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Great book, wonderful recipes but completely impractical. As the reviewer in the main window points out, it's supposed to be about throwing everything together in the morning, having it bubbling away all day while you are at work and then come home to a delicious meal cooked and ready to eat. You'd have a tough time doing that with this book.
Most of us spend 8 hours at work and up to an hour commuting each way. That's ten hours. Try and find a recipe in this book that cooks for ten hours. Most are four to five hours. You would come home to burnt cinders. Furthermore, many of them contain recipes that require attention every two hours or so needing a stir or more ingredients or turning the temperature down or - whatever.
And what's with publishers these days deciding that 6 point type is just way cool? Great if your audience is 14.
In hindsight I don't really know why I bought this book! I was carried away with my brand new slow cooker, all excited to be using it but determined not to get stuck using the same 2 or 3 recipes in it all the time. So, having looked online for recommendations for speciality slow cooker cookbooks I decided on this one, looking mainly at reviews for it rather than actually thinking about it!
I got my copy second hand but "as new" from Green Metropolis for £3.75, a great second hand book site where you can also sell your own unwanted books, for anyone that doesn't know it.
When it arrived it was pretty much how I'd been expecting it to be after reading the reviews...nothing mindblowing, but a nice little book nonetheless. I say it's not mindblowing as it's not what I consider to be a "real" cookbook, having been spoilt by the thick, luxurious hardbacks that are now commonplace thanks to the likes of Jamie, Hugh and Nigella! On the contrary, this is a little paperback book, maybe 5 inches wide by 7 inches high and about half an inch thick. And if you're expecting to find hundreds of glossy, tempting photographs inside, you're in for a big disappointment as there's not one, the photo on the front cover is the only one in sight (and is different on my copy to the one shown by DooYoo)!
What you will find, however, is a very handy little cookbook filled with great ideas for putting your slowcooker to use for things other than chilli, sausage casserole and chicken curry - ideal if you're anything like me! The beginning of the book deals with the necessary, but to me slightly dull, aspects of how to choose the right slow cooker for you, how to use one (and safely) and the cooking times and how they differ from normal ovens, although admittedly, this does only cover a handful of pages so isn't too taxing a read.
Then come the interesting bits, the recipes. These are divided neatly into 7 sections (soups and pates, seafood, meat, chicken and poultry, vegetarian, desserts and finally cakes, preserves and drinks), with a page dedicated to each recipe. The recipes themselves are very well laid out and easy to follow with a small introduction, cooking time (different timings for different heat settings are given where applicable), how many it serves, a list of ingredients and then, obviously, the method.
One of the things I like most about this book is the "Cook Smart" tips that are provided with many of the recipes. For example, at the bottom of the Mexican Bean Chowder recipe it tells you that, as you only need half a can of kidney beans, you could use the remainder of the can in the Easy Chilli Beanpot recipe and gives you the page number this can be found on. For me this is invaluable as I like to do my shopping weekly and so am quite OCD about planning my shopping list, so if I were to make a recipe only to find myself with half a can of beans leftover that would most likely end up festering in a bowl at the back of the fridge for heaven only knows how long, it would really tick me off!
Also, the recipes being aimed at either 1 or 2 servings, it gives helpful hints on what to do with any leftovers, whether it can be frozen or not and how to cook once it has been frozen.
This brings me back to my first line of if I'd thought about it more I probably wouldn't have bought this book because of the fact that the recipes are only for 1 or 2 people. I don't know why it didn't click in my head sooner, but my slow cooker is quite a big one (when I make a chilli in it I get 8 servings!), I think 3.5 litres from memory, so obviously recipes that only feed one person are not going to be cooked to the best outcome in such a big cooker, as I found out when I came home looking forward to our first meal fro my new cookbook!
I'd decided on the Irish Stew because a) it looked easy and b) it needed cooking for the amount of time we were going to be out. We came home from a very long and tiring bike ride, expecting a delicious stew to be awaiting us, took the lid off the slow cooker...only to find a tiny layer in the bottom of our cavernous ceramic pot that didn't look the slightest bit appetising! To be fair, I was stupid stupid stupid for not realising beforehand and it did still taste delicious, it just didn't look it!
So, after that first attempt I got wise and started trebling the ingredients I used in each recipe so that we'd have dinner, leftovers for lunch the next day and a portion for the freezer too. We've since tried many of the recipes and I can say without doubt that they've all been lovely. I don't know if I'd agree with the claim on the back cover that they are "of restaurant quality", but they really have been good. These include Cumberland Sausage Casserole (ok, so it's another sausage casserole, but it wasn't a packet mix this time!), Mexican Bean Chowder (which my asbestos-mouth husband thought could do with being spicier but to my tastes was just right!), Kedgeree, Moroccan Lamb Tagine, Vegetable and Nut Biryani and Puy Lentil Vegetable Casserole.
