I’ve really enjoyed the two week task– I’ve cooked some great meals that I would never have considered making before and I’ve enjoyed reading the cookbook. It’s beautifully set out and includes some genuinely mouth-watering recipes. I don’t regret getting it and I will definitely make some of the meals again.
But I do have some criticisms. I found many of the dishes a faff to make and I often had to re-read sections because I made mistakes. I think the small typeface used doesn’t help. And it wasn’t just me. DJ, who is much less of a moron, also made some errors when he made his haddock soup. I rarely have this problem with Jamie Oliver’s books.
To be fair, some of the recipes are easy to follow and quick to do – like the spare ribs one. But some are very fiddly and cheffy. I get the impression that professional cooks love to make their meals fussy and generate a lot of washing up because there is someone else to do it. I know, because I’m one of those cooks who likes to tidy up on the go, so I end up cooking and doing most of the washing up too! As a result, I was pretty tired after making a lot of these meals. I don’t mind running around like a maniac to make a roast dinner because it is special and worth the effort. But the pumpkin risotto was a faff and not really worth the hassle. I’m no Nigella Lawson, but I’m used to following recipes and I also have the time to cook because I work from home. So I wonder how busy parents or commuting couples would find the time to make these meals every day. Jonathan on the programme last week said he found some of the recipes time-consuming and I can see why.
I’d also question whether the gastronomy is really economical, too. It’s not the case with all the meals, but some of the ones I cooked involved expensive ingredients, such as the taleggio cheese in the pork lasagne. By the end of the first week we had also used an entire block of £3.49 parmesan, which would normally last us at least four weeks. There are a lot of families out there in the recession who simply couldn’t afford to buy these ingredients every week.
It’s also not easy on somebody watching their weight, such as yours truly (I’ve been too scared to get on the scales this week), or with diabetes, such as my Dad, or high cholesterol. Many of the meals are full of large helpings of butter, cheese and cream. Even the pumpkin risotto recipe states that you should use half a block of butter in it for four people, on top of the gorgonzola and parmesan cheese. If Paul Merrett and Allegra McEvedy bring out a new edition at some point, I’d love them to include suggestions of how you could adapt the recipes to make them lower fat or ingredients you could substitute to make the meals more affordable (ie. use half cheddar and parmesan instead of all parmesan, etc.).
But frugality is all relative. If you’re producing beautiful gourmet meals at home every day and not eating out, then you are probably still saving money. I still can’t understand how it’s possible to spend as much on food as some of the people on the TV series do. However, I also believe that frugality is not about eating rubbish but eating the best food you can afford on your own particular budget. And where the approach wins hands down is that – in theory at least – nothing is wasted. The bedrock recipes mean that leftovers are imaginatively made into other meals, and if you don’t want to eat them immediately you can freeze them. Plus there are good hints and tips in the book on using up fruit that’s past its best and making stock – if, of course, you have the time to do so. So, I definitely think the cookbook is worth a look through for some new ideas. But in my opinion, older recipe books, such as anything by Marguerite Patten, will provide more insight into cooking cheaper cuts of meat, using up leftovers or preserving foodstuffs. So, perhaps you could use McEvedy and Merrett’s ‘bedrock’ approach but substitute your own frugal meals or ingredients.
I’m taking a break next week and will be back in October. Have a great weekend.
Have you read the Economy Gastronomy cookbook? What do you make of it? Leave me a message and let me know.
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