Friday, April 18, 2014

"Practical" Cookbook??

I like cooking when I'm in the mood, but I have more recipe books than I need.  I came upon this one on the shelf, and started thumbing through it.

The title is Practical One Pot.  To me, a practical recipe is relatively simple, with relatively few ingredients, most of which are common and not hugely expensive.  Synonyms and related words of practical, according to Merriam Webster:  functional, useful, down-to-earth, reachable.

Well, nearly all the recipes in Practical One Pot have really long lists of uncommon and expensive ingredients.  Most of the recipes are also exotic.  I like international food and new tastes, and when I try a new recipe, its often foreign, but the cookbook isn't called Exotic One Pot, and it's very misleading.  After wondering about the disproportionate number of curry recipes, I looked at the title page.  Sure enough, it was published originally in the UK, which explains some of this bias toward Indian food and seafood.  But again, it's not advertised that way.  I hate bait and switch.

Example list of ingredients for ONE recipe (Spanish Fish Stew)
-2 common vegetables
-4 common spices and seasonings (if you substitute dried parsley for fresh)
-white bread (so far so good.  But wait)
-toasted almonds
-Cooked Lobster
-Live mussels, scrubbed, with beards removed
-Live clams, scrubbed

Who on earth has all of these seafoods at one time?  It claims the prep time is only 30 minutes, but I guess that's for people who know how properly scrub mussels and clams and prepare langoustine and squid and lobster.  For those of us in landlocked parts of America, that's likely not us.    

Other recipe highlights include Shellfish in Red Curry Sauce (lemongrass, fresh gingerroot, coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, fish sauce, jumbo shrimp, cilantro, etc).  and Winter Vegetable Pot Pie (nothing too strange except the rutabaga, but 23 ingredients)

Other ingredients required:  lots of coconut milk and cream, garam masala, okra, saffron threads, preserved lemon (where you put lemon with a bunch of salt and extra liquid and leave for 1 month), black bean sauce, various liquors, kafir lime leaves, shrimp paste, galangal (I had to look that one up), dry-cured black olives, various curry pastes, green cardamom, chapattis, yerba santa, no-soak dried apricots (are those different than regular dried apricots?), superfine sugar, pomegranate juice, lamb boullion.

Don't get me wrong:  a lot of these recipes are really intriguing.  But they're all SO complex it's ridiculous for anyone who is not an amateur chef.    

A few parting stats:

Out of 27 recipes, number with "curry" in the name, or with significant curry spices:  7 (26%)

Protein breakdown:
Vegetarian:  4
Pork:  3
Beef:  4
Chicken:  5
Lamb:  3
Seafood/fish:  8  (30%)

Number of times I've personally cooked lamb:  0
Number of times I've personally cooked any seafood besides fish fillets:  3 or 4

Pros:  there are some interesting recipes, and they might be fairly authentic.  It also includes nutritional information and little food facts.  The pictures are beautiful and the instructions are good.  If you love cooking complex dishes with exotic ingredients, this book is for you.



  1. I had to laugh at this. I will not be buying this "practical" cookbook. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. I tend to make "lazy-man's" versions of recipes, so this isn't the cookbook for me.