The Lazy Cook's Family Favourites by Mo Smith
|The Lazy Cook's Family Favourites by Mo Smith|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The simplest way of cooking good food from someone who really knows how to do it. Flavoursome food, quickly prepared which won't break the budget. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: February 2010|
|Publisher: Allison & Busby|
|External links: Author's website|
These days I get very nervous when I hear about books for 'lazy' cooks, or how to cheat when preparing meals. There's a very simple reason for this: good food, prepared using seasonal ingredients which don't break the budget needs skill and knowledge and neither are the prerogative of the lazy. Mo Smith might like us to think that she's lazy, but take my word for it – she isn't. She might have learned a few tricks for making good food quickly, but she's a woman who knows her onions and all sorts of other food.
I don't normally like to say much about an author's background but here it's relevant. Mo Smith began by giving cookery demonstrations in her home. They were so successful that she was soon writing for a magazine and broadcasting. She began by self-publishing her cookbooks, which proved to be so popular that they were available in supermarkets. This woman is not a product of the publicity machine – she's a woman whose food speaks for itself.
The Lazy Cook's Family Favourites is the book for people who know that their families want – need – to eat well, but who don't have an unlimited supply of time or money to devote to the task. Only those people who know how to do things properly should advise others on how to take short-cuts and I'm happy to put myself in Mo Smith's hands.
Each recipe has a lazy cook tip. Let's looks at the first recipe in the book – scrambled egg with chives and a curl of smoked ham. Too often scrambled eggs is served as an unappetising solid mass – but remove the pan from the heat once the egg begins to cream together and the heat of the pan will continue the cooking process. It's simple and it does work. There are a dozen breakfast recipes, but I think my favourite is the traditional English breakfast, where an egg is served with the cavity of a large mushroom. Using this method you can serve breakfast or brunch for a crowd without too much juggling.
Don't think that this is the book for those who lead a Spartan lifestyle – after breakfast we're looking at party food. There's no need to spend a fortune on those nibbles which push the price of a party through the roof. Try ham and stilton bites which can be cooked just before the party or some cheese savouries.
I've long thought that there's nothing better for lunch on a cold day than a bowl of soup. There's no need to open a can though – use seasonal foods and make your own. You need just a few basic techniques (and they are very basic) and you can make your own. I generally make a large batch, serve what I need and freeze the rest. There's a good range of soups here from a budget-saving bacon and potato soup to celeriac and sweet potato soup which would grace any dinner party.
If you're looking for something other than soup for a light dish then you'll find inspiration in Starters and Light Meals. The mystique is removed from soufflés, which is one of my favourite lunch-time dishes. It really is simple and so rewarding. If you don't feel like tackling the real thing (but why not?) there's a lazy cheese soufflé. For something a little more unusual try baked peach halves with a savoury filling.
There's a mystique too about fish, but you should feel confident after reading through the fish recipes. They range from the rather exotic baked cod with grapes poached in vanilla and honey which is another dinner party dish though to baked fish cake which is the sort of food which gets served on the kitchen table. My favourite is the salmon bake – which uses a tin of salmon – but it's closely followed by the fish and bacon pie.
In the section on meat there's another good selection which will serve you well on a daily basis. My favourite is stew and dumpling (possibly because the weather has been bitterly cold of late and it's good to encounter a woman who makes proper dumplings), but the spicy lamb casserole is good too. For something a little different try the chicken breasts cooked in red wine and thyme – it's surprisingly tasty, particularly if you add the optional cream!
Despite not having much in the way of garden we still manage to grow quite a few of our own vegetables and the section entitled From Plot to Pot makes good use of the surpluses which any gardener knows well. There's a makeover for the humble cabbage and a vegetable bake which you can serve with or without bacon but my favourite is the baked aubergine which makes an excellent vegetarian recipe.
Puddings have always been my weakness and it was a relief to find that Mo Smith can't resist their temptation either. There's a good range though of the rich and not-so-rich. I loved the fresh orange jelly – easier than you would think – and the bramble meringue is just waiting for this autumn's crop. My favourite is the banana custard – comfort food for children and adults alike! There has to be a special mention for the coffee meringue gateau which is ideal for fund-raising parties.
Cakes and Biscuits give a good range of the type of food which you find on sale at the WI stall in the farmers' market. There's a moist chocolate cake, a ginger cake and various biscuits and scones. You'll forgive me for not lingering too long in this section as it would take very little to send me into the kitchen. I can tell you though that the Sacher Torte is to die for.
The final section is about children in the kitchen. It's all about the sort of food which they will eat and which they'll enjoy helping to make. Thankfully there are no concessions to taste – children like flavour just as much as adults do. Try the tomato and lentil soup for a winter warmer or the chicken casserole which can be served over a couple of days.
The book is written in clear English and is mercifully free of those full plate colour photographs which seem to be there to dishearten the novice cook. This is a book for people who want their families to eat well at a reasonable cost rather than look admiringly at a beautifully presented plate of food.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If the thought of good food at a reasonable price appeals to you then we can recommend The Thrifty Cookbook by Kate Colquhoun or for a new approach try The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron.
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