18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A bit confused about its readership...!!,
This review is from: Vegetarian (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With its attractively homespun cover art, emphasis on "fresh, seasonal ingredients", and its handy "how-to's" scattered throughout the book (how to make yogurt, how to make tofu, how to grow sprouts...) this book looks at first glance like the kind of cookbook that would appeal to the your average veggie cook who wants to eat well and be healthy.
But no. The recipes are not only frequently complex and difficult to follow, they demand the kind of cordon bleu skills that most ordinary people have neither the time, the equipment nor the skill to master. Alice Hart calls herself a "food stylist", and this is what a chef of my acquaintance would self-deprecatingly call "cheffy" food - the sort of dishes with names that go on for half a paragraph. They're heavily constructed, rather pretentious, fine in a smart restaurant or hotel but out-of-place in a book aimed at the general public - especially if you happen, as I do, to live in a rural area. Now, I have plenty of access to the "fresh, seasonal ingredients" mentioned on the cover, because I grow them - but no access to a fancy supermarket or delicatessen. So although I can do you a gorgeous basket of ripe tomatoes or luscious courgettes right now, I'm a bit stuck for pecorino shavings or ras el hanout. To give Alice Hart her due, she does sometimes suggest alternatives for the more unlikely ingredients - you can use spinach if you can't find betel leaves, although rice vinegar is as out of the question for me as the Chinese black vinegar she really wants me to use for her dumplings with dipping sauce. She will also reluctantly let you off if you decide that life is just too short to peel a grape, but I still felt guilty that I possess neither a terrine mould nor a griddle pan - both mainstays of the recipes here.
It's not all bad, though, and I'm giving the book 3 stars because it partially redeems itself by letting you into some useful cheffy tips - not only the how-to's I mentioned earlier but how to spice up your menus with elegant garnishes and accompaniments which are actually esay to make and store, like salad toppings (toasted garlic breadcrumbs, maple walnuts, Parmesan lace...), unusual sauces and handy preserves.