Big Meals for Little Hands by Virginie Aladjidi, Caroline Pellissier and Marion Billet

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Big Meals for Little Hands by Virginie Aladjidi, Caroline Pellissier and Marion Billet
Buy Big Meals for Little Hands from

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Genre: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Page
Reviewed by Zoe Page
Summary: A French cookery book for children, this is sweet but perhaps not all that practical
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 56 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
ISBN: 978-1909263161

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When you learn that it features recipes from a Michelin starred chef, Sébastien Guénard, you immediately know that this is not going to be just any kids’ cook book. And it’s not. Featuring recipes categorised by season, and utilising fresh fruit and vegetables as the centre for each dish, this is a book that may appeal most to children with more adventurous palates.

Traditionally, cookery books aimed at children feature bright, clear illustrations or full colour photographs of the steps and of the result. The first thing I noticed with this one is that the pages are full of delicate drawings that don’t exactly show what you should be doing, or what it will look like when you’re done. Or, to quote the Boy as he flicked through, What’s a Clafoutis? Now there is a picture of the cake, but it’s quite small and not obviously linked to the recipe – all the pages are also adorned with things like snowflakes or leaves, giving quite a busy feel to the pages, and the cake tin blends in with these illustrations somewhat.

As for the recipes, you can expect two for each item, think Poached Pears and Blue Pears, Spinach and Salmon Turnover and Spinach Salad. They are a mix of sweet and savoury and each is neatly compressed into short steps that don’t take more than one page to explain. This is good. What is a bit trickier, however, is working out some of the technical terms. Some books have a glossary explaining the cooking jargon they use, but this one doesn’t, so you have to trust there will be an adult present who knows how to lightly steam the asparagus' tips and who realises that work the butter in a bowl until it turns soft is just a fancy way to say beat it with a wooden spoon.

This is a French book originally, and they do say that some items may not be available everywhere, so alternatives are given. Again, this is good, but some ingredients are a bit confusing at times: they use ginger bread and mean actually a ginger flavoured cake loaf, not the biscuit (man shaped or otherwise) probably more familiar to the book’s target audience. They say to use Speculoos which isn’t a term widely used here – in fact a quick look on Mysupermarket tells me the nearest they can come up with is Pitta Bread. That’s not near. Not near at all, to the spiced crispy biscuit I think they meant.

Finally, I’d take issue with the claim that the book contains Big Meals (for little hands) because many are smaller snacks or side dishes, for example the Tabbouleh or the BBQ Tomatoes. These, for example, it says serve 4 people, but 10 tomatoes grilled with salt, pepper and herbs is a bit of a poor showing for a meal, and no suggestions are made as to what would make a good accompaniment.

I’m not sure the design would really hold up to being used repeatedly in a kitchen environment. The padded cover is fun, but the pages had a crepe-like, matt finish and I can just see a slightly oily finger or speck of sauce leaving a horrible mark on them and ruining the effect. It's probably blasphemous to say to the French, but a nice wipe-clean design would probably have been more useful.

This is not a bad book. It has a range of interesting recipes, different from the usual fare you find in cook-by-yourself kids’ books (mini pizzas and fairy cakes don’t get a look in here) and if you have a child who likes to try new things, this has lots of ideas for you to prepare together. But, it’s not the sort of book you can necessarily pick up on a rainy afternoon and choose a recipe from at random. Some require a bit of preparation, either in method or in stocking up on ingredients, and so I’ve docked a star for removing the spontaneity from the situation, and half a star for the design.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

For a completely different take on kids' cooking, why not see what we thought of Do Try This at Home: Cook It!! by Punk Science

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