I like Jamie Oliver. I like his grounded approach to cooking that includes experimenting and imprecise amounts. I like his campaigns to improve school meals. I even quite like the fact that in trying to be honest and straight forward, he can make such a misplaced remark about junk food and big TVs when promoting this book.
He is not too precious about food and at least he recognises that many people are struggling to feed themselves and their families on a restricted budget – something that seems to remain unacknowledged with some celebrity chefs.
For most people cooking is for every day in a time and budget pressed life.
This book is well laid out, attractive and for me the biggest bonus is that it is full of main course recipes from start to finish.
So many cookery books have much of their books comprising of starters, side dishes, salads and desserts that many people only use when entertaining (not many families have a starter for their regular evening meal do they??) So that makes this book better value for money than many, from my point of view.
Many people buy a cookery book for main meals and a few puddings. And this book is over 250 pages of main course recipes.
The next thing I like about it is a major section on vegetarian main meals. In a way I would expect that as it is easier to manage on a restricted budget in a vegetarian diet as pulses, grains and vegetables are generally lower cost than meat.
So this book has two stars from me right from the start.
The book also has many really good, general tips too – especially on making the most of your freezer – there are plenty of good ideas. The general ideas on fridge and store cupboards are good too – so long as people don’t feel they have to rush out and get them all but select the things they like and according to which recipes tehy are going to cook.
There are also some great tips on shopping smart including checking out your local shops as many are much cheaper than the supermarkets and checking out the reduced items wherever you go.
I like the concept of using one meal to create recipes through the week. Having chicken or beef on one day and making further meals from the leftovers is helpful for meal planning. It is a great idea and helps with deciding what to have for dinner each night – and ensures there is a minimum of food waste.
Are the recipes all money saving? Well in my opinion it is money saving for people who have not had to budget before and are just trying to cut down their spend a little – and for them this will be money saving. If I used many of the recipes from this book, I think I would increase my food spend – so it depends on where you are starting from.
Some of the recipes are really good. I particularly enjoyed the Scilian Squash and Chickpea Stew although I do not think fresh coriander is a budget ingredient unless you grow it – nor did I buy ‘stone in’ olives – easier to chop ones that have been stoned – and probably cheaper too!
I also enjoyed the Puffy Pea ‘n’ Potato Pie. I would not bother using an egg to glaze the pastry though if I was on a budget but otherwise this is a great, filling meal for a family.
I think Jamie went a bit mad when he conceived Zombie Brain with a celeriac – but heyho – perhaps the teenage kids will like it…
I also tried the Best Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese and I am afraid as a family we all agreed that traditional cauliflower cheese was best – whether made with cauliflower, broccoli or a mix – and frankly Jamie’s recipe was much more fussy to do.
I loved the Minestrone Soup and have done my own version of it with the ingredients I had to hand. In fact it was more of a stew than a soup!
If you love Beef but find it pricey, you will enjoy the section on Beef Brisket – the thrifty cut and using the leftovers in the week with several tasty and easy suggestions
I also tried the Fish Pie. I was attracted to it becuase it had a lot of vegetables and I liked the idea of the pea and potato mash (something I will try again on other dishes) but overall I found there were too many steps and it used too many utensils creating a lot of washing up! The fish pie was good though.
This is a cookery book, packed full of recipes that are reasonably down to earth and not expensive. I would have liked to see more simpler recipes and more real budget recipes. The ideas are mostly great and more experienced cooks will use the ideas and simplify the recipes anyway.
The book is a good addition to anyone’s book shelf, especially for the cook who likes lots of ingredients and really enjoys cooking. It is not a beginners cookbook – nor for someone who is struggling to balance the cost of heating and eating. Many recipes are just a tad too fussy to be for people who aren’t really into cooking.
It is enjoyable to look at and read and I think there will be some thing for everyone, as well as lots of useful tips.