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Being a recent convert to my local library and discovering that they not only have novels galore to read but also shelves and shelves full of cookbooks got me more excited than I should perhaps admit to! I love cookbooks and yes, would probably consider myself to have a slight addiction. I just can't help myself...as you've probably gathered from my numerous cookcook reviews! So finding out that I can 'try before I buy' by getting them from the library first has really helped my bank balance and has stopped the intermittent groaning that used to come from my kitchen shelf! I can now cut back on the number of cookbooks I buy as I can determine whether I'll really use them or not first.
One that I picked up from my library around a month ago is Tana Ramsey's Family Kitchen. I'd obviously heard of Tana Ramsey, but mostly because of her famous, swearing husband and, although I had realised she was also a cookery writer I'd never read any of her books or tried her recipes. I suppose initially I was slightly put off because of Gordon. Don't get me wrong, I quite like watching him on tv, although i'm not what you'd call an avid fan, but I've never been tempted to try and of his cookbooks as I was under the impression that they would probably be full of 'grown-up, posh' food and that's not really what we're about in my house. I'm a Yorkshire lass and my husband is Cumbrian through and through so food to us is wholesome, hearty, tasty and simple usually. None of those funny, hard to find ingredients that are only available from one deli in London and none of that arty farty fancy looking plates of food. Give us a good dollop of nosh any day!
As I was getting the book at no cost for 3 weeks I decided to give Tana a try as the front cover stated that it contained "simple and delicious recipes for every family". That sounded right up my street so home it came (and has since been renewed) and it has been in pretty much constant use ever since! I'm not working at the moment, so have recently gained lots more time at home meaning I can make all our meals from scratch using fresh ingredients and also have the time, ability and inclination to try out more new recipes. I always try and vary our menus every week but to be honest it can get difficult finding inspiration. This book has made me try new things and also increased my repertoire.
The book itself looks and feels to be of good quality. It is a hardbacked book, the same size as most "celebrity" chef books seem to be nowadays and has nice thick pages that aren't at all easy to rip (not that I've tried to rip them, obviously, just that none have actually ripped whilst I've been using it!) and although previous renters of this book have also obviously used it a bit and there are little splash marks and food stains here and there it hasn't affected the quality inside and all recipes are still perfectly readable.
It is set out into the following sections:
-Trying new tastes
-Cooking from the cupboard
-Cooking in advance
Although personally I prefer cookery books to be laid out by main ingredient for ease of finding recipes quickly, I also quite like the layout of this one. I especially like the cooking from the cupboard section as this uses ingredients everyone has stocked in their cupboard and which I tend to buy in multiples when on special offer like tins of tomatoes, and the cooking in advance section. When we have people round for dinner I much prefer to make something in advance that then just needs reheating to a) take the stress of cooking away and b) enable me to spend more time chatting and socialising.
The thing I like most about Tana ramsey's style of cooking and writing about it is that she, like me, wants to provide her loved ones with healthy, simple homecooked meals and, whilst we don't have children yet, this is a book that can be adapted to suit any family situation. It has recipes for all occasions such as bolognaise or pasta sauces for every day and lemon and cranberry baked cheescakes for when you need a sweet treat or a special desert. She includes something for all mealtimes from breakfast to dinner via after school/work snacks and acknowledges that most people will probably spend as little time as possible in the kitchen during the week and maybe spend that little bit extra in there cooking something more special on a weekend. She advocates things like making big batches of a recipe so there is some left to freeze so you always have something to fall back on and she also gives useful little tips about getting your children to try new tastes and foods and getting them involved in the cooking process.
Whilst all the personal anecdotes are nice and give the book a very friendly feel most of them weren't really applicable to me, having no children, but I still find this an extremely useful book to have. It provides alternatives for things like breakfasts which, when we have our "special" weekend breakfasts can soon make the calories mount up but the breakfast selection in here is varied and, again, focuses on fresh ingredients, so whilst you still feel like you're having a treat on a Sunday morning it's not doing too much damage to your waisline!
