Tuesday April 19, 2011
Budget meals for beginners
MEALS FOR BEGINNERS
By Diane and Jon Sutherland
Publisher: Flame Tree Publishing
A GOOD cookbook for beginners should not only have good recipes, but also provide basic education on food and cooking.
One book that divulges useful tips and also helps readers to understand more about budgeting and planning is Meals for Beginners by Diane and Jon Sutherland. The couple, who have written 200 other books, ranging from education, to children’s literature and household hints.
Meals for Beginners is not your ordinary cookbook that is filled with colourful pictures of succulent dishes. If you're looking for one with striking illustrations and gourmet-styled recipes, than this book is not your cup of tea.
For one, the photos buried inside this paperback cover are unfortunately in boring black and white that don't do justice to the meals prepared. Neither is it very encouraging since it doesn’t help to demonstrate instructions.
However, since a beginner's cookbook must provide some basic cooking education and techniques from how to choose and buy ingredients, this book provides a wealth of knowledge on how to plan ahead, prepare and spend your money wisely.
Most of all, it is easy to read with simple recipes and instructions for anyone to follow, whether you are a seasoned or novice cook.
This book is basically divided into three parts and takes the reader on a journey of discovery on how to shop prudently, choose kitchen utensils that are useful and prepare delicious meals.
The first part, “Shopping for Beginners”, centres on everything you need to know about shopping - from when and where to shop, how to get the best prices, what to buy and when to buy it.
“Shopping for Beginners” is really aimed for those who may be new to cooking or do not feel confident in the kitchen. This chapter not only gives you solid recommendations on functionality, quality and price, but also gives you handy tips on food and how to grow your own, bake your own and make your own.
“Budget cooking doesn't necessarily mean cheap cooking,” according to the Sutherlands.
“It is about what food is costing you, and making the most of what you need, and then buy,” they say.
Indeed, this book encourages readers to change their mindset about spending money, from buying things that are really cheap to what you really need.
It shows you how to make an inventory and shopping list that does help a lot of people with direction and discipline.
It covers basic information on the differences between superstores, wholesalers, convenience stores, on line shopping and how to find the best deals in all these different places. There's also a long and useful chapter that talks about free coupons, discounts and vouchers – something that many of us don’t pay attention to.
The second part, “Kitchen Basics”, covers a variety of topics related to the kitchen, with organisational tips along the way. You will learn how to keep your kitchen squeaky clean from making your own cleaning agents to buying equipment and storing perishable and non-perishable food. There are also guidelines on vacuum sealing, preserving and smoking food.
If you are going to cook, you should also have an understanding of utensils and the type of tools needed in the kitchen. This section comes in handy as it tells you the different types of knives, cookware and electrical equipment that are available in the market and what is essential for you.
The final part, “Cooking for Beginners”, shares with readers basic cooking techniques. There are close to 55 recipes provided in the end-section of the book which includes recipes for soups, starters, fish, meat, vegetables and deserts. Novice cooks who want to try out any of the dishes will be amazed that they have something to create for every occasion.
Whether you are new to cooking for family or simply want to prepare a lighter, healthier meal, this section provides a wealth of knowledge on preparation. It tells you how to prepare the meat or skin a fish before moving on to cooking it.
The recipes start with simple baking of cakes and bread to more complex food preparations such as making risotto. However, nothing is really difficult to prepare.
Though the book is UK-based, readers will find a lot of recipes that are Asian favourites such as Sweet-and-sour fish, Coconut Fish Curry, Chinese Styled Fried Rice and Aromatic Chicken Curry.
There’s also a wide range of popular Western dishes like Spaghetti Bolognese, Meatballs with Olives, Lasagne, Cullen Skink and Shepherd’s Pie.
Imaginative recipe titles like "Tomato Soup Bake," and "Bubble and Squeak Cakes," help to make everyday cooking more interesting as well.
The book will certainly be a useful addition to anyone's collection - especially if you want to cut cost on food and eat more home cooked meals.