What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings by Romilla Arber – review

Romilla Arber has penned this second book to raise money for a very worthy cause. I am sure you will agree, because you are an enthusiastic cook, or you wouldn’t be a regular visitor here. The cause is The Food Education Trust which helps to teach people how to cook, and that ability is surely fundamental to a decent lifestyle. The profits from What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings will go to fund equipment etc. needed to encourage people to produce home-cooked meals for themselves and their families.

cookbook review What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings Yes, it’s true that I have a passion for food, so one would think that I would be pronouncing my dismay that not every British citizen knows what a truffle looks like, and still more indignation that they wouldn’t know what to do with one anyway. But that’s just food snobbery and there is plenty of that about. I believe that those who profess to love food should be the first to help others on that journey to become competent cooks. It’s a practical skill that will save money and promote better health; the recipes here are all to do with sensible family cooking, and nothing to do with culinary elitism.

This is a substantial volume that could be the only cookbook you will need. There are recipes for every day, every week and every month. The dishes take advantage of seasonal produce and Romilla even offers notes on what’s most abundant and therefore best value. This book works as a gardener’s companion, giving advice on what to do with all those tomatoes that ripen by the bucketful day after day during summer.

The recipes are designed to feed 2 adults and 4 children. That’s a real help for families with several kids. Even if there are only two youngsters it’s likely they will have hollow legs and it’s always handy to have leftovers, should there be any. There is enough variety between these covers to tempt even fussy eaters. It’s filled with family-friendly meals and a gratifying number of desserts. This is real food that represents the way we eat in the UK today.

March has a recipe for gammon roast with a honey glaze and served with a lentil and vegetable stew. The lentils are the common sort that will create, when cooked, a sauce for the chunky vegetables.  The gammon is just as good the next day and the vegetable stew can even be blended with a little more liquid to make a velvety soup, a meal in itself with some crusty bread.

What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings – April has an exotic recipe that takes advantage of leftover pork. 500g of meat will feed that family of 6. Egg noodles will stretch the pork, and both are bathed in an aromatic broth. Fun to eat and not too spicy for the younger members of the family, who might also enjoy the Thai Seafood curry.  It uses only one green chilli but you can add more if your family love heat or if you are making this for an adult dinner party. This needs 900g of assorted seafood so it’s one to reserve for special occasions.

What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings – September offers Ratatouille and Feta Tart. Romilla shows you how to make this from scratch but this is another recipe that one could adapt to use leftovers. The tang from the salty cheese is a counterpoint to the sweet vegetables. It’s a vision of Southern French colour and would make an attractive addition to any summer buffet, or nibble on a slice of this as you are waiting for the barbecue to cook.

But I did mention dessert to follow those savouries. Carrot and Courgette Muffins will help to whittle down that vegetable glut. They are best eaten fresh and are a delight for breakfast, or cooled and iced with cream cheese frosting for afternoon tea. If the kids need a treat or you just want a little dessert for the grownups then have a look at Chocolate Muffins, that would also be lovely with that frosting.

Apricot and Raspberry Cream Tart is a suggestion for June but the basic tart can be topped with any fruit. Peaches and raspberries would be a delight and just as attractive. A winter dessert with Yule flavours is Steamed Pudding with Apples and Mincemeat. I hate Christmas Pudding so I think this will be a very satisfactory and festive replacement. Much lighter than the traditional pud and it could still be served with a booze-laced cream or sauce.

What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings is a proper cookbook: hundreds of recipes that you are actually likely to use. Plenty of innovation but there is nothing too cheffy here. It’s a book written by a home cook and designed to appeal to home cooks who want more than a coffee-table cookbook. Another great effort and all in a good cause.

What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings
Author: Romilla Arber
Published by: Park Family Publishing
Price: £25.00
ISBN 978-0-95709-350-8


See more books by Romilla Arber here


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018