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Archive for the ‘Cook book review’ Category

You could be forgiven for initially thinking that Kitchin Suppers is just another publication from a long line of celebrity chefs who have released books full of recipes which are bordering on the impossible to produce at home. In fact, Tom Kitchin breaks the mould. He is obviously a man who cooks at home with and for his family and friends and appreciates the limits of domestic appliances, the equipment available to most home cooks, the time constraints within family and working life, and that, at home, we don’t have an army of kitchen staff to handle all the prep for us.

The recipes in the book are not adapted from the dishes on his restaurant menus, but have been specifically created for home cooking. That’s not to say that the recipes aren’t interesting, quite the opposite. Tom provides some twists on classics but he also serves up some more unusual supper ideas, including quick and easy recipes for entertaining, Sunday dinners, one-pan wonders and weeknight meals.

The recipes don’t require a lot of time or effort (though a few will need a little planning and clever shopping), and there isn’t a single recipe which stands out to me as not being achievable for the average home cook, but there’s definitely no compromise on quality or mouth-watering appeal.

We put Tom’s rolled escalope of veal with lemon and caper butter recipe and claim that many of the dishes can be on the table in 30 minutes to the test. I decided to do baked new potatoes with the meal so it wasn’t realistic to think we’d be having dinner in 30 minutes but, that said, once the potatoes were in the oven, I was able to prepare and cook the escalopes in next to no time. The dish would work equally well with some crusty bread making it more than achievable in a short timeframe. And the verdict? There’s no question we’ll be having it again!

The feel of the book is homely too, aided by the photographs which are natural and realistic representations of what it is you’ll be cooking. A photograph needs to be a feast for the eyes and make you want to cook a dish but let’s face it there’s nothing more disappointing than the dish you cook looking nothing like the picture in the book.

Kitchin Suppers proves that home cooking doesn’t have to be boring, understated or the same old dishes time and time again. Good food needn’t take an age to prepare and it doesn’t have to be complicated to look and taste incredible.

Tom Kitchin’s Kitchin Suppers is published by Quadrille Publishing. RRP £20.

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From alexander in winter to wild strawberries in summer or burdock in spring and hazel in autumn, Edible Wild Plants and Herbs, indentification guide and cookbook combined, is an excellent compendium of all things foraged.

First published 25 years ago, this book has recently been brought up to date by the original author. The idea is not that we will all be able to live off the land self-sufficiently but that we can re-learn what our ancestors knew and used to pass on through the generations, a dying skill which, along with keeping chickens or pigs, cultivating your own fruit and vegetables, making pickles and preserves or even cooking with children, a growing number of people are trying to revive.

The calendar on the inside cover provides a quick reference of which plants (and which parts of the plant) to look for and when. Inside we learn more about each of those plants; it’s common and scientific name, where it grows, what it looks like, how it was discovered, the origins of the name and how it has been and is now used. Each description is accompanied by a selection of recipes for using the plant in food, drinks, lotions and potions and a beautiful painting or illustration from the botanical artist at Kew Gardens brings each plant to life.

If you don’t feel confident enough to get out and pick your own, a fair number of the plants and herbs described in the book can be successfully grown in your garden; lemon balm, mint, primrose and chamomile for instance. Alternatively, samphire can be found on our shores but is also ready available at most fishmongers, and chestnuts, if not picked from the tree, can be sourced from the market in the autumn.

But there’s no reason why each and every one of us, whether city or country bound cannot have a go at foraging for at least a few of the plants and enjoy our own bounty.

Try a range of recipes with wild garlic in early spring and nettles a little later in the season or elderflowers for cordial, fritters and jams in early summer and the berries for wine, sorbets and chutneys in the autumn.

There are few greater pleasures than eating or drinking a homemade product from free ingredients. I’ve got just one more week to wait before popping the cork and sharing my elderflower fizz with friends and we’ve already supped the cordial. There’s still time for you to make the most of elderflower too. What are you waiting for?

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Already being the proud owner of around 15 ‘curry’ cookbooks, including Reza Mahammad’s first book (Rice, Spice and All Things Nice), you might ask why I would have the need or be interested in yet another.

The answer is quite simply because this isn’t like the others. Reza has genuinely found an interesting and new angle; East meets West in Reza’s Indian Spice, challenging the palate and mind of a British audience hooked on well-known Indian (and British-style Indian) dishes.

Born in England, sent to boarding school in India to learn about his heritage, lived in France and well-travelled, Reza’s cooking influences are unmistakable.

