I received this book two weeks ago and it has already become a permanent fixture in my cooking repertoire. First, this is not a how-to diet book, this is first and foremost a cooking book. That it is filled with Ms. Dahl's own story about food and weight is simply a bonus, a beautifully written ribbon that laces through the story and ties it all together.
This book is broken down into four sections - Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, further divided into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, and each section starts with a few pages of Ms. Dahl's lovely stories, starting as a youth in the US and UK, cooking with her mom and grandmother, along through her days modeling, and learning to find balance and harmony in her diet, up until present day. Peppered throughout are Ms. Dahl's sweet line drawings.
The first thing I noticed about this book is the quality. From the heavy paper, to the impeccable photographs, from the seemingly perfumed smell of the book to the careful attention to detail throughout, this book screams quality and care. I normally abuse my cookbooks and after a while they are covered in tomato splatters, greasy fingerprints and folded pages, but this book begs to be treasured. Despite having worked my way through half of the recipes, it remains pristine.
The recipes themselves are wonderful. Looking over my notes from cooking, one word pops up over and over: simple. Ms. Dahl's recipes are simple to cook and wide open to improvisation, should you be lacking in some of the ingredients. Each recipe builds off of the premise of quality ingredients and simple preparation and the reward is a delicious dish that needs no heavy spicing or fat to improve the flavor.
The rhubarb yogurt is mouthwatering: tangy, sour and sweet with a nutty crunch in each bite. The Beetroot soup is earthy and creamy, it fills your mouth with flavor and looks amazing sitting in the bowl. The Quinoa Salad with tahini dressing is one of those recipes that you find yourself craving all the time, with its nutty soy-sweet dressing, fluffy quinoa and a fresh crispness from the raw vegetables. The Fish Cakes forgo the usual breading in favor of a fresh, simple approach that tastes like you spent hours. The Cinnamon peaches with yogurt are a decadent breakfast that feels more like indulging in dessert for breakfast without all of the guilt. The chicken stew was incredibly easy but tastes sophisticated with a variety of flavors, from the juicy chicken to the pop of the olives and the licorice zing from the fennel. The Crab and Fennel salad is crisp and cool, perfect for the heat of summer... I could go on. I've been living off of the recipes in this book for two weeks and each meal is delicious, exciting and takes hardly any time to prepare. Each recipe is simple enough that you will find yourself whipping them up on a whim and never needing to order take out when you get home late from work.
My only complaint about this book, if you could call it that, is that some of the recipes make portions a good deal larger than necessary. Most of the recipes are meant for two but we could never finish all of the food and ended up having enough for one more serving, sometimes two. The recipes are measured in US and UK measurements and include both terms for items that have different names in the US and UK.
I would recommend this book for everyone. From the first time cook to the experienced chef, from the Sophie Dahl fan to the person interested in cooking that has never even heard her name. If you enjoy cooking you will enjoy cooking out of this book.