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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enormous, lovely book, 28 Jun 2012
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This review is from: What's for Dinner?: Second Helpings (Hardcover)
I've never writen a review before but just felt I had to write about this book. This book is the second installment of Romilla Arber's 'what's for dinner' and the profits of both books go to the Food Education Trust that she set up to promote healthy eating and cooking. I think that is very comendable and for that reason alone I think it's a good investment, but the book itself is fabulous too!

This is a HUGE book that has taken me weeks of looking through, just to get through the 740-odd pages and read the few lines of comments that the author puts at the top of each recipe. The book is about 5cms thick and has 521 recipes (according to the acknowledgements). The idea is that there is a savoury recipe for every day of the year, set out in weekly blocks, using seasonal ingredients. There are also a few recipes per week for sweets or cakes as a treat. The author has kids herself, so these recipes are all tried and tested at her family table and often she writes a little comment about whether her children liked it or not.

I'll pick some random pages/recipes to give you a flavour of what's in there:
Doughnuts, duck in a pot with vegetables, lamb in a pot, rhubarb crumble with ginger cream, fresh pappardelle with tomato and basil sauce, mackerel salad, spiced loin of lamb with pilaf rice and cucumber salad, apricot and raspberry cream tart, carrot and courgette muffins, crispy pork sandwiches with apple sauce, pasta with courgettes, tomatoes and pancetta, coffee cake with mocha icing, red pepper and tomato risotto, ham and mushroom lasagne, meatballs in a pot, sausage and cabbage stew, roast chicken with mascarpone and herb stuffing and fennel gratin, sliced oranges in syrup with ginger madeleines, mini nut and chocolate tarts, and plaice goujons with tartare sauce.

The author seems to be worried about eating any processed food (including tortilla wraps, margarine etc) and so most things are made from scratch (shortcrust pastry, mayonnaise, bread etc). I love having that option, but my work and family commitments don't always make that a possibility, but I just substitute elements for shop-bought when I have to.

The photos are amazing and it is stylishly presented (compared to book one which is slightly more dated in its look). There isn't a photo for every recipe, but the book is almost too big to lift up comfortably as it is, so it just wouldn't be feasable! Having a quick flick through, there might be two recipes without a photo and then two with, and then two without and then one with and so on.

Most of the more complicated recipes are put on the saturday and sundays, so you have more time to prepare them but to be honest there are still some recipes mid-week that aren't quick (usually time-consuming in terms of cooking times rather than being fiddly, so maybe not a problem if you are home all day and can still get on with other things whilst the oven is on). But it isn't practical for me to be able to use this as a menu-planner as its designed. In fact, for me it doesn't really work as a menu book, as recipes don't use up left overs from the day before. For example a recipe might call for pre-cooked chicken, which would be ideal if it was the monday after a roast chicken, so that you could use the left-overs. Or on the other hand, if a recipe on tuesday needs 1 tbsp of mascarpone, then I want a recipe on wednesday or thursday that will use up the rest of the tub! But this doesn't really happen in this book. However, please don't let that put you off buying it, as I think it's still amazing as a 'seasonal recipe' book along the same lines as Nigel Slater's Kitchen diaries. Also in her first book, there was a weekly list of the ingredients for that week, to enable you to shop for the lot without going through each recipe, but that's evidently been dropped and there isn't such a list each week in 'second helpings'.

Obviously, like all of us, the author seems to have her favourite ingredients or types of food. There is quite a bit of pastry, red meat (although there are non-meat dishes at least twice weekly I think), pancetta, beans (butter beans, cannellini etc) and a few others, but to be honest, considering she has come up with >500 recipes there isn't too much repetition.

So all in all, if you are a lover of beautiful recipe books or a fan of wholesome home-cooked food (rather than more chef-y type food) (or both, like me!) then I think you won't be disappointed in this book.
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