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The Usborne Beginner's Cookbook - Fiona Watt

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4 Reviews

Genre: Food & Drink / Author: Fiona Watt / Paperback / 195 Pages / Book is published 1999-03-26 by Usborne Publishing Ltd

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    4 Reviews
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      09.04.2012 23:31
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      A great book for anyone wishing to improve their skills in the kitchen without being patronised

      I'm really fond of this cookbook. Although it looks like it's designed for children, I think it was the first cookbook I bought in my late teens when I was still living with my parents and I'd just begun to get into cooking and experimenting. I remember using it to create really simple things like Spanish omlettes, and measuring everything out exactly because I didn't have the knowledge or confidence to experiment a little. This is very different to my current cooking style, which basically involves using whatever is in the cupboard, and substituting things ad hoc.

      Although the cookbook is for beginners, it does actually contain some interesting recipes, and I still use this book now. Ok, so it's not the most sophisticated book I have in my cookbook collection, and it's not going to win any prizes for groundbreaking recipes, but it's a great starting place for beginners, and also has some recipes that can be adapted as you get more confident with your cooking.

      The book itself isn't hardback, but it's sturdier than paperback if that makes any sense. The cover is quite thick cardboard, and the paper used in the book is thicker than the usual paperback paper, so it's not flimsy. It doesn't stay open without a little help, but the spine bends enough for you to open it on the worktop and place something on the page to keep it open, or it will stand in a bookstand easily.

      ==Layout==

      The book is broken down into sections, beginning with hints and tips and some general cooking guidelines to read before you get started. To be honest, I never read this part of any cookbook, because I'm old enough to know what a spatula looks like, and to not leave all my pan handles pointing outwards in a health and safety nightmare situation. However, there are a few handy tips here such as measuring a teaspoon to be level unless told otherwise. I guess this part is useful for people with little confidence in cooking, although if you need instructions to use a garlic press you probably shouldn't be let loose in the kitchen to be honest.

      The book eases you in gently with some salads and soups, and basic omlettes, and then leads onto some more substantial meals and snacks such as fish pie, stuffed pancakes, stir fries, roast dinners, and some sweet things like trifles. This doesn't seem to be categorised in any particular order, and is just part of a section called "Cooking for Beginners". This is followed by a section on "Pasta and Pizza" which includes classics such as spaghetti Bolognese, but also some more unusual dishes such as spinach and ricotta pasta shells. The next section is "vegetarian cooking" which includes veggie burgers, and possibly my favourite recipe from the whole of this book which is cheesy sausages (made with leeks). The final section is "Cookies and Cakes" which is quite extensive and ranges from gingerbread biscuits to classics such as scones and fruity buns.

      ==What do I like about this book?==

      So, what do I like about this book? Firstly, the recipes vary from complete beginner, to more advanced, and there's nothing pretentious or unpractical about the recipes. The recipes are varied so there are full meals such as prawn and pepper pilaf, cakes such as carrot cake, marble cake and chocolate choux buns, and there are some slightly unusual recipes such as cheesy sausages, tropical spiced rice and lamb kebabs. Although it's designed for beginners, it's not overly patronising and isn't a book of soups and salads or really basic baked potatoes as you often get in these beginners books. The book does credit you with a bit of common sense, and the ability to follow instructions.

      There are no ridiculous or difficult to source ingredients in this book, so you won't be trailing round the supermarket for hours looking for expensive or specialised ingredients. In fact, a lot of the recipes will use ingredients you already have in your storecupboard, making the book accessible to everyone as nobody will be priced out of using the recipes.

      The instructions are detailed and easy to follow. They are quite interactive, so rather than being in the format of a list, they are in picture form, with some narrative alongside each picture. The pictures are diagrammatic rather than photographs, and although they are quite childish looking, they are quite useful for things like kneading dough or separating eggs, if you're unsure you're doing it the right way. There is always a photograph of the final result, so you always know what the final dish should look like.

      ==What don't I like about this book?==

      There isn't really anything I don't like about this book, I think for a beginner's book there are plenty of recipes to keep you entertained and to get you experimenting. I still use this book, as I've found a few tried and tested recipes, and I also use it for classics such as spaghetti alla carbonara or macaroni cheese. I also love baking so I use this book for inspiration for new flavours, such as the banana and nut slices.

      The only thing I would mention if you buy this book, is that even though the instructions are numbered, sometimes I've found myself following the pictures across the page, not realising they have been scattered about a bit. It's best to go by instruction number rather than where you think the next step would logically fall on the page, but other than that the instructions are very easy to follow once you realise that.

      ==Overall Opinion==

      This is a great starting point for anyone wishing to improve their cooking skills. I would say it's best suited for beginners, and that they will grow with the book as their confidence and skills develop. Although you might not benefit as much if you are already very competent in the kitchen, you will still find a few new recipes which might come in useful, and there are some twists on classic recipes which may help you to use them as inspiration for experimenting.

      I bought this book second hand from Amazon many years ago, and the version I have must be out of print as the price has gone up to just under £30. The updated version, which appears to have the same content, but now has concealed spiral binding to allow the book to be opened and stay open on your kitchen worktop, is available for around £8.

