Cookbook Review: Special Guest, Recipes for the Happily Imperfect Host, by Annabel Crabb & Wendy Sharpe

A recipe book that cheekily says it is for imperfect hosts. It is for anyone who ever felt like punching a wall before their guests arrive.

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This recipe book that cheekily says it is for imperfect hosts contains luscious foods, decadent desserts, quick breakfasts and easy meals to suit every palette. It is a companion to Special Delivery – a cookbook for anyone who ever felt like punching a wall before their guests arrive.

Written as if the instructions were being told to you as you flit around your kitchen, and with Annabel’s wit and humour infused throughout, I found myself just reading the recipes before deciding which ones to include in my review. If you give this to a friend or relative who loves to cook or is beginning to venture into the world of cooking for others, this book will become a trusted friend in their kitchen.

Presented with beautiful photography, often showing two or three recipes in a double page spread, this book could simply find its place on a coffee table, where guests could thumb through at their leisure. The cover itself is inviting and shows Annabel at the front door of a cottage complete with large cocktail in hand.

Comments hidden within the recipes had me giggling as I worked, for example, “Smooth with an offset palette knife or spatula, if you have one, if you don’t have one, get one immediately – for real, it will change your life.” The recipes give scope for individual changes to match taste and ingredient availability, and often provide hints to change to gluten or lactose intolerant versions.

The three recipes I chose to review, after much deliberation, were a breakfast, lunch and sweet treat (with a twist).

Coffee, Banana and Oat Smoothie (page 24)

This very quick and tasty recipe gets lazy breakfasts off to a quick start or makes an amazing grab-and-go for the working day. With a few ingredients, make sure your banana is speckled skin ripe and that you use a medium roast coffee. I used ½ a teaspoon of maple syrup to compensate for my not quite ripe enough banana but have had this several times since my first try and love it as a breakfast in a rush.

Clafoutis, Or Cheat’s Quiche (page 36)

Taking advantage of the scope given in this recipe, I used ordinary tomatoes, baby spinach, spring onion and mushroom. It was very light and fluffy and made three dinner-sized portions that I accompanied with crusty bread and salad. It performed rather like a souffle and had an impossible pie-type thin pastry to its sides.

Salted Caramel ‘Crack’ (page 198)

I had little success with this sweet treat. Despite this it tasted really good. I will try it again, making sure I have real butter rather than the butter blend I usually cook with, and will allow it to cook until it is thicker and gloopier than before (these terms were in the recipe). The caramel seeped through the biscuit base in the baking, making mine a sticky salted caramel crack. Being for Christmas festivities, I grated my chocolate and topped it with almond slivers and sliced raspberry bullets.

Reviewed by Leanne Caune

Rating out of 10:  9

Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Released: November, 2018
RRP: $39.99

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