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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 28 December 2005
As a self taught cook, I have often found myself wishing I had a recipe for the most basic of things (ie pastry or gravy) without having to use the trial and error method. I was given this book as a Christmas present and I love it, it has not left my side in the last 5 days. Yes some of the recipes are good old favourites but there are some great inspirational ones too plus the recipes are written in such a way that as a confident cook I can add my own twists and mix and match. A fantastic cookbook for all levels.
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on 23 October 2002
"The only cookbook you'll ever need" says the cover, and it's a fair claim. OK, so there's not much in the way of photographs. This is not one of those Delia Smith volumes churned out annually. What you get is several hundred pages of detailed recipes on just about anything. Whether you're boiling an egg or stuffing a wild duck with pistachios, everything is here. That is not to say that this is some pretentious tome for dinner party catering. Those recipes are here, but where the Leith Bibles (there are three others in the series, including the faultless Fish Bible) score is in their everyday recipes: fish pie, roast gammon, tomato soup. Everything's been rigorously tested, and the results (at least for everything I've tried) are infallible. At home this book has had almost daily usage for the two years since I got hold of a copy. It cannot be recommended enough.
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on 6 January 2003
Of all the cookery books i have, this is one the one most often out on the table. It contains all the basics (e.g white sauce and , say, two types of tomato sauce) plus obvious staples which have just that little bit more flair e.g. a passable Beef Bourgignon. I agree with another reviewer that some of the recipes are old fashioned - except they are few and far between and it is easy to ignore those ones. I do not agree that it is patronising or school-mamish. The recipes are simply laid out and very easy to follow - especially if, like me, you often modify or combine recipe ideas depending on what ingredients you have. Incidentally, i have tried several rotten meat-ball recipes - most of which fail because the meatballs disintegrate in the pan. This book contains two very good (and easy) meatball recipes. Also some good (very easy, not as fiddly as Rick Stein) fish recipes (try the white fish with green herbs en papillote) - though if you happen to buy the Leiths Fish Bible there is quite a lot of double-up. The baked cod is pretty damned too. If you need a book which is stuffed full of recipes of all kinds...then this is the book for you.
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on 13 July 2005
Ignore the cavilling comments of some of the earlier reviewers. This is, as it claims, the Bible of English-language cook-books. No, it doesn't have lots of chit-chat about food and how it reminds the author of summer evenings in Spain, and so on. There are plenty of other books to provide that sort of thing, if that is what one wants. This is a no-nonsense, easy to follow guide to how to cook most dishes in the common repertoire of English/French cooking. So what if it sounds a bit school-marmish at times? Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave were principals of a cookery school, so it really is no great surprise. Nor is it a problem in terms of using the book to learn how to cook.... The wine suggestions are not patronising in the least. One can ignore them if one chooses (I always do), but for those wishing to learn, they can, presumably, be useful.
As for the suggestion that some of the receipts are archaic - most normal people would call them classics because they have stood the test of time. No, the book isn't cutting edge, but it doesn't pretend or seek to be so. It gives the user the ability to produce the standard, classic repertoire, with a few new things thrown in. Some receipts are complex, some are easy.
There are occasional infelicities, especially in terms of cross-references, and I wish that the receipts were not always in quantities for 4 people, but those are very minor quibbles. The best thing about the book is that it gives the user the scope and the wherewithal to experiment and develop.
I cook and entertain a lot, and this book is my constant companion.
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on 30 June 2008
I really like this cookbook, it's the only one I own that I go back to again and again. It would make a great buy or gift for someone who wants to learn to cook but doesn't know where to start. The lack of photos makes the book seem dull but I've come to prefer it, there are no cheffy presentations to make me feel inadequate!

I've knocked it down from a 5 to a 4 because I've come across errors so obvious I have no idea how they went unnoticed. Take the Spaghetti Bolognese entry for an example. It tells you you'll need a 100g/14oz can of tomatoes. 14oz is 396g! In the same recipe there's no mention of celery in the ingredient list but the recipe says 'Add the onion and celery'.

Despite the errors I still recommend this book. Just be sure to read both the ingredient list and recipe thoroughly. If you find an error you should be able to use your judgement to make the right call.
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on 8 November 2001
To all of us more accustomed to the chatty style of Delia or the myriad of other glossy cook books the style of this book is somewhat off putting. Not many pictures and, frankly, the tone of school mistress...
Get over that perception and you have a cook book that is a joy to use and learn from. The technique sections give the basics of what you need to know (yes, there are some that need practice). The recipes build on the techniques using a no nonsense approach that is easy to follow. The results are consisently superb.
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on 4 December 2005
Echoing what has been said before, this is the best all round cookbook you'll ever find. Truly comprehensive and easy to use, it contains everything from comfort food to special occasion dishes. The primer at the beginning is fascinating, giving all the info you'll need on meats and veg, and preparation, and throwing dinner parties for the masses!
I stole my Mum's copy of this a few years ago, and refer back to it all the time, and will be buying her a new edition to replace the one I took! No kitchen is complete without it. It may not have fancy, obscure recipes, or little notes from the writers, but it's a no-nonsense compendium of tried and tested lovely lovely food!
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on 17 October 2012
As my title to this review infers, this is a proper cookbook, not a celebrity chef hightening their profile. It is well laid out, having easy to grasp instructions, with loads of SOLID recipies, incorporating EVERYDAY ingredients. Perhaps not the only cookbook you'll ever want, or buy, but an understanding of this book will underpin your future cooking experiences, and reading. See this as your apprenticeship, and a great aide memoire for those all too forgotten basics. Highly recommended.
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on 2 December 1999
This is a great aid in the kitchen and is good for simple dishes, classic English dishes such as Steak and Kidney Pudding as well as more modern recipes. The text is thoughtfully written and each stage easy to follow. The only doubt I have is that once or twice the quantities seem a little suspect, such as "a teaspoon of chopped onion" when I'm sure it must mean a tablespoon! Overall though, it's good and very handy to have in the kitchen.
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on 8 July 2009
This is as essential to a serious cook as the favourite knife, digital scales and measuring jugs. It is like having Ms Leith there in the kitchen to give advice when you need it most. Her bible is packed full of help from quantities of spuds to allow per person to filleting fish, which most of us hope we never have to do.

The downside is that it is heavy but of necessity because of all the detail. It also has few pictures but more pics would make it heavier.

I cannot recommend it more highly.
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