From the minute you open the parcel, this cookery book charms you. It has softly padded outer boards which make it comfortable to hold, you can't help squeezing it gently when you're reading it. Blue striping on the cover makes it look fresh and elegant and its just so damn pretty. Suprisingly there is no ribbon bookmark, which I'd have expected with a book of this quality.
Alice Hart in her foreword explains what she was aiming at - a happy, eclectic mixture of guests, food and activities where with planning the cook can have an as good or better time than her visitors. The tone is friendly, unpatronising and genuine and as I moved on to the recipes I found some good ideas and lots of things that I wanted to cook straight away.
There are 3 menus for each season from which you can of course pick and mix, or just do one dish. I will certainly start with some of the delicious sounding salads and the merguez sausages, spiced potatoes and eggs - because I can't resist - and then build up to a full menu. She talks you through the recipe with tips and reminds you that if it all goes wrong, just go out and buy some bread, cheese and sausages, the point is not to get het up and to enjoy yourself. There is also a really useful list of foods in season and a sensible exhortation to use what you've got if its somewhere near what was originally in the recipe. So baby spinach will substitute for rocket for example.
The tone of this book is commonsense and we get little asides of experience - for example on buying a handblender and how not to have an accident with it - as Alice did. Or how to scale up food quantities and the magic number of guests after which there is always enough food to go round. Nice illustrations too - not always that relevant to the subject, but they add to the pleasant mood.
I love this book and will come back and update this review as I cook from it.