I was introduced to this book by a friend back in the mid-90s. Since then, it's become my food bible, and I've shared it with my family & have impressed many a friend who's popped in for a mid-week supper. And, like several of the other reviewers, my copy is like the Velveteen Rabbit: pages are stained, stick together, falling apart, and the more it becomes like this, the more loved it is. It is, quite simply, the best cookbook around. It's certainly the only book that we refer to by name: "what does Nigel suggest?" being a common refrain in our kitchen.
Why is this book so perfect?
Well, for one thing, it's fast and nutritious: we work long hours & don't have the time or energy to slave in the kitchen for 2 hours when we get home (I love Delia but that's the problem with her recipes). And as the alternative is a) eating out, b) pulling something out of the freezer, c) pasta (again), or d) hummus & ryvita, this book often proves to be our Monday-Thursday evening road-map. And even when it is pasta again, Nigel has the best suggestions for fast & interesting sauces/toppings.
Second: Nigel's philosophy of cooking is very similar to mine: I make things up based on what's in the fridge anyway. The thing I like about this book is that Nigel's been doing that for longer than me: he has more suggestions, and some really interesting ones. I'm sure he's made mistakes, but they aren't listed in the book, so I can learn from them without making them myself. Nice.
Third: Nigel's a foodie but not a snob. I love the fact that he tells you to eat the very best of things: chocolate with 75% cocoa solids, greek yoghurt etc, but he also includes chip butties. And which of us doesn't secretly want a chip butty occasionally?
Fourth: Nigel's realistic. His recipes are for 1-2 and he says that this is because it's how most of us live now. He's right. (Delia: again, take note: we're not all families with 3 kids looking to roast beef). Much easier to follow his portion amounts (tho' I've made his risotto for years & still think his amounts for 2 would feed a family of 5).
Finally: I have some of Nigel's other books, but frankly, I'm a little worried that he's following the Nigella-Jamie "Glamour Cookbook" trend with his most recent offerings. Yes, they're gorgeous, and yes, he needed to do something different. But their complexity is a little more intimidating (as is the time needed for preparation), and they don't just prop up on the kettle as easily when I need to follow a recipe while opening the post, answering the phone & making supper in 25 minutes.