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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 27 May 2011
Prepped is a fantastic new concept - make double of a recipe or component and use it in another dish, for example a soup base also becomes a pie filling. Every recipe is linked to another.

This linked cooking allows you to save time and to produce wonderful food with far less effort. Being a busy mother of 3 with a demanding job Vanessa started to link her cooking and then realised it would be an excellent concept for a book and so gave up her job to write Prepped.

Vanessa is a trained chef with an alchemist's skill for mixing basic flavours into something heavenly. The book is visually stunning, with over 200 colour photos with a full page photo for each recipe. Each recipe is introduced by Vanessa, her words of passion and enthusiasm spill off the page enticing you to make the dish immediately. Most recipes come with some of Vanessa's tips, which help you on your way, vary the dish or save even more time. the one overriding word to describe this book is "happy", everything is a celebration, from the pink cover, photos, flavours and Vanessa's words. This is a book for people who love to cook, love food, love to eat and enjoy life.

The book is organised into 11 chapters by flavours which are loosely listed seasonally, starting off with elderflower of late spring, moving to rhubarb, lavender and lemon. Summer is packed with vanilla, tomato & plum. Then autumn and winter are represented with caraway, chocolate, cardamom and orange & clove.

The elderflower chapter starts with a recipe for homemade syrup which is then used in cocktails, salad dressing, puddings, a stunning baked trout, macarons and cupcakes.

In the rhubarb chapter there is a recipe for rhubarb and mackerel pate (which also doubles as a pasta sauce) a pairing that I would have never thought of, but instantly realise will be insanely delicious. The 100 mph rhubarb and cardamom cake can be thrown together ready for the oven in a mere 6 minutes, perfect for unexpected guests and time pressed cooks.

The book abounds with delicious pairings, a spicy vanilla and mango pork, a modern twist on the traditional plum crumble by adding cardamom. Very simple, but adding another layer of delicious flavour.

I cannot wait to try the savoury chocolate biscuits with some Cheddar, and my love for meringue has me salivating at the chocolate & almond Pavlova cake.

Rarely do I want to want to cook more than one or two recipes from a cookbook. I imagine I will be making nearly everything in Prepped over the coming year.
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on 24 November 2011
Vanessa Kimbell packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus... well not quite, she packed in her former corporate life and put her earlier acquired cheffing skills to good use to write her cookery book, Prepped! inside a year.

The result is a creative family friendly tome to pulling together exciting dinners at the drop of a hat by making use of core recipes for flavoured sugars, syrups and sauces. You could either give this book to someone in its own right or buy yourself a copy and give someone home made gifts packaging up the core recipes from the book. Star recipes are brocolli with hot vanilla vinaigrette and lavender salmon which sound like they shouldn't work but do. Chapters are based around seasonal ingredients such as elderflower, rhubarb and lavender in the first "spring/summer" half of the book moving on to plum, tomato and chocolate for the more wintery half. I especially like the recipes that suggest doubling up on quantities to yield two separate things; custard becomes creme caramel or ice cream, granola becomes a crumble topping etc.

Aspirational in style, this book has look of Country Living Magazine about it but I'm knocking a star off as I think the presentation could have been better. Some of the lovely photos have their focal point buried in the spine which is a shame and an opportunity to stamp Vanessa's personality over the pages has been missed by unsophisticated use of fonts by the graphic designer. If she gets a better designer in for book 2 then Rachel Allen had better watch out!
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on 26 September 2011
The story of how Prepped came to be written is as interesting as the book itself. In May 2010 Vanessa Kimbell was talking to a friend who described the difficulties of trying to juggle working for a living, being a parent and putting a good meal on the table after a long day, asking Vanessa how she made it all seem so effortless. The following week, finding herself in a bookshop, Vanessa scoured the shelves for a cookbook that would meet the needs of her time-short foodie friend, which did not just offer fast recipes, but intelligent cooking solutions and versatile recipe links. None could be found, and the germ of this idea remained in her head.

