From the introduction:-
'I want this book to help you to love cooking. I've written it for people who enjoy food but who, like me, suddenly find they need to expand their recipe repertoire and their cooking skills - either because they have a family to feed or for some other reason......With a busy life, I don't have the hours to spend shopping, preparing and planning dinner. Quite often, food is bought on the way home and meals are made in the minimum of time...but I want maximum results.
These recipes will help you achieve that too. Don't be scared to teach yourself to cook - I did! Use my recipes as a guideline: if you can't find an ingredient, don't panic......
Always add your favourite ingredients and leave out anything you are not so keen on. The only rule is to taste all the time, so you'll know when you are on the right road.........'
In fairness, some of this has been done before, with almost every recent British cookbook proffering the best chip recipe, or the best mash.......but Tana delivers, with a certain style.
With a duck egg blue and dark brown theme throughout, this is a well presented book featuring an eau de nil coloured ribbon bookmark to keep the page!
'120 recipes each accompanied by an invaluable 'kitchen secret', Tana's book makes fabulous food accessible to all. Her 'secrets' reveal how to make food perfectly, cook it well and choose the best ingredients......'
The 'secrets' are label-type format notes each containing a helpful tip or two applicable to a feature of the recipe or an ingredient, e.g.:-
* making ice creams and sorbets without an ice-cream machine
* marinating meat
* avoid a soggy base(pastry cases)
* perfect meringues
* the best glace icing
* go for sustainable fish
* which cuts to choose
* perfect scones
* working with filo pastry
Durable pastel hardboard covers open to 288 high quality matt pages, split over main chapters:-
* Slow & easy meat (pg 12-41)
* Quick & easy meat (pg 44-67)
* Fish (pg70-99)
* Pasta, rice & grains (pg102-119)
* Pies, pastries, tarts & batters (pg122-151)
* Vegetables (pg154-189)
* A bit of dough (pg192-203)
* Something sweet (pg206-239)
* Cakes & biscuits (pg242-267)
* Sauces & dressings (pg270-283)
sandwiched between an introduction, with sections entitled:-
* 'Kitchen kit secrets'
* 'Storecupboard secrets'
and a four-page index.
Each chapter opens with a double page spread with an applicable note from Tana, then a general page of 'secrets' pertaining to the following recipes.
The recipes open with a personal note (in handwriting style text), followed by a clear list of ingredients, the numbered step method, how long it takes to prepare and cook - with the number of servings, and, if applicable, whether it can be made ahead and/or is suitable for freezing....and that aforementioned 'secret' label.
Colour photography throughout, from Laura Hynd, arguably, a little light of those of the finished dishes, but there are also some snapshots and a few on-location shots.
A small taste of the recipes contained within:-
Poached Whole Chicken
Homemade Lamb Sausages in Prosciutto
Pork Chops with Honey & Mustard Glaze
Chinese Duck Breast Wraps
Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes
Thai Red Curry
Mussels with Belgian Beer (an innovative twist to an old fave)
Beef & Aubergine Rigatoni Bake with Tomato & Basil
Pasta with Bacon & Vegetable Sauce
Chicken, Lemon & Rocket Risotto
Healthy Couscous, my style
Classic Ham Hock Pie
Remarkably Easy Pastry Cream
Homemade Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
Pineapple Tart Tatin
Filo Lemon Tart
Cauliflower Cheese, my way
Filled Potato Skins
Best-ever Homemade Chips
Scones for the perfect afternoon tea
Pear & Ginger Steamed Sponge Pudding
Simple Champagne Cocktail
Gingerbread Men & Hearts
Tomato & Tarragon Mayonnaise
Chunky Apple Sauce
My favourites, to date, tried and tasted:-
'Laurens Meatballs', which was a very welcome expansion on my normal minced lamb curry recipes and one my regular diners enthused about...so will be doing that one again!
'Spicy Beef Stew', serving 4 in the recipe and allows me to air one of my favourite casserole dishes
- but - as I usually serve stew with a dish
of mashed potato with cheese and tomato topping, and chunks of brown bread, I can usually manage to save some to freeze, too!
'Chicken Cacciatore', which is headed up:-
'This recipe is not at all like the classic dish with the same title, but the name has stuck in our home!
It is a really quick and easy supper requiring minimum effort. I usually serve it with buttered jacket potatoes........
A useful book which, for the large part, does achieve what it sets out to do in the introduction, in my opinion.
Tana as a busy wife and Mum of four shares the best ways to present a more exciting selection of cooked dishes. It could easily be used as a first cookbook, but also contains useful embellishments for the more confident cook. Cooking for a family or just for friends...
Tonight, I'm kitted out to try the 'Moroccan Fish Tagine', cooking for 6 with an interesting tweak for adult eating!
Page 288 sees the close of this chunky tome with the Tana 'thanks' page, headed up by a charming dedication to her husband and children, simply - 'the best team'.