I'm always on the lookout for great recipes that can be made quickly and fairly inexpensively, so when I stumbled upon Nigel Slater's Eat as part of the Blogging for Books selected titles for review I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Slater's intro says this book is for those times when we "just want to eat" and he couldn't have described the book better. The recipes are fairly short and fairly easy and the ingredients are all pretty much things you have in your pantry already. In fact, when the book arrived I immediately started tagging recipes to try based simply on what I'd be able to make without going shopping ('cause really, there are those days when you couldn't pay me to go to the grocery story).
While some may lament the fact that there aren't many pictures in this book, I love the fact that many of the recipes provided include alternatives or similar dishes featuring similar techniques and completely different flavor profiles. The "Artichokes with Cannellini" for example is a recipe using just artichokes, cannellini beans, green onions, lemon, and parsley but Slater also suggests swapping tarragon or mint, or using Puy lentils in place of the beans. It's these kinds of tips and swaps that elevate the book, making it the kind of cookbook that inspires as well as informs.
Eat by itself is great for anyone who has even the smallest amount of kitchen knowledge, but I think for people who have a bit more experience and like to try new things that it's even better. Slater's own suggestions mean many of the recipes can be made new the second time around: "Potatoes with Hazlenuts and Egg" can be "Pumpkin with Pistachio and Egg" the next time around and then "Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke with Walnuts and Egg." And a recipe like that can you send a creative person into a whole new realm of adventure in the kitchen!
My one complaint about the cookbook, which is not entirely conducive to kitchen use at all, is the binding. When cooking, I want to lay my cookbook out and return to it's spread open pages between steps. Unfortunately, Eat is bound in such a way that makes it pretty tough to open the book flat. Considering the almost 500 page book undoubtedly packs in more than 500 recipes, I can forgive the binding this time.