I'm lucky, I guess that I don't own any other Delia books, other than her "Puddings" as this seems to be a collection of the various meat free recipes that are dotted through other books. However, it's nice that such a mainstream author deems us veggies worthy of having a book of our own!
Some of the recipes in the books are excellent, others are more standard "run-of-the-mill" ones, but that's not to detract from them.
This book is always one that I turn to when I can't find something in one of my other books and more often than not, I find some inspiration in here. The twice baked souffles must be the easiest souffles to make - and are guaranteed to impress and the parsnip roulade graced my Christmas dinner table a few years back. I wouldn't have this as my only cookbook, but its definitely worth having it in your collection.
On a final note Delia's Pears in Red Wine Galettes helped me pass my Cordon Vert Diploma. Thanks Delia!
My initial reaction to this anthology of recipes from earlier Delia Smith books was much the same as that of earlier reviewers. The recipes are generally inventive, and the book itself is well laid out, and visually attractive. But the more I use it, the more irritated I get. First, the colour photographs are a 50 per cent waste of space. There are typically four pictures on each illustration page, two of them of one of the dishes, which is fine, and two of pretty arrangements of a few ingredients. This is OK if you're a fan of photographic still lifes, but not much use if you want to see how a given recipe is meant to look. Second, Delia's style is execrable. Every step in a recipe is prefaced by wholly unnecessary phrases like "after that you do X.." or "the next thing to do is...". Given the price of the book, it would have been nice if someone could have converted Delia's telly-speak into good plain English instructions. Third, and most important if you are trusting her to take you through a recipe for the first time, she is sometimes ambiguous or downright wrong. Take, for example, her basically admirable recipe for mushrooms in Madeira in puff pastry cases. She specifies "900g of both oyster mushrooms and chestnut mushrooms". 450g of each, or 1800 g in total?. She then goes on to tell you how to roll out 500g of ready made pastry into 6 13 cm squares 2 cm thick. Try it - she obviously hasn't. You'll be lucky to get three squares out of this quantity of pastry. So do you roll it out more thinly or double up the quantities? You can probably work it out what she means by going to something like the magnificent Mastering the Art of French Cooking; but should you have to?
In short, a nice book to look at, with some creative ideas, but marred by sloppy writing, arty production values, and some glaring mistakes.
There's no doubting that this book has a good range of recipes, which will serve me for a long time, but I've several gripes about it. Firstly a lot of the recipes are quite involved. This is not a book for knocking things up in a few minutes or using the few meagre items left in your fridge. Having said that, the swiss baked eggs are a marvellous piece of naughtiness-laden comfort food. Delia's instructions are fairly explicit though, so if you are a beginner cooking to impress then you shouldn't have _too_ many problems, although she's not quite as down-to-earth and full of handy tips as Nigella Lawson or Nigel Slater in this respect. Secondly, although the book looks divine, with photos filling every other page and some double pages, most of it is totally unnecessary filler fluff - more than half the pictures are of raw ingredients. I already know what a basketfull of apples looks like, thanks Delia, and while I've never seen whitecurrants before, a knowledge of their black and red cousins, combined with a good imagination, should be enough to stand me in good stead. I would much rather have seen more of the recipes photographed. What a waste of space - looks great on the coffee table but next time please can I have either a more useful or a cheaper book. Finally, not really a big issue but of minor annoyance (to me at least), her insistence on using imperial measures and farenheit temperatures (albeit with metric equivalents in brackets) seems about 20 years out of date, and smacks somewhat of the little-England mentality which I guess Delia represents to some degree. To a generation raised with things that can be divided by 10, it's confusing as hell. If, like me, you cherish vegetarian recipes wherever you can find them, this is definitely an important book for the collection. But if you are looking for a first book then, as a vast sourcebook of easy-to-cook recipes, I cannot recommend Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian" too highly. If it's more something to impress friends that you're looking for, while this book ranks highly I would first try to get hold of a copy of Marlena Spieler's sadly out-of-print "Vegetarian Bistro" with its wonderful French-inspired high-butter-high-cream-high-mmmmmmm dishes.
Some of the recipies in this book are fantastic. Compared to the Linda McCartney type books out there this offers some real food with real recipies that you could see falling of the menu at a rosetted restuarant (in fact I'm almost sure I have).
Though there are some major flaws:
1. It's just recylced Delia recipies from her "How to Cook" series: nothing new here at all.
2. The food is cheese, cheese, cheese and egg. This makes the recipies both fat fat fat (a Delia trait though) and lack variety (if you don't like cheese there's probably only 2 recipies in here!)
3. Most of the meals are small (starters, salads, soups, lite-bites) and little main meals.
4. The book lacks supporting information. Delia rarely advises you on how to prepare the meals, source good ingrediants (as other good cook books do) offer alternatives or variations or give advice on what to serve the dish with (great, I've cooked a rosti what should go with it?). Though to be honest this is Delia's usual totalitarian approach to cooking: she makes out there's only one way to cook a meal and every ingrediant must be exact (for example 8% fat fromage frais: why exactly 8%?) or the whole thing will go disasterously.
5. There is little vegetable cooking (as I said mostly cheese and egg), though there is a section it is small and lacks vegetables to support your main meal rather than replace it and it also lacks how to just do great boiled potatoes or great asparagus or great...
That being said its a good start to offering a little more of a professional approach to Vegetarian cooking but it is a book to add to your collection and stretch you repetoir a little rather than revolutionise it.