In a bid to make everyone in The DreamCage office feel hungry, Susan Omand reads Nadiya’s British Food Adventure...
The initial conversation between me and Bossman Steve went something like this:
Me - I'm going to review this book I got.
Bossman - [looks at book] No.
Me - But it's a TV tie in.
Bossman - I know but...
Me - ...a specialist, non-fiction, TV tie in. It fits the brief.
Bossman - IT'S A RECIPE BOOK!
Me - We've reviewed a recipe book before! This one's just not quite as scary.
Bossman - I know but...
Me - I'll bake scones...
Bossman - ...
Me - Jam first?
Bossman – How does Wednesday sound?
And scones do indeed feature, both sweet and savoury, as you would expect in a book by a winner of The Great British Bake Off. I must admit to not watching that show so I haven't followed Nadiya Hussain's rise to fame but I know many people who have, including one of my Twitter friends who recently baked the cheese scones featured in this book and they were an absolute triumph so I had to investigate for myself.
The first thing that strikes me about Nadiya’s British Food Adventure is the friendliness of the writing - you can tell that this is someone without a snobbishly formal restaurant training because she doesn't talk down to her readers or claim to know better. There is a real homeliness and natural rapport which is as comforting as her baking, making the book a joy just to read even if you don't make any of the recipes. If you do make anything though, the layout of the book is nice and easy to use with clear instructions that are not patronising, although they do assume a little knowledge to begin with (like "bringing together the dough" of the scone). The bright and enticing photos also really help you to know what your recipe could turn out to look like which is always a great encouragement - it all seems so "achievable". And that is something that is missing from so many recipe books these days, especially from the celebrity chefs. Either the ingredients are too fancy or the method is too complicated and it feels like they are only doing it to show off. This book, with its combination of the relaxed, readable design and well chosen recipes definitely make it one that you would actually use rather than buy just because it’s pretty (which it is).
And the really great thing, which you’ll know if you’re following Nadiya’s current series on TV, is that it’s not all baking. Of course there IS a lot of superb baking in it with pies, cakes and puddings (Eton Mess Cheesecake!), but you also get some fantastic main meal recipes in each of the sections, from breakfasts to midweek suppers to fancy party bits. The Chicken and Chorizo paella has proved a big hit here but, as well as classic comfort food, her recipe writing gives you the confidence to try something that may be a little bit outside your comfort zone – haggis tarte tatin anyone? – and her flavour combinations really work even when you don’t really expect them to, like the salmon scotch eggs.
As a bit of a dinosaur, my only gripe about the book would be that the measurements are all in grams and millilitres rather than including pints and ounces as well and that would put me off buying it for older relatives but that is purely an age thing and I know that my younger friends would absolutely love to receive this as a gift and the ease of the recipes may even tear them away from their pre-packaged ping meals once in a while.
Image - Amazon