Thyme After Thyme – Richard Smith and Adrian Cooling

Thyme After Thyme was published just under 10 years ago, but as it promises to reveal ‘The secrets of consistent good cooking’ it’s not one that’s going to go out of date. So when I spotted it at a market stall going for the bargain price of £1, I really couldn’t resist it. With recipes from Thyme Cafe and Thyme (which is now Artisan) the book is full of homely tea time meals, Asian style dishes and gastro-pub-grub stuff.

The book opens with a quote from Elbert Hubbard inviting the reader to just have a go; ‘The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one’. It’s very apt, I feel, as I live by trial and error, especially in the kitchen. After all making a mess of tea on a Wednesday night is hardly the be all and end all, is it?

Onto the book itself and the recipes are split into 6 chapters. Cafe Culture is full of European dishes including Pasta Genovese, Red Pepper Risotto and Spicy Portuguese Pork whereas Classics does what it says on the tin with Fish and Chips, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings and a true Sheffield special; Meat and Potato Pie with Henderson’s Relish. Moving onto A World of Flavours and there’s Hot and Sour Soup, Bang Bang Chicken and Salmon Miso.

For afters there’s a Desserts chapter which is packed full of classic desserts including Raspberry Jelly and Rice Pudding, and a few that have been given a bit of a twist, such as Rhubarb Spring Rolls. Perhaps the most useful chapter is the last; Extra Thyme. This is dedicated to the basics such as Chicken Stock and Yorkshire Pudding but it also has some nice side dishes such as Battered Courgettes and Aubergine Crushed Potatoes. Wanting to cover all basis, the book is rounded off with a chapter on Wine With Food which gives some simple guidance to wine and food pairing.

I decided to kick off with Pasta Genovese. This Italian dish is essentially a bowlful of carbs (pasta and potatoes) with green beans, Parmesan and pesto; perfect comfort food! The recipe was easy to follow, the ingredients were easy to source and it was quick to knock up which made it perfect for a midweek tea. The fact that it produced at least five portions was a big help as it meant there was enough for lunch as well as tea the next day.

The next recipe was simple, maybe a little too simple for any real test of a recipe book, but Seared Tuna with Mango-Jalapeno salsa appealed. I’ll admit that I couldn’t really be bothered to find some jalapeno chillies so we just used whatever we had in the fridge which resulted in a salsa similar to the one I usually make, just with mango rather than tomato. It was good and we enjoyed the opportunity to have tuna again as it’s a fish we rarely have now.

I think we’d saved the best for last though. Salmon and Prawn Curry is a good old curry made from scratch with mustard seeds, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds and more. The sauce has both coconut milk and tinned tomatoes in it which is a combination that really works as the tomatoes cuts through the rich coconut a little. The salmon and prawns went well with the sauce and I reckon that most fish would, as would beef. Maybe next time we’d put more chilli in there too (and I’d like to think there will be a next time). Once again the recipe produced more than we thought and even though we’d halved the ingredients we still had leftovers for another tea.

I like this one – it’s great for homely cooking as well as the odd Asian and European dish. And I have to agree with both Richard and Adrian who introduce the book saying it’s perfect for ‘ordinary people who love cooking and would like to do it better’.

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