Notes from My Kitchen Table opens with an interesting foreword by Mario Batali but this adds little to the book itself. In Paltrow's own introduction she states that she is a home cook not a chef, there are many fantastic cookbooks by home cooks and food bloggers without formal training these days and so having an introduction by a professional chef seems unnecessary. The main introduction is mostly an auto-biography focused on food for the first half with the second half looking more at Paltrow's food philosophy. It was a rather dull way of starting the book but very well written and not a chore to read.
As with a lot of modern cookery books this has a store-cupboard essentials list. It's a bit too extensive for my taste with some rather pricey ingredients but there is also an alternatives list a few pages on that balances this out.
The basic recipes are generally good but not very exciting overall. The whole cookbook is neatly organised with clear sections that are easy to navigate as well as a complete index. Soups are well represented and have a good range of ideas. The section on salads is rather dreary, which is a shame as I was expecting a much more exciting section given Paltrow's love of fresh food. The dressings she suggests however are interesting without being too complicated and are definitely worth making. There are a lot of vegetarian and pescetarian dishes in all of the sections which can feel a little limiting if you are a carnivore, this was especially obvious in the pasta dishes which all seemed to be playing it too safe. Main dishes ranged from simple everyday suppers to great ideas for entertaining. The real winner was the section on side-dishes; mostly veggie or vegan but a wonderful mix and really inventive. Lots of new favourites to be found here. Puddings were a bit of a let-down, the whole book leans unashamedly towards the healthy but this doesn't work as well for desserts - none of them appealed to me and I do love desserts.
The photography and food styling was clean and modern, fitting the tone of the book perfectly. The dishes looked appealing but not so complicated as to put you off wanting to make them at home. Overall it was well designed and easy to read - even when cooking, with a good font, clear sections for ingredients and a nice layout. Some of the recipe notes include suggestions for meal plans by linking to another recipe in another section of the book which is a lovely idea for tying the book together as a whole. All of the recipes have some form of introductory note although a lot of this is extraneous information and rather too personal to be of interest . Some of the family parts are a bit over-the-top, especially the list of tasks that you can get children to do while cooking, I have a feeling most kids would be rather bored spreading butter on toast and being allowed to press the 'on' button.
I was rather surprised by how much I liked 'Notes From My Kitchen Table', it is accessible enough for most cooks to get enjoyment from but innovative and has a very clear philosophy uniting all of the recipe ideas. A little heavy on the auto-biographical details but for someone who is not known first and foremost as a chef this is unsurprising. A joy to use and I will certainly read more of her cookery writing in the future.
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