I got a stack of Nigel Slater's cookbooks after watching one of his BBC shows and being so impressed with his quick and simple recipes. I have not been disappointed with this book, it's the size of a paperback and only 300ish pages long, but it's packed with over 350 different recipes.
It's written as though he is just having a conversation with you and hardly any of the recipes require you to follow the instructions rigidly, you can adapt most depending on what you have in your cupboards. The beginning of the book has a section all about what things you will need in your storecupboard so you can knock these recipes together and some guidance on how to speed up your cooking.
Some of the recipes appear really simple and I wondered why I had never thought of them before, but that's what is so good about them they are simple, straightforward and they work. You don't need to have lots of fancy ingredients, which would in fact make it cheaper to order a take-away. You can use up leftovers or the bits and pieces in your cupboard.
The recipes are split into sections depending on the main ingredient, so for example Pork, Chicken, Pasta or Fruit. I find this quite handy as I often end up saying 'hmmmm I fancy pasta for tea tonight' so i can flick to that section and pick and choose from there.
There are no glossy pictures throughout it, which in one sense is nice because you're not trying to acheive the unacheivable and comparing your food to the picture. However, I do like a few pictures, I don't know why, but one or two would have been nice.
All in all I love this book it's probably been used more than any other cook book in my kitchen!
Nigel Slater's 'Real Fast Food' is a prime example of that rarest of all types of celebrity chef cookbooks - namely, one that contains a whole host of recipes that actually work.
Published by Penguin books, this 1992 cookbook comes as a black and white, 300-odd page standard paperback. This means that 'Real Fast Food' isn't packed with glossy pictures of what the exotic food you might dream of making from it could look like - if you were, say, a professional chef with a large team of dedicated food technologists / photographers all contributing to the communal publishing effort. No. 'Real Fast Fod' places no reliance upon 'foodie porn' style pictures to sell itself. Instead, it contains well-written, easy to follow recipes using mainly the type of standard ingredients that most people are already familiar with. Contrast this for example with another similar Penguin paperback cookbook that I got recently - 'A Celebration of Soups' by Lindsey Bareham - an excellent book, but unfortunately one in which, in the latter chapters, there is barely a single recipe that doesn't prominently feature some bizarre or difficult to buy ingredient - such as garfish -
(Garfish! How often do you see garfish cropping up at your local fishmongers? Or even if you go on a designated attempted-garfish-buying trip to your nearest fishing port? Often enough to justify including a recipe for, specifically and particularly, garfish in a book of soups? Personally, I'd suggest the answer is: 'not very often' or 'not often enough, really' but maybe that's just me)
- or New Orleans andouille-style sausage - that it will be 99% impossible to get hold of in this country.
Just to recap: number of recipes in 'Real Fast Food' that primarily contain bizarrely esoteric ingredients that nobody living in Great Britain will be able to buy in the shops: zero at last reading
So. The 350 recipes in 'Real Fast Food' are all 'ready to eat in 30 minutes' - hence the 'Fast Food' title, and are arranged into 10 useful chapter categories - bakery goods, eggs, fish, pasta, vegetables, grains / lentils / beans, chicken, meat, cheese, and fruit. The recipes might not all be particularly fancy, but they do produce reliably excellent-to-eat and easy to cook food, that you will want to dine on again and again. Here and there the blurb preceding the recipes also contains notes and hints from the author, which makes this collection that doubly rare beast among cookbooks - one that you can read for entertainment purposes as well as the recipes.
There are also a number of recipes in amongst the various chapter headings that use mainly 'storecupboard ingredients.' These turn out to be very useful for when you have nothing else in the house - and include at least 17 recipes for canned fish - and even a suggestion for making tinned sardines palatable, that I haven't tried myself, but for which Nigel Slater must deserve some kind of honourable mention.
The book costs about £8 (I have the older edition that was £7.99 when it came out) - less than a tenner at any rate, and it's worth every penny. This cookbook is a long-term 'keeper' that you'll use again and again. I'd very highly recommend it.
This book is so simple it shouldn´t work, but it does. I own lots of cookbooks, many are beautiful to look at but incomprehensible, this isn´t, its ugly but written with the reader in mind and offers easy cooking ideas with everyday ingredients.
Anyone who has read Slaters columns or enjoyed his television cookery programmes will know that this is an easygoing guy who doesn´t want to blow the doors off the building a la Heston Blumenthal or change the world like Jamie, Nigel likes to use seasonal goods wherever possible and make tasty easy recipes that idiots like me can replicate at home.
This book is about real fast food, thats not to say there is a short introduction and then advice on how best to access your local Subway/McDonalds/Favourite Chicken and Kebab Chain. The idea is that food is there to be enjoyed and we don´t need to be precious about it.
