This book is one of 3 Rachel Allen books that I currently own - the others being the excellent 'Bake' and 'Rachel's Food for Living.' If you are not already familiar with her, Allen is part of the same family that run the prestigious Ballymaloe cookery school in Ireland. She also has TV series that are shown on the BBC and Good Food channel.
I bought this book for only £7.50 in WHSmith. It has an RRP of £25 but can be bought for £16 on Amazon and is also available in a Kindle version.
The physical book itself is quite sturdy - being hardback with a matt cover and a bookmark ribbon. The paper is of good quality and the binding strong enough that it is easily to lay the book flat to cook from whilst cooking. The pages themselves are attractive with a background of pastel colours and patterns.
There is a very short introduction where she explains that the ethos of the book which is to create good quality food at home that is not overly elaborate and can also encourage children to get involved in cooking.
Throughout the book, there are a number of photographs, some of the food and some of Allen and her family. The recipes are largely one to a page but some of the shorter ones are two to a page. As you would expect she gives a short introduction to each recipe, number of servings and recipes that are vegetarian are also indicated.
To give you a flavour of the book I will give you a few examples from each section.
Breakfast: Homemade yoghurt (with variations), granola, buttermilk pancakes, waffles, various scrambled egg recipes.
Lunch: Roast tomato soup, Brussels sprout soup, Asian noodle broth with chicken dumplings, alphabet soup, various dips including tzatziki and raita, spiced chicken salad, pork and egg pie. There is also a section giving tips for 'food on the go.'
Sunday lunch: Recipes for roast chicken, duck, pork, rib of beef and lamb. There are also recipes for side dishes such as gravy, stuffing, cream sauce and bread sauce, butter cabbage, minted broad beans and cauliflower cheese.
Supper: Homemade pasta and sauces (inc. Bolognese/ tomato, garlic and basil), butternut squash ravioli with sage and pine nut butter, ham and cheese macaroni, basic risotto with variation, quick swiss cheese fondue, fish pie, chicken casserole with cheesy herb dumplings, chilli con carne, There is also a section on home freezing.
Dessert: Fruit tarts, fruit crumbles, steamed ginger treacle pudding, rice pudding, baked raspberry and ricotta cheesecake, meringues and cream. frangipane tart.
Snacks, treats and sweets: Crudités and dips, homemade nut butter, toasted sandwiches, quesadillas, Thai sticky chicken, millionaires shortbread, toffee apples, fruity ice pops, soft drinks such as lemonade and cherryade, Turkish delight, marshmallows. There is an additional section on healthy eating.
Baby purees: (arranged by baby age) peach spinach and carrot, place with spinach and pea, chicken sweetcorn and butternut squash, cheese scrambled egg, apricot and pear semolina. There is another section on baby food, including how to introduce foods.
The final section is on basics and includes recipes for stocks, sweet and savoury sauces, herb butter, various mayonnaises, basic sauces, bread rolls and preserves.
I think that this is a really impressive book. One of its key strengths is the effort taken to not just include a basic recipe for some of the more standard recipes but some really good variations as well - some of which you may not expect.
I think also although the recipes do for the most part have leanings to the traditional, there is still a good variety which dips into a number of cuisines.
As a project which promotes good home cooking I think it works incredibly well. The sheer breadth of the recipes included means that I think it would satisfy the needs of a number of different types of home cooks from couples, to families through to entertaining.. For the keen but unskilled beginner I think it would be a great starting point, however there is still more than enough interesting ideas for somebody like myself who is a bit more competent and I refer to it often.
The recipes are well explained and those recipes which I have cooked have turned out really well, are unfussy and uncomplicated and many have made it into my regular rotation. Many are really good for cooking midweek when I really don't have as much time to take over cooking. The recipes are also well considered when it comes to the ingredients involved, as I think most of them would be the kinds of ingredients that a lot of people would have in their store cupboards and are inexpensive/easy to locate.
