Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Madhouse Cookbook by Jo Pratt

From time to time I pop into Waterstone's when I'm in town, and pick up one of the new, modern cookbooks with its minimalistic-designed cover and just have a thumb through. I gaze at the beautifully photographed dishes and skim through pages of recipes with their long lists of ingredients that you have to (mostly) buy on the internet. I stay there for a bit, because I know I will never buy this book. Anything with more than around ten ingredients and eight steps to the method is, in the real world, no use to me. Cooking during the week is usually manic. I'm all too often simultaneously sieving tomatoes, watching boiling pans and chopping vegetables while while one of my girls constantly pulls at my clothes asking for a banana/chocolate digestive/some pasta while the other one is telling me she's upset because a friend didn't talk to her that day.



Madhouse Cookbook
Madhouse Cookbook by Jo Pratt

And so when I saw this book, I have to admit, I was kind of hooked (on the idea at least), even before I turned the first page.

We all know Jo Pratt from the telly - I remember her mostly on screen Saturday mornings, cooking with Anthony Worrall-Thompson. Well, in this book, she talks about how she used to spend hours planning and cooking for elaborate dinner parties, sourcing rare ingredients and the like. Since she had children, she's had to come up with a repertoire of quick, simple and child-friendly meals that they can all enjoy together.

There are smoothies (the banana and peanut butter one was a firm favourite with us), quick meals (that don't just involve pasta) and desserts. There's also a section for 'grown ups only', for those evenings when you want some time either to yourself or with your other half, after the children have gone to bed. Jo identifies that you also need that time as well, which is great as I think it's often too easily missed.


banana and peanut butter milkshake
Jo Pratt's Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

I love a cookbook author too, who talks to you through the pages as if you're standing right next to them, and this is true here. Where possible, there are freezing and storage guidelines after each recipe, and tips for converting the leftovers into another meal the next day.

I think there are many parents that will identify with this book - I remember when my eldest child was very young we used to cook her meal separately and eat by ourselves later in the evening. But I never did it with my second daughter, because I realised it wasn't necessary. I know many families that cook the kids' meals separately, at about 5pm and then settle down to eat a 'grown up meal' by themselves at around 8pm. But why cook (and wash up) twice? Families can all eat together if you pick the right kinds of foods. And in this book it's not all bland flavours and burgers with some carrot sticks alongside. As well as dishes like 'fishfinger wraps', Jo uses more unusual flavours too - chorizo with chicken; walnuts and blue cheese with pasta; Moroccan-spiced lamb - it's great to get kids used to flavours such as these.


jo pratt pasta with brie bacon leek
Jo Pratt's Bacon, Leek and Brie Pasta

I enjoyed it, and I'll cook more recipes from it in the future. There's a great recipe for filo pastry sticks filled with Nutella, which I'll get round to trying soon, for a start. During the week, this is a cookbook that fits into my life and means I'm not pushing the girls out of the kitchen while I poach an egg using four different utensils and a thermometer. They're in there with me, blending smoothies and keeping an eye on the stew. Brilliant.



(affiliate link)