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        16.01.2012 11:53
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        A great cookbook to use with the kids

        I was given this cookbook about 9 years ago for my birthday from a friend at school and have gone back to it time and time again for recipes (mostly cakes and biscuits). There are 195 recipes in total in this book and the book is split into four parts.

        The first is cooking for beginners which gives basic information about cookers, utensils, ingredients, taking care and measuring. It also has a double page spread of cooking hints such as beating techniques, peeling potatoes and chopping an onion. There is also a mixture of recipe types in this section as well, ranging from chocolate fudge cake to lamb kebabs in pitta pockets. The next section is pasta and pizza which contains lots of yummy but simple recipes such as mini pizzas, tomato and courgette pizza and Ravioli with tomato sauce. The third section is vegetarian cooking. Risotto, bread and cheese pudding, vegetarian sausages in batter and stuffed peppers are just some of the delicious recipes present in this section. The final section is cakes and cookies and this is by far my favourite section. It contains all the favourites such as chocolate chip cookies, chocolate brownies, shortbread and sponge cakes.

        All the recipes start off with a list of the ingredients and then there is a step by step guide explaining how to make the recipes with diagrams for assistance. This layout with the diagrams is perfect for baking with children as its more interactive and will keep their attention as they know what they have to do to make the yummy cakes and meals. There are also images of the end product of each recipe. The lists of ingredients aren't too long either which is great when you want to cook something quickly and keep costs down.

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        06.03.2011 01:38
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        Inspiring kids to cook!

        Another book from childhood!

        I can't fault this book. It has so much wrong with it, but it serves its purpose tremendously. It inspires kids to cook. Now, theres shows on TV which get kids cooking, but when I was a child there was nothing like this. More than any other book, this one got me excited about food, and I think its still just as valid today as it was then

        Recipies in the book include those for fresh pizza, pasta dishes, cookies, cakes, omlettes.. You name it and im pretty sure theres something in there for you.

        All of the recipes are SO easy to follow. At times this means you're doing things really quite badly. The pizza dough is an absolute disaster. But when you're 8 and in the kitchen, this just doesnt matter. I had so much fun cooking with my mum out of this book, and on the whole the food was palletable. I think now I couldnt bring myself to cook with a child out of this, I'd be pulling my hair out at the approach to it, but Im not a parent so I dont really have an opinion there. The methods ALWAYS work, they've been staged in such a way that theres no real way of fuc***g them up, even if you're a bit generous with the sugar, or a bit tight with the cheese, all is good in cookeryland.

        I'll admit now, its not great food. But I think the purpose of a book like this isnt really to be the tastiest thing ever, to make food like that takes time and effort, something kids just dont have the patience for. This book inspires a passion for food really, it was exciting to make pizza dough, or to make cookies. And lets face it, when you're a child and you've made something, it tastes great to you anyway. You're uber proud of your achievements.

        I suppose the main benifit to parents is that this book uses really simple ingredients. Theres nothing complicated or expensive in there. Everything in there kids will eat, so no sploshes of wine, no heavy spicing etc. You can be confdent that nothing in there will cost more than a tenner, so you're free to let your kids explore.

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        01.02.2010 07:48
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        cook book

        Usborne Beginners Cookbook

        I bought this book because for the first week of the summer holidays because a friend of Little Miss was staying with us and I decided it would be a good idea for them to have a go at cooking for me!!

        The book has a thick hard back cover with a jolly bright picture on the front showing someone making a bit of a mess cooking eggs, and on the back is a bit of blurb about the book. When I open the book, I see that it is spiral bound which is good news, and means that the pages will stay open at the right place without having to bend them back and break the spine.

        The contents page is the inside front page and is divided into three sections: Cooking for Beginners, Pasta and Pizza, Vegetarian Cooking (vegetarian spelt incorrectly but what can I do?), Cakes and Pastries. After this we get straight into the recipes, in total 195 pages of them!

        Each recipe consists of a double page spread with the ingredients at the start and then the step by step instructions clearly set out in a series of illustrations with simple wording underneath. The illustrations show not only the bowls and utensils but when we look through the instructions there are tips on how to actually do things such as crushing a garlic clove. This is handy stuff for children who may not have done it before as they often find it easier to understand when they see a picture.

        As well as the illustrations supporting the instructions there is also an illustration of the finished dish- i did warn the girls that their creating may not be exactly the same!

        OTHER BITS OF INFORMATION...

        Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd (26 Mar 1999)

        ISBN-10: 074603380X

        RRP : £12.99, but look out for bargains because I bought mine from a book club for £5

        VERDICT...

        We have had some fun with this book, and will continue to do so, especially if it means I get my dinner cooked! There are a variety of recipes, and include quite a lot of simple pasta dishes. It's a good idea to have an adult on hand because there is some chopping to be done, and of course the hob and oven come into play. Some of the recipes such as the meatballs are quite good fun and little Miss enjoys rolling the meatballs although an adult should really do the frying.

        The recipes are easy to follow, and there are no really fancy ingredients to buy- a trip to the local supermarket is enough.

        For children wanting to try their hand at cooking I would recommend this.

        Thanks for reading

        Daniela x

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