Assemble by Annabel Langbein

This book, very precisely subtitled “sensational food made simple”, is a very useful book. It is the twelfth book by the author who lives in New Zealand, on a rural character, growing her own fruit and vegetables, believing as she does in sustainable food production. She focuses on using fresh seasonal elements and has a very down to earth approach although she delivers information in an exciting and imaginative manner.

This book is directed to those who want to prepare great food but haven’t got a lot of time to cook or a great deal of knowledge about the art of cooking. It provides basic information but in an exciting and imaginative way. None of it is dull or boring. All the recipes can almost be tasted as they are read. On the page concentrated on scrambled eggs, for example, the senses are excited with the recipes entitled “creamy eggs and bacon mille-feuille” and “egg foo yung” instead of just plain old scrambled eggs which may appear dull in comparison. however if scrambled eggs were all that was wanted they could be made from the information provided.

The emphasis of this book is on providing simple recipes using fresh quality elements, across the usual spectrum of categories; snacks, hot light meals, soups, pastry, salads, comfort, roasts and desserts. Each page contains two or three recipes and variations to that recipe and sometimes includes a basic recipe on which to base the variation. For example the page entitled “take stock” provides a recipe for basic stock but it also indicates that purchased liquid stock can be substituted or that powdered stock or cubes may also be used. In addition there are four soup recipes in which stock is used. These recipes are all comparatively simple and easily made and in just one page is enough information for soup making that busy people, who haven’t much time, would probably ever need to know or use.

Many current recipe books begin with information about equipment and this book is no exception. However it does so with flair and imagination. The list of food needed in a well-stocked pantry illustrates this. Food items include goat’s cheese and feta, dashi, roasted peppers, saffron and kombu, in addition as some more basic ones, like mustard and onions. Each ingredient is described, and information is given about storage and what each goes best with. Langbein suggest that salsa verde, basil pesto and tapenade should be kept on hand in the fridge in addition as basil oil and fresh lemony mayonnaise or variations of these. At the conclusion of the book there is information about measures and cooking terms, each simply and clearly explained.

Altogether this is an exciting and well presented quantity. Photos clearly illustrate recipes and strengthen the pleasure experienced by reading them. Recipes can be used for everyday eating but equally would do well for entertaining.

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