So rather than having recipes with 50 ingredients that it would take you months to find, Nigel focuses on easy to find foods such as bread, eggs, cheese, potatoes and cuts of meat and explains how to make 5 or 6 really fast easy meals from them, this can be as simple as Cheese on toast, or advise on how to use leftovers to some brilliant apple based desserts.
I´ve made some awesome potato and bacon pies from this book and really love the easy recipes for baked potatoes and other things that are cheap and easy but not always as boring as you might imagine.
The book I have is in paperback form and has an older cover than the particularly stylish one above, mine has a cover with a picture of a few simple ingredients and was purchased as part of the Penguin Cook Books Collection with 7 other books on Thebookpeople website for a tenner.
The book has proved useful to me on many occasions as I am not the most inventive person in the kitchen and Mr Slaters recipes focus more on ease and taste than technical proficiency, I have found easy ways to fry up precooked potatoes with cabbage for a hearty dinner the next evening, or using sausages with lentils a drop of red wine and making a delicous hearty stew.
The book is alphabetically ordered which makes it easy to follow, so cheese comes before watermelon, generally there are 4 or 5 recipes ranging from the blatantly obvious to some really interesting and innovatively simple ideas.
The book is similar to Simon Hopkinsons in that it helps the cook reclaim the kitchen from some of the poncier elements who suggest you need a gadget for everything and have to source ingredients from the excess regions of eastern kurdistan.
What I really like about the book is Nigel´s introduction where he explains the concept for the book was for people coming home from work to be able to quickly and easily rustle something up, I really appreciate that as many cookbooks presume you have hours to cook when sometimes it has to be a frozen pizza because you´ve had a bad day, the train was late and your starved. This is honest, realistic and a really good idea.
It has 352 pages in total, it doesn´t look great as there aren´t pictures, but it is written really well and in language that is easy to understand, what it lacks in pictures it makes up for in commonsense.
The book is available on Amazon for 5.97 or 2.30 UK Pounds, used (Massive apologies that my reviews have mentioned quid or not included pound signs for a while but the button is really acting up on my keyboard).
The idea is this is cooking for 2 people that takes around 30 minutes, it includes staples like bacon, cabbage, apples, celery, cheap items and accepts that not all meals are for 8 people, this is honest realistic writing which is a must for any fans of Nigels Guardian column.
Nigel Slater - Real Fast food
This book contains what Slater describes as 350 recipes ready-to-eat in 30 minutes.
There is a short introduction where Slater sets out what he means by 'fast food' - that is, 'simple food that is easy to prepare and quick to food (...) written for anyone who enjoys good food eaten informally," that should encourage people not to resort to foods that come under the conventional meaning of 'fast food'.
Next he moves on to " a few notes for the fast cook" - in which he explains that all of the recipes are written with quantities for two people in mind, so that it is easy to halve for people who eat by themselves, or double for a family/small dinner party. He also explains that he has created the recipes with the World health Organisation's recommendations in mind, including lots of fresh fruit and vegetable where possible. He also then advises on issues like timings, accompaniments, ingredients lists (which he tries to keep quite short), herbs, measurements, effective shopping for ingredients and finally ways to 'speed up your cooking' - that includes organising your kitchen effectively and using the right tools.
Next up he talks about 'the fast foodies storecupboard', that is vital components that should be kept in in order to make quick meals, these include oils, tinned goods, vinegars and other condiments.
Each section begins with an introduction by Slater in his usual nigh-on poetic prose (people tend to forget that he was quite an influence on his friend Nigella Lawson in this regard - you can definitely hear his voice throughout this book.) First up we have bread including recipes for bruschetta, toasted sandwhiches, regular sandwiches, sweet sandwiches such as peanut putter and banana, pitas, muffins, bagels, pizza bases. Please note, that as you would expect, the actual creation of the breads would be too time consuming to fit into the 'fast food' category - so these are instead ideas for fillings and toppings.
Next there is a short section on suggested drinks - eg a lush and indulgent hot chocolate and banana milkshake.
The next section is on eggs and is largely quite basic - eg boiled, scrambled eggs, omelettes and frittatas, stirfried eggs, baked eggs, and egg sandwiches.
Next up we have 'fish', what Slater describes as 'the finest of all fast food', but a section I have not really used because I find a lot of fish a bit too pricey and do not feel that confident about cooking it. Recipes include cod in parsley sauce, baked cod in butter sauce, baked fish steaks with tomato and breadcrumbs, a lot of ways of preparing grilled salmon as well as ideas for trout, red mullet and mackerel. He then moves on to shellfish with ideas for mussels, scallops, oysters and prawns. This isfollowed with ideas for smoked fish - eg grilled kippers, smoked salmon with warm pasta. Next he looks at tinned fish - beginning with anchovy ideas, sardine butters and sandwiches, What I have found quite useful though are the ideas for tinned salmon and tuna which I have used for packed lunches eg sandwiches and salads, as well as a quite useful sauce to jazz up occasionally bland tinned tuna.
