I have been taking the day off from culinary experimentation. This would be good, were it not for the fact that we have eaten junk food and been out for ice cream and continued to stuff our faces, just not at home.
To round off my review of Gizzi Erskine’s Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts, yesterday saw me making another Malaysian curry, this time chicken. It is, most definitely in the feasting section, as the layer of oil on top of the curry when I finally prised the lid off the slow cooker was rather off putting to say the least. It took about half an hour to prepare it, by the time I’d made the paste etc, and although it was nice, I didn’t think it was nice enough for the level of faffing involved.
I also made the butterscotch Angel Delight. This was another plastering type recipe. It had very few ingredients, but goodness did you have to work hard. I ended up having used about five pans. It is tricky, messy and requires the patience of a saint. By the time I’d finished it wouldn’t set and I had gone off the whole thing.
I can identify two steps in the procedure where I probably went a bit wrong. Firstly, my cornflour paste was a bit clumpy and I could have done with persering with that and making sure it had all bound into the custard mix properly. Secondly I added the egg yolks to the custard mix when it was still too hot – I think. I did leave it for the exact amount of time specified in the recipe, but I am sure that some of the lumps I strained out of the mix were cooked egg yolk.
Also, none of my pans have a heavy enough bottom to stop my sugar mix catching before it turns into caramel. I must invest in more expensive pans.
I loved the idea of being able to eat Angel Delight without the e-numbers, but it really and truly wasn’t worth it in the end.
Not for me anyway.
So, to summarise my feelings about the cookbook:
Too specialist for the average cook.
Panders too much to what is fashionable in my opinion. The list of frankly unobtainable ingredients for most people is off putting and smacks of food snobbery.
Not specialist enough for the cuisine obsessed. It flits from country to country in the search for something interesting and fancy to add to the pages of the book, but never settles anywhere long, and the padded out ‘average recipes’ mean that you could not, for example, buy it for someone who wanted to learn all about Malaysian cuisine, because yes there are recipes in there, but only about four. Ditto Japanese etc.
Not much you can cook for an ordinary family.
Some of the recipes don’t explain enough what is required. I had to guess at when the gypsy tart was done as I’d never seen or tasted one before and wasn’t really convinced by her explanation. The Angel Delight recipe could have done with a bit more explanation. i.e. how cool the custard mix should be when you whisk in the yolks for example.
Some recipes weren’t recipes at all. I refer you to the ‘why don’t you put marmite on toast when you have a boiled egg’ recipe. This is not a recipe. This is a serving suggestion.
Some recipes were simply not finished. The vegetable biryani for example, specifies cauliflower and chick peas in the recipe ingredients, but doesn’t tell you how to prepare and cook them in the method.
What we did eat, for the most part, was very nice. I’m glad I’ve pushed the culinary boundaries a bit. There are a couple of recipes I will definitely return to, but it is not ever going to be a staple I fall back on.
The diet aspect of the book is pretty much a nonsense. To put hummus in the diet section of the book is absolutely ludicrous. Hummus is super calorific. To be fair, she does acknowledge this, and suggests you eat it with veg instead of bread, but this is just a lame excuse, for what I think is the weakest part of the book.
I’m glad I was given it to review. I would have felt cheated if I had spent my own money on it. As it is, we got several blog posts, and some good dinners out of it.