I never did mind that I only got to see the last half hour of the show; in my opinion, it was the best part. All the recipes, craft projects, and make-overs came together in the end. When I got the opportunity to review a few cookbooks, I immediately radiated towards Lucy’s book. Finally, a chance to try recipes from someone I watched and admired growing up. I really took to the concept of the book, which premised around spending an entire year in Lucy’s kitchen. The book is divided into 12 parts with recipes divided by month to suit seasonal flavors. For example, in the month of January, Lucy focuses on pasta’s and marmalades with recipes that call for a foodie with a New Year’s resolution to shed some of the holiday pounds. She calls this part ‘Cuisine of the Lean’ and lists a series of soups, salads, and low fat desserts.
The book moves through the months offering recipes that suit the produce in season. March is hinted by maple syrup; June is all about barbeques; September marks summer’s end; and coming full circle, December is about decadent meals with a twist.
The general problems I have with cookbooks is that often, even though I follow a recipe to a (capital) T, they never quite work out. I really wish that I had read the precursor to this book, Lucy’s Kitchen, where she introduces cooking techniques, because it might of come in handy when executing some of these recipes.
Now for the challenge…
In the introduction, Lucy alludes to the changing economy, and the need for creating budget friendly meals. In addition, simplicity is a key theme throughout. It is ineffective to review a cookbook without actually testing recipes, and I decided to do this by critiquing three particular criterias: cost effectiveness, simplicity, and taste. Cost effectiveness is generally how affordable the meal is after buying all the ingredients necessary, with the exception of a few things such as oil, salt and pepper. Simplicity will be graded on how difficult the recipe is —including a discussion of the ingredient list. Finally, the taste; and although this is generally a subjective criteria, I will do my best to be as ‘objective’ as possible (we’ll see how this goes).
For future reference, it is a completely bad idea to flip through a cook book on an empty stomach—I wanted to make everything in the book at the same time. I decided to make Thai Shrimp Curry (p.64), partially because I’ve never cooked Thai food, and also, because it only had two steps.
I had almost none of the ingredients required for the recipe in my pantry, so this recipe cost me $35.85 ($0.15 for three plastic bags). On a student budget, I think this is quite a bit, but it does serve 4-6 people.
Although the ingredient list is quite extensive, to my surprise, the directions were simple to follow. Prep took me about 15 minutes, and from start to finish, it took about 45 minutes. I was skeptical half way through that my sauce wasn’t thickening, and that the flavour wasn’t to my liking, but it all came together in the end. Ideally, I would serve this over steamed rice, but I forgot to buy some at the store. It tasted delicious over plain Cantonese noodles though.
The recipes in the book come from all corners of the world. There are a lot of Asian-inspired recipes throughout the book, which I like, because it forced me out of my cooking comfort zone. I love to dine out at Asian restaurants, but this was my first attempt at a home cooked meal. Another highpoint of the book are the photographs–they felt raw and unpretentious. I do wish that more recipes were accompanied by photographs, and for this reason, I might not have purchased this book. Personally, I find it uninspiring to try a recipe if there are no pictures.
In sum, the book wins points on creative fusion recipes, but lacks in providing an adequate number of photographs to accompany them. If you want recipes that are comfortable, and easy to cook, you will enjoy this book. However, if you are one of those people that need to see a picture to know what you’re cooking, you might want to steer clear.
Results (out of *****)
Cost effectiveness: * (Given that I didn’t have many of the ingredients needed for the recipe, I found it quite cost-ineffective. $8.96 per portion is too pricey in my books)
Simplicity: *****(From start to finish, this recipe took about 45 minutes, with little to no culinary skill required… if you can dice an onion, you can prep this recipe)
Taste: ****(Turned out a lot better than expected, but not perfect enough to receive full points)
Thai Shrimp Curry from A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen—Lucy Waverman (p. 64)
- 1 14-oz (400mL) can coconut milk
- 1 to 2 tbsp Thai green curry paste
- 1 cup chopped red onions
- 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp grated lime rind
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 4 – inch piece lemongrass, smashed
- 1 lb (250 g) large shrimp, peeled
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tbsp lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Place coconut milk in a large skillet along with curry paste, red onions, tomatoes, fish sauce, lime rind, sugar and lemongrass. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until thickened. Remove lemongrass.
2. Stir in shrimp and spinach. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and curled. Stir in basil, coriander and lime jice. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, or lime juice as needed.
Recipe taken from “A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen” by Lucy Waverman (Random House Canada: 2009 p.64)