Let me start off by apologising for how late this review came after the first. It was meant to come out the week after the review of the MealPacks App but, unfortunately, shortly after I had to cease eating any food I had to chew. I have issues with my jaw which means periodically, especially when stressed, I have to go on a diet of extremely soft food. This makes it incredibly hard to test recipes as I can’t eat them (and there’s not enough money in the budget to spread to paying for separate food). Anyway, thank you for being patient, and let’s move on.
So, you may recall me saying in my MealPacks review that the CookBooks App is by far our favourite of the two. That has become even more true lately. I can honestly say in the last couple of weeks we have not opened the MealPacks App at all but the CookBooks App gets used regularly. It is basically the only reason we continued to pay for the apps.
Why? Well, there’s one simple reason. The majority of the time, so far at least, the recipes in the CookBook app actually work. Whereas the issue with the MealPacks recipes were that they didn’t feel like they’d had enough time dedicated to perfecting them, the cookbooks seem thought out and well-practised.
Now, we haven’t used all of the CookBooks yet, but I’ll talk briefly about some of the least-used’s layouts. For the most part they are all similar. They all (bar a couple) have a description of the book, like a blurb, at the top when you enter the book and then a list of clickable recipes underneath. Our least used books so far are:
- Desserts in Duvets: Mainly because we don’t have a sweet tooth. However I am definitely at some point going to be trying the churros and maybe the banana bread waffles. I am impressed that the Fruit Tarts actually have a Crème Patisserie filling (as all good tarts should—no bias as I live in France, of course) but (and this could just be the angle of the picture) it looks like the crème pat may be a tiny bit runnier than it should be. It looks like maybe the fruits are sinking and the weight is pushing the custard up. I checked the recipe and theoretically there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it but I’d have to try it to check it thoroughly. On a rare occasion we long for something sweet I may just try it to make sure.
- Bucket List—The food looks decent and certainly it has some new and different things to try. With this, we haven’t done any as we simply haven’t run to it as much as some others. This one fell down because others were just too good.
- AM Menu—Okay, there is a real reason we haven’t done any of these recipes. It’s simply because I can make most of them without any help. The few that I’ve never made I would never consider eating for breakfast. I did try to persuade my mother to try the Breakfast Yorkshire Pudding, but being from Lancashire she hates anything Yorkshire (to clarify, this is a War of the Roses joke. If this were really the case she would hate both of her Yorkshire-born daughters—she’s at least never told us that this was the case).
- Hero Veg- Although I’ve barely used this book, I have to admit it’s the one I want to try the most. I’ve always had a love of vegetables and I love to see chefs (and normals) being creative with all they have to offer. This will be certainly one I hope to review later but, for now, other books stole the limelight. We have had one recipe from it: the Wine-Soaked Grape Focaccia. Two words: New favourite. I switched the wine for sherry and put in a splash of white wine vinegar (it’s all we had in as I don’t drink) but, it was amazing and it was soft enough for me to eat with the soup made from the Can’t Be Arsed To Cook Book. I opted out of making the butter because I prefer my focaccia pure but the recipe should work if you want to make it.
- To The Beat—This is definitely the least looked at, mostly because it’s just very confusing. The concept is that you seem to choose a description of music which then leads you to a recipe? I assume the pictures are meant to help guide you but, for reading purposes, I didn’t find it very enjoyable. Unfortunately, this meant I read the book less so I didn’t try any of the recipes. It reminds me of a fake restaurant somebody opened once (I believe a spoof one on TV) where you picked an emotion and they brought you a dish. Restaurants don’t and couldn’t work this way. The mine-field of allergies and intolerances, health and safety etc. would prevent it. Also, who would seriously eat there?
- How We Cook—It’s a basic instructional book and probably useful for new cooks and those willing to teach themselves. However, I’ve cooked enough to understand the basics (I’m seriously trying not to come off as braggy—I really am not bragging, I promise). For your basics it’s definitely helpful. The section on pork belly was especially interesting as I think it’s a lesser used cut of meat (but delicious).
