The Cookbook Review: Virgin to Veteran by Sam Stern

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Ariadne Godwin continues The Cookbook Series this week with slightly different style – Sam Stern has gone the extra mile in turning himself from a student chef into a celebrity chef, but how far has he come?

Sam Stern is to student cooking, what Mary Berry is to the baking world. When it comes to creating quick and delicious, value-for-money grub, Stern know his stuff. The 22 year-old’s range of cookbooks have stood up brilliantly against the plethora of established celebrity chef’s own publications, and his latest, Virgin to Veteran is no different.

Currently at uni himself, Sam understands that most students, if questioned, would sheepishly admit to consuming bizarre concoctions of baked beans, for a doubtful ‘dinner.’  What he does here is take you back to complete basics, offering straight-forward instructions for things like the humble fried-egg sandwich, and for those who really struggle, a how-to in boiling pasta (yes, really). You can also find solid recipes for good old-fashioned favourites like roast dinner and spaghetti Bolognese

Crucially, the book is also full of handy tips for getting started in the kitchen (including how to avoid food poisoning), with a run-through of mastering kitchen appliances and implements. Sam gives useful hints about ingredients and different cuts of meat, and look out for the ‘time saver’ and ‘cash saver’ suggestions for many recipes, which seem to cater for the student lifestyle.

But it is not merely a manual for the gastronomically-challenged. Stern offers up a mouth-watering selection of more exotic recipes; mussels with cider and bacon, Greek lamb pie, and beetroot risotto. Flavours creations are fresh and exciting, with a focus on worldly influence, giving readers a chance to try their hand at something new. It is clear that Stern is passionate about cooking, and even more clear is that he wants everyone else to be too. This book is a bit of a cooking bible, and I’d thoroughly recommend it for those with good food intentions, but lacking in confidence.

Ariadne cooked:


Spanish Meatballs with Paprika Potatoes

Sam says: One of the stars on a table of tapas, these tasty little meatballs tick all the boxes and make a cracking meal anytime. Treat them lightly as you’re shaping and cooking so they stay nice and soft and sweet. Team with garlicky aioli and paprika potatoes.

Ariadne says: Really authentic Spanish flavours in the meatballs, and the potatoes were very moreish.




Courgette and Feta Fritters with Hummus

Sam says: Make these delicious fritters he star attraction of a mezze plate. Mix it up with home-marinated olives (cheaper and better than shop-bought), easy tzatziki, good punchy hummus, spectacular smoky aubergine dip and wrap it up with steaming hot flatbreads.

Ariadne says: A bit more fiddly as it required squeezing out excess moisture from the courgettes, but really great flavours so absolutely worth it! The hummus was simple and was a nice accompaniment.



Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake

Sam says: Here’s your traditional New York Cheesecake, but the raspberry ripple takes it somewhere else. Watch out for cracks…enjoy!

Ariadne says: This proved very popular! A proper traditional baked cheesecake, and the raspberry adds a welcome fruitiness.




From Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence by Sam Stern
Published by Quadrille Publishing
RRP £20
Photography by Chris Terry

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