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Let me start by saying that Nigel Slater seems to be one of those people and have the style of cooking that you either love or hate and I am most firmly in the first camp. I love him. His tv shows have inspired many a meal on our table and are always delicious, simple and use easy to get hold of ingredients and I am addicted to his Tender: Volume 1 book (I recently received volume 2 as a birthday gift and am part way through that so watch this space for my next Nigel review!). It's one of those cookbooks that stays in our living room because I refer to it so much...if only it weren't the size and weight of two bricks I' carry it around in my handbag! So when my friend asked for birthday present ideas I had no hesitation in putting his Real Fast Puddings on the list of suggestions...she's since asked me how I'm getting on with it and I haven't the heart to tell her I fear it was a waste of her hard-earned pennies :(
I wasn't expecting the same quality and standard of tome as his Tender books, which are huge, hardbacked, beautiful and evocative, BUT I was expecting something more than a novel-looking book with absolutely zero photos. The only illustrations in this book are on the cover and, whilst they convey the theme of the book well - sweet things simply cooked - they aren't particularly appealing or inspiring pictures for the front of a cookbook. I love photos of the finished dishes in my cookbooks and, whilst I realise that it's cheaper and not always necessary to include photos of EVERY dish I would like a good few in there somewhere, just to keep a bit of variation and interest.
Sadly though, this book contains none and is just page after page (196 of them to be exact) of typing. To be fair, I do like how the book is laid out, divided into seasonal chapters rather than ingredients. if, like me, you like to cook with seasonal produce whenever possible, this makes it much easier to find your way around and having all the recipes for that season together rather than having to switch from one section to another is very helpful (although why he decided to put chocolate in the spring chapter is beyond me...doesn't he know that chocolate is for every season - well, every day really!). There is also an index set out alphabetically (obviously!) by ingredient so if you want to make something using lemons, for example, you can quickly and easily find all the recipes that contain lemon.
There is also a store cupboard section that outlines what you should have in your store cupboard to make it easier to concoct these puddings, although who do you know that has constant access to tinned figs, crystalised violets, rosewater or turkish delight in their kitchen?!
I have tried a couple of the recipes described in RFP and they were both very tasty, don't get me wrong (the almond raspberry shortcake and chocolate truffle cake...yes, they were both as delish as they sound!). The list of ingredients for both recipes was not dauntingly long and offputting and they were all either "store cupboard" ingredients or ones that would be readily available to everyone (no violets or rosewater in these!), and the instructions were very clear, precise and easy to follow and yes, I would probably make both of them again. But, whereas in his other books I like his relaxed, chatty and anecdotal style of writing in this one I find it really irritating. I don't know why. Maybe it's because this is such a small cookbook compared to others that I think it should just be more focussed on recipes. But instead of feeling drawn into his seductive world like I normally am with both his tv shows and books, with this one I find myself thinking "alright, enough waffling Nig!"
But the most annoying aspect of RFP and one I resent paying money for (or my friend paying money for) is some of the recipes. Alright, I know it's called Real Fast Puddings, so I was never expecting delicious concoctions that take hours to come to luxurious and decadent fruition in my kitchen. But I was expecting something a little more sophisticated than the vast majority of the recipes in here.
Examples include: sauteed plums (basically, put plums and sugar in a frying pan and cook), pan-fried apples (as before, just change the plums for apples!), strawberries and cream (hands up who would struggle to make this without instructions?!) and possibly the two most insulting to my intelligence: chilled oranges (put oranges in fridge overnight before eating) and tropical fruit salad (peel and chop up various tropical fruits and put in a bowl...who knew fruit salad was that easy to make?!!!).
For me this book was just one disappointment after another. We always stock up on free blackberries in the early autumn, filling the freezer with our foraging bounty but I only ever use the same 3 recipes for them (apple and blackberry crumble, blackberry and coconut crunch bar and lemon and blackberry loaf cake), and whilst all are delicious I was excited about getting some new ideas on what I could use our stash of them for. Unfortunately these are the suggestions he has for blackberries: blackberries marinated in cassis, blackberries with fromage frais, blackberries in red wine, blackberries with cream, blackberries with rose cream, blackberries with bay cream...can you see a pattern emerging. Now, unlike most people I hate cream and always try and avoid it in puddings, and whilst this is not Nigels fault, it would have been nice to have a bit of variation and some more substantial puddings involving this lovely purple berry.
Whilst the recipes he gives in this book are all no doubt delicious and are meant to be easy and quick to make, I came away feeling decidedly cheated by most of the recipes and wanting to tell Mr Slater off for insulting my intelligence.
I suppose if you are not a very adventurous, experimental or confident cook then you might get more satisfaction and use out of this book, but I doubt it's one I'll be referring to a lot (especially as I now have Tender 2) and whether this even gets a permanent space on my shelf remains to be seen...I'm highly tempted to donate it to the charity shop (after my friends been to visit, obviously!).
So, if you're new to cooking or don't like cooking and just want something quick and VERY simple to make then this book could be of some use to you. If you're more experienced in the kitchen and are after recipes to impress with then this is most definitely not for you and I overall feel greatly let down by it, sadly. This won't, however, put me off Nigel, I still think he's a God in the kitchen!