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The irony of this book is that it has a retail price of £6.99 however I managed to get a copy in my local library from their books for sale section for 25p in a bag with other books, so I guess it is a credit crunch cookbook in every sense for me.
I liked the idea of this book, I've read so many cook books to understand better the dynamics of making the most of the food we buy each week, I've read recipe books based on second world war rations, books based around making meals for the next day with leftovers and the title of this book alone was enough for me to consider it well worth the 25p I might otherwise have spent on a packet of chewing gum.
The book is fine, I really can't complain for the price, but it is fairly basic and I definitely wouldn't have paid the £6.99 Recommended retail price for this book, the pictures are basic and the book works more on the premise that lots of the items you need are simply in your home, it also offers fairly basic advice on using leftovers, bones etc to make meals and stocks and soups, none of this was particularly new to me and therefore I found it a bit condescending.
The book has a pretty ugly feel as it is colour schemed and this makes reading some of the recipes a bit disorientating, it is trying to be funky and easy to read, but simply looks a bit basic.
I found some of the meals well out of my price range and as we've recently got rid of our deep fat fryer whilst searching for an improved version, we couldn't make a lot of the other items such as Fish and Chips, Samosas etc, as it wouldn't be practical.
The book is a real mixed bag with two or three really interesting menus which you could use, but some of the other meals really aren't practical or even accessible for a family on a budget.
The Credit Crunch Cookbook
Subtitled 'delicious recipes and clever ideas' for cooking on a budget is by Hamlyn. It has an RRP of just £6.99 but can be found cheaper online or in The Works where I got mine for £2.99.
The physicality of the book is that it is paperback but with a sturdier gloss cover. The pages themselves are very smooth and largely repel and lasting stains. Given the price, the quality of the spine is good - it is easy to keep pages open on a recipe on its own.
This book does not contain any photographs of the dishes, however I do not find this a hinderance. The pages themselves are bright and bold, comprising a mix of white, pink and blue, sometimes with superimposed line drawings of foods/utensils.
The book begins with a four page introduction setting out its ethos of cooking well on a budget.
The first section is called "waste not want not" and begins with two introductory subsections - "being careful" and "think before you throw." The former gives tips on buying only the amounts you need both physically and economically. The second details how to deal with food that is otherwise safe to eat but that you might otherwise throw away.
This then leads on to an 'egg' subsection which gives some very simple, useful and easy-to-follow information on reducing wastage (especially when using just the yolk or white.) as well as on storage.
There is also an undetailed list of recipes (not included in this book, but still quite simple) that could be used to use up eggs. This then leads into a number of egg recipes - eg strawberry parfait, goats cheese and bacon tart.
Then on with dairy products. In particular there is a very useful section which details individual dairy products and how they can be stored more effectively and for how long.
Bread comes next, then potatoes. The potatoes section contains a number of recipes some of which only require a couple lines of description - potato salad and some which need more detailed descriptions - "massaman curry."
This is followed by pasta and rice, which gives specific information on how to measure potions accurately - a common cause of food wastage. This also containes some short recipes on how to use any of it which is leftover. Some of these I feel are especially useful as lunchbox or picnic options eg pasta salads.
Next - beans and pulses which gives specific information how to make the best of them both through cooking tips and ways of using them in everyday cooking.
Following this comes fish and seafood with some basic tips on how to buy fish etc with confidence. Something here that may be particularly useful for parents is the section on how to prepare fish for children.
Next is some information on poultry - this section is particularly focussed on ethical issurs surrounding chicken farm - explaining that how by following tipes on how to make the most out of the bird, thereby giving the maximum number of meals out of it - you may well be able to afford buying a more ethically reared bird. This is followed by a couple of recipes including an incredibly simple and useful leftover chicken risotto recipe.
We then move onto meat which details cheaper cuts of meat and how they can be used. (There are also some tips on how to get children more involved in the kitchen.) A whole page is givenover to slow cooking - especially useful if cooking the suggested cheaper cuts of meat which can be more fibrous. As somebody who has just invested in a slow cooker, I found this especially useful.
Following this is a page on how to use up barbecue leftovers. I found this also especially useful as I often find that we cook too much on the barbecue and I lack confidence or what to do with it afterwards. This is followed by a couple of recipes including chunky beef and bean chilli fajitas.
Next comes vegetables. I often find that I have various vegetables left over at the end of the weekly shopping period and that I do not know what to do with it. Here I have found some easy and effective ways of maximising the quality and longevity of the vegetables that I buy through effective storage. Thre are also some simple recipe tips which can be applied to using up a wide variety of vegetables eg curry, pilaf. This is followed by an absultately smashing samosa recipe.
Finally in the part of the book comes fruit - something which can also perish all too easily if not dealt with appropriately. Aongside standard storage tips there are the basics of preparing use up dishes such as compotes and fruit salads. This is followed by simple recipes for tarte tatin which is on my todo list but looks pretty straightforward.
