Actress Lisa Faulkner came to writing this book after winning Celebrity Masterchef in 2010. The book itself is paperback and can be purchased from Amazon for £13.20. Being paperback , the spine isn't particularly strong so the earlier parts of the book can be hard to cook from if you lean your book out flat because it doesn't have the weight. The pages have a matt finish which means they catch quite a few of the inevitable splutters and splashes.
The introduction is surprisingly moving and sets out the apparent tone for the book. Faulkner lost her mother to cancer when she was only 16 and took over a lot of household chores for the family including cooking and found it helped her regain some control. Cooking also provided similar solace to her years later, when married when she endured several unsuccessful attempts at IVF before finally adopting her daughter Billie.
The recipes in this book are separated into seasons and typically take up one page with a corresponding photograph on the opposite page. The book is also punctuated with pictures of Faulkner and her daughter. Each recipe has a nice introduction where Faulkner describes what the meaningfulness that particular dish has to her. A lot of them are adapted from her own mother and grandmother's recipes and there is also influence by her partner - Masterchef presenter and chef John Torode and daughter.
Recipes include: Mummy's spinach and cream cheese quiche ( a favourite of mine), my Masterchef fish stew, Torias (her sister) crispy marinated chicken, Rice Krispie chicken, Billie's chive nad apple beefburgers, carbonara, Mummy's profiteroles, banana ice crème, Eva-Rose's banana cake, Simnel cake,
Sausage rolls, scotch eggs, cod wrapped in parma ham with tomato and olive sauce, monkfish, with butternut squash fondant and sauce vierge (her Masterchef winning dish), chicken with katsu sauce, chicken marsala, pizza, vanilla cheesecake, summer berry mille feuille, scones and really quick raspberry jam,
French onion soup, pumpkin and almond soup, green tomato pickle, fish and chips with tartare sauce, pan fired sea bass and spicy rice, chicken tarragon, pork with cider, salted crème caramel, vanilla rice pudding with blackberry compote, treacle tart with vanilla ice cream,
Orange marmalade, picallili, goats cheese and red onion tart with thyme pastry, cauliflower gratin, glazed baked gammon, slow-roasted pork belly, pan-fried chicken with bubble and squeak potato cakes, mince 3 ways (stew/cottage pie/pstry plate), mince pies, Christmas weet box (truffles/honeycomb/fudge/peppermint creams)
Overall, I think that this is a really nice cookbook. It is largely quite traditional and family orientated but given her Masterchef winner credentials there are a couple of forays into detailed and complicated recipes.
I have done a number of recipes from this book and I have to say that they have all turned out well and been easy to follow. For the most part the ingredients they contain are not overly expensive or difficult to obtain, although quite a lot of them do contain meat and fish which are obviously quite pricey.
Her style of cooking reminds me a lot of Rachel Allen whose books I have a number of and have previously reviewed. This is certainly not a criticism but it does indicate that there is nothing really new here, bar a couple of ideas for recipes that lean towards a few glints of originality -ie the rice krispie chicken.
I like the fact that she has gone for wholesome, well executed food with a family centred ethos as this makes it incredibly accessible. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the ones that she has chosen and I would imagine any keen cook would be quite pleased with it even if for the most part it would not really stretch them. I have to say that whilst I have cooked quite a lot from this book and been pleased with the results, it is not one of my most used ones as I ordinarily would reach for one of my Rachel Allen ones.
The book itself is beautifully presented, with gorgeous photography and the recipes are clear and uncluttered on the page. I like the fact that she has split the book into seasons - her Christmas recipes whilst basic are solid and straightforward.
Faulkner has a really nice writing style and her sometimes lengthy and heartfelt introductions to her recipes are part of the enjoyment of using the book. She strikes the right balance between being genuine and heartfelt and overly sentimental, which is great and makes you warm to her as a person and a cook - which is obviously important as she does not therefore come across as just another actor who thinks they can write a cookbook with minimal credentials. (*cough* Gwyneth Paltrow * cough*)
This is not an 'essential' cookbook by any means. There is very little here that you cannot find in a lot of other cookbooks. However, I do think that it deserves credentials for its very professional yet heartfelt approach to cooking which it is difficult not to get a bit swept up in. The recipes that are included are obviously well considered and used and not just thrown together off the back of a bit of a gimmick (in this case Celebrity Masterchef.) So whilst I would not say that this is a 'must have', there is enough in here to make a lot of cookbooks happy. I, myself, have given this book to a close friend who is not an experienced cook but is keen to learn more and she absolutely loves it (or so she says!)