“unfussy food for having people over”
By Alison Roman
This is my second Alison Roman book (but it’s the first one I’ve reviewed). I ordered her Dining In after seeing various incredibly positive mentions in foodie places. But….my edition is in US measurements – so pounds, cups etc. I tried a couple of the recipes in Dining In and liked them, but lost patience with the weight and measure conversions. I see the current edition of Dining In on Amazon.co.uk is attributed to a UK-based publisher so the measurement system may have changed
Then this book, Nothing Fancy, caught my eye (or, more likely, was pushed to me by some invisible algorithm-elf) and I could see from the listing that it was metric so I went for it.
Look and feel
This is a gorgeous book. The look is clean and bright with beautifully styled images from Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott. There are tips on equipment and storecupboard essentials, as well as a really comprehensive contents list. It’s broken, loosely, into the various stages of feeding people – from snacks through salads, sides, mains to sweet things. Each recipe has a conversational introduction – sometimes explaining why it is important to Alison, or telling you all the reasons you should try it.
What sort of food is it?
Where to start. In the introduction Alison emphasises that this is not a book about Entertaining as Performance Art, or about being the Perfect Host – she describes it as attainable, not aspirational. It might be easy to look at some of the recipes and decide that it’s just throwing a few things together with little or no actual cooking involved. But this book is much, much more than that. Yes, there are salads and dips that might fall into the no-cooking category but there is flair and real culinary insight in what you are throwing together, and how. The Creamy Sesame Turmeric Dip (pg 26), for example, is totally moreish. The Celery and Fennel with Walnuts and Blue Cheese salad, pictured(pg 95) is a dream. These are examples of things that might fall under the ‘throw it together’ heading – but really well thought out and sooo tasty. For grown-up cooking I tried the Spiced and Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Potatoes (pg 224). This is an absolutely stunning slow cooked dish – perfect for entertaining, like many of the recipes, because you have everything in a pot ready to come to the table with no faffing around. We had leftovers, I always make too much, and we shredded them the next day and served in Bao Buns, still divine.
Obscure equipment needed?
No. I know I’m a total gadget freak and some people think I’m not the best judge here but honestly, there isn’t anything needed that a basic kitchen shouldn’t have.
Ingredients easily available?
Yes and no. This is a US centric book and there are things that are hard to get this side of the pond but Alison, bless her, has offered comprehensive options. So, for example, Chiles de Arbol, not easily found here, can be substituted with Chilli Flakes in the ‘Spiced and Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Potatoes (pg 224) recipe.
Who is it for?
I think you (or your giftee) will get on better with this book if you can already cook a bit – it wouldn’t be impossible as ‘my first cookbook’ but you’ll probably enjoy it more if you are experiencing it as an adventurous step up from a basic level of capability.
I have a notebook where I record recipes that I try and will want to do over and again. Everything I have done from this book went into the notebook – that NEVER happens. So it’s a big thumbs up from me!
Find it on Amazon here
Published by: Hardie Grant Books (UK edition)