I was the lucky recipient of four cookbooks this past Christmas, and the subject of today’s review was the only surprise of the bunch. My boyfriend saw it, liked the look of it, and decided it would make a good addition to my stocking. I was thrilled because discovering a new author is always fun.
Kate Colquhoun is a UK food writer whose work has appeared in the Daily Telegraph, The Times, Country Life and Delicious magazine, among others. She is known as a crusader against food waste, on a mission to turn the British public into better, and more thrifty, cooks.
The Thrifty Cookbook is, then, a sort of manifesto. The first two chapters, What’s Thrifty Cooking? and How to Waste Less Food lay the groundwork: a shocking amount of food is wasted every year from ordinary kitchens, simply because people don’t know what to do with it. The 14 chapters that follow put those ideas into practice, and include the expected Some Basics, Soups, Pies, Tarts and Pizzas and Eggs and Cheese, but also chapters like Things to do with Bread and Fruit Past its Best.
Within these chapters, the book follows the style that seems to be trending in the cookbook market this days: several basic recipes, with umpteen variations. For instance, a recipe for classic Bubble and Squeak (pg. 151) has 14 adaptations, including Rösti, Parsnip and Apple, and Spanish Trinxat. This does mean that there’s rather a lot of reading to be done here, if you want to extract maximum recipe potential.
Of course, that’s not a bad thing; the design of The Thrifty Cookbook makes flipping through its pages a treat. Printed on attractive recycled paper in a user-friendly 6 x 9″ format, it features a simple layout and thoughtful organization. The book is also peppered with cute and whimsical line drawings, included both for instruction purposes (as in how to make Plain Risotto, pg. 176) and for visual relief. Some might miss photos in a cookbook (there aren’t any here), but that’s personal preference. I like the sketches, and don’t feel that such simple meals really need photographs, anyway.
So, on to the recipes. They are as I say, simple, with a focus on grasping basic kitchen techniques before building on them to create dishes. Basics include Making Stocks (pg. 27), Jams and Preserves (pg. 39), Stews (pg. 72) and Pizzas (pg. 125), all of which are great for using up leftovers and refrigerator odds and ends. I tried the recipe for Onion Tart (pg. 120) and both the filling and Shortcrust Pastry (pg. 110) get the thumbs-up. I also liked the Savoury Pancakes (pg. 196) and the Cheese Soufflé with Broccoli (pg. 204).
It’s difficult for me to be objective about whether or not The Thrifty Cookbook meets its “thrifty” goals. Cooking with leftovers and planning ahead are things that come naturally to me, so I can’t say for sure whether this book would help anyone else reduce waste. There are useful tips here, such as how to refresh and re-use leftover pasta (pg. 182) and Recipes Using Separated Eggs (pg. 199). Other ideas, such as using over-ripe bananas to make Banana Cake (pg. 246) leave me a bit cold. I mean, duh.
At the end of the day, I think The Thrifty Cookbook is a great resource for a specific audience. Those just learning their way around the kitchen, students living away from home for the first time, and people finding themselves with a suddenly reduced food budget would all find the information between its pages useful and inspiring.
For my purposes though, I feel a bit beyond the book’s teachings, and for that reason am awarding The Thrifty Cookbook three stars. However, they’re well-deserved ones, and I’m sure in some kitchens this book would be worth more.