Book review: Prepped! By Vanessa Kimbell

A while ago I got involved with a spot of recipe testing for Vanessa Kimbell who was working on her first cook book Prepped! and had recruited fellow food bloggers to put her recipes through their paces.

I tried out a double cook recipe that started off with duck noodles, and then the leftovers were used to make some delicious canapes. I loved the idea that one supper dish can lead to a classy party bite that you can freeze until a social gathering arises!

And this is the premise of Prepped – a bit of savvy groundwork in the kitchen can allow you to whip up an impressively gourmet meal anytime you need it.

So now the book is hitting the shelves and it seems to be creating quite a lot of buzz thanks to Vanessa’s fresh approach to food and vast amounts of energy!

So here’s the lowdown on Prepped!

Who is it for? 

People who adore cooking and fine ingredients but don’t have as much time as they’d like to faff about in the kitchen. I think it’ll go down well with the Waitrose crowd. It’s for foodies who love to be adventurous with flavour combos and impress their dinner guests with their culinary masterpieces. Ordinary cooking this ‘aint!

It’s clear from reading this book that Vanessa knows a lot about flavours and uses her favourite ones to order the recipes. From the floral Elderflower and Lavender, to the fruity Lemon and Plum, spicy Cardamom and ever essential Chocolate – there’s something for everyone’s tastes and probably a whole heap of stuff you’ve never tried.

A lot of the sections start with making a basic carrier for the flavour like a sugar, jam or syrup which will then be used in the other recipes. So you’re investing some time to make these elements, but then reap the benefits another time. The truly time-pushed cook probably won’t have the patience for this, but if you love making your own jams and cordials then this is the book for you!

Easy to follow?

Vanessa writes in an enthusiastic style that’s really infectious – you really want to try her recipes. The instructions are clearly laid out, she signposts all the linked recipes and gives suggestions of other ingredients or combinations you could use.

Family friendly?

I would say the food has a very sophisticated feel suited to grown-up dinner party cooking, but saying that there are a lot of recipes that would make lovely simple family meals like Tomato and Garlic Pasta. Tempting bake Chocolate and Vanilla Whoopie Pies would make a lovely tea party treat for kids.

Most likely to cook

I’ve really got into making my own edible gifts in the last year, so I’ll definitely be trying out Vanessa’s ideas lovely home-made gift ideas like the Cardamom and Chocolate Biscotti and the Plum Brandy.

The cocktail recipes are very tempting and a great way to welcome guests coming over for dinner; I’ve already tried out the Ginger von Tease to great success.

Least likely to cook

I’m not sure I’m convinced by the sound of Mackerel and Rhubarb Pasta – I’m not the biggest fan of oily fish and this just feels a bit too out-there for my tastes.

Would you buy it for a friend?

This book would make a lovely gift for someone who really loves throwing dinner parties and experimenting in the kitchen – I can think of lots of people I know who would absolutely love it.

Rating out of 10


Prepped! is published by Spring Hill and is out on June 9th Hardback RRP £20

I was really chuffed to receive a copy of Prepped! and promptly celebrated by baking the ridiculously indulgent Chocolate and Raspberry cake pictured above. It has some surprising ingredients in it like balsamic vinegar and sea salt, but the result was a deep and complex flavour experience as opposed to a sickly sweet dessert.

It made a stunning dessert for a dinner party, but would work equally well as a grown up birthday cake or afternoon tea treat for your friends. Despite the grown up flavours my boys demolished the leftovers! Due to it’s fresh fruit and cream filling you need to eat this up asap – how tedious 😉

Vanessa has very kindly let me pass the recipe on:

Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

For the cake
250ml milk
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
160g dark chocolate
100g butter
30g cocoa powder
300g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, sifted
125g dark muscovado sugar
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
Pinch of sea salt

For the icing
125g dark chocolate (min 60% cocoa solids)
50g butter
75ml double cream

For the filling
150ml double cream
70g cream cheese
1 medium punnet of fresh raspberries

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180’C/Gas 4. Grease and line a 24cm round cake tin.

2. Mix the milk and vinegar together. Set aside.

3. Melt the chocolate and butter using a bain-marie or a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, then pour into a large mixing bowl. (I melted it in the microwave, pausing often to stir) Add all the other ingredients and mix well.

4. Pour in the milk mixture and beat with an electric hand whisk until it forms a smooth batter.

5. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour, or until it is firm in the centre. Test for doneness by inserting a knife in the centre; if it comes out clean it’s ready; if not then return the cake to the oven for 5-10 mins and repeat the test.

6. Cool for 10-15 mins in the tin, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Meanwhile, make the icing. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie or heat-proof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water (or in microwave). Stir well until smooth, then beat in the cream. Allow this to cool a little, but not completely; it should b thick and yet still viscous.

8. Whip the cream and cream cheese together for the filling, taking care not to make it too thick.

9. Cut the cake in half through the middle, place the bottom half on a cake stand or plate and cover it with the cream cheese mixture. Arrange the raspberries on top of this, then place the top half of the cake on the raspberries. Pour the icing over the top.

***competition winner update***

Just to let you know that Ann Livingstone was the lucky winner of the Morphy Richards Arc Filter Coffee Maker – well done!


About Katie Bryson

Katie Bryson is a freelance food writer and blogger. She left a career in online news at the BBC to immerse herself in the culinary world, taking in courses at Leiths School of Food and Wine and an internship at Waitrose along the way. Her family food blog is bursting with recipes and tips for feeding hungry families that’ll help inspire all those frazzled parents out there wondering what on earth to cook for tea!
This entry was posted in Baking, Book review, Drinks, Party food and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Book review: Prepped! By Vanessa Kimbell

  1. Paula says:

    The cake looks gorgeous Katie! Lovely review of the book, sounds like one i might put on my wishlist 🙂

  2. Katie Bryson says:

    This cake was lush Paula – I reckon you’d love this book…

  3. Michelle says:

    That cake looks devilishly delish and very grown up. I might have to try that one next time I’m baking for a special occasion.

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