I like the way that there is a keen focus on skills such as basic risotto and bread making through to pasta making. The latter has worked particularly well for me as I really wanted to be able to make fresh pasta but have been put off by a few disasters that I have had before - this method is simple, unfussy and very adaptable.
The book is very well presented, and attractive meaning the recipes are clear and easy to follow. The short introductions she gives to many about what these recipes mean to her family life are charming and very much in keeping with Allen's encouraging and warm persona
A lot of thought has obviously gone into the book overall - particularly when you look at the additional advice bits which are included in each section - the freezing of food one is one that I have found particularly handy. Although I do not have children yet, I was pleasantly surprised to see the baby puree section which is a slightly unusual addition in a general cookbook but fits in perfectly with her 'whole family' ethos.
In conclusion, I think that this is a really well-thought out, considered and solid addition that I think would fit well in most cookbook collections for keen cooks of all levels.
I have an addiction luckily it isn't too damaging to my health , my addiction is cook books , I love cooking and indeed am a cook so it really is something that aids my career ! My most recent addition to my collection is Rachel Allen's Home cooking bought for 50p at our band jumble sale see I had no hope of resisting!!
What is it?
Home cooking is written by the Irish TV chef Rachel Allen who studied at Ballymaloe Cookery School and also teaches there. This is her 6th book but her first for me I decided to buy it after having a quick flick because this covered every meal as well as having lovely sounding recipes which were well laid out and didn't seem to be over the top something Hubby could pick up and easily follow without having over the top terms and unnecessary preparation.
The chapters are Breakfast, Lunch, Sunday Lunch, Supper, Desert, snacks and sweets, Baby Purees and basics:
This chapter contains both what I would term special breakfasts as well as the basic such as porridge and boiled eggs. I have yet to try any of her breakfast recipes but her Rhubarb muffins sound divine and a nice breakfast for when we are off on holiday and eat on route as well as for a lazy brunch.
I am also impressed by her scrambled egg recipe which gives the basic and then 4 alternative such a Mexican which I think would be a delicious Sunday supper.
From soup to poached salmon with hollandaise this chapter has every lunch option covered my favourite is nettle soup with smoked mackerel crostini a very cheap soup with a lovely flavour .
Ok I can cook a great joint and serve with all the trimmings but occasionally I want to jazz it up a little and make it more exciting and minted broad beans and celeriac and sweet potato mash are firm favourites with my girls and tastes great with any roast meat:
This chapter again caters for all tastes from Basic jacket potatoes to Butternut squash Ravioli with sage and pine nut butter (delicious) My family love the Beef burgers and gherkin relish and Hubby thinks the blue cheese burgers with rocket and onion jam are immense!
Well if you have room for a desert then my recommendation has to be the strawberry and white chocolate tiramisu is simple to make and tastes divine yet after a big meal isn't too heavy, we also love Joshua's ice cream extravaganza really ice cream, melted mars bars and crushed crunchie bars what isn't too love.
Snacks, treats and sweets
Another fantastic chapter filed with a wide variety of recipes the Millionaires shortbread had my husband in raptures he is a millionaires shortbread fan and best of all my little sister can eat it too as the recipe uses rice flour so is gluten free yet it still tastes fantastic no mean feat with gluten free. I also like the Thai sticky chicken this is perfect for parties or picnics.
Sadly I do not need this chapter but having flicked through I was impressed with the flavour combinations and would have made these for mine and will be making them in the future for my Godson I think plaice with spinach and pea sounds very good.
This chapter covers all those things that a lot of cook books think you already know such a stock, white sauce and also has the recipes to make Horseradish, tartare sauce it also tells you how to cook dried beans or peas it also tells you how to stock a larder a well stocked larder means you can always rustle up a meal.
