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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real mix of cooking styles and ingredients, 5 Nov. 2009
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This review is from: Britain's Best Dish (Hardcover)
The book is produced from three series of the television show (2007, 2008 and 2009). It includes a good selection of around 130 dishes, some of which made it through to the last few stages of the competition and others which didn't.

The book is well made and printed on good quality paper.

The recipes are each given a title, a two-line description, a list of ingredients and step by step instructions for creating each dish. The preparation time and cooking time are provided for each recipe, together with a difficulty rating. All are designed to serve four people.

Around one in four or five recipes are provided with a full page photograph. Small photographs of ingredients appear on some pages.

Sound-bites from the show's judges are added to a couple of the recipes but, oddly, the names of the contestants who cooked the recipes are not provided.

Unlike books produced by single chefs this is a real mixture of different styles of cooking. There is something for everyone in here. As well as traditional dishes like meat pies, game, smoked salmon and trifles there are more unusual recipes like the trio of polenta crostini, pea and shrimp ravioli and chilli and chocolate deep-fried ice cream.

Although the series focused on each region and its products the dishes are happily multi-cultural with, for example, a Cornish take on Spanish paella, Sri Lankan curry and Caribbean chicken, and Austrian dumplings in amongst more traditional British dishes.

Starters emphasise fish and vegetarian dishes. Main courses focus mainly on meat dishes. Desserts aren't my thing but there seems to be a good mix of tarts, trifles, soufflés, cakes and "puddings".

Within each category (starters, main courses and desserts) there is no organization by main ingredient. This means that you cannot leaf through the lamb or even the meat or fish recipes. You will find in the main courses, for example, pork followed immediately by goat, haddock, chicken, fish, chicken, beef, beef, chicken and so on. Either I'm missing something or the listing of recipes is random.

There are all levels of skill represented. All recipes are well explained but some are distinctly more complex than others although some have limited ingredients others have huge lists of the ingredients required.

One of the things I particularly like about the book is that you can use the book not just to make the full recipe but also to make single components. For example, I like home made Tartare sauce and thanks to the index listing the sauces used in recipes I can locate and try out the sauces in the book which I might use to serve with a recipe of my own rather than the one that it is shown accompanying in the book. This increases its value to me.

Most of the recipes are quite long-winded, involving several components, but you can cheat by using short cuts. For example you could always use ready made pastry for some of the pies and you can use your own selection of veg and prepare them in your own way.

The recipes are well explained and clearly presented and so far have worked out very well.

Some of the ingredients may be difficult to source but it should be possible to find local equivalents in many cases (for example perhaps using mutton instead of goat), and others may be available for ordering online.

The index is comprehensive and can be searched by any of the primary ingredients of a dish. If you look under "beans" for example it will list not only recipes where beans are the main component but also those where beans are the accompaniment. All accompanying sauces are listed under a "sauce" category. A downside is that it doesn't list the dishes by title. So if you want to find the "Trafalgar steak and hallot pudding" you will have to leaf through all the main courses to find it.

I find the way in which dishes are shown in an apparently random order to be more than a little frustrating for practical purposes. I would have liked key ingredients to be gathered together for ease of browsing for something that would work well with what I have in the fridge or freezer. For example, it would be useful to be able to see all the beef dishes etc side by side so that if I happen to have picked up a piece of steak when shopping I could go directly to the beef recipes to find something to try.

I would also have appreciated more photographs of the dishes as they should look when they arrive on the plate. There is about one photograph for every four or five recipes. Where they occur the photographs are full-page. Using a greater number of small photographs would have been more useful to me than fewer large photographs.

Finally, it seems a shame that the original competitor who submitted the dish is not credited at any point.

This is an entertaining and nicely produced book, the main benefit of which is the sheer variety of ingredients and styles of cooking represented by the different contributors.
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Location: London, UK

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