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Customer Review

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Cook? Not really, 24 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Supper for a Song (Hardcover)
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With references to shooting parties, Ascot and her brother winning his Oscar scattered liberally through the text, this book really doesn't sit well with its "thrifty" tag. Frankly, Tamasin D-L is about as appropriate a guide to frugal food as Nigella Lawson, someone she resembles in many ways. Having said all that, this is a lovely book. It's gorgeous to look at, with photographs that don't just look pretty but genuinely help you to prepare the meals (something Delia's books often lack, making her detailed recipes look off-puttingly lengthy). The layout of each page is both attractive and clear, making it a real pleasure to use in the kitchen. Finally, unlike some recent offerings from TV chefs, it's a sensible size and actually stays open on a kitchen table.

So, what about the recipes? Well, they sound stunning - I see where she's coming from with the "thrifty" tag because she does encourage the attitude to food that all good cooks should try to cultivate. Use the best ingredients you can afford, be sparing with portions and stretch them to two or even three meals wherever possible. It does rather undermine this worthy concept, however, that she has a habit of chucking in pretty expensive extras as padding. Reminds me a bit of those TV shows where rich people volunteer to spend a few weeks on welfare benefits, blissfully unaware that poverty is a very different experience when cushioned by extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the cupboard.

So it's probably best if we forget the "frugal" tag altogether - her account of her days as a poor student will grate on your nerves if you're trying to feed a family on a budget without reaching for the Asda Value Lasagne. But if someone gives you this for Christmas, wallow a bit in the gastro-porn, try to ignore the asides and take away a good idea or two. I've had a little previous experience of TD-L's recipes and I feel the same way about the ones I've tried from this volume as I did about their predecessors. She always seems to make her recipes a little too complicated, as if she's motivated by a need to stamp her personal twist on accepted classics. I tried her yummy-looking Beef Stew with Lemon Thyme and Tarragon Dumplings and found absolutely no need to pair it with a rich, complicated Colcannon recipe - a side of curly kale was ample. Also, the addition of orange peel to the bouquet garni did nothing for me. Similarly, her beetroot soup's gorgeous and the addition of a piece of rye bread is an unexpected but successful idea. But to add raw beetroot to the finished dish, which she raves about, seems pointlessly fiddly.

To sum up, a lovely, inspirational cookery book that does presuppose a certain amount of experience and exposure to quality food - if you want to start from scratch you're probably better off with something like "River Cottage Everyday" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. But if you want to cuddle up with a glass of wine and a roaring fire and read aspirationally about the delights of Saturday afternoon baking sessions after a long day's work, this is a good buy and, for many people, would be appreciated as the kind of gift they wouldn't feel justified in treating themselves to.
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