The vegetarian section in particular has been handy as my mother-in-law is veggie, so when we go out for the day with her I can stick everything in the slow cooker before we leave and when we get home she's amazed by what comes out of it (she's not the best or most experimental cook in the world, bless her, so she's easily impressed!) and can't understand that I haven't been slaving away for ages! And it's not just in the vegetarian section you'll find suitable recipes, there are others scattered through the other sections of the book, clearly marked by a V.
I haven't tried any of the puddings, cakes, preserves, drinks or pates yet...try as I might I just can't get my head around cooking something like that in a slow cooker. But one day I'll definitely get my brave up and have a go at some. The Cheese and Lentil Pate, Chocolate Almond Pudding, Whiskey Marmalade and Lemon Curd all tickle my taste buds! Who knew you could make lemon curd in a slow cooker???
The only thing I would say about this book is that when planning your meals you have to make sure you check the cooking time BEFORE you get started because many of them don't need to be in all day (which, to me at least, is the point of a slow cooker, being able to leave it cooking all day while I'm out at work or walking/cycling etc and being able to come home to a hot dinner without having to cook). The biryani previously mentioned, for example, only takes 1.5 hours and the chicken curry only 2-3 hours. Whilst I don't mind these kind of recipes on a weekend when I can stick everything in the slow cooker and leave it to work it's magic while I watch a film or something, they're no good for during the week, when I need to be able to leave things for at least 8 hours. In hindsight (again, this hindsight, what a marvellous thing!) I would have got a slow cooker with a timer!!
But that, really, is the only slight niggle I have with Slow Cooking Just For Yourself, and even that isn't really a bad niggle as there are plenty of 7/8/9 hours recipes provided too. So, having said I don't know why I bought this book, I'm infinitely glad that I did and it has vastly expanded my slow cooker repertoire! Even the lack of photo's doesn't really put me off as it does with other cook books (yes, I'm talking about you Nigel Slater and your Real Fast Puddings!) because, to be honest, slow cooking isn't really about producing eye-catching dishes, it's about economical and time-saving cooking.
This book is part of a series which also includes Slow Cooking From Around The World, Slow Cooking for Vegetarians, Slow Cooking Curry and Spice Dishes and Real Food From Your Slow Cooker and, based on what this book has so far done for my slow cooking, I would definitely consider buying others, particularly the veggie and spicy ones.
The RRP is £7.99 and I paid, as I said, £3.75, and it's currently available on Amazon for £5.78. But I would definitely pay the full price for this book without feeling cheated.
Slow Cooking for Yourself - restaurant quality food - ready when you walk through your door! By Catherine Atkinson
ISBN 978-0-572-03150-3 Foulsham
I became a devotee of slow cooking as a convenient & economical way of cooking when I was working full-time & I already possess other books on slow cooking. Since working part time there is less money available for eating out. Our household size has reduced recently & like many people we are looking for ways to eat well with minimal waste so I was pleasantly surprised to find a cookbook that specifically dealt with slow cooking for two people. I wanted recipes that gave me the flexibility to cook separate meals if I felt like it. This book does that, as I can cook one meal in the slow cooker & something else in the standard oven if I want to. The fact that my other half & I have different tastes in food made it even more appealing. Some of the recipes are for one portion, some for two. There are plenty of recipes that appeal to both of us, thankfully, though! An added attraction was that I knew of Catherine Atkinson's reputation as an author on slow cooking.
Each section is clearly but simply set out on a new page. There are no illustrations or photographs. I have others in this series & it appears to have been an editorial decision not to illustrate.
The introductory section is concise but informative, covering topics like 'choosing your slow cooker' & how to look after your equipment. The section on Cooking Times includes suggestions of how to adapt timings if different settings are used, e.g. 6-8 hours on low translates to 4-6 on auto or medium, or 3-4 on high.
Slow cooker safety includes typical temperatures for each setting, and details of the temperature at which bacteria are destroyed [74˚C, 165˚F] Hints & tips suggests, for instance, the best type of rice to use in a slow cooker. The book is written primarily with the British user in mind, but terms for users in the USA are given in brackets.
There is a separate section of Vegetarian recipes, but there are more are to be found throughout the book, clearly marked with a stylised 'v' at the top of the relevant page. We are not vegetarians, but do like to have meat free days, so this was handy.
The recipes by chapter are as follows:[I think I have counted correctly!]
Soups & pates - 9 soups, 2 pates, 1 terrine
Seafood - 14 recipes. Most of these are ready in under 3 hours.
Meat - 20 recipes
Chicken & poultry - 13 recipes
Vegetarian - 15 recipes, although 7 in the starters section are suitable for variations & the fish section has the vegetarian alternative pasta bake.
