Recipes, Memories and Stories from a Food Lover’s Kitchen

Rick Stein

I don’t know why this is the first book by Rick Stein that I have reviewed. I have most of his previous books, and have followed his television foodie journeys avidly – even to the point of going on holiday to Sri Lanka because it looked so good when he was there. I also visited his home town of Padstow for a weekend, and while there ate in his restaurant. That was in February 2020 just as we were beginning to hear rumours of a virus that would bring proceedings to an abrupt halt shortly thereafter. So Padstow was the travel memory I carried into Covid – could have been a lot worse! Obviously I pre-ordered a signed copy of this book as soon as I could, and I’m glad I did.

I’ve done a couple of ‘at home’ reviews recently and have come to appreciate the totally different approach that cookbook authors take in this genre. The best of them bring their personality and passion into the mix, and this is certainly one of those.

Look and feel

Sometimes cookbooks that contain reflections and stories (and the odd rant) get the balance wrong, I think it’s about right here. The personal stuff (A quiet night in, Christmas, Recipes that helped me through lockdown) is laid out in side chapters and make great reading, without cluttering up the recipes.

The flow of the book starts with small snacks and moves through starters, fish, poultry, meat, vegetarian and on to dessert and drinks. Each dish is introduced with a little history, a provenance, or a personal observation from Rick. There are lots of recipes that are not actually his at all but have been credited to various family members and friends.

Quality images, from James Murphy, are generally of the finished dish, but there isn’t an image of every complete dish, which I know some people prefer.

What sort of food is it?

There’s huge variety in here. Lots of fish, which won’t surprise anyone who is familiar with Rick’s work, but lots of everything else as well. It dips in and out of Asian, Mexican, various European and, of course, British dishes. There is everything from sandwiches (pg 140, 202) to Christmas Cake (pg 262) to Kedgeree (pg 91). If there is a theme to the food it could only be ‘recipes that me and mine love to eat’.  Some of the dishes are really homely comfort food, such as the Fish Pie (pg 102) and the Ragu Bolognese (pg 186). The Ragu was a particular favourite in my house, and leftovers were conjured into a cheesy bake the next day, equally delicious. There is a fairly strong Asian influence, such as Butter Chicken (pg 143), Vietnamese Pho (page 287), Pad Kra Pao (pg 195).

Quite a few of the recipes include stocks, spice mixes or sauces that are separate recipes in a section called ‘Side Dishes & Basics’ (pg 301). Be warned – read your recipe fully before you commit to making it, there may be more prep needed than you anticipate at  a glance.

Obscure equipment needed?

No. There’s a lovely humorous side chapter on gadgets where Rick talks about the gadgets that have gone to die in his garage. His list of those that stay relevant include a food processor, a stick blender and a microplane.

Ingredients easily available?

These recipes are definitely written to go with a well-stocked storecupboard, not necessarily hard to get stuff, but a lot of different bits and pieces.  Some of the lists of ingredients are deceptively long – cunningly laid out in columns across the page to reduce the visual impact of the long list.

Of course there are a few obscure ingredients – Sea Buckthorn for example (pg 159) but there is a sidebar with hints on how to substitute if you can’t get it. There’s a section in the Cooks Notes (pg 319) that talks about finding equivalent fish and shellfish outside the UK – largely geared for the Australian market.

Who is it for

While the dishes themselves are not faffy or fussy, the ingredient list in some could cause a novice cook to fret a bit. All the same, there are enough to choose from that have shorter, accessible lists and will produce stunning results, such as Pork in milk (pg 177). I think this book would be at home in a smaller cookbook collection – there’s enough variety to fit the bill in a lot of situations. Some of the recipes have featured in his other books so if you don’t have a Rick Stein in your collection this might be a good place to start.


Because I have watched Rick on TV so much I could hear his voice throughout this book, especially in the reflection and story pages. The mix of dishes is totally eclectic and there is a real sense that many are, as described, what he would eat at home.  It’s a book I will definitely return to again and again.

Other stuff:

Published by Penguin Random House UK

ISBN 9781785947087

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