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Oh, I know I shouldn't, but I regularly read this book in bed, but judging by the other reviews here on Ciao, I'm not alone. I've cast my novels and my travel books to one side and now I drift off to sleep dreaming of elegant al-fresco dinner parties on the patio.
Not that I'll ever have these dinner parties - my patio is too small to accommodate more than two at a time, but we can all have our dreams. But Nigella's book is not just a book for dreamers, it's a book that is surprisingly full of common sense as well as fantastic recipes that are great for building the confidence in anyone that has any kind of inclination to prepare beautiful food beautifully. By beautiful food, I don't mean simply that which is merely pretty to look at, although Nigella's recipes frequently are. Nigella's recipes are beautiful in that good ingredients are given the treatment they deserve to bring out the most in them. Nigella has an engaging writing style and her recipes often just emerge from the narration instead of merely listing ingredients on a page in the soulless manner adopted by so many other books. It's almost like chatting to Nigella over the kitchen counter, while her words ooze with the pleasure that she takes in eating and cooking.
Although I've been cooking enthusiastically for years, I've learnt a lot from this book. The introductory chapters on techniques, equipment and the elementary processes involved in cooking the main food groups are well explained and informative. It should have been obvious to me a long time ago that when cooking fish, regardless of the method of cooking, you should allow 10 minutes cooking time for each inch of thickness. Somehow, this was never apparent to me until Nigella pointed it out. As a result, cooking fish is now a doddle.
As well as being able to provide good practical advice, she's got a great sense of humour too. She advises that surplus egg whites should never be thrown away but should be frozen. She informs us that as a result of her doing this, her freezer now resembles a sperm bank!
Nigella loves good food, and like myself she likes to plunder recipes from the far reaches of the globe. Mediterranean, Asian, Thai, and good old British are all here. There are recipes for every occasion - breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper, entertaining. The range and breadth of the dishes that she has chosen to share is impressive and she will take you from broiling to baking to stewing to stir-frying in the variety of techniques that she employs.
I found the section on Low Fat cooking particularly useful. Let's face it, every woman wants to find some way of eating well but without piling on the pounds. Again, the advice Nigella gives on making sure your cupboard is well-stocked with as many types as soya-sauce as possible before embarking on any diet regime is something I agree with through and through. Stir-frys are the key to success. When one needs to shed pounds, Nigella recommends a fanastic vegetable curry that has been well tried and tested in our house and comes highly recommended.
It's a wonderful book although I doubt it will appeal to many people who aren't food enthusiasts already. Unlike most other modern cook books, there is a distinct lack of photographs. This is not a problem for me - I have no picture to compare my finished item with and so if my creation does not look like the one in the book, I can't be disappointed. Also, less pictures means more room for recipes and Nigella's chatty narration. However, I can imagine that some people choose cookery books on the basis of the pictures more than anything else. As well as the lack of pictures, the book also assumes a certain understanding and mastery of basic techniques and so is not totally suited to the novice cook.