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Delia's complete how to cook; Both a guide for beginners and a tried and trusted recipe collection for life.
Delia Smith is a well known Bristish cook and television presenter, who is known for teaching basic cooking skills.
This book is a massive sturdy all be it heavy hard back cookbook. Delia Smith has had alot of stick for this book but I think it's fantastic, and is used regularly in my kitchen. There are many people out there who really can't cook at all, and people like myself who seem to be better with more complicated recipes but struggle with poaching an egg. To be honest I was a little annoyed when my husband bought me this book as part of my birthday present one year, I wondered what he was trying to say, but now I'm so glad he did. This book was originally published in 3 volumes, Delia's How To Cook Book 1, 2 and 3.
The book begins with a handy conversions table, for weights, dimensions, volumes and oven temperatures. It also states here that all spoon measurements throughout the book are level, and all butter is salted unless specified.
There is then a contents list, listing all 28 chapters in this 704 page book, with a few lines about each chapter letting us know what is featured in each of them.
There is also a brief introduction to the book including a cheesy picture of delia and a bowl of eggs, letting us know her reasons behind writing this book.
Chapter one - It's all about eggs
This chapter starts with a four page introduction to eggs, including "understanding eggs", "how to tell how old an egg is", "how to buy and store eggs", and some general egg information. Some of the information a lot of people will know, but there are also some hints and tips that you may not know. It may seem like a pain to read through all this information but I found it handy and interesting and is great for those people who know nothing about cooking and fresh food products. This chapter is divided into subsections, the first of which is "how do you boil eggs" which gives us various methods of boiling eggs, soft boiled, hard boiled etc. This is then followed by a few recipes using the previously described methods. The next subsections are how to poach eggs, hot to fry eggs, how to make softly scrambled eggs, which are all followed by a few recipes using that method. At the end of the chapter there are a few special recipes including gratin of eggs with peppers and chorizo.
The chapters are divided clearly with a full page picture, a large number of the chapter, name of chapter and a brief note or quote about the chapter to come.
Chapter two - The art of the omelette
Like the previous chapter this chapter begins with a four page introduction on the chapters subject full of handy hints and tips. This is followed by a few recipes using the methods described in the introduction.
This layout is the same for most chapters.
Chapter three - Separate ways with eggs
In this section how to separate eggs - egg whites and yolks, how to whisk egg whites, and more. Some of the recipes included in this section are for meringues, souffles, custard and more.
Chapter four - Rediscovering bread
This is one of my favourite chapters, it covers everything from plain and simple white bread, bruschetta to pizza. This chapter alone has something for everyone.
Chapter five - First steps in pastry
Recipes included in this section use both shortcrust and flaky pastry. There are both sweet and savoury dishes included. One of my favourites is the tomato and goats cheese galettes
Chapter six - Cakes and biscuits for beginners
I love making cakes and baking is a regular occurence in my house, yet there are still many tips in this section that I find useful. This section includes recipes for a beautiful coconut cake and a low fat moist carrot cake.
Chapter seven - Flour based sauces and batter
This section includes recipes for white sauce, cheese sauce, gravy and more. This is then followed by recipes that these sauces can be used with.
Chapter eight - Real potatoes
This chapter has the best recipe for jacket potatoes ever, so simple and yet so brilliant. Once you've tried this you will never microwave them again. This chapter also includes how to mash, roast and make chips from your potatoes. There are some really yummy recipes to have with potatoes, including marinated rump steak and a fantastic red onion, tomato and chilli relish for chunky chips.
Chapter nine - All kinds of rice
Rice has always been one of those things I've struggled to get cooked quite right, but not anymore. This section includes some tasty recipes both savoury and sweet which includes an old fashioned rice pudding.
Chapter ten - Pasta revisited
This section teaches you how to cook perfect pasta and is one of the sections that has more recipes. I love pasta and this section has one of my favourite recipes spinach and ricotta lasagne with pine nuts.
