Book review: From Pasta to Pancakes

I’ve always said that everyone should learn to cook. It’s a survival skill that you can actively enjoy, and it saves you a fortune if you shop reasonably carefully. Over time you also learn what real food should taste like, and it shows you what poor value so many ready meals, fast food outlets and restaurants offer to us. I started cooking family meals at the age of ten, and over the years my confidence has increased and my palate has developed.

Meanwhile, I know plenty of other people who grew up in households where all or most of the food they ate was processed or bought from takeaways, or where one of the parents took complete control of all the food purchasing and preparation. Many of them would like to learn to cook, but don’t know where to start. This is where a good basic introductory cookbook comes in. The one I’m reviewing today is From Pasta to Pancakes – The Ultimate Student Cookbook’ by Tiffany Goodall, priced £9.99 from Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Pasta To Pancakes

The two main criticisms of student cookbooks in general are that most do not contain enough pictures of finished dishes (so that you know the dish has turned out OK), and that the authors tend to assume too much prior knowledge of technical culinary terms. The format of From Pasta to Pancakes is unusual in that it includes several colour photographs to illustrate the making of each recipe, from ingredient preparation through to serving. The publishers describe this as a cartoon-strip design, but it reminded me more of ‘photo love’ stories from old teen magazines: I found this quite endearing as well as colourful and appetising. This does make the book a little larger and heavier than some competing tomes, but offers more pros than cons for the beginner. As for the technical terms, these are kept simple and are mostly fully explained as the recipe goes along, although there are occasionally references such as ‘lardons’ that a novice wouldn’t necessarily understand.

I particularly like the small sections on suggested basic kitchen equipment (no fancy gadgets needed for any of the recipes), store cupboard ingredients and food hygiene. It’s also great to see that underneath each recipe there are ‘optional extras’, which are suggestions to perk up the dish or create variations so that you could cook it a few times over a term and not become bored. Many recipes also include serving suggestions, and ideas for using the dish up the next day if there are any leftovers.

The recipes are split up into quick dishes and snacks, healthier meals, packed lunches, cakes and treats, everyday meals to share and dinner party food. Most of the dishes use cheap and easily available ingredients, but my only niggle is that the cheapest recipes in the book are not highlighted as such. One or two ‘end of term and end of overdraft’ recipes would have been a good idea in light of the current student funding and debt situation.

To sum up, this is an attractive book with a good range of recipes in it, and it will give a novice cook enough confidence and inspiration to start whipping up a variety of basic and intermediate-level dishes. It would certainly get the reader through their first term at university without becoming bored or contracting scurvy, and its author clearly has a sound understanding of both cookery and the ins and outs of student life. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to cook, but who has no prior experience.

***If you’d like a free copy of this book, I have one copy to give away to the author of the best comment in response to this blog entry. The winner must be in the UK, and will be chosen at the end of this week. Get posting!***

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  1. One Christmas I asked my S-i-L what she wanted.
    “A how to cook basic things cookery book.
    One that has pictures of the finished thing, so I know I’ve cooked it right”.
    This seems like an essential feature for a cookery book, rather than a food stylists image of the food.

  2. Just what I need for child 2 who is going to University this September. My husband only said to me yesterday “you really need to show her how to cook some basic meals, teach her how to turn the washing machine one, you have spoilt them doing everything for them” – oh dear!

  3. I remember living off Bernard Matthews lemon pepper turkey escalopes when I left home and went to Uni. You could eat them in so many ways – on their own, between two slices of bread (Tesco Basic white sliced of course), cut up into fingers and dipped into ketchup, or even with beans on extra special occasions! Those were the days…

  4. Aren’t lardons what boys suffer from first thing in the morning? 🙂

  5. We have a winner! Sally-a please email me your details and the book is yours. You rude girl.

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