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Profile for Isobel Henry-Rufus > Reviews

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Isobel Henry-Rufus

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Leon Happy Soups (Happy Leons)
Leon Happy Soups (Happy Leons)
by John Vincent
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Very happy soups!, 19 Oct. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are so many cookery books out this autumn angling to catch the Christmas market. What could be a more acceptable present than a good cookbook? And this is a good one. It shines like a little jewel half buried in a heap of baubles.

I love soup and I have to confess that I own more than one book devoted to soup recipes, but this one is full of new ideas and different flavour combinations. There is a strong eastern influence which is proving a masterclass in how to combine different ingredients, but European traditions are also well represented.

It is full of good ideas on:
• Preparation
• The store cupboard
• Soups for different moods and occasions
• Accompaniments and toppings
• Sides
• Broths
and Sweet Soups! These are delicious and rarely found in cookery books.

It also looks beautiful – full of colour and drawings as well as the now obligatory photographs. It is not particularly large (good for Christmas posting) following the format of the other Happy Leons, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on content. I haven’t counted them but there are 224 pages in the book which I think indicates that there is quite a lot of soup. It is also inexpensive – a mere £7 – in contrast to many of the new cookery books on the market this year, some of which are costing £30.

I recommend that you buy several copies for all your family and friends for Christmas and then buy one extra for yourself.


New French Table
New French Table
by Emily Roux
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing particularly new about this book, 19 Oct. 2017
This review is from: New French Table (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What can one say about this cookery book? It is written by the wife and daughter of a famous chef. That appears to be its USP and they take turns in addressing the reader. The recipes are fine, but they add nothing new or special to French or any cuisine. It is well presented with beautiful photographs, but that is required of all cookery books these days.

I can’t find anything wrong with this book, but I can’t find anything that would encourage me to buy it either. It would make a perfectly acceptable Christmas present and I wouldn’t throw it out if somebody gave it to me, but neither would I go out of my way to buy it.


Claridge's: The Cookbook
Claridge's: The Cookbook
by Martyn Nail
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Indulgence, 17 Oct. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a glorious book. Claridge’s has always been the best hotel in London, regardless of the pretensions of others that claim that title and it is wonderful to be able to have access to some of its recipes. The danger with books like these is that the recipes are totally unsuitable for the home cook. They have adapted them well and I think any reasonably competent cook could cope. The ingredients as well are easily sourced, though some of them may be expensive (eg caviar!).

The book follows a day in Claridge’s, so it starts with Breakfast, followed by Elevenses, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea and Dinner. There are also recipes for cocktails and favourite sauces. These are interspersed with vignettes about Claridge’s – history, statistics, anecdotes, the way they do things . . . The food is wonderful and luxurious and very tempting.

So how would it fit in an everyday kitchen?

The first thing to remember is that this is not a spontaneous book. It is not the book to grab when you come in, tired from work. This is a book you need to plan to use, because one of the ingredients you may find hard to find is time. These recipes don’t use short cuts and sometimes need three days to complete (mostly resting time rather than hard graft). You may also need space, so clear your kitchen table and a shelf in the fridge. My best advice would be to start planning your menu a week in advance. The instructions are very detailed, outlining not just ingredients, but equipment and the time required. They are also clear and easy to follow. The illustrations are beautiful, showing exactly what your finished dish should look like.

If you don’t enjoy cooking, I don’t think this is the book for you (unless your desire for wonderful food overcomes your disinclination to cook). If you love cooking and like to indulge yourself, you will relish this book. It is beautifully produced and a joy to read. It is quite expensive, so start dropping hints for Christmas.


Soulful Baker: From highly creative fruit tarts and pies to chocolate, desserts and weekend brunch
Soulful Baker: From highly creative fruit tarts and pies to chocolate, desserts and weekend brunch
by Julie Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.27

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It is all right, but nothing out of the ordinary, 15 Oct. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We are coming up to Christmas and the big rush to sell books has started. Always popular are books on baking and puddings, but there are so many of them. Mary Berry, Nadiya Hussein, Hummingbird and Ottolenghi, to mention just a few, have new books out this autumn, so competition is strong. Is there anything special about this book to make it stick out from the crowd? It’s USP is its soulfulness rather than its food. The book was born from the baking the author, Julie Jones, did with her mother who suffered from dementia. She posted photos on Instagram as a record and soon gained a large of people who liked her recipes and found her story moving.

She also appeared on BBC Television’s Yes Chef judged by Pierre Koffman who is quoted as saying that she cooks with love. This is all laudable, but I am not one of her followers, and however inspiring her story is, I look for expertise and originality in cookery books, rather than sentiment. That sounds rather callous, but cookery books, such as this one are not particularly cheap and they have to be excellent to justify the expenditure.

