Real Cooking by Nigel Slater

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Real Cooking by Nigel Slater

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Category: Cookery
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A near-perfect book about cooking in today's world. It's not a book for the purist but wonderful for everyone else from the novice to the experienced cook. It will give confidence and inspiration in equal measures and is so sensuous it's a book to read in bed. It's highly recommended here at Bookbag Towers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0141029498

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Nigel Slater would like everyone to spend an hour a day preparing their own food, but he's realistic enough to know that for most of us this is just not going to happen and certainly not on a regular basis. In all the inspirational cookery books that he's written over the years he's set out to prove to us that we can make wonderful food without spending hours slaving over the proverbial hot stove.

There is too much talk of cooking being an art or a science - we are only making ourselves something to eat.

Real Cooking was first published in 1997 but recently re-issued by Penguin. It's a treasure trove of sensible advice and good food. It's probably easiest if I begin by saying who this book wouldn't be suitable for. If you're looking for elegantly-presented dishes for dinner parties, or even pictures of dishes all arranged with matching tablecloths then you'll find nothing to help in this book other than the thought that you might be going about things the wrong way. In fact, if you're a purist about your food this book is likely to challenge a lot of your thinking. Exact measurements are given only when necessary and if it's possible to manage with directions like 'a pinch' or 'a handful' then that's what's done.

The advice about equipment is sound and sensible. There's no long list of implements which experienced cooks wonder how they'd use. Nigel once had a fish kettle. He used it to plant hyacinths and they gave a splendid show. Basically he wants you to go for broke on your pans and get the best that you can possibly afford. He's right. My pans cost a frightening amount but more than a decade later they look as good as new and I've never had a problem with them. At the other end of the scale he suggests that you get a knife you're comfortable with and don't worry too much about getting expensive ones. I'd agree with this too. I have some rather pricey knives, but the one I turn to most often cost me £1.99.

I defy anyone to read this book without feeling hungry and wanting to get into the kitchen. This is food with as little done to it as possible and the best brought out of it. He's a sensuous, evocative writer and I would swear that I could smell the food as I read. It's the book that will help you put good food on the table throughout the year. You might open the odd can - of tomatoes in winter when Nigel feels that it's not worth buying fresh - but you will be making better, tastier food than any ready meal from a supermarket.

The range of the recipes is wide - from starters and snacks through to puddings, covering each season and catering to all tastes. People have said to me that Nigel Slater's recipes are fattening, but I wouldn't agree. There's the occasional indulgent dish but they're balanced by his preference for fish and chicken and unashamed love of fruit and vegetables.

I'd give this book to anyone from a complete beginner to an experienced cook. There's sufficient detail for the novice but more importantly there's plenty of reassurance and confidence in bundles. Cooking is more about confidence than technique, particularly when it's yourself and the family you're cooking for. For anyone who has been cooking for more years than they care to remember there's inspiration and plenty of new ideas, or even old ideas with a new twist. Before long we're going to be having poached fish with mashed potatoes, which might not sound like a new idea until you see that the sauce is made with crème fraiche.

Photography is by Georgia Glynn Smith. I'm used to Nigel's writing in The Observer being accompanied by the photography of Jonathan Lovekin. They complement each other wonderfully and I did wonder if I was in for a disappointment. The styles are different, but I needn't have worried. The photographs are natural with some before-and-after shots and even some series of photographs which give hints as to how the recipe proceeds. The photographs were taken as Nigel cooked in his own kitchen and you'll see his own pots, pans and crockery appearing throughout the book. This is how real people live. There's a picture of baked couscous with summer vegetables which had me reaching for a fork.

So, is there anything I'm not too keen on? If I've really got to quibble I'd say that I'd have loved a few more puddings and that the balance of the recipes is affected by Nigel's personal taste in food. For instance there's little in the way of beef or savoury egg recipes. They're not Nigel's choice and this is something you might like to bear in mind if they're your favourites. It is me being picky though. I can live perfectly well without either.

I don't want to manage without the book though, so my thanks to the publishers for sending it!

Buy Real Cooking by Nigel Slater at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Real Cooking by Nigel Slater at

Buy Real Cooking by Nigel Slater at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Real Cooking by Nigel Slater at


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