- Can’t Be Arsed To Cook One—I’ve actually only used this book twice, for the Spiced Banana Soup and the Cheats Calzone. The Spiced Banana Soup, although basically potato soup with a small bit of banana, was really nice and we thought would make a perfect match as a sauce with a smoked fish or meaty fish like cod (lightly spiced) but the calzone was a flop. It was a pain to make and didn’t taste that great. The reason we don’t use this book that much is because the Can’t Be Arsed To Cook 2’s layout is far superior. Which we’ll go onto now.
Can’t Be Arsed 2 Cook
How many times have I used this book now? Too much probably. The layout is amazing, the recipes range from good to great (of the ones I’ve repeatedly tried) and it actually feels like somebody understands what people are really like. The first thing you see when you click on the book is again, your blurb, and then you get sections of recipes. You can pick a section to match your mood (and not your emotion, but the mood you feel about cooking).
If you don’t feel like waiting, there’s a range of quick dishes for you. If you don’t feel like cleaning, a group of one-pot-dishes show up when you click on it. If you can’t be arsed to shop there’s a group of recipes (although, I’ll admit this is my least used section as I rarely have the ingredients used in my basic larder and would have to shop). There’s even a section called Can’t Be Arsed To Rush if you actually feel in the mood to cook. We’ve had the Gochujang Pork from this section and, whilst not our favourite and a bit greasy (there was a lot of fat on our pork belly however) we did enjoy it.
Our two most used sections of this book are Can’t Be Arsed To Wait and Can’t Be Arsed To Takeout. We actually can’t get many takeaways were we are, as we live in rural France and as good as French food is they haven’t quite learned the ins and outs of takeaway in our local village (nothing wrong with that, as if there had been a good place we certainly would be coming out of this pandemic rolling down the hill nearby). This means that the nearest good takeaway, too far away to bring back warm food, is a really ‘Can’t Be Arsed’ moment. All hail the Tandoori Chix from this section. A hot mix of spicy curried chicken and fluffy, crispy naan bread. I don’t think I’ve escaped hiccups with it yet but it is so tasty that I don’t mind. Good job, Sorted boys.
Now, let’s talk Pho. Specifically the 10 Minute Pho in the Can’t Be Arsed to Wait section. In the few months we’ve had this app we’ve used this—well, enough times that I now know the recipe by heart and have tweaked it to make it even tastier. It doesn’t take ten minutes. The minimum is fifteen minutes but it is quick, very easy and very tasty for the amount of time taken. My one bit of advice would be to not use the beef as suggested. It gets a bit too tough and loses a lot of the flavour in the broth. Genuinely, the first time we had it my jaw was screaming in pain (granted my jaw’s extremely bad anyway but my Mother also had issues and she has a strong jaw). Ever since that first time we’ve poached some chicken or used leftover roast chicken instead. If you’re using the chicken simply add it to the bowls on top of your beansprouts and then pour the broth on top. In a couple of minutes it’ll be perfectly heated through and even more delicious. I’ll tell you another tip with this recipe in the next paragraph.
The Ultimate Cooking Battles
The last book I want to talk about and another well-used book is the most recent addition. In this book the Sorted boys have written down all of their recipes used in their YouTube cooking challenges. Again, similarly to the previous book, the recipes have been broken up into understandable, well-thought out and well-laid out sections, e.g. Ultimate Sandwich battle, Ultimate Lava Cake Battle etc. If there’s a recipe from their battles you want to try it’ll hopefully be here (the normals battles that is. Hopefully someday they’ll bring out the chef battle recipes too).