Is this book excellent? No. It is all right, but it is not out of the ordinary. If you look at the contents listed on Amazon, you will not find anything new or particularly special:
• Fruit Tarts and Pies, containing recipes like apple rose tart and plum and frangipane tart, plus pastry decoration techniques
• Cakes, Bakes and Treats, with dipped lemon madeleines and muddle cake, as well as tips for getting cream fillings right every time
• Bread and Yeasted Dough, with trampoline bread and grissini
• Chocolate, including a stunning triple chocolate celebration cake and chocolate ganache
• Desserts, with delizia di limone and a meringue sharing nest wreath
• Weekend Breakfast and Brunch, with banana, pecan, and chocolate muffins and fluffy pancakes.

There is nothing wrong with this book, but there are better books on baking on the market, so unless you are a particular fan of Ms Jones, look at the alternatives.

Rereading this review, it sounds a bit mean. I regret that, but I feel that the emphasis on the story of her mother, dementia and therapy was designed as the hook to make me buy the book, rather than the quality of the recipes and I don’t like being manipulated. Perhaps I would feel differently if I knew her work from Instagram, but I don’t.


Cook Yourself Happy: The Danish Way
Cook Yourself Happy: The Danish Way
by Caroline Fleming
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.98

5.0 out of 5 stars A Book for Christmas - to give and to keep for yourself, 15 Oct. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are many colourful, well produced cookery books on the market and there will be many more before we get to Christmas. Some are by famous authors: TV cooks or celebrities who cook. Some are devoted to specific items you can cook: my 100 best cup cake recipes must be on its way to the market soon. Some are devoted to a particular national cuisine: everything Middle Eastern has been very popular for the past few years. What can you do to make your book stand out in this cookery frenzy? The hook that Caroline Fleming uses is twofold – Scandi and happiness.

This is clever. I think Scandinavian food following the popularity of Scandi noir in books, films and TV is going to be the next big food fad. A few specialist books are already trickling their way on to the market. This is an excellent trend because the Scandinavian diet is designed for northern climes and is also very healthy (How many obese Scandinavians can you think of? Very few, because they are all lean and beautiful!) The other current import from Denmark is the concept of Hygge. This is defined by the dictionary as:

‘A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being’

Shrewdly, Fleming has combined the two in her book. This allows her, while sticking in the main to Danish traditions, to include delicious recipes that started their lives elsewhere but have been passed through a Danish filter. There is a strong emphasis on fish and the recipes are varied and tempting. British people tend to neglect fish. I hope these recipes will encourage British readers to be more adventurous in their fish cookery.

The other thing which is really excellent about this book is that not only are all the ingredients easily available over here, they are also at the cheaper end of the market. These recipes will allow you to eat well without bankrupting yourself. They are also easy to follow and understand – no fiddly and complicated techniques required. They are original and teach us to combine flavours in new blends that we might not have considered before.

It is beautifully produced with lots of gorgeous photographs of food and of Denmark.

The one criticism I have is the index, most of which is Danish, so, as a non-Danish speaker, I found it hard to identify the recipes I wanted to look at, but that’s a minor inconvenience.


InterDesign Cabrini Under Sink Organizer with 2-Tier Expandable Shelf, Silver
InterDesign Cabrini Under Sink Organizer with 2-Tier Expandable Shelf, Silver
Price: £43.46

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully designed solution to a common problem, 14 Oct. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a beautifully designed solution to a common problem – the waste of space under the sink in the kitchen where the plumbing makes it impossible to fit a conventional shelf. This metal shelving unit forms itself around the plumbing creating lots of extra space for storing cleaning materials etc.

It is very easy to put together. You don’t need any tools. I completed it in less than ten minutes. The only problems I see arising are failings in your own kitchen design, if access to the under sink area is restricted in any way, for example. It is sturdy and would easily bear an average array of cleaning materials. If you wanted to store your team’s curling stones under your sink, it might struggle, but otherwise it is sufficiently robust.

Its primary purpose is to go under the sink, but I can see plenty of other uses for it. In any storage cupboard where you want to store items of different sizes, the sliding shelves would be very useful – a set of glasses and a jug, for example. It makes great use of space.


Artist's Drawing Techniques: Discover How to Draw Landscapes, People, Still Lifes and More, in Pencil, Charcoal, Pen and Pastel
Artist's Drawing Techniques: Discover How to Draw Landscapes, People, Still Lifes and More, in Pencil, Charcoal, Pen and Pastel
by DK
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.94

5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive guide to drawing techniques, 10 Oct. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are many instruction books on drawing on the market. This is a particularly good one. It is very comprehensive.

