11 August 2016

Doctor Who: The Official Cookbook

11 August 2016
£14.99 - BBC Books

Thanks to Sophie Goodfellow at ED PR
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Doctor Who: The Official Cookbook is the latest in a line of glossy hardback productions from BBC Books, and this definitely has a luxury feel.

Offering forty recipes along a number of themes, from snacks to main courses to desserts, this is a comprehensive volume and is beautifully illustrated, as the cover implies. There is quite a noticeable bias towards treat-based cuisine, and so maybe this isn't the healthiest of recipe collections, but really consumers ought to be able to judge and balance their own diets, so this isn't a criticism of the book.

Most of the recipes understandably focus on recreating villains from the television series, but you're also told how to make your own edible Doctors, K9 and TARDIS, amongst others. Unsurprisingly, the only entries from pre-2005 Doctor Who are the earlier incarnations of the Time Lord, whilst relatively niche references from the last decade comprise an unexpectedly large part of the line-up - from your own Picnic at Asgard and Krillitane Monster Muffins to Who-gazy Handmines and Sally Sparrow's Weeping Angel Cake.

Perhaps in response to this, a number focus on some of the show's most recognisable iconography, including the Daleks. Six recipes are based on Skaro's finest and their creator Davros, with another three inspired by the TARDIS, or parts of it, and even one for your own Sonic Screwdriver. This balance does lend a clue as to who this is aimed at: The Official Cookbook would seem to be for fans with long memories. How many of the wider cookbook-buying public will know who the Atraxi, the subject of the book's first recipe, are? That's the trouble with these kind of tie-in non-fiction books, it's so hard to know how to pitch it. I think here though Joanna Farrow has got the balance just right though - there's enough that your average customer will recognise, and Haarala Hamilton's imagery will make them want to look up what they don't recognise.

It's clear that these instructions have been devised especially for this book, not just adapted from existing meals. Some of these are particularly successful recreations, including the Munchie Mire Warrior and Christmas Snowman. Unfortunately I don't have unlimited resources or time, so haven't managed to put these into practice, but each seems easy to follow, with clear instructions, and rarely more than five steps. 

The layout of this book really is something special. In this kind of deluxe edition, the design is crucial, and Amazing15 - previously entrusted with creating global brand guides for BBC properties such as Sherlock and Top Gear - do a great job. There are several double-spreads featuring images and quotes from episodes, and each recipe is very well laid out. The book as a whole justifies its format, and is credit to Joanna Farrow, Haarala Hamilton and Amazing15.

There are a couple of strange points, such as where a few pages don't show the finished products, and there are a couple of peculiar quotes chosen in places. It might also have been nice to have a description of what recipes are in plain English, rather than just their stylised titles here, but it's not the end of the world (that's on page 48). The only other notable omission is some kind of guide as to whether each meal is vegetarian, or gluten free etc. Obviously you can work it out by reading the list of ingredients, but having a quick reference key on the list of contents, or even on the pages themselves, wouldn't have gone amiss.

This Official Cookbook is by all accounts certainly much better than the programme's 1985 effort curated by Gary Downie, which saw cast and crew offering their own recipes. Some readers will no doubt be disappointed to learn that there are no Castrovalvan kebabs in the 2016 edition.

BBC Books certainly don't doubt the book's longevity, saying in the official synopsis, "This is the ultimate collection of dishes from across space and time, whether you're planning a party or watch the latest episode."

It's hard to fault The Official Cookbook. Beautifully illustrated and designed and complete with simple instructions, this does everything is says on the tin. It's filled with inventive recipes for any occasion and to suit a range of tastes. This is undoubtedly a high quality item, and plugs perhaps the last remaining gap in the non-fiction Doctor Who market. This should appeal to fans who aren't that well-versed with all things culinary, food and drink enthusiasts who aren't that well-versed with all things Doctor Who and everyone in between.

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