He admits that he loves all kinds of foods from around the world but can’t live a day without spice. The result is (I hate to use the word since it often has negative connotations but it is the only way to describe it) fusion food. Thai, Persian, French, Italian, British dishes and cooking techniques are combined with a little Indian spice to enhance the finished dishes. It’s modern, vibrant and stylish.

Whilst a lot of different spices are used throughout the book and there is no spice glossary, the majority of the dishes use readily available spices and are easy to recreate. Others are more involved and best left for when you have some time to experiment or want to show off.

Each dish has a suggestion of what to serve with it, with a page reference so you can easily find it in the book, important I think when dealing with unfamiliar foods. Does it go with rice or bread? Do I need a salad or a vegetable side dish? Should I have a chutney with it? These are questions which are so often forgotten by professionals and about which many home cooks worry.

It was refreshing to see a variety of ideas for accompaniments; side dishes which are unusual, colourful and healthy. We particularly enjoyed the beansprout salad with chargrilled asparagus and coconut which we ate with the kachumber and spicy stuffed potatoes (a recipe from the ‘Slow burners’ section which took a while to prepare and a lot longer to cook in the oven than the recipe stated but which was most definitely worth the wait).

I was inspired by other ‘Perfect partners’ from the book as well as his western influences combined with eastern flavours to create a twist on the classic Sunday roast. I served my slow roast pork belly (which sat on a rack of onion, garlic, peppercorns and curry leaves to create a flavoursome and lightly spiced gravy) with Reza’s French beans with sesame seeds, gingered carrots with maple syrup and roast potatoes with chilli and chaat masala. If you thought it wasn’t possible for roast potatoes to be any better than they are already, I urge you to try Reza’s roast potatoes. They are incredible!

If you’re serious about cooking with spices, looking for recipes with a difference and photographs to drool over then let yourself be drawn into Reza’s exquisite and exotic world. I’m sure you’ll finish your meal smiling.

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Weekends are all too often over in a flash, usually crammed with visits to see family and friends, catching up on dull chores, shopping, out for celebratory meals…occasionally, just occasionally, there’s one blissful day when there’s time for a little self-indulgence and kitchen therapy. This was one such day.

It started, as all perfect days should, with a lie in followed by a lazy brunch; perfectly poached eggs, ham, muffins and perfect hollandaise combined to make a dreamy eggs Benedict.

A brisk walk in the wintry sunshine set us up for a hearty Sunday dinner. Perfect roast chicken, roast potatoes and gravy with plenty of veg preceded a perfect rhubarb and apple crumble. The day ended, after stripping off the rest of the meat from the chicken carcass, making the perfect stock ready for a soothing broth in the week ahead.

That week we also dined on perfect omelettes, cottage pie, kedgeree, coq au vin, guacamole and flapjacks.

The simple meals in life, done well, are comforting and hard to beat. A number of the recipes in Felicity Cloake’s Perfect may be simple, every day dishes and perhaps well-established in your culinary repertoire but I’d like to make the case that her book isn’t, as you might think from the dishes I made, just for beginners but also for keen and competent cooks who are willing to look at ways to improve on their results or understand why the way they’ve always been doing it is the right way.

Felicity has trawled through recipe book after recipe book and thoroughly researched each and every dish in her book. She’s tested umpteen different versions of the same dish, pitting many a chef against a host of cookery writers, to discover how different preparation techniques and ingredients affect the end result and, most importantly, where recipes work or fail. From that she determines what makes the perfect dish and provides us with her ultimate recipe.

OK, so perfection is subjective and not all the dishes we tried from the book met completely with my idea of perfect (after all, I’ve spent quite some time aiming for perfection myself with a number of the same dishes) but having said that we thoroughly enjoyed everything we ate, all the recipes were successful and a doddle to follow.

Felicity’s straight-talking style makes this book easy and enjoyable to read. It’s well-written and thoughtful and I very much envy her for being able to spend so much time reading cookery books, delving into the history and origins of food, testing recipes, writing and eating!

If you’re still not sure then check out Felicity’s column in the Guardian where some of the recipes featured in the book and many more can be found. Just for the sheer amount of washing up she must do this lady deserves our support by buying the book!

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Wrap up warm and be prepared to be taken on a journey. Tread in the deep, crisp snow, wander through the colourful and narrow streets, forage in the vast woodland, gaze into and fish in the bright blue waters and feel the warmth of family and friends as you simply break bread or share a feast with them. Be guided through the land, the culture, the food, the atmosphere and the seasons by the Scandinavian Cookbook.

As you might expect, the Scandinavian Cookbook is cleanly, clearly and efficiently laid out. The month themed chapters help you to eat with the seasons, though of course there are recipes which will see you right at any time of year.

