Recently I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of The Hungry Student Cookbook by Charlotte Pike to have a nosey through and offer up my opinions on here. I've mentioned before that I love to read recipe books like a normal person would read a fiction book so I was really excited when I knew this was on its way to me. My housemate text me to say I had received a parcel which had me dying to get back from uni for the rest of the day. When I finally did get in, my first stop might have been my dinner but that was only so I could settle down and get comfy with my new book!
Every recipe book I own is a source of inspiration to me and this one is going to be no exception. It all counts as research! Even though this is aimed at students I quickly formed the opinion that it would be a good choice for anyone who wants quick and easy, but above all tasty meals. There is a good amount of choice covered by the sections which include pasta, rice, soups/stews/curries, jacket potatoes, easy dinners, cooking for a crowd, vegetable based dishes, toasted meals, food for a rough morning and finally sweets. The author has really channelled everything she learned at uni into this book and I suspect the other two books in the series, Easy Baking and Vegetarian Cookbook, would prove the same. Here's what I thought overall.
What I particularly loved:
- The variety. There are enough different types of recipes and enough flavour combinations to get anyone going on the road to good food. At the same time, there are similarities between some of the recipes that show that it is easy to adapt the recipes to what you have at hand or your personal favourite ingredients. This is good news for those like me who can't resist putting their own stamp on something.
- The ease of recipes. Alright, this might not be so important for those people who already have enough cooking experience but it is extremely important for those who have barely stepped foot in that particular room before apart from under duress, washing up. A person with little confidence when working with food does not need to be put off by complicated recipes but not one recipe in this book does that.
- The introduction. This part is fun, not patronising and brief enough to take notice of while still covering all the necessities. This includes kitchen tools and cupboard necessities, how to budget, taking care of your oven (very important unless you want an extra bill from your landlord), food hygiene for beginners and enouragement at getting creative with alternatives.
- The photography. The pictures dispersed throughout the book are bright and rumbly-tummy inducing, even with dishes I haven't tried before. There will doon be some more things I've experimented with thanks to these pictures!
- The photography. Yep, I've already said this one but I felt there could have been more pictures. A lot of people like an idea of what the finished product should look like so they know if they have done something right. Having said that, more pictures would mean a higher cost and I think that the price is really good for the content. Also, there is a chance that more photos would dishearten a person with little culinary experience if it doesn't look exactly like the style, professionally photographed version, so this point is personal preference really.
- The baking section. Don't get me wrong, there are a good number of sweet recipes in here and enough chocolate contianing ones to keep me happy but because I lie more on the baking side of the cook/bake fence, I would have preferred more. However, that is all the more reason for me to buy the Easy Baking book in the series! After all, this book is a general cookbook, not a let's-please-Laura-and-have-cake-for-every-meal book.
- Food intolerances. I might be being too harsh with this one. I would've liked to have seen more recipes for alternative diets like for gluten or lactose intolerant people. These speciality diets are becoming more prevailant, through both choice and necessity and seeing as Charlotte Pike has a business selling alternative goods called Go Free Foods, I was a little surprised there wasn't at least a page noting what could be used as substitutes, or even labels on the recipes stating if they were suitable for special diets, similar to the 'vegetarian' labels.
Finally, here are some of my favourite recipes (a couple of photos are ones I've taken of the book) and one from the book itself which I have kndly been allowed to reproduce.
- Super Tasty Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Leeks - This was gorgeous and so easy to make. I am biased though because it contains so many of my favourite ingredients so I knew it would work right from the start!
- Bombay Potato Curry - It was only last year that I was brave enough to try curry and I realised I had been missing out. This one contains ots of lovely warming spices and is really cheap to make.
- Creamy Honey and Mustard Pork Chops - Honey and mustard are always a winning combination yet I have never tried it with portk before. I will be soon though!
- Homemade Tortillas - These are something I've always thought would be hard and time consuming. I couldn't have been more wrong - the most difficult bit was rolling them into a circle, which I ignored anyway and just rolled until they were thin enough. I made these on a Friday evening when I had got back to the house at 5pm after being in the lab all day and yet by half five I was enjoying sausages wrapped in the best tortillas I've ever eaten with extra mushy peas and tomato sauce. I might never buy them again, plus I had some leftover for another day. Look below for the recipe.
- Muffins - There are several varieties included, both savoury and sweet and the blueberry ones are now on my list of things to make.
- Banoffee Pie - Decadent and easy are words that don't sound like they shoud go together but they do for this. Another recipe that contains all things delicious. Come on, how good does that look?!
Such an easy and quick recipe to make you not want to bother buying tortillas again.
- 120g self raising flour
- 1.5 tsp vegetable or sunflower oil
- 60ml warm water
- pinch salt
1. Add the oil, water and salt to the flour in a bowl and mix to a stiff dough.2. Divide the mixture into 4 balls and roll out on a floured surface to a thin circle.3. Heat a large, dry non-stick frying pan ove a high heat and cook each tortilla, one at a time, for 30-50 seconds on each side until lightly browned. 4. Enjoy!