Desserts - 15 recipes, all marked as suitable for vegetarians, with several alternative ideas. The last one is for a light Christmas Pudding to serve 2.
Cakes, Preserves & Drinks - 3 cakes, 2 drinks, 3 preserves
Cuisines: Italian, French, South African, Irish, Moroccan, Caribbean, Mexican are among those represented - a wide and exciting variety for a book of this size!
There is no information on nutritional content, calorie count, fat & salt levels etc. I feel this is an oversight with the current concerns about obesity levels and healthy eating generally.
Many recipes have a 'Cook Smart' focus box which give tips, for instance, on preparation of ingredients, how to use up a second half of a tin of beans to avoid waste or recipe variations. Sometimes you are directed to another recipe to do this. I think this is a great idea!
All recipes that make two servings or more [the chicken liver pate, for instance, makes 4 portions] give suggestions for use of the second serving. This is particularly useful if you're cooking just for one.
I think there may be a mistake in the spicy maple ribs recipe where the insert box says 'maple syrup is not suitable for these sticky ribs'. I think it should say 'ordinary syrup' because you clearly can use maple syrup, with clear honey being the best alternative.
It would be quite easy to use some of the recipes to feed three people, as portions are quite generous. To feed four, many recipes could be doubled in quantity. I've tried 37 of the recipes myself to date & have enjoyed all of them. My personal favourite is probably Vegetable & Nut Biryani, which I can make just for myself in less than 2 hours!
Currently available from Amazon UK at £5.82 with free delivery; Kindle version is £5.53.
There has always been this sort of mystique about good cooking that chefs do little to dispel because basically they want to keep themselves in jobs and get you out visiting their often expensive restaurants as often as possible. Granted I'm as susceptible as the next person to a lovely evening out in a nice restaurant, but like the majority of people most of my meals are eaten in my own home.
When you have a busy lifestyle as myself and my wife do then it can be very easy to slip into a rut when it comes to cooking, and fall back on old favourite dishes that you know you enjoy and which don't take too long to prepare. (Mince, fries, steaks, chops, salads, etc) The trouble is that after a while the old favourites have a tendency to become commonplace and a little stale, and it's then you begin to look around for something to stimulate your jaded palate.
Well Gordon Ramsay eat your heart out! The secret to easy and simple gourmet cooking is to own a slow cooker. We've always owned a slow cooker in our household, ever since we first received one as a wedding present over 20 years ago. When my wife and I were both working full time the evening meal would often be left happily bubbling away in one of these beauties for around 10 hours while the two of us were out and about earning the spondoolicks. But since my wife gave up full time employment about 6 years ago it's tended to lie neglected in the back of a kitchen cupboard.
That is until we came across this marvelous cookery book by Catherine Atkinson, "Slow Cooking For Yourself", packed full of delicious recipes solely for slow cookers. We actually bought three of the books on Amazon as Christmas presents for various friends, but after a quick glance through it once it arrived one of them was immediately appropriated for our own use.
Catherine Atkinson is a renowned Cordon Bleu cook who has worked in many fine hotels and restaurants, most notably the patisseries of the famous Roux brothers. (Michelin starred restaurants) She has an Honours degree in Home Economics and worked for years as the deputy cookery editor of publications like "Woman's Weekly" and "Me" magazine. Now she concentrates her talents on producing marvelous cookbooks like the one I am reviewing here.
"Slow Cooking For Yourself" is a 127 page cookbook published back in 2005 that is packed full of totally delicious, scrumptious recipes for you to prepare using a slow cooker. It's aimed mainly at single people or couples with a busy lifestyle that doesn't leave much surplus time for cooking elaborate meals, but who nevertheless enjoy eating well.
If you enjoy your food, and especially if you're a meat eater (carnivore) like me, then this book is definitely for you, as it is chock a block with recipes for pork, beef, lamb and poultry dishes. Vegetarians might find the recipes just a wee bit thin on the ground though, and would probably be better going for another cookbook more designed with their tastes in mind.
The recipes are mostly for two people, but if you are cooking for more it's simple enough to increase the amount of recommended ingredients. The book is well laid out in different sections, has plenty of illustrations to whet your taste buds, and the author also describes each dish in detail rather than just printing a bare list of ingredients. It's also very simple to follow, even for a cretin in the kitchen like me who can manage to burn a boiled egg!
It contains recipes for all different types of ethnic meals such as French, Italian, Chinese, Thai, etc so all different tastes are catered for. About 10 to 15 minutes will prepare the ingredients for your meal. Then you simply pop it into your slow cooker and forget about it until it's time to serve it up. Ah, isn't simplicity just great?
The cookbook is an absolute bargain at a mere £5.99 at Amazon in the UK. (With free delivery)
© KenJ December 2008