Friday, October 28, 2011

How good are food apps?

If you've got an iPad you've probably been as tempted as me by the avalanche of food apps that you can now download. But how good are they as a way of learning about ingredients, cooking techniques and recipes? I wrote about some shortly after I got my iPad. Here are the apps I've acquired more recently and how I rate them:

Donna Hay ***** (Free - for the moment)
I'd been wondering whether Donna Hay would do an app and now I've seen it can understand why it took so long. this is the most beautiful, sophisticated, mouthwatering on-line magazine around. There are some great interactive sections and some spectacular video effects as a tiered white cake gets covered with pink macarons and a whole ricotta disappears scoop by scoop off a plate. The photography is utterly stunning, the recipes have Hay's trademark style and simplicity. The first issue is free - you're bound to want to buy the second and subsequent ones.

Green Kitchen *** (£2.99)
A very pretty app designed for the iPad with an easy to navigate grid of healthy (and quite hardcore) vegetarian recipes. If I have a criticism it would be that the recipes themselves aren't quite as assured as those from established cookery writers. I like the look of the Baked Pistachio and Herb Felafel and Rustic Potato Pizza, though (rather less so the Bean Brownies . . . ) Green Kitchen also has an equally attractive website.

Baking with Dorie **** £8.99
I'm a big fan of Dorie Greenspan, a baking superstar in the states (and an incredibly nice person) and you can't fault the content of her new app. But with 20 baking lessons and over 100 videos it's a monster to download at the rather sluggish broadband speed we have at home and I lost it altogether when I was updating my iPad software and had to reload it. I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have Dorie in book mode really. (Her best known is Baking: from my home to yours and her latest, which this post has reminded me to order, Around my French Table)

River Cottage Every Day *** (£1.99)
Another iPhone app that doesn't work quite so well on the iPad. It's also annoying that you have to sign up with your personal details once you've downloaded it - presumably so that you get to be on the River Cottage mailing list though if you've paid your money I think you're entitled to instant access to the content. Nice to have ideas for how to use what's in season though and I like the well shot 'how to videos' including how to prepare a pheasant, how to fillet a fish and how to build a wood-fired oven.

My kitchen table * (Free)
A sample selection of recipes from well-loved TV presenters including Mary Berry, Antonio Carluccio and Madhur Jaffrey. Designed for the iPhone and obviously based on their books it doesn't work too well on the iPad and took a fair time to download. Not especially easy to use and there are some weird anomalies like recommending Ainsley's Chilli-glazed mango with yoghurt as a good accompaniment for Antonio's pappardelle with meat sauce. And the shopping lists don't seem to come up yet. Obviously the idea is to get you to buy other apps on the back of it like Mary Berry's My Cakes and Desserts (£1.99) but I'm not sure I'd bother.


  1. I also have the Donna Hay app, it really is lovely. I was tempted by the Dorie Greenspan, but will now wait until I have updated my iPad, ( I bought her French Table Book, wonderful but it it is the biggest tome on my cook book shelf and I have 250+ books!)

  2. There seems to be a trend for bigger cookbooks - maybe to make us all feel it's still worth buying them as opposed to apps. But they DO take a lot of room!

  3. I have the Donna Hay app too - and I love it! I have bought her magazine for years and wasn't sure I'd like it as an app but it's stunning! As beautifully, if not even more beautifully, put together with as much style, information and even easy to follow recipes you follow step by step on the iPad. I think her style tips are fab too.
    Having read about Dorie Greenspan I'm about to look her up, but I may buy the book for my shelf!

  4. Thank you THANK YOU for alerting me to the Donna Hay app. I can't believe I didn't know about it. I used to hunt out her magazine in Selfridges, and even managed to purchase a few copies in Australia and New Zealand.
    I have Dorie's app too, as I was interested to see how they laid it out. I think the diagrammed recipes are great, but would be improved by more written information on them, so they could be used on their own as a reference when cooking.

  5. @KateGover I think Dorie's app is best for newbie bakers who need their hand holding every step of the way. That's not to put it down - there's a real need for that and video is a great way to explain how to bake - but I personally enjoy her writing and recipes without that distraction.

  6. I must admit that I do love cookery books so apps come second, but I can imagine Donna Hay's style comes across very well in this medium. I love my iPad but it probably will never conquer my cook book obsession!

  7. Ah, that's the problem, it doesn't. That would save a LOT of money!