Monday, 14 December 2009

Post 144: VegBoxBoy Book Review: Make More of Squashes and Make More of Beans and Peas

This is all a bit Richard and Judy, isn't it? When I started this blogging business it was really easy to sign up to adsense and I thought brilliant; I might earn a couple of pints out of this. It has in fact turned out to be almost exactly that; a couple of pints. However all is not lost through a blogger's forum ( I can now sign up to volunteer to review stuff. This far I've been sent::
- Nearly 3 kilos nice Greek yoghurt (thanks Total)
- Soft feta cheese, olives, chorizo and a panettone (thanks Uneartherd)
- Two Christmas puddings (thanks Matthew Walker's)
- Two books; "Make More of Squashes", "Make More of Beans & Peas" both by Patricia Harbottle, Peter Chadwick and Elisabeth Winkler (thanks Elisabeth)

This is all turning out much better than I'd thought; free stuff through the post. Now that is brilliant.

As a reviewer, I think all you have is your honesty and word skills. I'll have to settle for the honesty then. That said, I really, really wanted to give these books a unremittingly positive review as Elisabeth who sent them to me was so very nice about it and it absolutely made my day when they arrived in the post.

However the first two things I noticed about the books were:
1) They are pretty small (A5) and both just under 100 pages so they seem quite expensive at an RRP of £8.99
2) There's no pictures. I'm not blessed with a vivid imagination. I tend to read recipe books by flicking until I see a picture I like and then seeing if it's easy enough to cook. For these books I had to actually read the words and think. Thinking makes my brain hurt.

Onto the recipes. The recipes themselves are mostly short, concise and simple. Some are a bit too short, or in the case of the one for Melon and Parma ham balls, too simple. I'm not really sure how that could be expanded. Does that really count as a recipe? Even the proper recipes were still 1 to a page, which is useful when you actually come to try to follow any of them.

The next thing I noticed was almost a quarter of the each was devoted to growing them; which seemed a bit strange as I thought it was a recipe book. I will though, unexpected as it was, be making use of this section after my pea growing farrago earlier in the year. These sections will certainly prove useful to me, as there's a bit more detail in here than I've seen in some gardening books. Probably not a section I'd have looked for, but an unexpected bonus.

Most of the recipes were very much better than Melon and Parma ham. I will at some stage have a go at a few of them; which I think speaks well. The writers clearly know their peas and their beans; some of the concoctions seem a little unusual - melon in a flan!? - but they acknowledge this and that helps me think that it might be worth a try.

What was also unusual from many other recipe books I've seen, was that the vegetables were very much the star. Often, recipe books seem to be page after page of meat lumps. I'm not a veggie, but   eating plenty of vegetables is a healthier and cheaper way to eat. There were quite a few dishes here which fit in well with my attempts to eat the contents of my weekly veg box. The good thing was there were suggestions of appropriate herbs to use with dishes I've already made very similarly - so now I can do them properly!

The text also reads like the writer, whichever one of the three, had actually cooked the dish. This is also good. I dislike the whole 'Celebrity Chef' Business. It seems most of them have a new book out for christmas every year. You get the impression there are scores of ghost writers and the celebry-chef ambles along at the end for a few photos and the PR. I've never been involved in book publishing; Ramsay could be hunched writing over his notebook right now, in between TV shows, marathon running training and running restaurants on 5 (?) continents. So for the reason that the people on the front of book have at least cooked and eaten the recipes within; and still consider them to be good I do in the end quite like the books.

Many thanks for sending them, and I wish you all the very best with them. x

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