04 May 2011

Book review: Annabel's Kitchen

I was sent an Annabel Karmel cookbook to review a couple of weeks ago by the lovely people at Random House. It's the newest in her extensive series (you might remember I went to the launch of the Top 100 Pasta Dishes last year, which turned out to be a really useful compendium of family recipes).

Annabel's Kitchen: My first cookbook ties in with a TV series of the same name, currently running on ITV. We aren't big TV watchers, so I must confess we've not seen the programme - and to be honest, I'm not sure the book works very well without it. Out of context, it's all a bit over-the-top 1980s zany, with some very stagy photographs, whereas it might make a bit more sense if you'd seen what went on in the studio.

The idea's great - "discover the importance of food and its ingredients" - and as a cookbook for kids, the recipes are nice enough, but the emphasis on turning your food into animals, faces or whatever does pall after a while. I might be turning into a grumpy middle-aged lady, but food's far too important to mess about with. The pig melon (p72) has to be seen to be believed (although anything that gets fruit/vegetables into small children should be applauded, I suppose, and if you were making it as a one-off for a party, it might be worth it).

But for me, it doesn't hit the spot. The book's not simple enough for the age group targeted by the programme to read/engage with/use - there's a lot of recipes, a lot of small text if you've got a just-starting-to-read small person, and not quite enough step-by-step pictures. If you're a bit older, you'll probably be turned off by all the penguin shenanigans (and anyway, should really be using the bible of children's cookbooks, the River Cottage Family Cookbook).

Sorry Annabel. Better luck next time, in this household at least.

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