It starts off with a section on The Basics. You will be able to see from the list of subjects covered how very thorough it is:
• Getting Started
• Aspects of Drawing
• Drawing from Observation and Imagination
• Drawing Inside and Outside
• Composition
• Perspective and Measuring
• Sketchbooks
• Vocabulary of Colour
• Choosing a medium

Then it gets down to the brass tacks of the book – the techniques for using the main tools of drawing:
Pencil, Charcoal, Pen & Ink, Coloured Pencil and Pastel

The skills are divided into three levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced each of which ends with a Showcase Drawing which employs some of the techniques that have been discussed.

There is an excellent glossary of terms at the end followed by an index.

Although it is comprehensive and thorough, it is not easy. You have to work at the skills and, in some cases, use your own creativity to gain the results shown. Nothing is given to you on a plate and the author’s attitude seems to be that if you practise the skills, you will gain the experience to take the next step. You cannot rush the process. To use an analogy, if you were learning a new sport, you would do it in stages, progressing only when your muscles are fit to move on. In many ways, drawing is no different. Your hand and your eyes need to be trained and that does not happen instantly.

That is, I think, why I like this book so much. It doesn’t promise instant success. It makes you work for it.

I have really enjoyed using this book but I am taking it slowly, practising and honing my skills, before progressing to the next stage.


Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2018
Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2018
by Hugh Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Pocket reference book full of information, 5 Oct. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very small book bung full of information. Because of this there are a lot of codes and symbols to assimilate but they are not too difficult to learn. Basically you look up the wine you want information about and it rates it and says which year is best and when you should drink it and a few basic notes.

When would you use it? I suppose mostly when making a wine order. It would be feasible, I suppose, to use it in a restaurant while going through the wine list, but it would be rather nerdy, if not downright rude. I suppose you could use it as a wine primer and learn a bit each day. I think, since it is not the sort of book I would carry round in my handbag (an app would be more convenient) I would prefer it if the book was in a larger format. It would make it much more easy to use.

As far as I can see the list of wines is fairly comprehensive, but where it is lacking (and I can foresee the wincing of any wine buffs reading this review) is down the cheaper end of the market and that is where a guide would be really useful – most expensive wines have a certain quality but I would like to know which cheeky little red is cheap and delicious and which is fit only to clean the loo.

This will make an excellent Christmas present for the men in your life who are hard to buy presents for. That may sound like a very sexist comment, but it is much more of a man’s book that a woman’s, I feel. Women also like good wine but I think they judge much more by experience than statistics. They will compile their own lists of what is good to drink.


Emilio Lustau Vermut Red Vermouth Wine, 75 cl
Emilio Lustau Vermut Red Vermouth Wine, 75 cl
Price: £16.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Both cloyingly sweet and aggressively bitter, 30 Sept. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are many red vermouths/fortified wines on the market. They encompass the cloyingly sweet and the aggressively bitter. This manages to be both. It is browner than most of its competitors, looking almost like a diluted marmite but not quite so intense.

I tried it several ways before coming to a final verdict.

• Neat and at room temperature: it tasted medicinal, over sweet with a bitter after taste. It also felt unpleasantly sticky.
• Neat from the fridge with ice: better, the sweetness was toned down and the ice reduced the stickiness, but the bitter after taste was still there.
• Diluted with fizzy water and ice: the kick of the alcohol was removed and nothing was added.
• Diluted with Waitrose tonic water and ice: the most palatable alternative. The tonic water reduced the cloying sweetness adding some of its own flavour to compensate, but the unpleasant bitterness was still there.

At this point I stopped testing. Even though I was drinking small amounts, it is 15% proof. Sadly it was making me feel sick rather than merry.

Looking at the ingredients, I think I have identified the bitter element. They are listed as follows: ten botanicals and aromatic herbs such as gentian, sage, absinth, coriander and orange peel. I once was given a German liqueur made from gentians. It was so bitter it was almost impossible to drink and the after taste lingered on for a very long time. I think gentian is the ingredient at fault here.

I think you can probably guess that I didn’t much like this vermouth. It was:
• Too sweet
• Too bitter
• Too sticky
• Too medicinal

If you like the combination of bitter and sweet, Punt e Mes is much more palatable and cheaper (£16.30 as opposed to £18.95). If you like a sweet red vermouth, Martini Rosso is much cheaper and much more widely available, as is Dubonnet.

I don't even think I'll use it in cooking.


Persuading Austen
Persuading Austen
Price: £2.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Who proof read this book?, 28 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Persuading Austen (Kindle Edition)
I found this very difficult to read as it was so badly written. All my English teacher hackles rose in protest. It should have been proof read and all the elementary grammar and syntax errors corrected. Perhaps there were the elements of a good (if shockingly derivative) story here, but the poor writing completely obscured it.


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