Rosie Reynolds is a trained chef, writer and food stylist who has previously worked with BBC Good Food, The Sunday Times and The Guardian as well as best sellers such as Deliciously Ella and Dishoom. She previously authored Doughnuts, The Kitchen Shelf and Posh Kebabs and has a focus on ‘getting great food ready as fast as possible‘.
The Shortcut Cook, released in February 2021, offers “Classic recipes and the ingenious hacks that make them faster, simpler and tastier”. The styling of the cover feels very old-fashioned with its marbled sand colour and a pale-yellow font that looks like it belongs in the ’70s but the photograph of Reynolds’ Pork Ramen recipe appeals, with a great looking egg! Overall, it’s not very stylish, and an underwhelming start.
Unfortunately, the old-fashioned styling continues throughout the book, with very earthy colours and the same font – taupe is not an enticing colour and makes the book feel a bit drab. Sadly, the food pictures are not good quality either. Each photograph looks like it has had a filter applied to make it look traditional but instead makes the food look dull and unappetising – I really struggled to pick recipes because of the unappealing photographs. The food styling has been done well but is let down by image processing or printing.
The book starts with an introduction outlining the author’s background and the purpose of the book – to introduce home cooks to the shortcuts that professional kitchens use. A helpful selection of general tips come next, along with a list of essential kitchen equipment, pantry essentials and a how-to on storing, freezing and batch cooking. These pages provide some great ideas for beginners and provide some of the promised shortcuts.
There are 7 self-explanatory chapters in the book, ‘Brunch’, ‘Soups and salads’, ‘Pork and chicken’, Beef and lamb’, ‘Fish’, ‘Meat-free mains’ and ‘Desserts’. The traditional recipe format is easy to follow with an interesting introduction to each dish.
Rather helpfully, Rosie provides a guide on how to use the recipes including a shortcut and make ahead box on each page that tells the reader which parts can be made easier or made in advance. She urges you to follow the recipe closely the first time you cook it but also suggests adding in your own additional ideas the next time you cook. I found a lot of the shortcuts obvious, but others may not.
I started with the Asian-style chicken noodle soup which was very quick and easy to cook in a single pot – the shortcut for this dish. chicken thigh meat with crunchy pak choi in a ginger and garlic heavy soup tasted great on a cold and wet day. I would have preferred more broth but the dish was delicious all the same.
As smoked paprika is one of my favourite spices, I cooked the Smoky paprika chicken with warm cannellini beans next. This recipe cleverly includes a smoky paprika mayonnaise that is used as both a marinade and a dip. As promised, the mayonnaise marinade clung to the juicy chicken leg and made sure the skin was extra crispy. The ripe tomatoes made for a great addition on the tray, as they created a beautiful dressing for the beans. I would definitely cook this recipe again, especially as a weeknight meal.
My favourite recipe of the three I’ve tried so far is Reynolds’ Ratatouille and sea bass, due to its simplicity. Soft veggies are cooked on a single tray (with tomatoes again being used to create a sauce) alongside a touch of red wine vinegar and soft sea bass fillet. Crusty bread helped to soak up the juices here. I think this simple ratatouille recipe would also be great without the fish, as a vegetarian dish. Some of the vegetables took a little longer to cook than suggested in the recipe but as the vegetables are cooked before the fish is added.
The recipes in The Shortcut Cook are very well written and easy to follow but are let down by the graphic design choices… but perhaps we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, images, or colour choices! There isn’t an awful lot that’s new or novel here but the recipes can be relied on to make classic dishes such as ‘Minestrone Soup’ or ‘Beef and red wine stew’ easier for novices.
Recipes From The Shortcut Cook
We are delighted to share two recipes from the book, with permission from publisher Hardie Grant.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of The Shortcut Cook by Rosie Reynolds from publisher Hardie Grant. Photography by Louise Haggar.