Delia's How to Cook - Book 3 by Delia Smith

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Delia's How to Cook - Book 3 by Delia Smith

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Category: Cookery
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The final book in the three-book How to Cook series is a considerable improvement on Book 2 but is not as good as her earlier work. However, if you want advice on catering for parties and gatherings this might be a good investment.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: December 2001
Publisher: BBC Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0563534699

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I've got great admiration for anyone who undertakes a big project: personally I have the attention span of a butterfly. Delia Smith was talking to her priest one day when he lamented the lack of cooking skills in the younger generation and their reliance on expensive and poor quality convenience foods. Delia promised that she would remedy this: we would, she decided, be taught "How to Cook", in books one, two and three with accompanying television series.

Perhaps, though, the project was not quite as new as it might appear. In the late seventies and early eighties we had "Delia Smith's Cookery Course", coincidentally also originally in three volumes with accompanying (and much repeated) television series. Indeed I owe a debt of gratitude, as it was this course that first gave me the confidence to prepare good food but I learnt to cook - to appreciate fresh ingredients and understand how best to prepare them - from reading Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and, in recent years, Nigel Slater.

"How to Cook: Book 1" did reasonably well, although it took some stick from people who found it too basic, failing, perhaps, to realise that some of us really did need to be reassured as to the point at which water is boiling. I felt that Book 2 rather lost its way: the ploy was made obvious. Although this was a book to teach us how to cook it needed new recipes to keep those of us who could cook buying the books and some of these recipes did seem too advanced for a novice. Whoever bought the book - novice or more experienced cook - got half a book.

For a while it was rumoured that Book 3 would not appear, but appear it did in 2001 and Delia does seem to have recovered a little of her old magic. Even icons have to be reminded that they are not perfect, on occasions.

There has been a common format for the series. There would be instruction in a particular area and then recipes to provide practical experience. This book opens with a chapter on kitchen equipment and the advice given is generally sound - buy quality as it lasts and is generally cheaper in the long run. For the most part I thought her advice reasonable in terms of the equipment required, perhaps erring a little on the side of over-equipping - one or two of the items I have managed without for well over a quarter of a century of regular cooking.

I fall out a little with her assertions about what you don't need. For example she cites a potato ricer, which I find invaluable for making mashed potato and pie toppings and my daughter uses one regularly to prepare baby food. I wouldn't suggest that you need one, but kitchen equipment is about what works for you and not about what someone else tells you that you need, or don't need.

There's also a chapter on "Gadgets that Work". Unfortunately we begin with a list of kitchen casualties - the gadgets which have not worked for Delia. She doesn't like slow-cookers (I've sworn by mine for twenty years) or sandwich makers (there's many a student would argue with that). I do wish, though, that I'd read her advice about having an electric hand whisk of about 250w power as I'd probably be a lot happier with the one I'd have bought. There's excellent advice too on bread makers, ice cream machines and espresso machines along with some mouth-watering recipes.

Now we move on to food preparation and first up are pulses which have had a renaissance in recent years. There's a run-down of the most common pulses with clear advice on their preparation. The vegetarian shepherd's pie with goat's cheese mash is good, but don't worry, you can substitute another cheese if you find goat's cheese a little too, er, goaty. I'm not too certain about sesame blancmange with sweetened compote of adzuki beans though!

I've always been a big fan of preserves, much preferring my own to anything you can buy in the shops. The advice on basic techniques is sound although I'd argue about her inclusion of cornflour in the lemon curd recipe - I've never felt the need!

By popular demand Delia has included a chapter on "Waist Watchers", perhaps because she, herself, has put on rather a lot of weight recently. We apparently eat too much and do too little. Yes, guilty as charged, I'm afraid. There are recipes high in flavour and low in calories and details are given of calories, fat, saturates, protein and carbohydrates, although only for this chapter. I'll vouch for the pasta and pepper relish - it's considered good even by non-dieters!

The diet goes out of the window of course as soon as you move onto the next chapter - Pates and Starters. I rather like the idea of souffléd sole creams with champagne sauce and salmon caviar although I think that will have to be a very special occasion! I've every intention of trying the roasted red pepper and tomato tart although I will have to juggle the quantities a bit as it serves eight.

The hot puddings look excellent, but then they have always been my weakness. Warm chocolate rum soufflés with chocolate sauce are destined to make an appearance over the Christmas season and I'm very tempted by the individual Sussex Pond Puddings with lemon butter sauce. This is a traditional English pudding which is normally made with a whole lemon and butter, but Delia has adapted the recipe to make individual puddings using slices of lemon, butter and Demerara sugar as the filling.

There's a particularly useful chapter on parties and gatherings. I rather like the sound of the hot middle-eastern buffet. Delia points out that buffet food is so often bland and this buffet is full of flavour and colour. Clear instructions are given for preparation which needs to, or can, be done in advance and takes you right up the point at which the guests begin to arrive. For winter there's a buffet which can all be prepared in advance with the exception of some jacket potatoes and my mouth waters just reading the menu. As someone who as always hated the idea of catering for the masses this chapter made me feel that it would be well within my capabilities. For me this is the most successful chapter in the whole book both in terms of the advice given and the recipes provided.

I'd like to have seen, in addition to the index for this book, an index for the whole of the "How to Cook" series. I occasionally recollect a recipe that I want to use and have sometimes had to hunt through three volumes before I find it. It's a minor annoyance, but it would have been helpful.

So, would I recommend the book, or by extension the series? I think book 2 is the weak link, but each book does stand on its own and I'm happy to have this book for the final chapter alone. There are more recipes which I feel to be truly original as opposed to reworkings of previously published recipes and there's sound advice on such new beasts as bread makers and ice cream machines. On balance though I think I'd buy a novice the original Delia Smith's Cookery Course - in fact that's what I bought for my own daughter.

Buy Delia's How to Cook - Book 3 by Delia Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Delia's How to Cook - Book 3 by Delia Smith at

Buy Delia's How to Cook - Book 3 by Delia Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Delia's How to Cook - Book 3 by Delia Smith at


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