If I had one slight criticism of this cookbook it would be that it has obviously been written from a "well to do" persons perpective and I think there are quite a few recipes which use ingredients which would make them out of the budgets of most households unless being used as a rare treat. The fish chowder, for example, has 2lbs of fish in it. When I buy haddock from my fishmoger it's around £4 for 1/2 a pound so that, straight away, is a recipe that would be off my radar - unfortunate really, as fish is one of my favourites. Another would be king prawn and monkfish curry. With 1lb of tiger prawns and 1.5lbs of monkfish I dread to think how much this would cost!
Having said that, these expensive recipes are few and far between and, if we were having guests for dinner, then I would probably splash out and treat us all, but for an average every day meal I wouldn't consider them. On the other side of the coin, though, the vast majority of her recipes use things we would all most likely use in our cooking anyway, chicken, vegetables, spices and most of these would fall easily within most houses budgets. Some of the best ones we've tried so far have been her bolognaise recipe (as she says, a great way of getting more veg into a meal as it contains celery, courgette, carrot and mushrooms - and I add a pepper too), the cauliflower and broccoli cheese which sounds basic and bland but, with the addition of streaky bacon andmustard really isn't and is a good meal in itself and the leek and bacon pie, which is just gorgeous!
The recipes in this book are all laid out really clearly so they are easy to follow. Most of them have a double paged spread each with the recipe on the left and a nice photograph - sometimes just of the dish, sometimes of a nice family scene - on the right. There is a clearly defined list of ingredients and a concise method that is easy to read through and work with, not too wordy and overly long like some cookbooks can be. Helpfully, she also provides information about how many people it will feed and how long it will take to both prepare and cook - information that, to me, is vital in a cookbook but which seems to be lacking in a surprising number of them!
With a RRP of £20 I'm glad I got the chance to try this book before buying it because buying it I most certainly will be. There are too many nice recipes in it for it not to have a permanent place on my kitchen shelf and when I take my library copy back I will most definitely be investing. A quick look online shows it is currently available for around £9 on Amazon which I think is a fair price to pay for a quality cookbook filled with such useful recipes. Not only will I be buying this but I like Tana's style so much that I'll be looking out for other books by her and she may well replace Rachel Allen as my favourite lady food writer - gasp!
As my only criticism of this book would be the prices of some of the ingredients I'm not going to mark it down a star just for that. Most of the recipes would fall within my budget and the ones which don't would just be earmarked for special occasion use at some point in the future instead. Overall this book deserves 5 stars as it's full of healthy, wholesome, homecooked food for families, helping mothers know exactly what they're putting into their children (and helping me know exactly what I'm putting into my husband!).
I've just had this book for my birthday, at first I thought - how can I compete!
I had a good read through and I really liked the way it was laid out and how she writes, it sounds like a lovely cosy family home and has inspired me to have something ready for when the kids come home from school! hopefully something they'll remember.
I love the pictures although not every recipe has a picture - I do tend to like to see the finished article in cook books - lets me know how it's meant to look!!! however I have tried the cauliflower & brocilli cheese and yum how tasty! I have also tried a few of the other recipes already.
I like the chapters of the book; Breakfast, lunch bites, tea-time treats, trying new tastes, cooking from the cupboard, after-school suppers, cooking in advance, weekend lunches, puddings and party food.
There are some fab and different ideas especially in the party food, trying new tastes and lunch bites which has ideas for sandwich fillers. It's very practical and doesn't seem to have too many ingredients that I haven't got.
They all look like a happy family in most of the pictures, I just wonder how lovely it all really is!! plus they have a huge family kitchen which helps so the kids don't get under your feet when they're trying to help! sometimes I look at the book and think - I can't live up to that, but then I think go on girl give it a go!!
A good buy I see it's £8.99 on play.com.
I was recommened this book by one of my mummy friends who used it all the time. I was very sceptical to buy a celebrity Chefs wifes cook book! talk about a career on the back of your husband!!! I have however used this book many many times more than I have the 4 or 5 Gordon Ramsay books I have on the kitchen shelf. I have found it a real winnner with the my kids, the family and also when I have done a massive 1 pot supper for lots and lots of people!!!
