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on 25 March 2008
Delia Smith.

n.b. - this review is for the 1980 paperback version, 11th impression - Coronet Books - Hodder and Stoughton/0340168765.
(for information - © Delia Smith 1971. First published 1971/Ebury Press)

From the back cover:

'Have you always wanted to be a good cook but never had the time?
Do modern convenience foods set you free from the kitchen? Or do you find them dull and tasteless? Delia Smith, cookery writer for the 'Evening Standard', believes that you can easily have the best of two worlds. She shows you how to escape long hours of kitchen drudgery by a little clever 'cheating'.
Basing her recipes on quick convenience foods - canned, frozen, dehydrated and pre-cooked - the cookery author shows how to add your own special touches to delight family and friends. Meal-times come around all too often.
If you have better things to do than slave over a hot stove, this is the book for you.'

Paperback covers open to 176 pages, split into main chapters:

♦ The Cheat's Charter
♦ The Cheat's Kitchen:
~ (i) Equipment
~ (ii) Store-cupboard
~ (iii) Herbs and Spices
~ (iv) Entertaining Hints

♦ Soups
♦ Starters
♦ Fish
♦ Chicken and Duck
♦ Meat, Stews and Casseroles
♦ Vegetables
♦ Sauces
♦ Desserts
♦ Menu Suggestions

along with an introduction, a selective list of mail order shops (at the time) and miscellaneous tips/hints sections, plus a full index.

From the introduction:

'If you're one of those dedicated cooks who is a keen early-morning mushroom gatherer and wouldn't dream of concocting a salad without using the 'just-picked' variety, then this book is not for you.
The following pages are for those who like to eat and entertain, who want to cook, but simply don't have the will or the time to spend hours shopping, preparing or cooking. The recipes are aimed at helping you to use fresh and convenience foods to prepare meals reasonably quickly...'

Each chapter opens with a charming black and white line drawing, from Ivan Ripley, which heads up the list of recipes. Then follows general narrative written in typical Delia fashion, e.g. SOUPS:

'This chapter is, with no apologies, an exercise in disguising. The one thing that any cheat has to come to terms with straight away is the fact that the majority of packet and canned soups on their own taste like packet and canned soups.
And more than that, the better a canned soup is, the more widely it will be used and the quicker your family and guests will recognise it.
Now your truly dedicated soup-maker spends hours in the kitchen with bones, stockpots, endless simmerings and strainings. And, of course, the result is invariably excellent.
What we cheats have to do is get as good a result as they do with the minimum of effort. The simple fact for us to grasp, then, is that `somebody has already done all this hard work for us,' when we use cans and packets. We come into our own by making 'their' efforts taste like homemade soup.
In other words we go straight to the creative part...'

Recipes are in a fairly small text, with more than one to a page.
Having said that, they are clearly laid out and easy to follow, with the title, list of ingredients, and method along with the number of servings. This book is further enhanced by a recipe 'key' which indicates, via a 3-symbol system, whether the recipe requires:

♦ Cooking Ahead
♦ Up to 30 mins. Prep/Cooking time
♦ Over 30 mins. Prep/Cooking time

Recipes include:

* Italian Bean and Pasta Soup
* Cream of Vegetable Soup
* Blender Gazpacho
* Kipper Pâté
* Spiced Grapefruit
* Egg Mayonnaise
* Cod Baked in Foil
* Baked Salmon with Cucumber Sauce
* Supermarket Paella
* Chicken Casserole
* Chicken Chasseur
* Cold Duck with Orange Salad
* Pork Chops Baked with Cream and Mushrooms
* Mustard Glazed Lamb Chops
* Beef Pot Roast
* Kidneys in Jacket Potatoes
* Lancashire Hotpot
* Beef Goulash
* Spaghetti Bolognaise
* Onion Rice
* Ratatouille Provençale
* Cherry Sauce
* Tartare Sauce
* Banana Butterscotch Pudding
* Mont Blanc
* Apple Crumble Cake
* Fresh Strawberry Fool
* Farmhouse Treacle Tart
* Black Forest Gateau
* Shortcut Icing

Typical of a book of this era, there are no glossy photographs - just the line drawings, as previously mentioned.
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on 2 September 2011
I read the reviews and was a bit put off, so bought this as a used copy for about £2-00. I have to say I am really impressed. I normally make all our meals from scratch but this gives you some handy shortcuts. I have 2 children aged 6 and 3 and I work, not getting in until 6pm by which time they are very hungry. This book helps you save time without losing out on the quality of the food.

At the end of the day, would I recommend this to a friend?.......yes I would.
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on 28 March 2008
I got this book as a gift and was a bit sceptical. I had seen an episode of the show and hadn't enjoyed it, as I wasn't very impressed by the look of the recipes. I really enjoy cooking so the idea of a cheats guide offended my sensibilities a little. Still, I gave some recipes a go and have been pleasantly surprised.

