By Lynda Booth
By Lynda Booth
I was drawn to this book because Lynda Booth is the owner/operator of an award-winning cookery school in Dublin (where I live). I must admit that I wondered if it might feel a bit like a schoolbook or manual, but not a bit of it. Lynda’s passion for cooking and food definitely comes through but it is almost never preachy (the bit about gluten might feel a bit judgy – but as I agree with it 100 per cent there’s no complaint from me).
I like cookbooks that combine recipes, bits of ‘how to do this ’ and some personal reflections from the author. This one ticks all those boxes. It’s the kind of book you could sit up in bed reading, or roll up your sleeves in the kitchen and get stuck into cooking from. Unlike some ‘narrative style’ cookbooks this one isn’t full of its own importance – no remembered meals on the edge of the world in the company of a chef with a trillion Michelin stars, no ingredients that can only be sourced from a yak farm up the top of a mountain. Just honest and interesting commentary.
Look and feel
An attractive book with a beautiful cover and lovely food photography from Joanne Murphy (also responsible for the lovely images in Clever Batch). Reviewing cookbooks has definitely made me much more aware of the amazing work of the photographers who contribute beautiful images to tease the senses and show us what the finished dish might look like, but unfortunately doesn’t always, but that’s down to me!
The contents page is broken into logical sections, each of which has its own list of recipes. The lists give you a reasonable idea of what the main ingredients might be – for example ‘Pan Fried Chicken Breast with Thyme, Peperonata, Roast Baby Potatoes (pg 211). This makes the book easy to navigate – no jumping around trying to find out which of ‘Chicken sundown’, ‘Pre-loved Chicken’ or ‘Last Sunday of Summer Chicken’ fits my current mood and available ingredients.
What sort of food is it?
The sections cover a lot of different ground. There’s a fab Brunch section with not a rasher of bacon in sight. The Pasta section includes a ‘how to’ on cooking great pasta but (realistically) doesn’t expect you to be up to your elbows in Tipo ‘00’ flour and instead name checks a couple of good dried versions. The dishes in the Vegetables section are main courses rather than sides, although the salads could absolutely be Best Supporting Dish contenders on a summer buffet. There is loads of ‘how to’ in the Fish section as well as some suggested side dishes to experiment with. With just ten recipes in the Meat section the committed carnivore might fell a bit under- catered, but another handful of meat ideas appear in the final section.
Obscure equipment needed?
Not really. You won’t make the most of this book with one pot and a bowl, but a reasonable selection of normal kit will see you right on most of the recipes. Where there is a specific cake tin or shape of dish needed it is called out in the instruction. Some of the dishes will definitely create a big wash-up (I’m looking at you ‘Roasted cod, salsa verde purple sprouting broccoli with chilli & garlic lemon couscous’) so you might like to bribe, blackmail or pressgang a friend or family member to take on kitchen porter duties.
Ingredients easy to get?
Yes. In general you won’t struggle to find the ingredients used (all the previous bits about having a decent supermarket, butcher and fishmonger apply).
How well explained are the recipes?
Well, as you’d expect, from someone who runs a cookery school, there is fantastic attention to detail in the instructions. I really love those ‘fling it about’ recipe books but there is something comforting about how fool proof these instructions are (‘beat the eggs and milk together with a fork in a small bowl’). You definitely won’t find yourself wondering how to interpret vague suggestions of a recipe step. There are also some nice little side notes with extra detail on ingredients, instructions on techniques, or suggestions on how else an ingredient could be used.
Timings are not indicated for any of the recipes, not a huge gap – they’re often wildly optimistic, or maybe I am a very slow cook. It does mean that you need to read a recipe carefully before deciding it’s the one you want to make, as you definitely should anyway. Otherwise ‘now marinate for at least six hours or, ideally, overnight’ might appear two thirds of the way down a recipe you’ve already started assembling.
Who is it for?
Some of the ingredient lists are long, which might intimidate the newer cook, but the steps are really well described and the ingredients relatively unfussy so it is certainly suitable for a ‘give it a go’ kitchen warrior. For a more experienced cook there is lots of inspiration and interesting twists to attract.
will enhance any cook’s bookshelf, it easily earns its place in even the
For this review I cooked:
Tagine of Hake, Fennel, Olives & Raisins – easy, tasty and good for entertaining
See the book on Amazon
Publisher: DCS Publishing
Thanks Nuala, I actually have this book in my kitchen, I bought it following a really great course I did in Lynda Booth’s cookery school! You’ve inspired me to open it more often and get a bit more adventurous about trying some of the wonderful recipes!!
Thanks Hilary – do add a comment to let me know how any recipes you try work out!