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The only f word in this Ramsey's cookbook is 'family'!
Tana Ramsay's Family Kitchen - Tana Ramsay
Member Name: redhead78
Tana Ramsay's Family Kitchen - Tana Ramsay
Advantages: Healthy, hearty, unpretentious, every day recipes
Disadvantages: Some ingredients are a little pricey, but not many of them
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!).
Summary: A fab cookbook that definitely deserves a permanent place on my kitchen shelf
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