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on 7 May 2012
Well, reading the reviews you would think this is a book for beginners with expert abilities! Some think it's easy, some think it's for the expert.

I have read through this book and it is a little basic for expert cooks. It is good for the aspiring or under confident beginner. The recipes are simple and give a range of alternatives to the ingredients to assist in choosing a recipe or fitting in with what you have or can get hold of.

Nicely written, but too basic for me. I have a friend who will benefit from it who is learning to cook and not confident about varying a recipe.
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on 10 January 2013
Bought this book as "used" and I am always amazed at the value and the condition of the books I buy. I doubt if this little nugget has even been opened.
A great book to pop into your luggage if you are off on a self catering holiday,to give you inspiration or as another reviewer suggests, for students. it's full of easy put together little feasts as well as the more time consuming. I love the fact it has a jazzed up recipe for rice pudding..( close your ears) tinned!
These small books by up and coming new cooks are alot of fun...give it a go!
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on 30 June 2011
That's what James Ramsden's book reminded me of - someone I know and trust who will always help me out, someone I can have a good time with and be surprised by too. And it's a relief to find a cookbook that makes me feel welcome, a part of what's happening on the page (and what I feel confident could happen in my own kitchen) rather than sitting dumbstruck and overwhelmed as I read about the culinary equivalent of an Everest ascent.

Even if you're a really, really inexperienced cook ('I boil water and burn it' type) and don't fancy too much of an adventure, you'll find plenty to have fun with in the Corner Shop Capers section. And shouldn't cooking should be about enjoying ourselves?

And on top of its imaginative and accessible contents there's the fabulous design: a book I want to hold and touch. The matte card covers are a kind of cross between French 19th century 'cahier' and 21st century journal and the internal layout manages to be stimulating and quirky but essentially informative too.

So, if you want a new kitchen friend this is the book for you.
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on 27 May 2011
This book was recommended by a friend who had come across James Ramsden on the blogosphere, and I made no hesitation in ordering my copy when I had discovered the premise of the book, namely to get people cooking more adventurously without spending more and without being made to attempt anything toooo challenging... I was keen to get out of the pasta/chicken kiev comfort zone, but not to take any quantum leaps into Heston-level gastromania, and this book seemed the ultimate stepping stone.

And though I have only been in possession of "Small Adventures In Cooking" for a couple of days, I feel I have already been on a diminutive and fun culinary Odyssey, steered by the author's reassuring, unpretentious tone... never before have I been made to feel so unintimidated by cooking something new or unknown, or dare I say it complex (well, the product is complex, while the process is not). Somehow recipes online can make even a pasta bake or a stew feel impossibly far-fetched, but there I was yesterday having a great time creating a coconut chicken noodle broth with chilli and ginger from about three instructions - and it was utterly delicious, something I was proud to place in front of my cooing flatmates.

I have delved further into the book and look forward to attempting some of the big sharing dishes this weekend - beef chilli tacos methinks. I am also keen to try out chutney-making, which in all honesty had never really occurred to me.

This is an excellent cookery book designed for people who might be mistrustful of cookbooks... it is simple, witty, and most importantly it has a clear message that every recipe would appear to deliver upon - that someone like me, who is interested in food but never really takes the initiative to do anything different or adventurous, can do so with the minimum of hassle.
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on 2 July 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was looking forward to receiving this book because I enjoy cooking and the idea of the "secret supper society" has always interested me.

I have been a member of a "secret supper club" for a number of years. A secret supper club is a good way of keeping in touch with old friends; people who you may lose contact with due to work or physical distance. So, any recipe suggestions are (usually) welcome.

The outer appearance of the book reminds me of an old notebook; the sort of notebook that my maternal Grandmother and great Aunts used to use to write down their favourite family recipes.

The first problem I encountered was with the dish titles which are in a script font (one similar to "mistral") which makes it difficult to read them at times.

There is an introduction to each of the recipes which, after a while, I started to skip. They came across as self-indulgent and on occasion irrelevant to the recipe that they had been attached to.

I as I was making the "belly pork with cider and lentils" recipe (p56) and I had a sense of de-ja-vu and went searching through our other recipe book and there it was, in an old farmhouse kitchen recipe book, "Pork and Cider Casserole". The differences were few but included, the quantity descriptions (the old recipe is given in imperial measure and this book is in metric), and the exchange of barley (old recipe) for lentils (this recipe), along with the addition of a small amount of tarragon.

