Cooking for Real Life is Joanna Weinberg's second cookery book. Its 182 recipes cover The Daily Grind, Good for Kids, Treats for Two, Comfort Cooking, Weekend Food, Summer-ish Food, Pudding!, Everyday baking and Sides and Sauces. The book includes sensible advice on sourcing and storing core ingredients and the nine sections start with snippet-sized recipes for meals in a rush. The largest, The Daily Grind, covers staples such as chicken pieces, chops, `things on toast' and fish, often in groups of three. Its `3 store-cupboard pastas' for example, includes spaghetti pomodoro cribbed, with typical panache, from the final scene in Goodfellas. My favourite so far, sausage with chilli and purple-sprouting broccoli, punched seriously above its weight with the meat crumbled and caramelised in spices and served with yoghurt. It was great find the summer section when the weather perked up and I enjoyed its twist on roast root vegetable salad and the fennel-stuffed bream on new potatoes. `Good for Kids' can cope with the very young - mine loved tomato risotto and oven-baked arancini made with its left-overs - and older children are well catered for with more pronounced flavours such as chicken and broccoli teriyaki and not-too-chilli con carne. I must admit I'm recategorising the beautiful beetroot houmous as `adults-only', unless I can convince Harvey Keitel to stop by to oversee the clean-up.
Cooking for Real Life's unique selling point is that it can conjure up a menu for whatever life throws at you and there is a great 3-page section at the back which does just that: Multi-generational gathering? Relaxed dinner party? Gluten and dairy-free dinner? No problem, my friend. This is an incredibly useful book - inspiration to glam up the everyday, solutions for situations which might be out of your comfort zone, and a handful of classics, especially in the comfort food and baking sections. Recipes are not demanding; the majority are quick to cook and are relatively fuss free in terms of technique and range of ingredients. Although there are frugal options using store-cupboard ingredients, this is not the focus and there are plenty of easy ways to treat yourself and your friends. Those with a number of cookery books will find overlaps for classics (e.g. fish pie and victoria sponge), and recipes perhaps 1 or 2 ingredients away from their norm, but there are great ideas and more substantial innovations such as sweet fennel tarte tatin. Cooking for Real Life is an ideal book for someone eager to branch out or get out of a rut, and for me, the perfect one to pack in my suitcase this summer: all occasions catered for and a whiff of holiday everyday.