In an ideal world (which is obviously where many tv chefs and pundits appear to live given the comments I've heard on tv recently) we would all shop for organic food and spend at least an hour each day in the kitchen making our meals from scratch. But out in the real world we all know that's just not possible. The reasons for this are myriad but, I'd suggest, include:

Not enough time to cook meals from scratch.
A lack on interest in cooking.
A lack of experience in cooking.

It seems to me that Delia's book tackles these three issues with aplomb. For the inexperienced cook the recipes provide easy access to culinary competence. For the time-poor...well, most of the recipes are quick to prepare (even if a little thought is needed when shopping). And for those who lack interest, I suppose the hope of the author is that they'll try a few of these recipes and maybe ditch a takeaway or two.

There's so much sniping and snobbery surrounding this book because, I guess, cooking is such an emotive subject these days. But it's well worth giving some of these recipes a spin...I've been pretty impressed with the results.
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on 29 March 2008
I grew up on 'Delia' food and can see exactly now what she means in the book introduction. I've had the book for a few weeks now and started cooking the recipes - unlike it appears some of the people who have commented here - so very, very judgmental without actually getting to grips with what I think Delia is trying to do and giving it a go themselves. All it seems to me is that Delia is trying to help us mad crazy women with a family and home to run to put tea on the table night after night, week after week, month after month. We have all fallen down the ready meal/takeaway trap too often - and I know this only too well because I am one of the people who is being truly honest about what we produce for tea every night. I have always tried to do the best for my family but sometimes with a full time job, young children, elderly parents and home life I don't always succeed. Isn't it great that someone we trust so well - ie Delia - has done all this great research for us. I don't have the time to trawl the supermarket shelves to find the best tomato sauce - but Delia has done it for me- and yes I have purchased it and we all loved it. No different than reducing a tomato sauce myself - which on a a busy home night just isn't possible. The casseroles are brilliant. Food is such a snob issue nowadays - all we are looking for is a tasty home cooked dinner each evening and if we have had a spot of good quality help achieving that all the better. All my close friends agree - go for it Delia and ignore (which I am sure you do) all those 'head in the clouds' comments I've read here tonight.
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on 2 April 2013
Looking forward to receiving this book but bitterly disappointed. It seems to be a means of advertising products. I am always looking for ways to save time but think that any time saved in the kitchen and more will be spent seeking out the very specific products in the recipe.
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2009
It seems you either love or hate this book and Delia's approach to cooking using the store cupboard and freezer to best advantage. Initially sceptical, I borrowed the book from the library and tried a few recipes out. They were excellent - and the secret is of course that although you're cutting down prep time on certain foods - the replacement ingredients are still high quality stuff.

I bought the book, and it's become one of my regular resource for busy weekly cooking - and I have to say the results on nearly every recipe have been faultless - (down to the writing and ingredients rather than my cooking skills.) But perhaps best of all, Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking has exposed me to the challenge of tracking down Heinz Tomato Frito - a product that is much recommended in the recipes - but boy is it hard to find.
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on 9 March 2008
Deary me. Delia's latest really has upset a lot of people, hasn't it? The howls about tinned mince, the wails about frozen mashed potato, the gnashing of teeth at the thought that Delia might have 'sold out'. But the thing that no-one is mentioning is what the food is like. Check the ingredients on the items that Delia recommends and they're not full of hydrogenated fats or preservatives; they're good quality well-made versions of stuff you could make yourself *if you had time*. And the clue's in the title--this isn't a book about cooking, it's a book about /cheating/ at cooking. Would everyone have been happier if it has been titled "cooking by standing on the shoulders of giants"? She's quite clear that cooking conventionally is best, but let's be practical, people: we don't always have the time or the inclination to cook, and in those circumstances we all rely on pre-prepared food. How many of those who wrote negative reviews would think nothing of using dried pasta? Don't they know they should be making it from scratch?! And that's what all the noise is about really--much to a lot of people's annoyance, Delia has pointed out that these days there are pre-prepared ingredients out there that are at least as good as you could make yourself, and that if you cook with them you'll get perfectly acceptable results without having to slave in the kitchen for hours. That's her crime, not the food. Prove it to yourself: get the book, make the shepherd's pie with it's M&S tinned lamb mince and Aunt Bessie's frozen mash, then tell me that she's wrong.
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on 24 March 2008
I love home cooking and I am from an age when we were taught it at school too (1980's). Also, as they didnt work, my mother and grandmother taught me so much about cooking from scratch, baking, casseroles and roast dinners. Good, nutritious, wholesome un tampered with food. So I have knowledge. Do I always have the time to root through the enormous amount of RUBBISH on the supermarket shelves? I have a three year old and a severely disabled 7 year old who demands a lot of time and attention AND who eats a specially prepared diet. I am exhausted. Thanks Delia for SIGNPOSTING THE WAY TO THE DECENT INGREDIENTS and keeping us motivated to feed ourselves healthy and good tasting short - cut meals for those nights when the 'get up and go' has got up and gone :) No everyone has the luxury of hours to prepare dinner with the hungry hoards crying out.
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on 5 May 2008
I am sure we have all been there, the cupboard is bare and the weekly shop is 12, 24 or 48 hours away. There are tins and packets in the cupboard and "stuff" in the freezer.
Having read through the reviews for this book, I decided to buy it and have not regretted it. Having read the recipes, but sadly, not tried any yet, I am impressed with how much one can do with so little. My only adverse comment is the section on store cupboard ingredients, which are a little pricey, but then there are alternatives available.
I have offered to buy a copy for my son, who is off on his way to University this coming Autumn term, and who has very little experience of having to cook for himself, but even he said he could, and would, try several of the recipes in the book.
I would have to agree with another reviewer, that a photo of the finished meal, would definately be a help to my son for instance, to show what it should look like when finished.
Otherwise, three cheers Delia, a definate hit I think
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on 28 February 2008
....'How to Cheat at Cooking', if you simply haven't got the time or maybe haven't got the experience and/or confidence.

