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Move over Tana and Nigella! There's another Cooking Mama in town!
Melinda Messenger's Family Cookbook - Melinda Messenger
Member Name: azana
Melinda Messenger's Family Cookbook - Melinda Messenger
Date: 29/12/10, updated on 01/01/11 (107 review reads)
Advantages: great recipes, beautifully illustrated
Disadvantages: some recipes ones that I make anyway
When I received this fantastic hardback cookery book, courtesy of dooyoo and the publishers, I soon found out that I had more in common with Melinda than I previously knew; an occasional camping habit, a home in Berkshire, a love of cooking, eating and family life, and perfect make up and clothes - well OK, so that last one was just Melinda, but I will assume that the latter was for the purposes of the photoshoot and the wonderful photos of food and family fun that accompany this cookery book -surely no one can look that good after slaving over a hot stove?
It's true to say that there have already been plenty of family cook books, but many fail to deliver on every level, if my experience of buying a few duds is anything to go by. This book is definitely NOT one of those books at all and contains plenty of straightforward recipes that the whole family should enjoy and which cover all the various parts of family life from breakfast through to parties via desserts, baking and even the aforementioned camping trips.
Melinda's intro makes her philosophy on food clear, and tends to be another thing that I share with her; that food is the thing that brings people in your circle together and is to be celebrated, enjoyed and made as simple as possible. Throughout the book though it is the recipes which are the focus, each having a small intro but no flowery language or fuss being made (other cookery book authors take note). When I started looking through this book I did find that quite a few of the recipes were ones, or similar to ones that we already have in our family repertoire, probably as I too would rather cook from scratch where possible than reach for a ready meal. Many recipes that I know work and that children will actually eat featured such as home made fish fingers, muffin pizzas, sausage casserole and home made burgers. That's not to say that I felt that I didn't have anything to learn from this book - many of those recipes have a nice twist, such as a cheesy topping for cottage pie and Melinda's version of spag bol, which I have tried and which is delicious. I also intend to try out the potato bake with added mushrooms, which is a simple idea but which has never occurred to me and should work well I think, as all of the recipes I have tried so far have.
I found that reading the recipes and trying them out was a bit like a peek into another family's life, weirdly similar to our own (I'm not stalking you Melinda but we even have the same toaster). I think that the book really contains something for every occasion from school fair bake; (fab cookies), to rainy afternoon baking with the kids; (fairy cakes, gingerbread and more), through to adult party time; (raspberry and elderflower bellinis that I am definitely going to try once the Christmas over indulgence feeling wears off!). I particularly enjoyed the breakfast section as that's probably the meal I struggle with the most as my children are a little picky where the first meal of the day is concerned, so it was good to see some more pancake ideas and the all in one Brunch idea is genius! The section on "trying new things" is a really great idea too, any mum will know that especially where children are concerned you can easily get stuck in a rut, so it's good to have some fresh ideas to dip into from time to time. It's a very varied book, but all of the recipes are straightforward and in my experience work well. So far I've really enjoyed making Wayne's bread sticks, the gingerbread and I've also tried a couple of the supper ideas as well as making blueberry and banana muffins for a late breakfast today.
I really like Melinda's approach to food, she readily admits that desserts aren't something that she has much time to make, and I like the fact that she includes pasta dishes that take 10 minutes to cook from start to finish, that's my kind of cooking! Through her honest yet unobtrusive commentary throughout the book her passion for food really shines through and is infectious. I've already found that some of the recipes that have been passed on to her by family and friends, who she acknowledges in the book, have joined our everyday fare too - the lentil soup is particularly scrummy.
I've enjoyed trying some of these recipes out very much. As you can probably tell I'm already a keen cook and already make family food - if that's not you then this book would be a great way of giving cooking a go - all of the instructions are straightforward and easy to follow, the graphics are modern and easy to read, and the photos are literally mouthwatering. I can even forgive Melinda for the picture perfect images of her gorgeous Boden clad children in a house that is tidier than ours ever is, as I know that she has been very open about the fact that motherhood has had its challenges for her also, having gone public about her struggle with PND a few years ago. I never felt through all I read in the book that I was being preached to or being made to aspire to perfection; I think Melinda's version of family food is totally achievable and clearly explained in a non-patronising way.
I think this book is supposed to be inspirational and a celebration of eating as a family, and it really is, jammed full of recipes that work and that everyone will enjoy. When I got this book I did wonder if there was room in a very competitive market for yet another celebrity-turned-cook - but I think Melinda has done herself proud with this book on every level, she really makes you want to cook the recipes in the book rather than just leaf through them. I am pretty sure this book will be joining a select few books on my bulging cookery book shelf that are frequently used and well thumbed rather than looked at and discarded for being unrealistic. If you have a family, like food and are wanting to get a few more ideas, this book will be just the thing you need! Highly recommended!
(thanks to the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book) - book currently available on amazon for £5.61 (rrp £16.99)
Summary: fab for family recipes for new or experienced cooks alike
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