Photograph: Jason Ingram
On the first page of Recipes That Work author Patrick Drake reveals his hope that the book will become the “most loved, reliable, sauce-spattered, page-folded go-to in your kitchen”, rather than another cookbook that sits on the shelf until a special occasion arises. Well, we have good news for Patrick, because I found Recipes That Work fits that bill. It’s full of quick and easy recipes that, almost exclusively, use ingredients you can find in a small supermarket (no cookbook gets the Coach seal of approval if you have to go beyond a Tesco Metro for every recipe).
The recipes are all proven favourites with HelloFresh customers, which means they have been tried and tested by thousands of people who have confirmed that they’re easy and tasty. Obviously, the recipes aren’t quite as easy to make as when you’re handed all the ingredients measured out in small packets, but doing it this way is considerably cheaper.
I tried three recipes from the book: mushroom gnocchi, veggie chilli and chicken paella. All three took under 45 minutes and I will make all three again. During the process I also picked up a few super-useful tips, including how to nail making rice and how throwing some fresh herbs in a dish right at the end of the cooking process makes everything you cook better. If you use the appropriate herbs, of course.
That’s one of the triumphs of the book – all the recipes are generally solid meals elevated by something I wouldn’t have done without instruction. Fresh herbs are encouraged in most recipes and for the veggie chilli a zesty lime and sour cream mix you plop on top completely transformed the dish. I make a pretty mean veggie chilli myself – I’d even say it’s the match of the HelloFresh recipe – but I’ve never added in lime-y sour cream. I will from now on.
Even if I never used the book again (which is unlikely), I’d have taken away plenty from it in terms of these little touches that don’t take much extra effort but have a real impact on the meal.
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There are also certain flavour trends that run through the recipes in the book, which means that if you have to buy ingredients you haven’t used before, the remainder won’t sit in the fridge or cupboard forever. Flick through the pages and you’ll almost certainly find another recipe that uses them.
Health is not the first consideration of the recipes in Recipes That Work, as it isn’t in most recipe books, but as a rule each recipe includes a couple of portions of your five-a-day (sometimes far more) and if you used the book to cook dinner every day it would tick the boxes for a well-balanced diet.
The intro to the book also includes a series of quick lessons to help a beginner, including a list of store cupboard essentials, how-to guides to chopping pretty much everything, and even an in-depth explanation of what a pinch of salt is (including the difference between a small pinch and a good pinch). It’s all basic stuff, but I’d wager the vast majority of people will pick up a couple of very useful things from it.
Perhaps the only thing that’s really lacking from Recipes That Work is the more spectacular recipes you might use for a grand occasion although my opinion on that might change when I try the confit duck lasagne. But that’s not really the point of the book, it’s something to use everyday. That is until it becomes too sauce-spattered to even read.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.