This series offers a tidy range of cookbooks, one recipe and photograph per double page. The food is not heavily styled so what you cook is likely to bear some resemblance to the photograph. So why could I not get enthusiastic?
I am not sure that I would rank recipes using crème fraiche, mascarpone, Roquefort or Stilton cheese and pine nuts as economical family food. Nor is adding nearly half a bottle of wine to the casserole of Lincolnshire sausages. Maybe some of these items are considerably cheaper in British supermarkets? Chapters cover soups and light meals, hearty dishes, vegetarian options and sweet endings (dessert options).
The slow cooker book gives a range of recipes but it is not a case of tossing it all in together first thing in the morning. To get the flavour and texture, you need to do some preparation, usually by frying on the stove top to seal in the flavours. Essentially, the slow cooker is being used as an economical oven where timing is not critical, though you would need a larger appliance than I have to try the recipes where it is used as a bain marie. Chapters cover light meals, soups, family favourites, special occasion meals and desserts.
The meals for one or two people are a little more international in style – in places. The fish are resolutely British (mackerel, kipper, haddock and cod, even salt cod) and the Grilled Mackerel with Gooseberries and Elderflower looked undeniably pretty with its scattered flowers. However, I can’t think that I would ever cook it. None of the three key ingredients feature in my food repertoire. This book has chapters covering robust salads and other light meals, meat, fish and vegetarian dishes.
The problem with this series, I think, is that it is resolutely British. There are cultural and culinary differences which go beyond just the ingredients. The trend here is to lighter foods and simpler combinations of flavours and ingredients. These recipes lean to requiring a larger number of ingredients than one might expect for everyday food. In the crowded world of recipe books, I have seen some excellent local productions which inspire me more while covering a similar range of eating options. Maybe buying local applies to recipe books as well as food.
Slow Cooker Simple (50 inspirational and affordable recipes) by Sue Ashworth. (Kyle Books; ISBN: 978 0 85783 051 7).
Meals for 1-2 (50 exciting and tasty recipes) ed. Kyle Cathie. (Kyle Books; ISBN: 978 0 85783 050 0).
Family Food for a Steal (50 simple, quick and delicious recipes) ed. Kyle Cathie. (Kyle Books; ISBN: 978 0 85783 049 4).
Reviewed by Abbie Jury.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.