Cost and stockist:
I was extremely lucky to get this at our Band Jumble sale for the silly price of 50p (even more ridiculous it should have been 10p!) unless you are lucky to get one cheap it will cost you £16.00 on Amazon www.amazon.co.uk and even at that price I would still recommend this as it is a good book for experienced cooks as well as beginners and indeed contains recipes for every occasion so would be a great gift for someone starting out.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough I think it is brilliant it contains very simple basic meals such as the scrambled egg, shepherd's pie and macaroni alongside more exciting recipes such as the salmon, chicken and coconut curry and there are simple family suppers as well as more dinner with friends recipes all well laid out , easy to follow and achievable I cannot wait to get more of her books.
For me the only person that can rival Nigella is Rachel Allen. I'm a relative newcomer to her work, but since i discovered her various tv series i've been quite a fan.
The great thing about this book in particular is that it is such a good 'basic' cook book. It's full of real food, not the sort that intimidates the heck out of you, but the sort you'd happily make for your family and friends. The layout is easy to follow, easy to read instructions but there aren't photos for each recipe.
I really like the fact that the book is split into courses as chapters - which are as follows -
snacks, treats and sweets
The breakfast chapter is a really nice idea. It's something that most books ignore - why?! Breakfast is a meal too!! Rachel covers so many dishes in this chapter, porridge, yoghurts, granola, waffles, muffins...you name it, it's there. It makes a real change from my usual cereal or toast!
The lunch section is where I discovered brussels sprout soup - yes really. The sprout is so under appreciated and makes an amazing soup! Mt work colleagues laughed at me until they smelt the lovely aroma and tasted some! Yes, there are a fair few soups in the chapter, but also salads and ideas about food on the go.
Sunday lunch is fairly self explanatory but i would say that its best part is the recipes for all the trimmings, sauces and stuffings! It just makes a real change from the usual gravy. But do try the creamy gratin of butternut squash if you can!
Supper is altogether a bit more basic but Rachel has the best and only pasta sauce recipe that i'll ever use - don't buy jars! Buy real tomatoes and make it yourself - so easy and tasty! There are recipes for meatballs, home made pizza, noodles etc and a really handy guide to home freezing. Perfect if like me it's easier to make up batches for another time.
Desserts, well...not much to say except you'll find the sort of homely desserts that you'd expect to find in a home cooking book like this...fruit tarts, crumbles, banana splits, syrup puddings, rice puddings and ice creams.
The snacks section really is that dips, sandwiches, chicken goujons...just lots of lovely things to snack on. However there are also cake recipes, fudge, cookies and some nice ideas for gifts.
I can't really review the baby purees section - i don't have a baby! However I like the idea because it's all good home cooking and you'd probably expect to have to get these sorts of recipes from a specialist book.
All in all this is a really nice book, one that I refer to often and I think over the years it will become even more used! I'd really recommend this book.
I already own two of Rachel Allen's books and have watched several of her televisions series. I was hoping to receive her latest book Home Cooking for Christmas and having received it I can happily say I am glad I did. There often seems to be a mixed opinion of Rachel herself. Some love her happy homely approach. Others find this annoying and possibly a bit twee.
Home Cooking is her biggest book to date containing 351 pages and like her previous books it ties in with the television serious by the same name (currently been shown on Saturday mornings, 11.35 a.m., BBC1). The television series only features a couple of recipes per episode though, just giving a small taster. There are lots more recipes to be found in the book.
The book is a hardback, without a sleeve and its opening pages include an introduction to the book from Rachel herself. In keeping with her previous books Home Cooking is very girly and pretty looking outside and in, with the use of lots of pastel pinks, blues and greens. There are also a few pictures of Rachel and her family within the book. Obviously this may appeal to some but not to others. There is a handy ribbon book mark attached to the book, so you can keep the page you are on easily.
The book is comprised of eight sections (I've include a few of the recipes from each section, just to give an idea what's in them)
Breakfast - Buttermilk pancakes, Rhubarb muffins, Potato and onion frittata with gruyère and thyme and Kedgeree.
Lunch -Mushroom soup with stuffed mushrooms, Molly Malone's cockle and mussel chowder, Pork and egg picnic pie and fish cakes.
Sunday Lunch - Roast chicken with stuffing, sticky cumin and apricot roast carrots and parsnips, Cheese and garlic potato gratin and Smoked salmon, leek and potato pie.
