Coming back from New Zealand, I keep getting told that “staying in is the new going out” and this would seem to be borne out by the publication of both Darina Allen’s Easy Entertaining and her daughter-in-law Rachel Allen’s Favourite Food For Friends within a few weeks of each other in late 2005.
While Rachel’s book is a perfectly acceptable selection of recipes if you’re interested in cooking for friends at home, Easy Entertaining is a far more comprehensive tome. Darina has gathered over 250 recipes that cover everything from three-course dinners to tapas and one-pot suppers and this book is full of excellent ideas with plenty of modern twists on old standards. There’s nothing too complicated here for kitchen novices but entertaining experts will be definitely be pleased with the variety on offer – Spiced Chicken and Red Peppers with Orzo, Tomato and Coconut Milk Soup, Martha Rosenthal’s Red Lentil Dahl are just a few of the recipes I currently have bookmarked in my copy.
While I would avoid the section that deals with party games, Tom Doorley’s advice on picking wine and drinks is very useful although I was rather annoyed at his use of sterling prices instead of euros.
Easy Entertaining is, however, a book that you will return to again and again, whether you have the excuse of cooking food for friends – or you just want some innovative dishes to cook for yourself. Rachel may be flavour of the month at the moment but she has a long way to go before I’d turn to her before Darina.
Easy Entertaining by Darina Allen is published by Kyle Cathie, €25