Multi-tasking, juggling and inventiveness are all part of the daily requirements of most cooks, so Vanessa decided that she would fill this gap. She embarked on a year long project to write a cook book that focussed on layered and linked recipes that would enable anyone and everyone to cook great dishes, but with fewer pots and pans and therefore washing up. The structure for "Prepped!", the multi-tasking bible for the time-short foodie cook, was born.

So the creamy chocolate ganache which she used to make truffles was divided into two and with the second half of the recipe a chocolate, orange and cardamom gelato was squirrelled away in the freezer. Out of a plain custard used for one recipe, another portion of the same recipe was used to make an orange and clove trifle. Elderflower syrups were transformed into sorbets on the one side, for the childrens' party, but could also be used for the grown ups' cocktails once the children were in bed. From the beef stew came the mix that went to make the beef patties. Twice the number of meals were created for only half the effort.

The methodology behind "Prepped!" rests on the premise that smart and efficient cooking, in batches, bringing in key note, layered flavours enables those that want to create food that does not compromise on taste to minimise the energy required to create a variety of dishes using minimal equipment. In these troubled times we all need this sort of help in the kitchen, making cooking a joy and a pleasure.
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on 26 September 2011
Who is it for?

People who adore cooking and fine ingredients but don't have as much time as they'd like to faff about in the kitchen. I think it'll go down well with the Waitrose crowd. It's for foodies who love to be adventurous with flavour combos and impress their dinner guests with their culinary masterpieces. Ordinary cooking this `aint!

It's clear from reading this book that Vanessa knows a lot about flavours and uses her favourite ones to order the recipes. From the floral Elderflower and Lavender, to the fruity Lemon and Plum, spicy Cardamom and ever essential Chocolate - there's something for everyone's tastes and probably a whole heap of stuff you've never tried.

A lot of the sections start with making a basic carrier for the flavour like a sugar, jam or syrup which will then be used in the other recipes. So you're investing some time to make these elements, but then reap the benefits another time. The truly time-pushed cook probably won't have the patience for this, but if you love making your own jams and cordials then this is the book for you!

Easy to follow?

Vanessa writes in an enthusiastic style that's really infectious - you really want to try her recipes. The instructions are clearly laid out, she signposts all the linked recipes and gives suggestions of other ingredients or combinations you could use.

Family friendly?

I would say the food has a very sophisticated feel suited to grown-up dinner party cooking, but saying that there are a lot of recipes that would make lovely simple family meals like Tomato and Garlic Pasta. Tempting bake Chocolate and Vanilla Whoopie Pies would make a lovely tea party treat for kids.

Most likely to cook

I've really got into making my own edible gifts in the last year, so I'll definitely be trying out Vanessa's ideas lovely home-made gift ideas like the Cardamom and Chocolate Biscotti and the Plum Brandy.

The cocktail recipes are very tempting and a great way to welcome guests coming over for dinner; I've already tried out the Ginger von Tease to great success.

Least likely to cook

I'm not sure I'm convinced by the sound of Mackerel and Rhubarb Pasta - I'm not the biggest fan of oily fish and this just feels a bit too out-there for my tastes.

Would you buy it for a friend?

This book would make a lovely gift for someone who really loves throwing dinner parties and experimenting in the kitchen - I can think of lots of people I know who would absolutely love it.
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on 5 July 2011
The cover of the book says it all - this is a book for women, but not just any women. If Jamie Oliver has gone on a mission to tackle social inequality and promote cooking for all, this book is the antithesis. This is not for those lesser mortals living in the city in high-rise flats; this is the cookbook for the Mumsnet generation, with the luxury of the countryside at their front doorstep.

Having said that, this is a lovely book with beautiful photography and chatty text. On first glance I thought it may be a little heavy on desserts and cakes, but having looked further through it is balanced out with a diverse range of main and savoury dishes. The 'link' concept is great, although be warned, I have just made the elderflower and rose syrup and my kitchen has now been taken over by a dozen jars of the stuff! My macaroons failed miserably (didn't whisk the eggs for long enough - must listen harder next time..)but I'm looking forward to testing out the Ginger Von Tease cocktails at the weekend.