By far our most used recipe is Mike’s Chicken Sandwich recipe in Ultimate Chicken Battle and not for the reason you may think. We’ve made the full thing once. We decided that the burger was nice, the dipping sauce was way too salty and didn’t add anything to it (also very messy to eat), but the chicken was delicious. The recipe for the poached chicken here is now what I use to do my Pho from the previous book. I make Mike’s poached chicken from Ultimate Chicken Battle, strain the stock into another pan (saving the chicken), pour in some more chicken stock to fill up our bowls; add some soy sauce, Worcester sauce and siracha, continuously tasting until I get the right balance of flavour; put in my noodles and cook for a couple of minutes; tear the chicken into pieces and put with the beansprouts into the bowls and then pour the stock on top. It takes longer than ten-minutes in total but it is so worth it. It’s amazing.
I’ve also tried:
- Ham and Mushroom Stuffed Pizza from Ultimate Pizza Battle: Delicious, even when using the wrong yeast (my bad. I was still getting used to the difference in the French yeast boxes).
- Citrus Cheesecake Lava Cake: My only dud so far in this book. The cake wasn’t that flavourful and the ice-cream recipe wasn’t really ice-cream but just frozen cream. If you are going to make this recipe, despite what it says, go back every half-an-hour or so and stir your ice-cream mix (don’t add the fruit until it is starting to set). If you don’t do that you’ll form ice-crystals all over the mix and it will be a horrible eat. Or use an ice-cream machine. I would suggest piping some lemon curd (which was the greatest part of this recipe and was being devoured every morning on toast or with little meringues I’d made to use up egg whites) into little moulds, freezing and then placing in the centre of your cake. Leave it to cook a little longer to let the cake cook through completely and have the lemon curd as your centre. It won’t probably ooze out as much as you’d want from a Lava Cake but it will hopefully taste better.
- Candied Pork Belly Boa—The few Boa buns that worked were great (although a bit sweet and needed something a bit sharper to counteract this). We had issues with our steaming, using the wire-rack and bowl method described. Essentially the buns were very soggy and uncooked in many places. The best ones were, weirdly, the leftover ones we decided to put underneath the grill. The bread itself tasted great, the ones that were edible. We may have to get a steamer to test whether it’s any better with the proper equipment (you know, when I actually have money again).
Okay, so maybe we haven’t made as many as I thought, but the ones we have made we’ve made a few times and I’ve read the books for pleasure plenty of times as well. The pictures in the Ultimate Battle book are hilarious and really well done, made all the better if you’ve actually seen their Youtube videos.
If you had to choose between both of the Apps I would definitely choose the CookBooks App over the MealPacks app. It still has the same Shopping List feature as well, so one of the best features of MealPacks is still available. I would highly recommend, if you have the money (which for people who actually have an income is a really reasonable price a month) to purchase a subscription (or at least buy one of their books). Thank you for reading and happy cooking.
P.S. This is just a brief message to say thank you to my mother and father, without which I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I do. This past year with the pandemic going on put a stop on my new business, a Writer’s Retreat in France, pretty much immediately after it began (four days to be exact). They have continued to let me cook, test apps and magazines with their money until I’m able to make my own again.
With that said, their money is finite and there’s a lot of things I’d like to do on this blog, which I wouldn’t like to ask them to pay for.
I’d like to be able to test other cookbooks, apps, machines. I’d like to be able to review books, restaurants and shows. I’d also like to continue posting my own original stories, poetry and plays. All of this involves money that I don’t have so, if you like me and my work and would like to see more, I’m adding a donation button on this page.
If you have the spare cash, you can donate as little or as much as you’d like. If you, very generously, donate over £100—well, first off, thanks, that’s amazing and I’m blushing but also, I’ll make sure to add something into the garden design to thank you (whether that be a painted sign, stone or something else). All the money you donate will go towards this blog and making it, and the videos that are still in the works with what turns out to be a really bad editing system, even better. The money will go towards ingredients, plants for the garden (also talked about on the blog) and a multitude of other blog-related things. Thank you…
Also, please don’t feel pressured to donate. Only donate if you can. I know it’s been a hard year for many of us. Thank you again.