The Ramsays are busy people. While husband Gordon is running twenty-eight restaurant, and starring in numerous cooking shows including the new Master Chef (see yesterday’s review), his wife Tana Ramsay has penned her own cookbook, Tana’s Kitchen Secrets (Mitchell Beazley 2010).
Do chef’s spouses cook? Of course they do. The chefs themselves are not around to feed their brood – in the case of Gordon and Tana, that’s four kids – nor does the family troop to Gordon’s restaurants for the thrice daily meals. Tana’s book does have more to offer then pictures of Tana and her kids. What’s surprising is that Tana has put together a good cookbook that would be useful for someone just starting out cooking for a family. These aren’t restaurant kitchen recipes – but good British family fare and jazzed-up recipes that are well presented clearly. The cooking tips may not be as comprehensive as a cooking instructor’s would be – yet she does explain why ingredients go together, or how to marinate fish well. There is good straight forward advice about shopping for local, fresh ingredients, that could be the mantra of most chefs these days, including her husband.
The book starts with a short introduction that makes Tana sound like every other busy mom:
With a busy life, I don’t have hours to spend shopping, prepping, and planning dinner. Quite often, food is bought on the way home and meals are made in the minimum of time…but I want maximum results. These recipes will help you to achieve that, too. (p. 6)
That’s followed by a list of “secrets” for kitchen gadgets and pantry items. These aren’t exhaustive, more like chatty ideas. Gordon likes metal mixing bowls and Tana likes glass, and she keeps sprinkles on hand for cupcakes.
The first section called Slow and Easy Meat includes easy recipes like Really Rustic Shoulder of Lamb (p. 16) with pretty before and after cooking photos of the lamb. She notes for each recipe not only preparation time and cooking time, but also whether the dish can be made in advance and frozen. Shepherd’s Pie (p. 20) is a homey ground lamb and potato dish. Tana uses instant gravy mix and prepared steak sauce for extra flavor – though it is unclear whether American products are the same as British. Her Chicken Cacciatore (p. 34) is really a tomato-y chicken stew, flavored with anchovies and rosemary that her kids call cacciatore.
This is a British cookbook, so you’ll find recipes for Traditional Treacle Tart (p. 142) made with a sweet shortcrust pasty (p. 142) and corn syrup. She also will teach you to make Scones for the Perfect Afternoon Tea (p. 202), Eton Mess (p. 210) that strawberry and cream confection, and Victoria Sponge (p. 246) plus plenty of Italian, French, and Indian recipes besides.
Tana’s Kitchen Secrets is a useful and un-intimidating cookbook with a good dollop of tidbits about the home life of the Ramsays. Evidently marrying a chef means learning to cook – and write cookbooks.