We then get into the recipes good and proper with the 'budget basics" section - split into subsection itself. Firstly, light meas which being with soups - the minestrone soup is a particular find, and onto the likes of quiche Lorraine and omelette, boston baked beans and stuffed vegetables with cheesy couscous. These recipes are broken up by a two page section on lunchbox basics.
The next section is for main meals which contains a section on balancing your budget which assists with helping the reader work out how much each meal is actually costing and how to make savings in some ways so that you can spend more where it matters. Typical meals in this section include: chicken and spinach ( a really nice hearty meal), chicken and lemon paella, sauage and bean casserole (now on my regular rotation) and shepherd's pie. There is also a great pumpkin and root vegetable stew, which I have found can last a few days if you just top up the ingredients if you need greater quantities.
We then move on to 'sweet things' which has a section on how to 'feed and fill kids' with tips on particular nutrient groups and how to make sure your child has enough of these as well as tips on how to deal with picky eater and ensure they are still taking in nutrients. There is another subsection on making edible gifts such as preserves, james, hampers and food boxes. Typical recipes include: instant apple crumbles, banoffi pie, chocolate refrigerator cake (which sets rather than being baked.), cinnamon doughnuts.
The next section of the book is entitled 'impress for less' focussed primarily on foods for entertaining and celebrating, whilst still on a budget. The starters include pork patties with soured cream and dill sauce, lemon and herb chicken wings, spicy maple ribs, potted prawns. Sides include: scalloped potatoes, rosti, roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic, colcannon, roast vegetables. As regards mains, there is an absolutely fantastic potroast chicken in cider recipe which is a favourite of mine, pork steaks with apples and mustard mash, steak and mushroom pie, braised fish with lentils, chickpea chole etc. Desserts include lavender crème brulees (?!), chocolate risootos, caramelized orange and pineapple, red berry terrine.
Further to these recipes there were also sections on how to create a weekly menu with a number of different themes, how to do a supermarket shop in order to buy ahead, how to buy quality, healthy ingredients, how to shop 'wisely' - that is by giving serious consideration to how you think as you pick things up in a supermarket and also how to use your freezer effectively.
The next section is entitled 'dine in' - that is, special meals that you can prepare easily at home from a number of different cuisines. Italian recipes include - margherita pizzas, gnocchi, lasagne al forno, meatballs in a spicy sauce, carbonara, risotto. Mexican ideas include - spicy nachos with cheese, fajitas, chilli con carne, churros. From the Indian chapter we find - samosas, koftas, tandoori chicken, spinach dahl, kashmiri chicken. Thai recipes include - chicken satay, green curry, beef and ginger salad, fried rice with beans and tofu. And finally the Chinese suggestions - eg spring rolls, eggfried rice, spare ribs, Peking toffee apples.
Additional sections include - storecupboard basics (the ingredients to keep around in order to produce a wide range of cheap, simple dishes), 'getting the quantities right' - information on portion control and how to minimise food wastage, eating seasonally - including a really great food chart which clearly indicates with popular foods and when it is best to eat them, grow your own fruit and veg - basic tips on how to choose the produce to grow, fancy food for less - cheap ways to make simple but impressive starters and desserts.
If you have read my reviews before then you will know that I am already a really big fan of Hamlyn cookbooks and this is no exception. What sets this apart from the others that I have is that this one has the additional information advice apart from the recipe - not just the budgetary advice that you would expect from the title but simple common-sense advice on hw to get more out of your food via storage and longevity and therefore reducing food wastage.
I really like the variety of recipes included, most of which are time-efficient and easy enough to make as an after-work meal. The ingredients used are easily accessible, emphasising on the type of foodstuffs that you are likely to keep in your cupboards anyway - thereby cost effective. It also shows really good ways of making decent meals out of the type of foods that are cheapest without having to compromise nutritionally.
I have done a number of meals from this book and have found them to be easy to follow, not overly complicated and turn out well. I also have got a lot of 'keeper' recipes from this that are in my regular rotation. It is good that a lot of work has gone into making the meals suitable for being on a budget without being dull or generic - recognising that just because you cannot always afford to have endless pricey ingredients in your cupboards but that should not mean that if you enjoy cooking that you should have to compromise entirely on taste and just the general enjoyment that comes from cooking.
There are no photographs in this book but that is not really necessary because the recipes are not really based on presentation. The book itself is colourful, clear, well presented, modern and inviting.
The RRP of this book is £6.99, which is not a bad price in itself, however I picked mine up from The Works for £2.99 which is excellent value - and particularly apt given the ethos of this book.
In conclusion, this is a really useful and enjoyable cookbook and read without necessarily being an essential addition to your average cookbook collection. You may also find that some of the advice given within contains information that saves you a lot of money in the long term, over and beyond showing how to prepare reasonably priced and tasty meals.