At a time when obesity is reaching epic proportions and culinary expertise amounts to little more than ordering a take-away or piercing the plastic film on a ready meal this book offers up a solution to problems plaguing British culinary expertise and understanding of the simple basic foods we eat. What it does successfully is re-introduce and re-acquaint the reader with basic knowledge about simple foods and the different ways in which they can be adapted and utilised in creating wholesome healthy meals. It is exactly what it promises on the cover i.e. cooking without recipes as recipes are a bit like diets in that they function best as guidelines that the individual can then embellish or tailor to their own specifications. What really emerges from this book however is the necessary understanding of food in creating a successful, tasty and healthy diet.
Concentrating on the basics such as different types of vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, salads, pastas, rice and various fruits Dundas explains, confirms and debunks certain myths that surround each of these staples and ways to make them more interesting. A section on which potatoes are best for mashing, boiling, roasting or baking-skin on or peeled?- may initially seem unnecessary but proves itself informative about this most basic of foods. Who really knows which type of potato is best for each of these different methods really? Although I am no slouch in the kitchen myself I must admit I have always been slightly wary of artichokes and usually resort to buying them in jars and dripping in oil just to avoid any potential mishaps or culinary disasters. After reading Dundas' appraisal of them however I am now more than willing to try my hand at preparing them myself in future.
The actual food in creating a successful meal is not all that Dundas pays attention to however. He details which pots, pans, woks, knives and boards to use in different situations as well as a section on how to maintain said utensils in order to constantly achieve maximum efficiency and results from them for as long as possible. All of this is done in a tone which is warm, friendly and comforting. Although the information he imparts may appear basic and ,to some, mere common sense there is never a sense that he is being patronising but simply helpful and informative.
This book would be an ideal purchase for anyone who has a fear or lack of comprehension about food and how to prepare it. The simplicity of the content does not render it unimportant and in fact the opposite is true as the information is essential in basic culinary understanding. As an essential purchase for anyone fed up with the aforementioned takeaways and convenience foods and feels ready for a foray into real cooking this book is as good a place as any to start.