The Hamlyn cookbook '200 Super Soups' is a handy-sized cookbook that is clearly aimed at being more practical than being a particularly decorative addition to your collection. Indeed, measuring just 5.5" x 6.5", this small soft-backed book is more at home slotted between condiments than it is sitting on a shelf 'on show' as it were. The book is part of a set that is designed to cover '200 particular style of dishes' such a curries, budget meals, pasta dishes, wok recipes etc. Together the set would form quite a handy library of cookbooks. The recipes for these 'Super Soups' were produced by Sara Lewis (can't say either my wife or I had heard of her before).
The 240 page book is broken down into the following sections: Introduction - 10 pages Speedy Soups -38 pages (18 recipes) Chilled Soups - 22 pages (10 recipes) Winter Warmers - 42 pages (20 recipes) Something Special - 42 pages (20 recipes) Healthy Soups - 34 pages (16 recipes) Around The World - 42 pages (20 recipes) Index - 4 pages
As you'll see from the above, only 104 actual 'full recipes' are included in the book. However, the book gets around this by detailing that if desired you can add a few additional ingredients into many of the recipes and then count this as another recipe (i.e. for the 'Oriental Mussel Soup' there's a small additional paragraph at the end that tells you that you can add saffron into it to make it 'Saffron Mussel Soup'). Hence two soup recipes on one page! Bit of a cheat really!
Each recipe is set over two facing pages of the book. The first page contains the ingredients, how many people it serves, preparation time, cooking time, and easy-to-follow instructions for how to create the soup. The adjacent page provides a full colour photograph of the soup. This format is consistent throughout the entirety of the book, making it easy to skim it for potential soups you may want to make depending on time, ingredients or how many it needs to serve (usually between 4-6 people).
The book includes some slightly obscure recipes (Russian Borshch, Caribbean Pepper Pot Soup etc), and yet is missing some classic recipes such as 'Leek & Potato' or 'Carrot & Coriander'. We do understand that they'd want to give you lots of interesting recipes and a wide variety of flavours, but perhaps not at the expense of the classic recipes for (what we presume) is their prime audience - the British general public. My wife recently went to make Leek & Potato Soup and fancied trying out a new recipe for it. Going straight for our new 'Hamlyn' book, she was absolutely bewildered that it wasn't in there!
There are a few recipes that would definitely do as a main course (i.e. 'Beer Broth & Meatballs', or indeed 'Chicken & Tarragon with Puff Pastry'). Are these really soups??? Is it just me or have they sneaked a stew and a pie into a soup book? I for one am not 100% convinced Your Honour!
There are soups for all the different seasons; with warming winter broths and a section for chilled soups for the summer.
The index is designed to be as user-friendly as possible. The soups are split up into their main themed ingredients (such as peas, mushrooms, noodles, beans etc). Scanning through these lists then locates certain soups that may be of interest.
All in all, we can't say we're all that happy with the book. If you plan to use it as a 'go-to-guide' for soups, then it's not entirely comprehensive. Having perused the various recipes, we certainly have our doubts as to how often we will use it. Especially considering the first time my wife thought of using it, it didn't have the recipe she wanted! Also, like with the other books in this serious, calling it '200 soups' is a bit cheeky considering that there's only really 104 recipes with an extra 96 suggested variations on them.