American-born Jennifer Joyce has written several cookbooks as well as contributed to the likes of Olive and BBC Good Food magazine. Her latest offering – Meals in Heels (do ahead dishes for the dinner party diva) – is all nice fonts and arty drawings (will therefore look good on the bookshelf). It also draws heavily on Jennifer’s experience as a food stylist. Aiming itself quite deftly at the ‘ladies who lunch’ demographic – or, quite possibly, anyone who can’t be arsed with faffing about – the premise is that all the dishes can be made ahead of time. Then, when the moment comes, it’s simply a case of pimp my [salted caramel sauce] profiteroles, slip on the heels, and away we go.
Of course it also works on the principle that dinner parties are inherently stressful and time-consuming. Personally, I’ve never found either of these two to be the case, but to be fair, that’s because most of my friends are now well versed in the law of the land round ours: plenty of booze and eventually I’ll slink off to the kitchen and knock-up a risotto or something. Lazy I know…
I did quite like Jennifer’s book and I bet she throws fabulous dinner parties. Most of the recipes sounded very nice too. In the name of research (and of course pure gluttony) I even tried a few: artichoke, pine nut and parmesan crostini; lasagne with sausage ragu, garlic kale and taleggio; chicken, pancetta and sultana pot pies. All lovely and pretty foolproof. Each recipe has a little personalised intro too, which is always a nice touch. The only slight annoyance (some might find) is the distinct lack of images. (As an aside: I’m finding that a lot of publishers are rationing the glossy photos these days. A sign that the recession aint over yet?) Anyhoo, it didn’t hugely bother me; I quite like the element of surprise as to how the dishes will end up looking (and let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than realising that your best efforts look nothing like the picture in the book). Some of the cookery tips did verge slightly on the way-too-obvious (i.e. think about how your food looks on the plate / ‘peel vegetables in the morning”) although the food-styling tips were when Jennifer seemed to come into her own (use stacking to give height / compose rather than toss your salad / use banana leaves to present Asian food etc etc).
Essentially the book does what it says it will do – and dinner party divas (hello NW3!) will genuinely enjoy this book. Plus if you happen to be in possession of a 20-something just-starting-out first-flat-in-the-city kind of a daughter, you’ll also do well to get them this book- with the added bonus that if she invites you over for a My First Dinner Party kind of affair and things don’t go quite according to plan, you can always attest that ‘no, darling, that’s exactly how Butterflied leg of lamb with quince glaze and black olive salsa is meant to look!”