The contents is broken down into the following caterories-
*Tea time treats
*Trying new things
*Cooking rom the cupboard
*Cooking in advance
A nice easy to follow index that for me works really well. Now, I am mindfull that the Ramsays have a truck load of money behind them, and that is a little evident in the very first recipe. School rush smoothies. The very first is Mango mania...while is yummy, it contains 1 bango, 1 banana and orange juice. My kids would love it, but I canlt afford to spend £3.00 per child knocking up smoothies for them as well as a fibre-full breakfast!!! Max and Lara would wolf down a tenners worth without batting an eyelid!!! They are wonderful, Berry blast (also witha whole mango in it!) Green monkey which is 4 kiwi's, 1 banana and apple juice. I think these will be a real treat. I think I would rather give the kids the actual fruit, but mine are fruit lovers and I simply don'e struggle to get the 5 a day down them.
The rest of the breakfast stuff is lovely. Full of home baked scones, cobblers, mushrooms on toast. Nothing out of the ordinary, but simply puts the ideas as the front of your mind!
Another fave in our house is Ham and cheese muffins. chock full of paprika, mustard, honey roast ham and mature cheddar. they are lovely, and can be frozen for a simple snack, supper and even a breakfast!
The absolute winner that we have tried, that is a total faff, its tasty, flavoursome, but better if 2 of you make it together is the stuffed potato cakes. Flour, potato and salt. Its stuffed with a pine nut maroccan lamb, cinnamon, tomato and apricot to name but a few.....its then fried. its the most amazing flavoursome thing ever!! Worth buying the book just for them!!! I warn you, its really hard work, an evening cooking and preping, but if you follow the recipe to the letter, you will not be disappointed!!!!!
Tana also touches on classic baking, bikkies, flap-jacks, cakes and even party cakes. It really has something for all abilites.
The layout is clear and easy to follow. Each recipe has a picture to accompany it, which I think is very important!!!!
I have not had a failed recipe from this book. Great to flick through on a Sunday to plan the weeks family dinners and lunches. Even gives packed lunch advice, freezing and cooking in advance tips.
Go line the Ramsays pockets a little more with this family essntial cook book!
List price is £12.99. so not a bad price, Amazon at the moment have it at £6.93 new.
As a lover of cookery books, but someone who rarely cooks from them, I was on the lookout for a book that would not only be a good 'read' but one that I could get a few decent recipes from, ones I would actually have the time and ingredients to cook. This one stood out and did not disappoint.
The book is divided into several sections, starting with breakfast and snack chapters, moving onto family dinners and party food. There is a section on baking treats suitable for lunchboxes, and one on puddings. All family occasions are catered for and the recipes are simple yet look appetising. There don't seem to be any strange ingredients that would be difficult to get. Some of the recipes are so simple that you think 'why haven't I thought to make that before?', for example the ham and cheese muffins.
I've only really been cooking from the book since I've had more time on my hands after going on maternity leave, however I can recommend all the dishes I have made - the leek and bacon pie, the ham and cheese muffins and the choc chip cookies. Next on the agenda? The danish pastry pizzas and maybe the orange and lemon slices.
The main selling point of this book for me is the appeal of the recipes. I don't want to see 101 different ways to make salads, I don't want to use expensive ingredients, I want simple family food that I can make quickly in the evenings, but that will give us a bit of variety. So many of the books I own seem to focus on the same type of recipe, or just don't seem to have dishes in that I would cook, however nice the pictures. Maybe that's just me, maybe this book is more to my personal taste. But I actually WANT to cook these recipes, rather than look at the pictures and move on.
Some of the recipes make a little too much for me - for example the leek and bacon pie will feed 8 people, which I didn't notice, but I just made it into 2 pies and froze one of them. The choc chip cookies made 40, luckily I read ahead and halved the quantities. Though this might be a disadvantage for me, for others with larger families it would be fine. The recipes are easy to adapt to however many you want anyway.
There are so many suitable dishes for simple family food that I can see this book lasting a long time. It is one of the only cookery books I own that I will use as intended - to cook from!
