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I recieved my copy of "The Little Book of Chefs' Tips" for Christmas in 2011, along with another couple of titles from the same "Little Book" series. I like cooking and one of my favourite parts of reading a new cook book is often the hints and tip sections. If there is a way to do something in the kitchen quicker or easier, I want to know about it! So I was looking forward to reading a book that contained nothing but these sort of handy hints.
The author, Richard Maggs is not a cookery writer that I had previously heard of. He is described in the book as a professional chef so he is obviously perfectly qualified to write about this subject. He is in fact the author of 8 previous books, and he is apparently also the resident expert on a Aga cooking website.
The book itself is not anything much to look at, but the price is just £3.50 so I am not surprised it isn't stuffed with pictures. I don't think that photos would add anything to the content really, as the advice is straightforward to follow and doesn't need pictorial demonstations. Each tip has a two page spread which may sound like a lot of space to give to a few lines of information until you realise that the book measures only 10cm by 12cm approximately. They weren't joking when they called the series Little. It is a paperback, but unlike some small ones, it has stood up to repeated reading without falling apart at the spine.
The back of the book describes the tips as gathered from professional kitchens from all over the world but there are not many that seem specific to international cuisine really. For example, there are not many centred around preparing or using exotic ingredients. However, the existing tips do cover quite a range of subjects. I did wonder whether the majority of the hints would be the sort that come in almost every cookery book, such as to flour pastry cutters between use to prevent the dough sticking. These are good tips in themselves but I was hoping to read something that was new to me. Thankfully, while there are a few of those basic bits of advice, the majority of the information included is more unusual. The hints are not organised by type but as the book is short, it won't take you long to read the whole thing through. This also helps to make up for the fact that there is no index - it would otherwise be annoying trying to wade through lots of info to find the tip you wanted to try. I have found lots of usable advice - for example how to keep a Hollandaise or similar type sauce warm and ready to serve for some time without keeping it on the heat too long and curdling it. The simple idea of pressing cooked spinach through a potato ricer to rid it of excess water is a great time saver when you cook vast quantities of spinach as I do. [I love the stuff and should resemble Popeye by now.] My favourite tip of all involves brandy snaps. It is one that I had actually read before but I had forgotten about and this book describes an easier method in any case. It involves softening ready made brandy snap baskets in the oven and then reshaping them into sturdy and attractive little toffee baskets that you can serve a dessert in. You have to wait for them to set but it doesn't take long and looks like you have gone to a lot more trouble than you have. All the tips I have tried have actually worked and saved either trouble or time. Many more would be especially useful to new cooks because they involve correcting mistakes - such as putting too many chillis in a dish, or too much salt. All in all there are 50 hints in this little book, and they all feel like they were worth including to me. I have found that some of the other books in the series seem to stretch their content out too much to fill the 50 tips requirement that the series has. That isn't the case with this one though.
I would recommend the book because while it isn't the longest, it's price of £3.50 reflects that. The 50 tips may be by professional chefs but they are still the sort of thing you can use in your own kitchen. I have learnt lots of interesting things from reading the book and the advice has genuinely helped me when cooking. I have read it more than once, to remind myself of things I had wanted to try but didn't straight away. Being small, it is no trouble to keep it for reference on my bookshelves. It would make a good small gift or stocking filler for someone, which is how I recieved my copy. Overall, I would recommend it to those interested in cooking.
[This review is also on Ciao under the same user name.]