One of my most used sections in this book is the next one, pasta - he has put together some really nice, fresh clean ideas that are unfussy eg pasta with yoghurt and herbs, whole garlic, goats cheese and thyme, with grilled tomatoes and onions, sausages, onions and mustard (a personal favourite), cream and parmesan and hot butter and herbs. He supplements this with a section entitled even faster pasta where he recommends simple dressings and shop-bought goods which will simply accompany a pasta dish.
Next we move onto the vegetables and salads section - in which he talks about certain vegetables and salad ingredients before giving some indicative recipes, which include: Grilled aubergine with lemon, basil and cracked coriander, avocado with warm bacon vinaigrette, guacamole, broad beans with ham, peas cooked in butter with fresh garlic, rumbledethumps (not dissimilar from bubble and squeak and one of my favourites in this book), a lovely savoy cabbage and bacon recipe, spinach with blue cheese and pasta, mushrooms with potatoes and garlic, grilled peppers with balsamic vinegar and basil. This is followed by various preparations for potatoes - eg various toppings for baked potato, potatoes with onion and olive oil, new potatoes with garlic and cream and then some salad accompaniments ie dressings.
He follows this with tomatoes - eg grilled tomatoes, tomato and basil sandwich (simple, but lovely), eggs baked in tomatoes, an uncooked tomato sauce, a really useful tomato and chilli sauce.
The next section focuses on grains, lentils and beans - recipes include porridge, bulghur wheat and black-eyed beans, quinoa with grilled peppers and oregano, various simple preparations of white and wholemeal rice, risotto with parmesan cheese and basic fried rice. When it comes to lentils and beans he suggests ideas such as lentils with tomatoes and hummous.
The next section is on chicken, recipes include mozzarella chicken with pesto gravy, chilli chicken pitta, tarragon chicken, ideas for chicken sandwiches, grilled chicken with herb and shallot butter, grilled chicken with garlic and lemon, devilled chicken, sautéed chicken livers and ideas for leftover turkey.
Follwing this we have the meat section including lamb chump chops with yoghurt and mint, Moroccan spiced grilled lamb, pork steaks with lemon and sage, five-spiced pork buns, hamburger, roast beef hash.
The next section is on cheese; recipes include ploughman's lunch, deep-fried camembert, croquet monsieur and ricotta beans.
We then move onto fruit, recipes include steamed apples with butter sauce (simply stunning and so simple), panfried apple and cheese salad, honeyed pears, hot banana brioche, citrus fruit with honey, hot poached figs, grilled peaches with honey, strawberries with orange juice and Grand Marnier (really lovely in the summer) , hot raspberry and marscapone brulee, ten minute trifle, hot blackcurrant bread and butter pudding.
Slater completes the book with a short section called secret snacks and the quick fix - ie recommended snacks that you can keep in for when you have cravings without resorting to unhealthy alternatives eg - pumpkin and sunflower seeds, oatcakes, yoghurt, tahini on toast. He then does a select bibliography where he lists the details of books that have influenced the writing of this one.
As regards a recipe that does what it says on the tin - this certainly fits that criteria. All the recipes are straightforward and can certainly be completed within half an hour. Some of the recipes look quite simplistic in that the ingredient list is quite short, but in reality Slater has obviously chosen them in a really considered way because all the recipes I have tried have been really tasty. They are also really easy to follow with the bare minimum of fussy preparation required.
Where they come to the fore is when you require a lighter main evening meal, thereby I find that I use this book mainly in the summer - the portion sizes tend to be generous without being overly filling. Therefore I have also found that some of these dishes are just as suitable eaten cold as part of a packed lunch at work - especially the canned fish and pasta dishes.
One misstep I have perhaps found is the fish section which contains pricey and tricky ingredients to prepare, namely oysters and mussels. However, with the sheer number of recipes and ideas in this book which are useful - these are greatly in the minority. And, refreshingly, although the focus is on ease rather than cost-effectiveness - a lot of these recipes are highly suitable for people on a budget concentrating on depth of flavour rather than masses of ingredients. There is also a bare minimum of stodge in this book - although he does get a little slaphappy with the cream at times!
Slater has an unpretentious, passionate voice which is encouraging throughout and an obvious passion for simple, enjoyable food really comes through and is quite infectious in all honesty. There are no photographs or drawings in this book, however with the simplicity of the dishes - these are not really necessary.
In conclusion, this book contains some really good solutions to those times when you really want something tasty but do not really have the time or energy to come up with something extravagant!