Supper -Spaghetti with herby pork meatballs, Shepherds pie, Quick Swiss cheese fondue and Crispy prawns with Chinese noodle stir fry.
Dessert - Baked raspberry and ricotta cheesecake, Strawberry and white chocolate tiramisu and Fluffy lemon pudding.
Snacks, treats and sweets - Potato cakes, Thai sticky chicken and Coconut and chocolate flapjacks (it also contains several recipes for sweets such as marshmallows and fudge).
Baby purées - Banana and mango, Chicken sweetcorn and butternut squash (purées for babies aged 6 months, 9 months and 12 months).
Basics - Stocks such as Chicken, Beef and Vegetable. Sauces such as Hollandaise and Horseradish and White and Soda Breads.
The pages feel substantial and nicely laid out, with clear text that is easy to read and easy follow. Each recipe has a clear bold title. Underneath the title it states how many people the recipe serves. If the recipe is suitable for vegetarians it says so. Really there is no other dietary information provided aside from a couple of pages dedicated to healthy eating habits. There is also no nutritional information. There are a good number of mouthwatering pictures simply laid out. So you can clearly see how the recipe is meant to turn out. Not every recipe is accompanied by a picture though. This may prove difficult if you like to see how the dish should look at the end. After some of the recipes there are helpful tips or variations of the recipe which I have found handy. There are also a couple of small sections providing information on menu planning and home freezing.
I have made a priority list of recipes I want to try from the book and am steadily working my way through them. The recipes seem to use readily available ingredients, so getting ingredients hasn't been a problem and not particular costly either. I'm always put off cookery books that require expensive ingredients. So far, everything I've made from the book has turned out to be delicious. As I'm vegetarian, taste wise I can only vouch for the recipes I've tasted that are suitable for veggies. I have cooked some of the meat and fish dishes for my family and they have really enjoyed them. The recipes I've tried so far include:
Spotted dog (known as railway cake in some parts of Ireland) - a lovely rich soda bread with dried fruit. This was very quick and easy to make, needing only a few ingredients. It was delicious for breakfast eaten warm from the oven slathered in butter.
Pecan and vegetable loaf - a yummy nut roast I served with mash, great for veggies who like nuts. I found the bonus of this recipe being the meat eaters in my family also enjoyed it.
Chicken casserole with cheesy herb dumplings - the picture of this casserole in the book prompted me to make this. I was really pleased as mine turned out similar to the picture (which in my case doesn't always happen).
Fish pie - you can use whatever fish is in season. Also, the pie can be prepared the day before you want to eat it then chilled in the fridge overnight before cooking the next day. I found this great for doing when I was expecting guests for dinner the following evening.
Steamed ginger and treacle pudding - a gorgeous syrupy, toffee like pud great for a treat. I found the hard part was whether to have it with custard or vanilla ice cream.
I like the collection of recipes as I find there is plenty to choose from for meals during the week. When time is often limited but I still want to make a tasty meal. Then there are some recipes that require a bit more planning and time, which are great if I've got some spare time at the weekend. I also found the collection of recipes diverse enough for me. Ok, they are not particularly experimental as favoured by other celebrity chefs but some are definitely influenced by different cuisines such as Mediterranean and Chinese. Which I feel is a good thing. Having said that, there are a couple of recipes in the book I could have done without - porridge, a boiled egg with soldiers (I seem to remember Delia being criticised when she told us how to boil an egg) and a weekend fry up. The latter being more a collection of ingredients as opposed to a recipe. I guess the inclusion of these recipes might be helpful to complete beginners in the kitchen though. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. I feel it would be suited to anyone who has a grasp of basic cooking but is keen to branch out and try some new things that are not experimental or too complicated.
Home Cooking is published by Collins and has an RRP of £25. Though Amazon currently (January 2010) have a great deal on it, selling it at £10 with free super saver delivery. Its ISBN is 978-0007259717.
Thanks for reading.