Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence - Sam Stern
Quadrille - 2012
Photography: Chris Terry
Virgin to Veteran opens with a great basics section for beginners wanting to set up a kitchen. It's easily skipped if you've been cooking a while but is a lovely touch to have and very handy. This provides a good background for the style of cooking within the book as a whole. It is well organised and the introduction is brilliant. There are also detailed introductions to the chapters, it is not necessary to read them all right away but they make a wonderful reference point to keep to hand. A very smart idea.
The writing is generally good although a little adjective heavy which can get wearing after a while. There is a lot that you can dip into and read, it has huge amounts of additional notes in the recipes too. The fonts and size of the text is all over the place, as a design choice it looks striking but makes it very hard to read. There are lots of really interesting information pages dotted amongst the recipes but they are so over-flowing with information and clashing font sizes that it is very hard to read. There are some parts that feel too gimmicky to be user-friendly but the recipes themselves are quite easy to follow.
The photography makes the recipes look tempting although it is a much more traditional style from the rest of the layout. It would have been nice to have seen a few more pictures throughout as well as there are quite a few of the more complicated dishes that would have benefitted from knowing what the end result was.
There is a fantastic balance of recipes here with something to suit all types of diet and preference. One of the main selling points of Virgin to Veteran is that Stern provides lots of variations on dishes that will encourage people to experiment and keep playing with the ideas. The choice of recipes is not the most innovative but there are a lot of different influences evident which gives great range. Stern's approach takes recipes that many people will know and making them both accessible and adaptable.
My favourite recipes are the Spanish Meatballs, the Tomato and Olive Lasagne, the Beetroot Risotto and the Summer Roast Peaches. Although it's awkward to read through the information given in the reference sections is fantastic, Sam Stern really knows his stuff. Virgin to Veteran is a little tricky to get to grips with in places but the recipes themselves are very easy to follow and with so many variations this book could be used over and over again.
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