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Home Cooking

By Rachel Allen, published by Collins, 2009

Readers of my Kitchenist blog will probably be able to guess at the outcome of this review; I’ve been harping on about Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking ever since I first found it under the Christmas tree. In fact, out of the four cookbooks I received this year (thanks honey), this one was the biggest, and best, surprise.

Home Cooking

For those of you not familiar with Rachel Allen, this blonde-haired, blue-eyed lass is the heir apparent of the Irish culinary scene; she studied at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School and ended up marrying the owners’ son. Now a celebrity chef in her own right, she’s written books, starred in TV series, and even released her own line of electrical appliances.

Home Cooking is her latest offering, a collection of recipes for comforting soul food and family-friendly fare. Its eight chapters include Breakfast, Lunch, Sunday lunch (more festive than the former), Dessert, Snacks, treats and sweets and even Baby purées (not useful for me, but charming nonetheless). This is the type of food that you’ll make day-to-day or for family celebrations: good ingredients, simple to prepare and downright delicious.

Home Cooking

Rachel’s personal brand could be defined as “feminine country”, and her books reflect this. Home Cooking makes prolific use of cutesy typefaces, the colour pink, small-scale patterns and photos of her angelic troupe of blonde children. While normally this kind of in-your-face girliness irks me to no end, I barely notice it here; the design is well handled and supports the content, rather than distracting from it.

Recipe pages are clearly laid out, with servings, ingredients, equipment and variations noted. There’s also a particularly useful “Vegetarian” heading for any dishes not containing meat (and there are more than you’d think). I also appreciate that Rachel doesn’t waste loads of time talking; while there are food writers whose words I lap up as eagerly as their food, she is clearly in the “cook who writes” camp (rather than the inverse), and knows it.

So if it’s not the design or the writing that makes me love this book so, it’s gotta be the food. Rachel’s cooking is perfectly up my ally, and I can hardly flip through this book without bookmarking something new to try. It’s not the most experimental or creative cookbook you’ll find, but neither is this all traditional Lamb Stew or Soda Bread. As my lovely (and Irish) friend Dawn put it over at Kitchenist,

I also like that her cooking is a fairly accurate reflection of Irish cooking now- one part traditional Irish food, some Mediterranean influences, a hit of Indian and Chinese flavours, and more American influences as well.

Home Cooking

Most everything I’ve made from Home Cooking has been delicious. Smoked Salmon, Leek and Potato Pie (pg. 114) and Dark and White Chocolate Fudge Pudding with Zesty Orange (pg. 229) made for a delicious New Year’s Eve dinner, and Spotted Dog bread (pg. 32) was wonderful the next morning. I’ve tried the Brussels Sprout Soup (pg. 50), Tagliatelle with Smoked Salmon, Watercress and Peas (pg. 84) and Squashed Fly Biscuits (pg. 277), all to triumphant success.

In fact, the only disappointment so far was the Pizza Dough (pg. 149). Rachel’s recipe contains butter, an anomaly which confused and intrigued me. But besides making my hands extra-soft during the kneading process, I saw no benefit; the resulting dough was bland and tasteless, with an bizarre soft texture.

Still, one disappointment isn’t bad, and I’m hopeful it’ll be the last from this book. Next on my to-try list is Kedgeree (pg. 36), Carrots with Nutty Buttered Crumbs (pg. 126), and Fluffy Lemon Pudding (pg. 245).

Home Cooking

There isn’t much I can say against Home Cooking; it “does what it says on the tin”, as they say.  The mix of recipes is good, though I would likely find it even more useful if I was omnivorous or had small children to feed. It’s probably too soon to say whether my love for it is the real thing or a passing infatuation, but either way I’ve been eating well in 2010 so far. A solid four stars.

6 comments

  1. tamara says:

    This sounds like a great book – I can’t get it just yet though as I also have a tome of a book to get through from Christmas – “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” by none other then Darina Allen – Rachel’s mother-in-law!

  2. Dawn says:

    I’m famous! ;-)

    I really would recommend this book to any of my friends who have mastered fairly basic cooking but want to move onto something a bit more special but not too complicated.

    As an omnivore, I probably find it more useful than you would, and the meat recipes are delicious…

  3. Francesca says:

    I made the fluffy lemon pudding the other day for my family. So easy to make and SO tasty! I would definitely recommend using the pie dish rather than the ramekins though, makes for a better texture – the ramekin versions were lovely but in a souflee kind of way rather than a sponge.

  4. [...] my Christmas cookbooks at Kitchlit, though I didn’t get too much further than that. Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking was the lucky one who got in first, and I think anyone who has this tome is lucky, too. A four-star [...]

  5. [...] adapted from Home Cooking by Rachel Allen [...]

  6. Leoley says:

    I LOVE this book too. I have three kids and find it a great inspiration when I’m looking for interesting suppers that the kids might just eat.

    I have made to sprout soup atleast ten times with my veg box sprouts and love the way it maintains it’s gorgeous green colour and fresh taste as you only cook them for a couple of minutes.

    Also love the noodle soup with chicken meatballs (not the right name but you will find it) and the delicious blondies that I have made a few times too.