This book does inspire, and would make a great gift, as would many of the syrups and jams inside. Just be careful not to spill any over that brand new Mamas and Papas pram....
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on 4 October 2011
I have a huge collection of cookery books. Several hundred in fact. My shelves are heaving and they are stacked up in piles on the floor where I have run out of room to store them. So, if I'm going to buy another cookery book, it needs to be pretty special.

Prepped! is that special cook book. I get so bored reading through so many cookery books which come out. They all seem so samey. One of the many things I love about Prepped! is that I think the recipes are genuinely interesting and inspiring. They use flavour combinations I haven't tried before and it really encouraged me to branch out and try some new ideas. I'm so glad I bought the book.

I actually purchased Prepped! back in June and since then, I have cooked all the recipes in the book. As soon as I took the book home, I read it from cover to cover and instantly wanted to start cooking. This isn't a reaction I get from most cookery books.

If you are an experienced cook, or a novice, you will find something delicious and interesting to cook in the book to liven up your repertoire.

Do give it a read. I promise you it will inspire you.
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on 26 September 2011
Vanessa Kimbell's Prepped! is clever, yummy mummy fodder. Her rather brilliant premise is that if you cook a certain dish, double the quantities and use half for another dish. Vanessa gives you all sorts of choices and ideas for this and once you'd worked on her dishes, you'd soon have a go at your own. What flows through the book rather brilliantly is her curious and fragrant syrups, flavoured variously with ingredients like elderflowers, rhubarb, vanilla and cardamom. This book is fun, copiously illustrated and you can almost smell the sugary aromas of the lavender roast chicken emerging from its pages. I don't have a particularly sweet tooth but who could resist broccoli with hot vanilla vinaigrette?
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on 20 June 2016
If you are the sort of person who has leftover shortbread dough at home, you may like this book. I don't have the time to make dough. I was hoping the book is going to help me in meal planning for the week. Something like you make something one night and with the leftover you make something else the next night. But you have to make some sort of syrup first and then you can use it up in some of the recipes. That creates more work then just cooking normal meals! Also there are a lot of sweet recipes and dinner options are less then half of all recipes. So overall not the right book for me.
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on 26 September 2011
In Prepped! no extra work is required, as with other cookery books - Vanessa's way of cooking means I have very little washing up, no wasted ingredients to lurk at the back of the cupboard and the combinations of flavours are seasonal- essentially the book seeks to link flavours and thus cut costs and time.. the good news is that this concept works, and fits perfectly in to my hectic lifestyle.

Let me just assure you that this book is not only fantastic value for money - ripe with delicious and beautiful images, and array of just brilliant recipes that lack the pretentiousness of some recent releases, but most importantly the claims are true - this book is a god send, a real time saver! Point and case - this very evening I have made and enjoyed Vanessa's Spiced Lamb and Rhubarb Tagine - it was an absolute delight and left everyone at the dinner table very impressed - roll on the brownie points! Im really not exaggerating when I say that I havent put Vanessa's book down for the last two days its brilliant.

Each chapter is arranged according to a specific flavour such as Elderflower, Rhubarb, Chocolate and Lavender ad each of these recipes is linked to at least one other recipe within the book.
I've already tried two recipes from this cookbook - both the lavender shortbread and the lamb tagine, both of which were not complicated to prepare and the recipes really easy to follow. Without doubt Prepped! is one of the my favourite cook books of the year!
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on 27 May 2011
A fabulous gem of a book that dares to be different from the run-of-the-mill food drivel from someone with a background in food - not media!
Minimum washing up, ingredients that you have at home, uncomplicated instructions and fantastic results.
The recipes, unlike a lot of cookery books have actually been tested by real people and actually work.
Each chapter is based around a flavour and every recipe is linked so that when you have made one meal - you've made most of the next and the two are completely different.
You will not be dissapointed with this.
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