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Lovely book but recipes aren't always reliable
on 27 September 2011
I coveted this book for a while before buying it. I had seen some of the TV series and I liked her breezy yet sophisticated style. Many of the recipes seemed very mouth-watering and had the added bonus of being healthy too. There's no doubt about it, the book is really beautifully produced. The prose writing is gorgeous and the look and feel of the book are stunning.
However, and it't s big 'however', the recipes are disappointingly unreliable. I have tried a few, some more than once, but the quantities are either poorly specified or just seem wrong in some cases. For example, the banana bread which tastes lovely is hard to get right because she just says use 'four bananas' without specifying a weight. The first time I made it the loaf, while it still tasted nice, was overly sticky and stodgy because the bananas I used were too big. The next time I used fewer bananas and it worked. The celeriac fish pie , while the flavours are delicious - GREAT idea to use celeriac mash on top, has what seems to me to be either insufficient cooking time, or too much liquid. Also, I don't think she gives a weight for the celeriac either - she says something like 'one large, ot two small celeriacs'. This leaves too much guesswork for the user and is frustrating.
A few people have raved about the chicken curry. I thought that looked nice too but it's very, very mild. I wouldn't really call that a curry myself... The Carnation milk jellies I made because I'd a tin of condensed milk that was nearing its best before date but it was too sweet and artificial tasting though kids would probably love it for that all right. The Paris mash makes an enormous amount of what is tasty but a little boring to eat just on its own. There was too much lemon in the lemon and crab pasta. The curried parsnip soup is very easy and delicious though! The chestnut soup was a weird and unappetising shade of brown and, though it tasted OK, the texture was a little thin. The Quinoa salad just didn't work. We ended up throwing the first batch of Quinoa we cooked according to her instructions out.
There were also a disappointly large number of recipes that are just too simple for a cookery book in my opinion. By this I mean many of the breakfast dishes that almost seem to be more 'assembly' than inspired recipes.
I do like the fact that she uses some unusual ingredients and the recipes are healthy and nutritious. The book is glorious to look at and there are still a few that I will try but so far the only ones I'd be bothered to make again would be the banana bread, the parsnip soup and the celeriac fish pie if I can get the quantities and cooking time right through my own experimentation! I wanted to love this book. I like Sophie Dahl herself but the recipes need better testing and weight guides for vegetables and fruit rather than vague descriptions.