Like most people, I first encountered Annabel Karmel’s books when my eldest was about to start on solids. I was hearing about her everywhere, as if you couldn’t possibly wean a baby without her.
I was a bit apprehensive. My opinion on most things that are increbibly popular is “just because everyone is raving about a thing doesn’t make it good”. But then the decision was taken out of my hands when my mother gave me a copy of two Annabel Karmel books – her baby & toddler cookbook and Cook It Together, for getting children interested in food and cooking. Both turned out to be brilliant. Anything we made from her recipes turned out to be really tasty.
So, when I got a lovely parcel in the post last week with a selection of books from Penguin, I was thrilled to see not just one but two of Annabel’s in there. The first one I spotted is New Baby & Toddler Cookbook, which turns 25 this year. So it is not a fad kind of thing. It has endured various fads and come out the other side. As I said above the recipes in it are appealing to children, easy to prepare and are tasty (a very important thing where food is considered, if you ask me).
A few years ago, when I thought I was stopping at two children, I gave away my baby and toddler cookbook to a friend. Then Number Three came along. So, luckily we have the book again thanks to Penguin.
The second Annabel Karmel book I was sent is the Busy Mum’s Cookbook. From the layout to the recipes to the photos, this is the kind of book I like. It has a bit of everything in it, but all explained simply.
I was really pleased to see some of our own favourite dinners in there (great minds think alike Annabel!) as well as some things I had been meaning to try out this summer, like lamb burgers. We always make our own burgers and I recently found a local butcher who will make lamb mince for me, so now that I have a recipe there is nothing standing in my way.
Roasted Cauliflower and Minced Beef Courgettes caught my eye as new things I could introduce for the children without much fuss. Actually, to be honest I could do with re-introducing myself to cauliflower. I was never mad about it and only eat it about once a year, faking to the children that I really like it. Roasting it is new to me, but it sounds delicious. I love anything else roasted.
As I mentioned above, the recipes are explained simply and there are details at the top of the page as to whether or not the meals can be frozen – very important to know for batch-cooking parents.
As well as the lamb burgers, I have ear-marked several recipes to try out this Summer including Moroccan Chicken with Butternut Squash, Italian Rice Salad and Chicken and Vermicelli Thai Rice Wraps.
When Autumn comes round I would love to make the Wild Mushroom Gratin, since my mother-in-law is a bit of a mushroom gathering expert. Beef Wellington is something I have always wanted to make and the one in this book looks delicious and Christmassy, decorated as it is with pastry stars.
There is only one thing I am disappointed with in this book and that is the pavlova recipe, because it is not a pavlova recipe. Annabel has made the same mistake as Jamie Oliver and other cooks by passing meringues and cream off as pavlova. They are different things, just like not all chocolate cakes are brownies. If you want a real recipe for pavlova, look here.
But other than that, a big thumbs up from me.
[Disclaimer: Penguin Random House Ireland kindly provided us with a parcel of books for review purposes. I was not paid to write this post. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own]