As I compared the recipes I was a bit shocked and disappointed. Where the author has rashers of smoked streaky bacon finely chopped, the farmhouse recipe has bacon lardons, and the farmhouse recipe says finely chopped parsley where as this author says flat leaf parsley. The recipes were different only with the addition of lentils and tarragon - everything else was semantics.

It wasn't the only recipe where this was the case. In one recipe there was the addition of chilli which was the only difference (stuffed tomato - p104), and so on.

Then there are the recipes for (tinned) sardine sandwich with tartar sauce though it does have a recipe for tartar sauce if you like it (p72); or Soviet (tinned) salmon soup (p69);

There is "beetroot soup with goat's curd" (p99) though I prefer our old recipe for "borsht with floating cream islands". Goat's curd is an acquired taste that I don't have.

I realise that there are only so many recipes in the world, and it might only be coincidence, but it was a disappointment when I realised how many were similar to ones that we already have.

Then in the chapter entitled "Exploring Cheap Cuts" the author has recipes for pork ribs, duck and veal. I don't know where he shops but if he can get any part of a duck or cut of veal at a cheap price he's incredibly lucky.

There are also a number of specialist ingredients were the author says go down the road to your specialist supermarket or outlet, I live in a small village where specialist dealers are none existent. In fact the closest one would be in the city centre about 20 miles away, a long trip for one or two specialist ingredients. I take it that the author lives in the city were specialist dealers and markets are prevalent, unfortunately not everyone else does - not his fault, not my fault, just the way it is, but the assumption that all readers will have access to such facilities added a feeling of insult to injury.

In saying all that I must admit that some of the recipes are good, some are bad and some are ok-I-suppose, but that's a cook book for you. The problems are mainly mine, because I own so many of the families old and antiquated cook books there are usually one or two similarities in books (though this is the first time I have noticed so many similarities).

All I will say is: if you don't have any older recipes books to refer to, or you like lentils, spice and specialist ingredients then this book may be for you.
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on 19 July 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I enjoyed this book much more than the Steve Parle book in the same series. The layout and photography were very pleasing and the size of the book was good to hold (not an unwieldy A4 thumper)and read in bed. The recipes for the main were very simple and there was a useful section near the back that sought to demystify techniques that can put off novice cooks - such as making hollandaise. The writer is the doyenne of the pop up supper clubs but is no amateur as he trained at the Ballymaloe cookery school.

I had some of my usual bugbears with cookery books once again reinforced by this book - some of the the fake real hand writing font was difficult to read, there were not enough photos of the actual dishes, some recipes were just too simple to merit a whole page - for example the easy chicken curry "recipe" was some chicken pieces baked in an oven with a spoon of shop bought jar paste and a spoon of yoghurt and there was a recipe for scrambled egg. there was also as ection on cooking with cheap cuts of meat (and offal) which for me was not very useful. As a mainly vegetarian household I found teh book light on good veggie dishes - the suggested rice pilaf to be served at a more "formal" dinner was very weak and would need lots of side dishes or a sauce to make it interesting enough to be a veggie main for a dinner party. However - I liked the idea of the recipes being easy to cook and I liked Ramsden's chatty tone ( a la Nigel Slater). I thought the section on preserves and chutneys was excellently explained and he made it all seem very simple , good straight forward recipes and not too large a quantity- I have always been wary of preserve bottling as most recipes I have in other books seem to make enough to feed an army.
If you are a meat eater and not too experienced in cooking I think this is a very good book
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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to admit to reading cookery books as some might read the latest thriller, sometimes I don't try the recipes instead savouring the descriptions instead. With this book I just had to try some out.

If you are looking for some new ideas, easily done so it doesn't frighten the horses, then this is a good way to branch out without making huge expensive purchases. Consider this stress free adventure cooking!

I do like the introductions, very personable, I tried the 5-minute sponge after reading about where he found the recipe. Adding little nuggets of information like that encourages the home cook to try things out. There is nothing here that will concern the reader, no lengthy list of odd ingredients, no weird ingredients as such - you will find everything in your local food shop/supermarket.

