Monday, 21 May 2012

Sam Stern 'Virgin to Veteran' and a spot of vintage shopping

As soon as I heard about the opportunity to review this book, I stuck my hand up.  I'd heard of Sam Stern before and considered buying one of his books but never quite got round to it.  His previous books have been, I think, very much aimed at a younger audience (hence my temptation to buy one - I am not a confident cook) and I am quite sure that his latest book - Virgin to Veteran - was written especially for me!

The book starts with loads of helpful little tips about food and cooking techniques.  It includes hints on 'Fridge Etiquette', 'How To Freeze Stuff' and suggests what to keep in your store cupboard.  There is a whole section on 'Vegetables and Salads' advising what to look for when choosing veg, how to cook different types of vegetable and which dishes to serve them with.

It covers all of the basics including fish pie, roast chicken and spaghetti bolognese and there is a fab recipe for roast pork and baked apples.

Although it includes all of the basics you'd expect to see, a few unusual recipes also make a welcome appearance - the aromatic lamb madras, Greek lamb pie and asparagus ravioli all sound delicious. There are also a few burger suggestions I'd love to try out.

The book didn't just appeal to me because I'm a novice cook (although it would be a fantastic gift for any teens who are heading off to uni this year).  To me, the book is a celebration of good, simple, tasty food.  It appeals to my appetite for fresh flavours and good quality ingredients.  I can see us using this book a lot - Andrew is trying to improve his culinary skills and has taken it upon himself to try a new recipe each week.  He's going to start with the easiest recipe in Sam's book this week and says he will make bruschetta (with a selection of toppings) on Wednesday night.  One suggested topping with broad beans and feta sounds especially yummy.  I am so hoping for sunshine - a plateful of freshly made bruschetta and a glass of red wine would go down a treat in the garden as the sun slowly sets.


We've had a busy old weekend - it was Andrew's 40th birthday yesterday and his Mum's present to him was an all-expenses paid trip to the hotel that we were married in two years ago.  It was utterly delightful and we had the most amazing time.  We had the spa to ourselves for about an hour yesterday afternoon which was bliss!

I did manage to fit in a tiny bit of shopping this weekend, though, as you'd expect!  In one of our local towns, Olney, there is a gorgeous little shop called Chic Boutique.  The owner is lovely and stocks (amongst other things) a wonderful selection of vintage china at really good prices - I always want to take the whole shop home with me.  I managed to control myself but did come home with this pretty  floral trio and sweet Peter Rabbit child's mug which I will save for when my niece comes to visit.

Hope everyone has a fab week.  Fingers crossed for some warm, sunny days... 




  1. Thanks for posting about the book :) my mum was only saying either yesterday or the day before I need to start learning how to cook:( the most I've ever made myself is beans on toast, and that never really ends well. Maybe this will go on the birthday wish list!
    Sounds like you and your husband had a nice time, you're very lucky getting the spa to yourselves! Xxx

  2. My Mum packed me off the Uni with a copy of his first book 'Cooking Up a Storm' and I have to say although I had the basics down it was chock full of good ideas for healthy-ish studenty food! :-) I'm keen to get my hands on this one so it's lovely to read that you've been having such a good time with it!

    Jem xXx

    P.S Love your Beatrix Potter cup!

  3. That does look like a great book ... it will be perfect for the daughter here who's just discovered she likes cooking. Thanks for the recommendation Nicki :D

  4. Hello :o)
    HAPPY belated BIRTHDAY TO ANDREW! sounds like you had a fab day.
    The book looks brilliant...i think it would make a perfect gift for my sweet B who is at uni....she loves to cook, her boyfriend loves it when she cooks too!(most of the time ;o) thanks for the review.
    pretty cups
    love jooles x

  5. Happy birthday to your hubby. The book looks great too! Love the Peter rabbit mug - sooo sweet.
    Victoria xx

  6. Oh Peter Rabbit, I love him! We still have a plate and mug from him.

  7. We have that Peter rabbit cup, so cute isn't it? belated happy birthday to Andrew, sounds like you had a wonderful time together!
    Cook book looks fab. Never heard of him but like the sound of what he churns out.
    Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.
    X x x

  8. The book looks and sounds great :) thanks for the great review. Glad you had a great time at the hotel and I just love the mug :) so cute.

    Bee happy x
    Have a delicious day!

  9. Well jeal of your hotel break, what I'd give for a spa day right now. Man! Hey we should do a spa day!!! Yes! For our bloggy gathering or in Brum? Yes!!!

    I've gone right off cook books. My stooooopid husband has gone carb free and I've totally lost my cooking mojo. Hate his diet. He is looking good though, damn him!


  10. I think you can uncross your's going to be hot this week! I'm not looking at cook books/recipes at the mo as I'm on a strict diet.Hope you have fun with yours.Your break sounds utterly fab! :0)

  11. Happy birthday to your husband - I'm glad you had a lovely weekend. My latest culinary challenge is to find healthy vegetarian food that does not involve meat substitutes or yards of pastry and cheese! Lily. xxx

  12. What an amazing looking book! Coveting.

  13. Love the look of that cook book. Drooling over pics : )

    Gemma xx

  14. Love the china especially the Peter Rabbit cup - I would definitely keep it!!

  15. I had a similar mug when I was little - this brings back good memories :)