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When my boyfriend recently moved in with me, a number of his possessions moved in with him, including this cookbook. I have to say, having only known him to cook scrambled eggs, I was surprised to see that he owned a cookbook - until I realised that it was in pristine condition and had never been used. Never mind - as someone that enjoys cooking myself, I was sure I could get some use out of it .
Being a student cookbook, the recipes are aimed at people that may be living away from home for the first time, and just learning to cook for themselves. I suspect this is the reason that the book doesn't simply launch right into the recipes, but has a brief introduction of the benefits of preparing meals from scratch, explaining that it works out much cheaper, and usually much healthier, than existing on take-away food. It then explains the importance of eating well and having a balanced diet, and includes a few practical tips - most very basic, such as ensuring you eat five portions at least of fruit and veg a day .
The next few chapters discuss preparing food safety - cooking it through entirely, how to safely store food, and using different chopping boards for meat and veg . All very basic stuff, but stuff that perhaps someone cooking for themselves for the first time might not know . Then, we have a brief chapter on essential kitchen equipment, and one listing essential ingredients that can form the basis of a cheap and easy meal.
Now we move onto the recipes, which are divided into 6 chapters : Potatoes, Pasta, Rice and Grains,Bread and Flour, Vegetables and Beans, and Snacks and Standbys. At this point, I became greatful for the index, as I am used to my cookbooks being a little more advanced, and generally being divided into courses, or into meat/fish/poultry etc.
The recipes in this book are very simple . In fact, there are a fair few non-recipes - simple instructions on how to boil and egg or a potato. The actual recipes themselves are usually three or four step recipes, and in most cases use ten or less ingredients. None of them use any particularly exotic or hard to find spices or ingredients - and this is perhaps one of the first criticisms I can level at this book- of the recipes I have prepared from this book, if I stick strictly to the recipe many taste bland and under seasoned.
There are no photographs of any of the recipes, which is another disappointment for me - I do like photographs as they give me a good indication of what the finished dish should look like and how to serve it. On the plus side, each recipe has the difficulty level indicated, as well as the time it takes to prepare, and vegetarian recipes (of which there are many) are clearly marked.
I have tried a few recipes from the book, and apart from finding many of them need additional spice and seasoning to make them less bland, I have found them very easy to prepare, and many require ingredients that I would usually have in my house anyway. None of the dishes are particularly expensive for ingredients.
My favourite dish from this book was the Jambalaya - a lovely filling rice dish with tomato and sausage that was incredibly satisfying to eat . Other dishes worthy of mention include the French Cassoulet and the Sesame Prawn Toast .
One recipe irritated me a lot though - simply because of a misprint in the book. The recipe in question is titled Mediteraanean Chicken and Potato Stew , and the name immediateely tempted me - however, the ingredients listed were for the wrong recipe entirely, some sort of pasta dish. I found this very annoying, and surely this is something that should have been picked up at the proofreading stage.
There was also a lack of desserts in this book, which is a shame. I think it might have been nice to have one or two included - perhaps simple inexpensive dishes like rice puddng or crumbles .
I suppose this book might be OK for someone who really has no idea at all how to cook, but for all but the most inexperienced cooks I imagine this book is going to be far too basic. I've only tried a few recipes from this book, with many of the dishes being things I already know how to prepare and overall I found the book and it's recipes quite boring .