Chapter eleven - The serious cooks store cupboard
This is just a handy section on items to keep in your home, from the very basics to those little extra's. This section also includes nine miscellaneous recipes.
Chapter twelve - Fish without fear
This chapter is great for me because I am one of those people who is a bit afraid of fish and rarely cook it. I found the information in this section really helpful and it answered most of the questions or concerns I had about cooking fish. The information section is one of the larger information sections in the book but I would definitely recommend reading it especially if unfamiliar with cooking fish. There are quite a few types of fish covered in the recipes in this section.
Chapter thirteen - How to cook meat
This also has quite a large information section but again if you are serious about cooking or learning to then it's worth a read. A lot of people including my mother get stuck in the habit of cooking meat in the same way. This section has lots of helpful information on cooking your meat in a variety of ways including roasting, raising, frying and grilling. There are also some really good interesting recipes including a different take on shepherds pie and a fast roast pork.
Chapter fourteen - Chicken and other birds
This section doesn't only give you tips on cooking, but also how to pick the best chicken, carving and more. I'd never really cooked duck before but really enjoyed the duck recipe included in this section.
Chapter fifteen - A vegetable calendar
This chapter not only gives us hints and tips on how to cook perfect vegetables but goes through a whole range of vegetables and lets us know what time of year they are best. Also has lots of great recipes for vegetable soups and side dishes.
Chapter sixteen - Salads and dressings for beginners
Most people, including myself, tend not to make their own dressing and really instead on bottled dressings. This section is full of information on oils and vinegars. This section also includes information on all different kinds of lettuce and leaves and how to prepare them and which other ingredients to use in salads. I love salads so I really liked this section and enjoyed trying different takes on salads. My main fault with this chapter is that it isn't larger
Chapter seventeen - What's new in the dairy
There's loads of information in this section on milk, cream, yoghurts and cheese. This section has a few savoury recipes but most recipes in this section are for the sweeter tooth, some of which are hard to resist making.
Chapter eighteen - Fruits for cooking
This chapter covers most fruits, mostly those used in cooking like apples, but also takes a brief look at exotic fruits too. One of the things I found really helpful in this section was slicing the mango. I love mangos, but I've never managed to cut them with much success. It is all these little tips that really make this book for me. The recipes in this section are mostly sweet but there is also a thai fish curry with mango, that actually works really well.
Chapter nineteen - Cheese in the kitchen
I love cheese and eat most types of it. This section covers everything from how to serve a good cheese board to making mexican enchiladas, with cheese. I have tried most recipes in this section and the toasted goats cheese recipe actually inspired the starting for my wedding meal. There is also a lovely recipe for a caramelised balsamic and red onion tart with goats cheese.
Chapter twenty - Proper chocolate
Chocolate is just chocolate, right? Wrong. This chapter gives information on everything, from how to buy, percentage of cocoa solids even down to listening to the snap of the chocolate. There are nine recipes in the section, fit from a chocoholics dream including some gorgeous mini muffins
Chapter twentyone - Equipment for serious cooks
This is a great section for those starting out and those who are looking to take cooking a little more seriously. It covers not only what you'll need but advice on quality, price and how to take care of your equipment. This section also has nine miscellaneous recipes including both savoury and sweet. I love the traditional lemon meringue pie.
Chapter twenty two - Gadgets that work
This section covers all those handy kitchen gadgets, from whisks to bread makers followed by recipes using these gadgets with some wonderful soup and bread recipes.
Chapter twenty three - How to cook pulses
This section covers a huge variety of pulses including chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils, and more followed by a section of recipes incorporating some of these pulses.
Chapter twenty four - First steps in preserving
This section covers everything from equipment to how to make jams, marmalades and more. To be honest this is a section I don't really use buying a pot of jam is too easy.
Chapter twenty five - Waist watchers
This section is one of the larger recipe sections which is excellent as this is a huge issue for many people. It gives us advice on diet products to use.