The author writes with an interest and a passion about food that is very contagious. The outlay of the book is retro, very now but I would imagine will be a welcome accompaniment to any cookery book collection. However handsome books do not necessarily translate within the pages - here it does. Anyone who wants to adapt their basic cooking skills, impress friends over for dinner, find new favourites with unfamiliar ingredients will enjoy trying out these recipes.

The sponge was a huge hit with my 9 year old twins, they make the food critic in Ratatouille look impassive. We've also tried a few others and I do appreciate the *tart, *tweak, *tomorrow tips on the pages.
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VINE VOICEon 6 July 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
James Ramsden is one of the new kids on the food writing block although his pedigree (Ballymaloe cookery school, working in Italy and France, writing for, among others, The Guardian and The Independent) gives assurance that he is going to be around for a very long time. His approach to cooking is so relaxed and spontaneous that to introduce his skills in a cookery book at first seems a little incongruous. However the quality that leaps from virtually every page of this delightful book is Ramsden's sheer, unbridled enthusiasm for food and the many wonderful things he (and we) can do to it to make it even better!
Divided into such self-evident sections as 'Formal Forays', 'Morning Missions' and 'Exploring the Cheap Cuts' the author guides us effortlessly through his own takes on kedgeree, pork wellington and osso buco as well as some of his more idiosyncratic dishes such as Soviet salmon soup, 7 hour pork belly buns with apple sauce and, perhaps my favourite, lamb neck fillets with harissa and chickpea salad. Virtually every recipe has a 'tart', 'tweak' or 'tomorrow' post script which suggests ways of improving, changing or using any leftover the following day. Quite uniquely each recipe also has a hashtag to enable the real enthusiast to share his/her thoughts with others on Twitter. Ramsden's is certainly a voice that we will hear a lot more of. It can only be hoped that his future offerings are as unique and exciting as the ones gathered in this book.
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on 16 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'Small Adventures in Cooking' has rather aptly been produced in an A5 sized book and from the exterior has the appearance of a recipe collection that you might have inherited from your Gran.

It has been bound so as to prevent easy referral on the work surface without using various implements (such as my trusted bags of flour and sugar) to hold the pages open at the required recipe. I tend towards the messy end of the spectrum when it comes to cooking and have actually found it beneficial to photocopy the recipes to ensure the source material is kept in pristine condition and thus avoid the balancing act.

I think I rather like James Ramsden's style of cooking, except that he advocates washing up as you go to avoid having to cook in a couple of inches of work space - surely that is half of the fun? His recipes are easy on the whole and include cheese or mushrooms on toast with no great surprises in either dish, as well as how to basically cook eggs. There is even a chicken curry made using curry paste bought readymade with the explanation that it offers a fast solution to hunger and an alternative to takeaways - it is simple but tasty. I can relate to the feeling of wanting a quick fix after a hard day at work.

Overall, whilst I found several recipes in the book appealing, the slant really was towards basic cookery. It is something I would probably consider popping in the suitcase for a student that will have to cater for themselves for the first time rather than a highly accomplished cook. I am neither but this book offers sufficient new content for me to be happy to give it a space on my bookshelf.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Overall impressions: some very good, interesting recipes, many of which I think would be reasonably accessible to newbie and experienced chefs alike (with the caveat that the newbie chef would have to have at least an interest in food, otherwise they might be a bit intimidated by some of the ingredients lists).

I'm not a big one for formulaic cookbooks, except in cases where precision is critical to outcome. So that is one big advantage of this book - nothing is prescriptive, and the author gives you a bit of guidance in terms of exploring when you can vary an ingredient and when one might be critical. There are some interesting flavour combinations proposed, which got me wanting to try them out. Some of the ingredients might seem a bit exotic, but I think this really is a cookbook for people who love food and cooking, rather than a "how to" manual for those who feel compelled to cook.

I'd rate this far above a Jamie Oliver or Nigella type cookbook - it's probably most successfully aimed at the reasonably confident cook who likes to play about a bit, and likes to think about new combinations of ingredients. it's not wildly innovative, but it's got enough new ideas in there to feel like a satisfying read. At the same time, there is nothing really that complicated - no Heston-style blow torches or dry ice required (although that kind of cooking intrigues me too).

So, I think, if you like interesting flavour combinations and you like reading about food in general, this is a reasonably good cookbook, and a cut above the typical TV chef type far.
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