By Sarah Jane White.
Susan Jane White
The tagline on this book is ‘brilliant wholefood batch-cooking recipes to save you time, money and patience’. Let’s come back to that later. I need to decide if I have broken my own rules about not reviewing books that are more about what’s not included than what is.
Look and feel
Production values are high. Joanne Murphy’s brilliant photography brings the book to life. In the introduction Susan Jane explains the premise of the book – stress family life, dinner on demand every evening, desire to dish up healthy and nourishing food – ergo the concept of ‘batch cooking’. There are a few more explanatory or tutorial type pages scattered through the book, but not at the expense of loads of recipes.
The four parts of the book are, breakfast (a whopping 90 pages of them),mains, dressings and flavourings, and a section called ‘speedy treats’.
There’s a comprehensive index. I usually use an index to isolate recipes that include an ingredient that I need to use up, either for use-by-date reasons or because I stupidly bought miles too much in a fit of enthusiasm. So – testing a theory here – I checked for ‘quinoa’ because I have a packet lurking. Just one recipe mentions quinoa, and of the 9 ingredients listed, I would have to source 4 from a specialist store. In two cases I would need to use only 2 tablespoons of them. Let’s come back to that.
What sort of food is it?
Definitely different. There is really hard sell on the health giving properties of the ingredients used, which just causes me to wonder what I’m missing out on. Even the ‘treats’ don’t sound that indulgent (Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies, pg 280). Maybe the ingredients in the cookies didn’t’ need to be ‘spelt’ out in the title!
To be honest the Breakfast, Flavorings and Treats sections left me sort of vaguely out of sorts – I felt like I was at the local bible reading tee-total get together, all very worthy but not my preferred ecosystem. Now, maybe there are people who delight in having on hand breakfasts such as ‘Nut Pulp Granola with Chai and Pistachios’ pg 17, but it’ll be a long day in hell before I will make anything that requires ‘5 caffeine-free chai spice blend teabags, torn open’.
And that leaves the mains – which are fantastic, tasty, inventive, and moreish. I’ve made the aubergine rendang three times and there wasn’t a single bite of anything left in the pot. The three bean chilli went down very well (even with my ‘where’s the meat?’ other half). And, as promised, they freeze and keep well.
Obscure equipment needed?
Not really. If you get into some serious freezing you might need to invest in some kit, but otherwise a fairly standard kitchen will have everything you need.
Ingredients easily available?
Well, in theory everything is available on the internet of course. A few randomly selected recipes include ingredients such as dried Irish Kombu, dried mulberries, coconut sugar, oat flour, and rice malt syrup. I’m lucky enough to have a choice of very good specialist stores nearby and I expect I could find pretty much any of these ingredients without looking online. The real problem though is that having used one strip of Kombu, or a teaspoon of something else, I would have no use for the rest of the packet (unless I repeated the recipe of course). So, basically, the ingredients are fine if you have somewhere locally to source them and are making a lifestyle shift that ensures you will use up the full packets. Of course, there are loads and loads of recipes that don’t use anything odd at all (but expect strange looks as you go through the checkout with 12 aubergines).
Who is it for?
There are undoubtedly people who love this book to bits, others who will pick through it for some highlights, and others who will fling it at the wall in frustration (WHY do I need to get oat flour for the waffles – I already have a cupboard full of wheat, spelt, rye and buckwheat flour).
The instructions tend towards the experienced rather than newbie cook. I have gifted it, carefully!
So getting back to the beginning, I don’t think I have broken my own rules, it’s not strictly vegan, gluten free or any other niche variety of cookbook that I usually pass by. However, I don’t see this saving me money, a lot of the ingredients are not mainstream, maybe if I have previously been splurging on gourmet-ready-meals or similar it would. Unfortunately, as an example, a tub of ready mixed Za’atar from the supermarket is going to come in at a fraction of the cost of the home made version on pg 206 (probably not as good of course).
I probably like this book more than you might think from some of the things I have written about it. I do get a bit upset at recipes that seem a bit faffier than they might be. I know that reducing added sugar is a good idea, and that we should eat less refined foods. However, I am fairly sure that 135g of plain flour in a recipe that will feed six or eight people won’t spell the imminent end of the human race (see rant above about waffles for specifics).
Published by: Gill Books
ISBN: 978 07171 8494 1