Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet...Affordable, Everyday Food and Family-friendly Recipes Made Easy by Gill Holcombe

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Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet...Affordable, Everyday Food and Family-friendly Recipes Made Easy by Gill Holcombe

Category: Cookery
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The occasional gem of a recipe is over-shadowed by a suspect approach as to what constitutes healthy eating.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 264 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Spring Hill
ISBN: 978-1905862337

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Following on from her success with the book with the atrociously long title Gill Holcombe has given us another long title and more easy recipes aimed at busy people who live real lives. The principle is the same – few people have unlimited time and/or money and these recipe books go some way towards proving that it is possible to prepare food simply and quickly without breaking the Bank. She promises 'simple, wholesome and nutritious recipes' – does she deliver?

The traditional opening for this type of cookbook is the list of ingredients which you might be expected to have in the store cupboard/fridge/freezer and the equipment you might need. I'm always sceptical about these lists as they inevitably contain items which you can't imagine ever needing and omit something which you can't live without. In this case it's instant gravy granules, gravy browning, instant soup mix (over-salty, over-priced for what they are and I can't imagine ever finding a use for them) and Stork margarine, which I wouldn't have in the house. Equipment though is laudably sparse and there's reassurance that if you can only afford the local pound shop then the food isn't going to suffer.

I found the organisation of the book woolly but that's possibly down to me. The idea of working through various types of food ('Soups', 'Meat Dishes', 'Puddings', 'Picnic Food' and so on) might seem unoriginal but it has the merit of being user-friendly. If I'm looking for inspiration for a fish dish I'd like to be able to turn to a section on fish and look through until something tickles the taste buds rather than having to hunt through various sections. Pacific Pie is under Mood Food and there are more suggestions under Kids' Favourites – a classification I've never been able to comprehend. When my daughter was young she might have had her favourites – but she ate the same food as us and I've never really been able to understand the distinction.

The recipes are simple, both in terms of the ingredients required and the techniques used. I did wonder, though, how thoroughly they'd been tested. There's a recipe for Oriental Beef with Lime Dumplings where we're assured that it's the lime zest which gives the dumplings their special flavour – Or you could try mixing the flour and suet with lime juice, instead of water, I suppose. I'm sorry, but when I buy a recipe book I want to know that what I'm doing is going to work. I don't want to experiment.

Unfortunately I don't feel that the book consistently delivers on the promise of wholesome and nutritious recipes. I've long believed that a worthy diet is a dull diet and that everyone needs the occasional indulgence, but in the context of a balanced and healthy diet. It's particularly important for children to grow up appreciating the taste of good food and enjoying the occasional treat which they wouldn't eat regularly. When Mrs Holcombe writes about chips I was provoked to near fury. Let me quote what she says:

- so forget about calorie counting and fat grams for once, stop thinking of them as 'an occasional treat', which is the advice given in just about every article I've ever read on the subject of 'healthy eating' and make chips a regular part of your diet. They're full of vitamins, taste good and fill you up without making you fat, and you can't ask for much more than that.

For the record, I love chips but it's inevitable that they're going to contain a large amount of fat or oil and there's research which suggests that the high temperatures required for their cooking can cause health problems. I can't agree that they're full of vitamins (compared to what? Fruit?) and whilst they taste good and fill you up I'm not certain on what basis Gill Holcombe asserts that they don't make you fat. In fact I'd go as far as to say that any parent who fed their child a diet which regularly contained chips could be leading that child into a life of obesity. If the advice given in just about every article on the subject of healthy eating is that they should be an occasional treat then perhaps there's good reason for this?

Carping aside there is the occasional gem. It was under Mood Food that I found a dish which is likely to become a firm favourite in this household and that's Sweet Potato Pasties. I roasted rather than boiled the sweet potatoes (the oven was on for something else) but the light and slightly spicy filling with the crisp puff pastry made an excellent lunch with a dressed salad. There's a creamy vegetable curry which works well as a main dish (and not just for vegetarians) or a side dish.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you're looking to produce quick and tasty meals it's difficult to better The 31-Minute Cook by Nigel Slater. For excellent advice on how to make the most of left-overs and what you have in the kitchen, look no further than The Thrifty Cookbook by Kate Colquhoun. If you need help producing good food on a seasonal basis, week in, week out then you'll love The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron but if you're starting from scratch then you could do a lot worse than do as I did and work your way through Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course.

Buy Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet...Affordable, Everyday Food and Family-friendly Recipes Made Easy by Gill Holcombe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet...Affordable, Everyday Food and Family-friendly Recipes Made Easy by Gill Holcombe at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet...Affordable, Everyday Food and Family-friendly Recipes Made Easy by Gill Holcombe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fish Pies and French Fries, Vegetables, Meat and Something Sweet...Affordable, Everyday Food and Family-friendly Recipes Made Easy by Gill Holcombe at Amazon.com.


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