Chapter twenty six -Pates and starters
To be honest I don't really use this chapter. I have never really liked pate and the starters in this section don't appeal to me. The only recipe I have tried is roasted red pepper and tomato tart which is lovely however I feel the rest of the chapter is lacking.
Chapter twenty seven - Hot puddings
This chapter covers the health issue with puddings and some traditional pudding recipes including spotted dick and bread and butter pudding.
Chapter twenty eight - Parties and gatherings
I love to have people over, but the same old buffet style can be a bit boring. This chapter is divided into subsections which are:
A hot middle eastern buffet
Italian lunch or supper
Summer lunch or supper
There is also a handy party checklist. Recipes in this section are not only good for parties but some recipes are perfect as standalone recipes. Some of my favourite recipes in this section include caramelised onion tartlets with goats cheese and thyme, a chocolate ricotta cheesecake and some savoury mini muffins.
The book is finished off with a suppliers and stockists list and an index.
Verdict - Overall I feel this is a really great cookbook, for beginners and has recipes for those people who just love to cook. Like I said before, it has been said that delia went too far by teaching people how to cook eggs, but I feel, especially in this day and age there really are people out there who can't cook anything. There are some fantastic pictures throughout the book that are besides most recipes which look really appetising and make you want to cook them. Recipes come with an ingredients list and how many it serves, plus anything else you may need. Most of the ingredients are easy enough to get hold of however there are some ingredients that I have struggled to get hold of. There is a lot of information in this book, and although I found it helpful some people may find it all a bit much. The book is clearly laid out and if there is a particular area or recipe you are after it's easy to find. Some of the recipes won't appeal to everyone but this is the case with most cookbooks and I believe there are recipes in here for everyone. My one main negative is the majority of recipes are quite time consuming and you really need to plan ahead. As said on the back of the book "If you want to be a happy, confident accomplished cook you positively must own this book. Absolutely no question."
If I could pick one recipe and one reason only for buying this book is that you will never ever use a microwave for jacket spuds ever again. Since reading this book, the oven gets preheated to 190c, i wash and dry the spuds, prick them with a fork..and then rub olive oil and crushed salt into them..2 hours later and they really are perfect.
Yes the media did crucify Delia for some of the content of this book...I'm not really sure why. If many people can't boil an egg then it's easy to whinge and cringe about it..rather than actually teach people basic skills that just might stop one or two reaching for those ready meals again. So good on you Delia for going back to basics.
I'm sure this book will be a lifesaver/bible for those people who haven't gathered skills in the kitchen or whom may be living independently for the first time or goin to Uni. Not only does Delia work though lots of food types (from eggs to bread, pastries to pastas, meat and fish etc), but also looks at those kitchen gadgets she considers worth buying and those you can live without. She also looks at the essential ingredients every cupboard should have, equipment needed and includes tips for healthier eating.
At 704 pages long this is a book that you can delve into whenever you like.
Delia recieved a right old bashing in the media for this boook and its accompanying TV series. Personally, I can't see why. People complained that she had gone too far by telling people how to boil an egg. To me, I think it's just whats needed. If my mother wasn't around to call on, Im not sure that I'd know how to boil an egg either....... I realise you just throw it into water and boil... But for how long I'd never guess... 4 minutes, 5 ... 6 perhaps. Nothing worse than an overcooked egg. And for this I think delia deserves a medal.
The book has sections on just about everything. Basics, meat, fish, soups, cakes etc etc. The recipies turn out well everytime, it seems that theres been real care gone into making them as idiot proof as possible. The book is also written very well, easy to understand, yet not condescending. Delia writes asif she was learning with you.
My favourite thing about the book is that there's nothing she doesnt include, NOTHING is assumed. She mentions everything, from the best type of pan to use to what spatula is best.
Overall this is another book that I think should be in every kitchen. Boiling an egg might be a simple thing, but its important that we remember how to do these things.... my generation is lacking, opting for the quick option.