From Pasta to Pancakes: The ultimate student cookbook
by Tiffany Goodall
Publisher: Quadrille, Country: UK
ISBN: 9781844007332, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Students seem to have been a new target for publishers in 2009, with at least four student-oriented cookbooks appearing. I guess publishers anticipated that students wouldn’t be able to afford the stereotypical diet of burgers, chips, pizzas, noodles and beer. An entertaining and attractive book, From Pasta to Pancakes, the Ultimate Student Cookbook is the work of young British food personality Tiffany Goodall. Unfortunately, despite the innovative presentation and the worthy intention of teaching food-illiterate students how to cook, the book is disappointing.

A visually attractive book with busy, fun pages, recipes are presented in step-by-step pictures, almost like a comic strip. Small tips and asides abound, and the text is very, very young British, with a surfeit of “brilliant”, “amazing”, and “superb”. It’s both a vehicle for the author, Tiffany Goodall, and a cookbook that treats students as a homogeneous cliché of lads, girls and a can’t-be-asked attitude to food. Perhaps some of this finds resonance with the target audience:

Another economical yet delicious option, risotto, is perfect for mid-week suppers. Plus it has the bonus, as you stir away, of leaving you with one hand free for a drink.

From Pasta to Pancakes opens with a list of recommended tools, store cupboard ingredients, and hygiene tips. There will always be quirks in these things, but for a basic cookbook for this kind of audience, there needs to be some care in anticipating problems. Goodall recommends wooden chopping boards, which is fine if you explain how to keep them clean and safe. She doesn’t. Her food hygiene section says

When handling raw chicken, wash all the equipment that has touched the raw chicken very well. Raw chicken contains very harmful bacteria.

Wouldn’t it be better to maintain this advice for all meats? She says “When reheating a chicken dish, make sure it is piping hot before you serve it.” But it’s okay to serve beef or fish lukewarm?

Goodall also claims rice can’t be reheated (not true, but it should be cooled quickly, stored cold, and used within a few days), and repeats the incorrect rule that if chicken juices run clear then the meat is cooked to a safe temperature. Meanwhile, she tells readers that frozen food should be completely defrosted before reheating, but fails to say the food should be defrosted slowly in the fridge, not at room temperature.

And so to the recipes… As I browsed the recipes, I noticed the burger recipe lacked any salt in the meat. I flicked through more pages. The Fragrant Vegetable Curry was saltless. So, too, the Bolognese, the One Pot Chicken Thighs, and the Cauliflower Cheese. In fact, the only recipes with any salt seem to be a savoury pancake batter and the Banana Bread. Pasta is cooked in a litre of water with a mere “pinch” of salt. Had Goodall cleverly used other ingredients to compensate? No, not really. Certainly there are vegetable or chicken stock cubes that will help in some recipes, a little Worcestershire sauce, feta or butter (presumably salted), but these recipes are still fairly underseasoned things. There’s no pepper either.

From Pasta to Pancakes, the Ultimate Student Cookbook could have been really good. It isn’t. Tiffany Goodall trained as a chef and clearly has a feel for her audience, but her book doesn’t communicate enough reliable kitchen wisdom to really help novices, and fundamental flaws in seasoning and advice are disappointing. I’m sure buyers of this book would glean useful information from it and learn new skills, but there are so many better books for beginners out there to choose from. I almost gave it three stars, but in the end I feel the target audience deserved better than this, so I can’t recommend the book.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 2. No strong recommendation
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: If the person is really interested
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Rating: 4.3/5 (6 votes cast)
From Pasta to Pancakes, Tiffany Goodall | 2009 | UK, 4.3 out of 5 based on 6 ratings

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