I wouldn't want the job of cooking for Gordon Ramsay when he gets home of an evening, so I can only take my hat off to Tana Ramsay for not only doing it but also finding the time to put together a recipe book.
The layout of the book is very simple. It is divided into ten chapters as follows:
Breakfast - All manner of breakfast recipes from fruit smoothies to a Full English with plenty in between. Some of the recipes, such as the Fruit Gratin and the smoked haddock kedgeree look a bit fiddly to be messing around with first thing in the morning and are perhaps better suited to more leisurely weekend breakfasts or brunches, but others such as the porridge with blueberries are spot on.
Lunch Bites - a whole host of recipes for things to put in your child's (or your own) lunch box. The ham and cheese muffins and danish pastry pizzas are particularly nice.
Tea Time Treats - sweet snacks to tide over little and big tummies until dinner time. They are as close as Tana Ramsay comes to junk food, but even then she tries to include fruit where possible, for instance in the banana and apple loaf.
Trying New Tastes - this chapter demonstrates ways of introducing a wider variety of flavours to finicky eaters. Mostly savoury snack recipes, but she also includes a section of interesting soups.
Cooking From The Cupboard - this is my favourite section. A bunch of recipes designed to be made from ingredients that you have lying around. Unlike some cookery writers, she realises that the things people actually have lying around in their cupboards are things like cheese and pasta, not orange blossom essence and juniper berries. They are all dinner recipes and I don't think any of them take more than an hour to prepare and cook.
After School Suppers - Dinner recipes for when you have managed to go out to the Supermarket that day!
Cooking In Advance - more dinner recipes, but this time with slightly more exotic ingredients and longer preparation times. These recipes would be fine to serve up at informal dinner parties. Still nothing too taxing though and still do-able when you get home from work.
Weekend Lunches - delicious Saturday lunch meals including some that could also be adapted to work as dinners.
Puddings - easy recipes that are designed to look impressive and taste delicious. The Raspberry Meringue Bomb is a favourite of mine, purely because it takes ten minutes to cobble together.
Party Food - tasty and (relatively) healthy recipes for children's' party snacks. They find that elusive middle ground between all-you-can-eat-pizzas-and-sausage-rolls and the 'carrot sticks and yoghurt' brigade.
At the end of the book she also includes a nutrition section called 'A Bit About Vitamins And Minerals' I found this quite useful as it tells you everything you need to know about what your body needs and where to find it, without going into too much scientific detail.
The recipes Tana includes in her book are focussed on families who want to provide nutritious yet tasty food for their kids and themselves with the minimum of effort and fuss. She doesn't list any ingredients that you can't find in a small supermarket and there are no recipes that include a teaspoon of some random, expensive ingredient that you'll never use again. The book is designed to be very family-friendly, down to the clear type face and the (many, many) pictures of Tana and her children.
The best thing about this book is the fact that the recipes are about as easy as you can get without resorting to Turkey Twizzlers. The only gripe I have about it is that I counted 48(!) full-page pictures of Tana and her kids in it. Your children are cute. You love them. We get it. A few more pictures of the actual food wouldn't go amiss.
In summary, if you want to rely on one book to provide inspiration for your family dinners (and breakfasts, and snacks....) then I'd say go for this one. There's absolutely nothing sophisticated about it, but that's not what kids are after, is it?
Tana Ramsay, glamorous, down-to-earth wife of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and hands-on mother of four, has written a cookbook every family will swear by - but not in the traditional Gordon way. Widely renowned for being the bedrock of the Ramsay household, Tana shows time-pressed parents how easy it is to cook for the most demanding of families. Tana Ramsay is much admired for her strong family values and for her hands-on approach with her and celebrity chef Gordon's young family. Tana shows time-pressed parents how easy it is to cook healthy meals that all the family will enjoy - no matter what age or how demanding they may be. As well as over 100 recipes, this beautiful and practical cookbook includes hints and tips on: how to simply adapt dishes to suit different ages and tastes; how to encourage children to experiment with food; how to cut corners with a vast array of handy cooking and shopping hints.