Everybody Everyday by Alex Mackay
Published by Bloomsbury May 2012
Devising a new twist on an old favourite isn’t easy, as the creators of the umbrella hat, the fluffy mono-slipper and the Leonardo da Vinci action figure will tell you. But, remarkably, I think Alex Mackay has done it. Everybody Everyday is a superbly practical book in which he demonstrates how to cook six basic ingredients, six sauces and six slow-cooked meals and then offers a wonderful series of variations on each. Master the basics and the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Having been a cookery teacher for years, working with Raymond Blanc and Delia Smith, Alex knows how to get his message across. He’s a brilliant chef, but he makes his recipes appear effortless. Take for instance the section on baked chicken breasts. Alex has devised the following ways to cook them: with porcini, parsley sauce and spinach, with tomato, lemon and almond dressing, with soy, honey, orange and ginger, with mustard, chives, runner beans and peas, with corn and chilli relish and finally with sweet and sour kidney beans and avocado salsa. All the recipes are clear, straightforward and easy to make and there are further chapters on salmon, aubergine, risotto, pesto, tapenade and green curry paste, amongst others. Every recipe includes advice on how to adjust ingredients such as salt or chilli for babies and children.
This is a book that knows what it’s doing and knows who it’s aimed at. It’s informative without being patronising and it’s imaginative without being intimidating. Shrewdly, Everybody Everyday doesn’t get distracted by starters or puddings. I suspect though, that if the book is a success, which it certainly deserves to be, Everybody Everyday: For Afters will surely be next in line.
Eat Your Veg by Arthur Potts Dawson
Published by Octopus May 2012
Arthur Potts Dawson’s CV must have to be printed in pamphlet form. He was trained by the Roux brothers, Rowley Leigh and Pierre Koffmann and went on to be head chef for Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray at The River Cafe, for the Soho House Group at Cecconi’s, for Jamie Oliver at Fifteen and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage HQ. He founded London eco-restaurants Acorn House and Water House for the Shoreditch Trust and has slung in a few television programmes for good measure. And yet, to look at his photograph, you’d think he was still 17.
Eat Your Veg is my kind of cookery book. It’s not a manual about becoming a vegetarian; it simply makes vegetables the star of the show. Roasted carrots with caraway and chilli cream, beetroot soup with cumin and coriander, wine-braised artichokes stuffed with herbs and creamed girolles with grilled polenta are all recipes that read like poetry and taste like heaven. There are oddities too, like roasted sweet potato with marshmallows and maple syrup or iced pea and mint lollipops, that I haven’t tried yet. But as far as I’m concerned, if Arthur says something works, then it works.
The only thing I’m not smitten by is the title. Eat Your Veg is just too stolidly prosaic a name to encompass the poetry that’s going on inside the covers. But, all things considered, that’s a pretty small complaint. Eat Your Veg is inspiring, creative and original. If I was a vegetable I’d be saying to myself, “finally, someone’s giving me the attention I deserve.”
this is great charlie. i have been wanting to try more vegetarian meals recently and eat your veg looks like just the thing. If you say its good, it must be.
Thanks B – some meat and fish creep in too, but vegetables are the stars. It’s a very inspiring book
Both these books look exceptional, as I would certainly trust your reviews. It must be increasingly difficult to find a new format for a cookery book but in particular Everybody Everyday seems to have found a new and extremely practical formula.
It’s good to be trusted – thanks Jakey
A great, straight-to-the-point review of each of these books, Charlie, and I want them both. As someone who ends up cooking the same thing time after time, for either lack of ideas or lack of confidence in the kitchen, they each offer me something that would get me cooking new dishes and new foods. Everybody Everyday sounds fabulous for people like me – teaching how to create many different dishes by changing just the sauce or a few ingredients. And Veg? I don’t make them often enough.
You’d get a huge amount of enjoyment – and inspiration – from them both, Jamie.
Really sound every day cook books are the ones that end up with their pages splattered and covers falling off. The ones with fanciful recipes tend to languish for the odd special occasion. Both of these sound like they would end up with dog-eared pages. Always on the look out for veg recipes for the whole family (so I don’t have to cook seperately for my vege daughter). Always love your reviews – not as easy a task (reviewing a cook book) as it first sounds.
Both books are eminently practical, Sally – full of great recipes that are enjoyable to make.