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The Usborne Cookbook for Children - Fiona Patchett

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Genre: Food & Drink / Dieting / Author: Fiona Patchett / 192 pages / Book published 2007-10-31 by Usborne Publishing Ltd

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      12.06.2011 19:35
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      Not just for kids

      The Usborne Cookbook for Children is currently available from The Book People, where I purchased it for £5.00. It is available on Amazon for £14, down from an RRP of £20.

      I don't have children myself but was intrigued by this cookbook and have now in fact used it both for myself and as an activity when looking after my friend's eight year old daughter so that I can review this book from two perspectives.

      The book itself is quite physically large as in tall, but not particularly thick by comparison and contains around 70 recipes over 150 odd pages. It is hardback with a smooth matt finish. The pages within are nice and glossy so should not get ruined if the coking gets a bit messy. The book does not have a spine as such and is spiral bound. This is a really good idea, as it makes the book easier for children to handle and there are no issues with trying to keep it open and flat.

      To start with, there is a 'getting started' section. It gives short, clear information on subjects such as hygiene and food preparation.

      The recipes themselves are presented in a very clear way over a two page spread with a photograph of the final dish. Each step of the process is explained in text as well as explanatory cartoons. Some recipes also have additional hints via a 'chefs tip.''

      The first section - savoury dishes - contains recipes including couscous salad, leek and potato soup, bacon and onion quiche, chilli con carne, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, oven roasted vegetables and one-pot chicken casserole. Within this section there is also a two-page spread which shows photographs of herbs and spices with a brief description of how they are used and prepared. There is also a sub-section on potatoes which includes varieties and preparation and how to bake .

      The second section is on puddings and is surprisingly short, containing only 9 recipes, amongst these are chocolately baked bananas, strawebbery shortcake, pancakes and mini meringue nests.

      The final section which is substantially longer is entitled cookies, cakes and other treats and includes: chocolate nad cherry cookies, macarron creams, iced elmon biscuits, Victoria sponge cake, mint choc chip cakes, fudgy banan muffins, fruit scones. There are also subsections which detail decorating ideas, creams and fillings and baking skills such as egg separating and rolling out. Following this are some instructions or 'useful cooking tips' which detail methods such as how to use a food processor and how to thicken sauces.
      I think this is a really good book. A lot of thought has obviously gone to all of the recipes that have been chosen in order to make them almost like a cooking course for children, even though they are not set out like that. The recipes contain a number of the skills that anyone would need when learning how to cook.

      Everything is presented in a really clear, simple but not patronising and actually quite aesthetically pleasing way.

      I think that probably about 8 years is the youngest that you would probably want to have a child really using this book as some of it involves using blades and high temperature, and even then a high level of supervision would be required, but due to how well the instructions are described you could probably afford to stand back a bit. At this age also, I think from my own experience that they would be more interested in the baking and desserts section than the main meals one. This is why it is disappointing that there are not more dessert ideas available.

      My friend's daughter has particularly enjoyed the prettier recipes, such as the cupcakes and the macaroons.

      For myself, I have surprised myself as to how often I have actually used this, albeit mainly for the main meals. As someone who has only really learnt to cook for myself in recent years I feel sometimes that I have missed out on some of the basics and am sometimes playing catch-up. As such I don't feel I have ever mastered versatile basics which I know have down pat thanks to this book eg couscous salad, potato salad, macaroni cheese and Spanish omeleete.

      I think that with a child who is enthusiastic about cooking, this would be a great place to start as there is so much room for growth and also gets them used to the idea of following a recipe.

      I have to say that whilst I think that at £5 this was a bit of a bargain, I would not really be prepared to pay more than £10 for this book and that the RRP is more than a little steep. Whilst it is a quality product, I would argue that to a certain extent you would be paying for the Usborne branding.

      In conclusion, this is a solid cookbook of basics in its own right, not just for children but it is definitely fit for purpose for that audience, within certain perameters.

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