Top critical review
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What a disappointment
on 16 March 2016
I am a big fan of Mary Berry, both in terms of how kindly and helpfully she treats contestants on the Great British Bake Off and how clear and straightforward her recipes are. I already own several of her books and find them extremely useful not just as a source of interesting recipes, but also for their really helpful technical tips and hints.
I bought this book with high hopes of new recipes and plenty of 'cook ahead' knowledge. What a disappointment it turned out to be. The recipes range from the 'surely I've seen that before?' to the purely fatuous. Does anyone need a 'recipe' for fruit salad which is nothing more than a shopping list for five different fruits, with instructions to chop them up and combine them?
Tips for preparing ahead include 'Store the iced cake in an airtight container for 2-3 days' (wow, I'd never have thought of doing that with a cake!) or 'Prepare and freeze for up to 1 month' (well yes, with sorbet or ice cream there aren't many other storage options). Homemade lemon curd (under "h" in the index) has to be poured into warm, clean jars and will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months. Do the jars need to be sterilised and covered, or what? I've never seen recipes for fresh lemon curd that suggest keeping for more than a week in the fridge.
For me, this book seemed to have been put together in a hurry without proper editing or proofreading. Is the daft fruit salad recipe on page 226 really served when '...the main pudding is very rich' - surely that should be main course? The Rhubarb Oaty Crumble (nothing new or inspiring about this old chestnut) gives instructions under the 'Prepare Ahead' box to 'Complete to the end of step 4 up to 12 hours ahead, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge. Continue with step 5'. Unfortunately there are only 4 steps in the receipe - and step 4 is 'Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.'
Photography and styling aren't up to the standards of some of her other cook books. A tray bake with a knife carelessly placed on the left hand side, blade outwards away from the food, looks very odd (unless it was styled by a left hander!). Photos are underexposed (the Banoffee Traybake on page 252) and to me look very dated in style.
The inclusion of recipes from friends and neighbours all added to my impression that this was a book thrown together in a hurry.
I borrowed this from the library; so glad I didn't actually spend money buying it, because it won't see any use.