop it open, although I usually use our cookbook stand so this doesn't usually pose a problem for me. Anyone who is a bit particular about the size of their cookbooks sitting nicely on their bookshelf (mentioning no names!), should probably be warned that this is a little wider so it comes out a bit further than most cookbooks.
The book begins with the usual introduction and "useful information", which I have to admit is a section I ignore in almost every cookbook. It does have some useful hints for saving time and might be worth reading if you are a beginner. The recipes themselves are split into broad categories: Meat, Fish, Vegetarian, and Desserts. Choosing a recipe from the book can be tricky because there are so many lovely photos I find flicking through the book makes me hungry and I want to cook everything at the same time, but it is great for providing inspiration if you're looking for something nice to cook, unlike those books which are lacking in photography and you have to use your imagination to picture the final result.
The instructions in this book are excellent, and the pictures give a good indication of whether you are on the right track or not. I find this useful if I'm in doubt of whether I have chopped the ingredients to the right size, or if I'm deciding if something looks ready to take out of the oven or not. The instructions are foolproof and this is one of the few books where my cooking actually reflects the photos in the book rather than my version looking completely different.
Are the recipes quick and easy? Yes. But, that said, they are also quite impressive. Some of the recipes in this book have been adopted into our favourite weekday recipes, so there are a few that I make without having to look at the ingredients each time, because they have become second nature. Examples of this are the chorizo, chilli and chickpea casserole (ideal for winter nights), and the fish pie which is made with a breadcrumb topping instead of pastry. This makes it tasty but easier than having to make your own pastry which you're unlikely to get chance to do during the week. I have also used the recipes to use for entertaining guests, because I know they will be easy to make yet the results are always pleasing. This means I can take a chance by trying a new recipe, but have confidence that the recipe will turn out perfectly every time.
The selection of recipes is varied, with no "dud" recipes in here. By that, what I mean is there's nobody teaching you to suck eggs here. Sometimes with celebrity cookbooks, I get annoyed when they give ideas of how to jazz up scrambled eggs, or include recipes for things like jacket potato fillings and other basics that you don't really need to line a celebrity chef's pockets to be shown. This book contains some really excellent recipes, with some fresh new ideas on what to do with meat and fish. It also uses ingredients you'll either have in your storecupboard, or you'll find easily in your supermarket, and you won't find yourself buying something for a recipe and never using it again. This is another positive for me, as I hate wasting ingredients and like to be able to delve into my storecupboard to throw meals together cheaply.
The vegetarian section has some unusual ideas, such as tacos with chickpea salsa, falafel burgers, and courgette, carrot and tomato frittata. I have tried these myself although I'm not a vegetarian. I haven't tried any desserts from this book yet as I tend to use the baking book from the same series, but there are some tasty looking recipes in this section, such as pear and hazelnut pancakes, which are also easy to put together without too much preparation.
As with the baking book, this book doesn't tell you how long each recipe takes to make, which is a little annoying. But I guess the point is that you know none of the recipes are going to be epic hours worth of preparation and cooking. They are all reasonable in terms of time, meaning that each recipe in this book would be practical to make during the week after a day in work. I have never looked at a recipe and thought "I won't have time to do all that, I'll pick something else".
I love this cookbook, and frequently choose it over my celebrity-focussed cookbooks as it has impressive food which is difficult to get wrong with the step by step instructions. I also find it inspirational when looking for food for a special occasion, as the photos provide a visual aid to imagining how the food will look once prepared.
Another thing worth mentioning is that I like the fact the recipes are reasonably health-conscious. I'm not saying they're all fat-free or anything radical like that, but I like the fact you won't be adding huge blocks of butter, or gallons of olive oil (you know those celebrity chefs who say "add a glug of olive oil", then pour in half the bottle?!). Even the fish pie, which is described as "creamy fish pie", is made with crème fraiche and doesn't involve pastry, so it's not as indulgent calorie-wise, but is still delicious.
I would thoroughly recommend this book, and I have my eye on expanding my collection to include the other books I am missing from this range (hint for a Christmas present if any of my family are reading!).
Other books in the Frame by Frame series include:
Frame by Frame: Italian Cooking
Frame by Frame: Baking
Frame by Frame: Asian Cooking
I would recommend this book to beginners and advanced cooks, as it is in no way patronising, but ensures perfect results every time.
(Review also appear on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)