I never expect to like or make everything in a cook book and if four or five dishes enter my regular repertoire I regard it as a good purchase. So far this is looking like a positive addition to the arsenal.
The finish on the cover is quite wipeable (cook books not designed to stand up to the rigours of the kitchen are a real bugbear of mine!). It also has two big outer flaps to help you keep your place - again a practical bonus not all such books exhibit. The layout inside is simple and easy to follow - clear lists of ingredients and instructions on the left hand page, with photos on the right. I found it interesting that in some cases the dishes were photographed part-way made rather than ready to eat.
Flicking through it I found many things I wanted to try. The dishes are different enough not to be boring, but not so outlandish to put you off. And there is no requirement for any odd ingredients you wouldn't find in the shops of a reasonable sized town.
I might mention and rate a few of the things I have made so far. First were Carrot and Coriander Fritters with Halloumi and Sweet Lemon Dressing (P146). This was tasty enough but not I felt worth the faff. I'd score it 3/5. I probably won't make it again.The lemon dressing however, fantastic for all sorts of salads, I'd score a 5/5. I will have a jar of that sitting in my fridge all summer.
Next up was the Quick Soda Bread (Page 130) which I was quite skeptical about. This is the only recipe for Irish soda bread I have ever seen that involved rubbing in butter and adding sugar. Its getting on to being a scone mix rather than a bread one. My doubts were dispelled though when it came out of the oven - delicious! 4/5 score. I've made three of these loaves in just over a week and expect this to be a recipe I return to again and again.
After that I tried the Chilli and Crushed Walnut Rigatoni (P166). This was quite magnificent. A definite 5/5 and one to go into my regular repertoire. It involves a small number of ingredients simply combined to stunning effect. Anybody could impress with this recipe I am sure. I have found a useful variation is to substitute half the walnuts for finely chopped fried mushrooms.
So all in all, a very useful cook book. Food you would actually make - that tastes really good.
Update: I now also highly recommend the No-Knead sourdough loaf you make in a casserole dish (p134), and the celeriac and butter bean veloute with chermoula dressing (p16). Both 5/5. In fact I have found that chermoula dressing to be a godsend. It is marvellous drizzled on virtually any soup, it makes a great salad dressing when added to a bit more oil, and a spoonful swirled in will save any underperforming curry. If you aren't strictly vegetarian, you'll also find it a terrific marinade for fish before grilling, baking or griddling.
I also enjoyed the Sambal Telur, Malaysian egg curry (p184). There were a couple of tricky ingredients to track down- Sambal Oelek and Tamarind Pulp, but I found them after a bit of a root around in an asian grocery. Tangy and morish curry. 5/5
The Baked Ricotta with avocado (p24) was like the carrot and coriander fritters - alright but not worth the faff. 3/5
This book just keeps on delivering for me though. I've upped my original four star rating to five and I can't wait for the new book Alice has coming out in Spring 2012.