Our Verdict: Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound

Maureen: Urgh. This cookbook just made things far more difficult than they needed to be. I think maybe it was trying to be too clever, which tripped it up.

Kirstin: It was trying to be something that it couldn’t be. It was very confusing, as well. It had two classification systems, because there’s the title, but then when you start reading it, the subcategories inside didn’t match the title. So that was confusing.

Maureen: As I’ve already said, I thought the indexing was terrible, terrible, terrible. It wasn’t organised well. But at the end of the day, it was just really difficult to use, which not what you want a cookbook to be.

Kirstin: I was intrigued by the bibliography for this cookbook because there was no “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” mentioned, because it’s so similar to this one.

Maureen: It’s possible that with publishing lead times, they were working on each cookbook at the same time and didn’t know about each other. But I had another close look at “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” to compare it to this one and to try to figure out what “Salt, Etc.” was so much better.

Kirstin: It was an amazing book.

Maureen: The difference between this cookbook and “Salt, Etc.” is that the latter was organised differently. The first half of “Salt, Etc.” was all about cooking techniques and why things are done a certain way. The second half of the book took these fundamentals and then applied them to the recipes, which were grouped by category– so all the chicken recipes were together, all the fish recipes were together, etc. So it was much easier to find recipes because you tend to know what core ingredient you want to start with for a particular meal, and then you work from there. In “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound,” the recipes were grouped together by cooking theory, so that meant each section had a whole array of recipes. This made it far more difficult than it needed to be to find recipes you wanted to try.

Kirstin: I made three recipes Two of them were amazing and I’ll make them again. The third one– a sea bass recipe– was a complete disaster and the worst meal I’ve made in 10 years. I didn’t blog about it, though, because it wasn’t her fault. I got the wrong ingredients.

Maureen: It was just too hard to use. I might have tried more recipes if it had been easier to use, but it was just painful. In this day and age, when you can find a recipe on the Internet in a nanosecond, I’m not going to page through a 240-page cookbook to try to find what I want to make for dinner.

Kirstin: I think that’s fair.

“Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste & Sound”
Overall Grade (A- F):  C – “I’m feeling generous. I didn’t give it an F.”  (Maureen) B (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Maureen: Seared Tuna  Kirstin: Nasi Goreng “The leftovers were amazing.”
Grade for Photography (A-F): N/A: Kirstin can’t remember any of the photographs, which tells you everything you need to know.
Any disasters? Kirstin: There was a complete disaster with sea bass, but I didn’t blog about it. Maureen: No disasters per se because I found it too difficult to use the book in the first place.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Charity Shop Donation.                                                                Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: No.

Our Verdict: Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound

“Caramelized Onion and Beef Stew” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

I have never been a fan of beef stew. Never, ever, ever. Every year on our birthdays, my mom would let us pick our favourite meal. Every year my brother Tom always picked stew. I always thought he was wasting his choice, because to my mind beef stew was disgusting and shouldn’t been consumed on any day of the year, let alone your birthday. (My choice, if you’re wondering, was lasagna. Yum.)

Fast forward a few decades. Needless to say, my palate and food choices have become much wider. I’ve eaten things I would have never dreamed possible in suburban New Jersey in the 1980s. Since I got married, my husband, who likes stew, kept telling me I would like it. I’d look at the component parts in the recipe and figured I’d give it another go. Given that I didn’t mind the component parts, surely as an older and wiser woman I would like beef stew.

As I’ve tried a variety of recipes, both here on Cookbook A Month and on my own, the results have been mixed. While I certainly have moved away from the “I Hate All Beef Stew” opinion, it’s never a sure bet that I’ll like it.

I’ll spare you the suspense: I liked this one! It made the house smell nice on a cold February afternoon, it was from the long-and-slow school of cooking, which I love, and it was delicious. Kudos to the fine butchers at Dring’s who not only helped me pick out the correct beef, but also gave me the most excellent tip to make dumplings for the top, which were fantastic.

However– and there’s always a however to ruin the fun– while I liked it, the other two-thirds of my family did not. For this stew, you add some lemon peel for the slow cook. They thought the lemon taste was too overwhelming and didn’t fit in with beef stew. I disagreed, saying that it made the dish lighter and more interesting. Regardless, it was not a 100 percent success, so I don’t know if I’ll be making it again.

Too bad.

“Caramelized Onion and Beef Stew” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Seared Tuna with Tomato, Bean and Avocado Relish” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

This dish comes from the “Appearance” section of the book, where she suggests how something looks influences how people taste. This theory held out when I brought this dish to the table, when all assembled gasped and said, “Wow– that looks delicious.”

I’m happy to report that this tasted as good as it looked.

There were lots of things to like about this dish, too. It was good for you (loads of vegetables), it was relatively easy to make (I’ll get to that in a minute) and it was super yummy (pretty sure that’s a technical term). I will definitely be making this again.

I’ve got a few notes, though. Sybil Kapoor wants you to peel all of the cherry tomatoes– all 1 pound of them. I’m not really sure it was worth the time, because that was definitely the most time-consuming part of the whole dish. Did all the effort make the dish substantially better? I’d say no. I would deseed the tomatoes, though, because it helped my tomato-hating husband like the dish even more.

One of the good things about this dish was that you don’t need a lot of tuna, since you slice the tuna steak and put it over the whole platter. I didn’t think I had enough tuna, but it turned out there was plenty for everyone. It’s a classic trip of making a little go a long way.

Finally, I think this relish would work with a lot of other fish too (like salmon or trout), so I can see this being a repeat guest star for our Fish Fridays.

This dish definitely was For The Win (FTW).

“Seared Tuna with Tomato, Bean and Avocado Relish” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Spiced Sweetcorn and Lime Soup” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

Time for some Real Truth about this cookbook: The way it is organised is maddening.

I know we’re only 11 days in the month, and maybe we just got off on the wrong foot, but it’s just a really frustrating cookbook to use. It is organised by the title: with one section each for sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. OK, fine, I can work with that. But only if the index is robust. It is not. Alternatively, there is a list in the front of all the sections with the recipes therein, but finding out what those are means paging through to those specific pages.

Needless to say, it takes a fair amount of time to find specific recipes. So when we want to celebrate Meat Free Monday, for example, it’s a long slog through the index or flipping back and forth to the front of each section. It is frustrating to see the least.

So this is what I finally decided to make. I thought it would go well with the Green Chilli & Avocado Dip from “Together” (it did) along with some Doritos, which everyone loves. Unfortunately, my two dining companions– Nicholas, the teenager, and Tim, the husband, filled up on all the fun stuff and thought the corn soup was just Meh.

I liked it, despite the fact that it doesn’t photograph well (pureed corn soup always looks like sick, no matter what you do), but if the other two-thirds of the family didn’t like it, I don’t see making this again any time soon.

Now don’t mind me. I’ll be over here in a corner for a few hours trying to figure out what to make next.

“Spiced Sweetcorn and Lime Soup” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”