It used to be de rigour to start a cook book review with some comment about how we all lead such busy lives now, emails, office, children etc, that we don’t get time to cook any more. Unfortunately these days rather a lot of us are a bit less busy owing to suddenly being out of work. Ah the irony, oh the pathos.
So leaving aside the heretical idea that we might actually want to take longer over cooking than previously, in order to have something to do of an afternoon to prevent the slide into daytime TV and the inevitable unscrewing of the Costcutter Chardonnay at 3 p.m, is this the book we want right now?
I think so because good recipes are good recipes and you could always extend the ten minutes by moving very slowly, pretending you’re the Six Million Dollar man or something. Plus anything you cook yourself has to be better than supermarket fast food with all its excess packaging and salt.
Most Telegraph readers will know of Xanthe from her cookery columns where she has always been inspirational and achievable. This bright, shiny and well art-directed book is full of her greatest hits and a fair bit of wit. Most of the dishes use store cupboard or fridge stalwarts leaving you only to walk (slowly) to the supermarket to get the star ingredient. In fact if you have a freezer you may not even have to do that.
Chicken with garlic cream cheese sauce needs not much more than the bird and some Boursin. Pasta with clams is not quite so easy as you may have to spend more than ten minutes finding somewhere local that sells clams, but huevos revueltos, or revolting eggs as one child I know likes to call them, only need eggs, obviously, and some chorizo as basic ingredients. Salmon fillets are on most supermarket shelves and add some broccoli, anchovy butter and new potatoes and you have a healthy winner. I personally liked the couscous with harissa, rocket and goats’ cheese, which Xanthe generously dedicates to Delia in homage to her original and excellent couscous and roasted vegetables dish, one we all made in those bright summers so long ago.
Some of these dishes can be cooked in five minutes, which is less time than it takes to wash up, leaving dangerous amounts of time for family conversation, but they all attract in equal measure ,apart from the one with figs. Does anyone seriously ever eat figs willingly?
Full of tasty treats and nicely photographed with a useful page on fast food tips, as well as photo tuition pages, this is a bright breezy book that delivers speed without unnecessary compromise.