BOOK REVIEW: Eat Well and Stay Slim (The Essential Cuisine Minceur), Michel Guérard

by - April 23, 2014

Michel Guérard was a 1970s legend in the cooking world. He promoted healthy eating and cautious use of fat. Imagine, the French must have fallen off their chaises! As one of the founders of nouvelle cuisine (which one could argue is diet food anyway), he took it one step further and created Cuisine Minceur, an even lighter version of the former.

Whilst the title of the book isn't going to win any awards for sexiness, it did appeal to me as essentially, this is my mantra for life, enjoying food but holding on (with white knuckles) to my waistline. To be honest I'd say I'm mindful of what I eat but my tact is to sweat out indulgence through a few HIIT sessions a week. Diets or restricting what I can eat just doesn't work for me, but this book is far more interesting than most recipes pitched to calorie watchers.

Design-wise, the biggest issue I have is that the book is incredibly frustrating to use, for the simple reason that not enough clearance has been made for the layout toward the spine, so recipes and text wrap tightly into the binding unless you force crack the spine. This isn't great for a book you need to lay open and glance at in detail whilst you cook. I'm seeing more of it really. The amount of designers I come across now who are clueless when it comes to artworking and print nuances but that's another conversation for another place. Or the printed proofing stage of a book is skipped because of budget. But it's details like this that impact the end user and to be honest, for a book that calls for intricate recipes, you need to be able to read the bloody thing easily.

Anyway, with spine force cracked open, there was quite a lot to tempt me to cook. The food, of course, is incredibly attractive. An attempt has been made in a teeny section for "everyday cooking" but nothing in here is the sort of thing you can slap on a plate in 15 minutes after work. Plus, I know it is low calorie, but the portions are small and calorie count incredibly low, mostly around 100-250 per dish. And if you have a hearty appetite like me you would starve!

As with most working mothers, I am short on time and, if I'm honest, patience, so I really did struggle to find something I could realistically cook either in the evening when I'm shattered or with a 2 year old hanging off my leg. I opted for the former, so chose a dessert to have after our evening meal.

Desserts tend to be meringues, jellies, sorbets and mousse, luckily all of which I like, I don't go in for rich, chocolaty puddings. I chose the Tropical Meringue Floating Islands which were a little fiddly, just for the amount of components, but relatively easy to prepare. The result was light and refreshing, putting the effort in gave a few textures to the dessert and I loved the custard. I wouldn't say it was the best dessert of my life, it certainly didn't feel indulgent but did look quite nice. I enjoyed making the dish more than eating it, purely because this isn't my style of cooking in the slightest and did challenge my skills which I like. I think if you cooked a few of the recipes, particularly in the savoury section, you would learn some refined techniques and skills.

Probably the most useful section of the book is the toolkit of stocks, oils, vinaigrettes, sauces and purees which you can maybe use to lighten your normal dishes with. There is also information on ingredients and techniques to aid in creating slimmer recipes.

This is also a well written book that is easy to follow with a lot of information in the introductions. Each recipe is given the preparation time and level of difficulty which I think has been realistically calculated.

Eat Well and Stay Slim would be a good book for discerning dinner parties, probably leaning toward having the girls over for a stylish supper that is reasonably guilt free, (which you then obliterate with copious glasses of wine). Despite being described as a diet book "to live by", this is not going to end up as one of my dog-eared, well used books but certainly one I'll pull out every now and again for something special.

I'm not sure if anyone would use this as a diet as such, unless you have bags of time on your hands and a real thing for presentation. But if you are an able cook that likes good taste yet mindful of health, or you want something to challenge you, then I'd recommend you take a look at this. It really is food to enjoy, with the benefit of being guilt free, but I'm not sure how realistic it is to the average person's everyday lifestyle today.

Eat Well and Stay Slim (The Essential Cuisine Minceur), Michel Guérard is published by Francis Lincon and costs £25

I received this copy for review.

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