From the introduction:

'....What is included in these pages is not going to win you any Michelin stars, but if you are afraid to cook or you're a very busy person, it will - at least some of the time - revolutionise your life. Interested? Read on.'

Durable plastic cover opens to:

256 high quality shiny pages, with 140 recipes split over 12 main chapters:

(1) who peels the potatoes?: anyone but you
(2) capers in the larder: not the naughty sort
(3) laid-back lunches: lighter stuff
(4) cool!: as in summer
(5) uncool: what mums used to make
(6) chicken on the run: real quick
(7) Asian express: Oriental gravy training
(8) lazy braising: duvet days
(9) veggie?: so now you tell me!
(10) pronto Italiano: bye bye pizza take-aways
(11) such a tart!: tricks and treats
(12) sweet cheats: ending on a high

sandwiched between an introduction, a list of all the recipes, sections entitled:

'a new way to shop'
'hidden servants'
'life from the freezer', the 'top cheats' lists, stockists (including phone numbers and website addresses) and a full alphabetical index.

Each recipe has its title and opens with some relevant text written in typical 'Delia' fashion, followed by the list of ingredients and a clearly defined method. Any notes or variations are included, along with the number of servings.

Recipes include:

luxury seafood pie
Mediterranean fish stew
Black Forest ham & lentil soup
eggs Benedict
asparagus with no-panic Hollandaise
my mum's macaroni cheese
steak and kidney easy
amazing moussaka
memories of goulash
banana bread pudding with toffee sauce
Caribbean chicken with salsa
dhal curry
Asian steak sandwiches
Sicilian sausages with tomatoes & fennel
boeuf Bourguignon easy
cauliflower cheese and broccoli soup
lightning lasagne
wild mushroom risotto
classic quiche Lorraine
American coconut cream pie
chocolate cupcakes
5-minute panna cotta with fresh raspberries
cheat's Eton mess
rhubarb & ginger beer jellies

The 2-page spread of 'top cheats' at the back of the new publication is a compilation of Delia's 'personal favourites' and these equate to 'basics' and are split into three lists:

~ Storecupboard
~ Fridge
~ Freezer

These lists cover most of the major 'supermarkets' and some named brands.....but I am sure that any equivalent size would be suitable in the recipe.

It would be fair criticism, I think, to worry about how up-to-date the latter pages will remain over time, in respect of the smaller businesses.
Another possible criticism is that, although there is colour photography throughout, there are relatively few of the finished dishes which might be negative to those of us less experienced cooks who like to see what we are aiming for on the plate!

In my opinion, this cookery book is aimed at those of us who want to cut a few corners, but still want to achieve a good result. Delia has added a new dimension to this updated publication by sourcing what she feels is the best 'short-cut products'...... but, I think, it would be safe to say that these should be taken as guidelines only. Therefore, if a can of M&S tinned minced lamb is on the recipe list and an M&S food-hall is not just down the road, the same size of another brand will be just as good...or fresh minced lamb... or a piece of lamb, freshly minced........whatever you like best and whatever suits your budget.

I guess it all comes down to what one thinks is 'cheating' at cooking, and most cooks do it from time to time, I would imagine?
Personally, I am presently guilty of owning a bottle of 'Garlic Infused Olive Oil'...just in case! Without trying to sound like Peter Kay and his 'Garlic Bread' reference, I am sure that there will be those out there who think that it is criminal not to have a bottle of extra virgin oil and a clove or two of garlic to hand, all the time?

I would certainly recommend the KENWOOD Mini Chopper, which Delia uses in her recipes.
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