Kyle Cathie, €29.50
Rachel Allen may have been first out of the traps with 'Rachel's Favourite Food For Friends' but mother-in-law Darina can still show her some tricks. There's nothing flash about 'Easy Entertaining', it's just Darina doing what she does best - presenting well thought out recipes in an approachable style. She wants to show people that the pleasure of entertaining can come without pain and, to that end, the key guidelines are preparation, keeping it simple and, finally, of being relaxed.
Some dishes are old favourites - Piperonata, Lydia's Traditional Cream Dressing for salads, Mushrooms à la Crème - but there are more than enough new, imaginative and user-friendly ideas for every kind of meal. Some of the chapters are designated for certain times and events (a big brunch, finger food, prepare-ahead suppers, starters) but there are others with recipes that will fit into any lifestyle or time of day. The chapter on quick and easy meals, in particular, has plenty of recipes that are as good for a solo supper as for feeding a crowd, Spiced Chicken and Red Peppers with Orzo and Martha Rosenthal's Red Lentil Dahl looking particularly good.
The introduction has plenty of useful tips on cooking for large numbers, planning a menu and creating atmosphere. Tom Doorley gives good advice on choosing wine and drinks, although I was a little surprised at the lack of euro prices. After that, skip quickly over the party games section.
While there is plenty here to keep entertaining experts happy, there's nothing that an absolute novice will have trouble with. Darina Allen's comprehensive 'Easy Entertaining' is a book that will be returned to again and again.