Downtime: Deliciousness at Home
Nadine Levy Redzepi
The average chef’s home fridge includes quantities of their favourite beverage and five kinds of mustard. That’s it. Unless they happen to be married with children, in which case there’s a distinct possibility that their spouse is also an accomplished home cook and their kitchen is well-stocked with things that will cook up into meals that make both children and adults happy.
In the Redzepi household in Copenhagen, while world-renowned chef Rene is at work at Noma, his wife Nadine cooks up awesome meals for him and their kids (they live a short trek away from the restaurant so Rene often returns home for family dinner). The couple met when Nadine started working at Noma as a server (she still works there in an administrative position). She had always loved to cook and kept a notebook of recipes for cooking at home, those are the basis for Downtime.
Flipping through the book, the are very much the kind of dishes you’d expect a chef’s family to eat. The foam and foraged bits Noma is known for are not here, but this is also not fish fingers and frozen fries. For the most part, Redzepi cooks up solid, comfy, family meals that are incredibly appealing.
Dishes such as lasagna, spaghetti with mussels, quinoa salad, and butternut squash soup appeal to family members of all ages (the Redzepis have three young children), but are hearty and flavourful enough to satisfy those with more sophisticated palates. Some of the recipes seem a bit fussy — the ratatouille, while gorgeous, requires a fair bit of patience to arrange as beautifully as Redzepi does — while other don’t shy away from using frozen ravioli.
Instructions are detailed and well-written (Redzepi says she wrote them as if explaining the process to her cousin who doesn’t cook much), but there are weird little asides for some recipes that seem almost condescending (“Congratulations: you can make perfect poached eggs.”). In the context of teaching a non-cook to make something intimidating this might be supportive and enthusiastic, but I suspect anyone picking up this book, even though it’s not full of recipes from Noma, already knows how to cook these basic dishes.
Overall, a great book of family-friendly recipes for someone with a bit of existing confidence and skill in the kitchen.
Usability: Excellent. Some recipes roll onto the next page, but that’s because, glory be, they’re printed in a big, healthy, readable font. Totally passes the kitchen counter test! Directions are numbered and broken up with a line break (there’s often additional extra info after section in a grey font, which I’d have prefer to have been incorporated into the directions, but this is a small quibble). Ingredients lists are clear and measurements are offered in metric and imperial. Some ingredients might be a bit posh for some readers (truffles, quail’s eggs, white asparagus), but most recipes are made with ingredients from a reasonably-stocked fridge and pantry.