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Unbalanced format but easy-to-follow recipes
on 19 April 2011
The concept behind the Cookery School programme is pretty straightforward - a bunch of 'ordinary' people taught by a couple of professionals how to cook - from the basic through to the more advanced dishes.
Whether the format of the show works, it's difficult to say. It's probably one of the longest cooking series ever, what with it being an hour long, every week day for 10 weeks - so if you really want to go through the 'course' with them, you'd have to be in it for the long haul! I only managed 20 minutes of one episode before switching off, hoping that the cookbook might work better instead.
The contents listing seems confused at first glance. There are five main sections, with the first four headed up under Starters, Fish, Meat and Puddings. These are each broken down into subsections of Basic, Intermediate and Advanced dishes. But then this structure seems to turn back on itself with the fifth main section headed as Super Advanced, and broken down into subsections of Starters, Mains and Puddings. Still following?
There is then a separate listing for all the various skills and techniques taught throughout the book. The step-by-step photos and instructions themselves are well laid out, but the actual skills covered is a frustrating list as a whole. They are confined by the recipes chosen for the book, and although that sounds logical, the list itself is not as comprehensive as you'd expect from a book with a title like this. Learning to peel prawns, joint a chicken and make fresh pasta, yes. Making a smoker with tea and sugar? Perhaps not such a core skill to learn.
Having said that, the how-to steps and recipes themselves are very easy to follow. Even in the Super Advanced section, where you are told in a whopping number of 18 steps how to make a trifle (ok, so it's a fancy-looking trifle, but still), I doubt you would get lost and confused in the process. But you'd definitely need the time and patience to see yourself through it.
I was itching to try out a main dish, simply because I tend to bake a lot and wanted the excuse to make something different. However, the recipes tend to err on the showy side so aren't really the kind of dishes that you'd randomly choose to dish up for yourself, and many of them contain ingredients that you wouldn't exactly buy on a whim.
Perhaps I'm just not 'ready' to advance to such recipes, but there was just something a bit too alien about the execution of the whole concept. The title suggests that 'anyone can learn to cook', but simply feels far too thin on the basics, and escalates a little too quickly onto the advanced.