And the recipes don’t disappoint: with a great deal of dishes quite unique to Scandinavian cuisine, the food is fresh and healthy and packed with flavour. There are a fair amount of fish recipes but also a lot of baking, desserts and treats as well as a wide selection of meat and vegetable dishes and not forgetting the pickles and berries.

Recipes are accompanied by snippets of background information, insights into the Scandi way of life and some very personal stories about the author’s Danish upbringing. The photography, from Lars Ranek, combined with these accounts, brings the book to life, giving the reader a real sense of the place as well as the obligatory dishes to drool over.

But what might you be feasting on? There is, of course, a recipe for Swedish meatballs and I urge you to go ahead and make your own, the result was much more satisfying than Ikea meatballs, though there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a plate of those every once in a while to help you survive a trip to the big blue and yellow place!  We had ours accompanied by some roasted potatoes, greens, pickled cucumber and berries (we used the suggested substitute of cranberries due to a lack of lingonberries). The only thing missing was the ‘gravy’ but a quick search on Google and the meal was soon complete.

But, not surprisingly, there’s more to Scandi food than meatballs. The Scandinavians have, as have many cultures, adopted the burger and made it their own. There are two unusual recipes: Bif Lindstrom, a beef burger containing capers and beetroot, and an incredible fishy equivalent; salmon burger with a chive and mayo dressing.

A trip to Scandinavia wouldn’t be complete without some reindeer (well, we had moose which we found in Lidl). Reindeer (or moose) steaks with their spicy black pepper and aniseed crust, served with a potato and celeriac gratin and roasted sprouts was a perfect wintry Sunday dinner.

The veal with baked rhubarb and barley salad was a great way to enjoy the vibrant pink forced rhubarb available in the early months of the year, whilst, if baking is more your thing, we had fun experimenting with the yoghurt and wheatgrain bread and the spelt buns.

For dessert, some apples, past their best, and some stale bread magically transformed into a divine apple trifle, and to accompany your Danish blue cheeses, how about the walnuts pickled in wine?

This beautiful book brought back memories of a wonderful and chilly week exploring Stockholm two years ago. Let yourself be transported to Scandinavia and embrace the Scandi in you. You won’t be disappointed. With recent publications such as this, Trina Hahnemann’s other book, the Nordic Diet, and Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious, it’s no wonder Scandinavian food is so popular at the moment, and long may it’s popularity last.

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We Brits love a good roast dinner – we’re famous for them the world over – but how often does your roast not quite live up to expectations?

Whether you’re looking to get crackling to die for, a more succulent roast chicken, rare roast beef, potatoes which are crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle or simply some new ideas of what to do with fish, vegetables or even fruit, Molly Stevens has the answers.

In All About Roasting you can jump straight in and cook the recipes (beware that measurements and temperatures are for a US audience but conversion tables are at the beginning of the book) or, if like us you’re serious about honing your skills, you can first read about the principles of roasting – from a definition and history to the science behind the perfect roasting techniques through to preparation, temperature, shelf positions, timing, checking if it’s cooked, resting and carving. You name it, she’s covered it!

There are handy tips throughout (ever thought of lining your baking tray with greaseproof/parchment paper to stop your potatoes from sticking or salting your meat for 24 hours before cooking to ensure it’s juicy and tasty? Both work!) and some tempting photography. Though there aren’t as many photos as we’d like of finished dishes there were plenty demonstrating key skills step-by-step, such as trimming joints, butterflying and rolling or carving.

You can tell from the writing that Molly is someone who has put a lot of time and dedication into this book – many a technique was thoroughly tested to ensure we were guaranteed success.

At our Cookery Book Supper Club we tried, with more than satisfying results, the basic roast chicken using the pre-salting method, both the simple roasted potatoes and the British roast potatoes, a more tricky pork tenderloin roulade, butter roasted plums with vanilla, ginger and rum as well as a surprising dish of roasted cherries with creamy polenta. Full bellies all round again!

Not instantly struck by the publication, we grew to appreciate it as a great reference for showing us how to turn a good roast into an exceptional roast. We’re all now well on the way to being masters in the art!

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If there’s one thing that chefs and keen home cooks are (over?) protective about it’s their knives. Most cooks will have their favourite, some knives have a long history, some are just for show whilst others come in for a daily battering. Like one of the family, chefs will take their, often supremely expensive, knives with them everywhere they go and god forbid anyone who dares pick up and use them!

It’s this tool of the chef’s trade which is the unusual starting point for the hefty new book, Bought, Borrowed & Stolen. Allega McEvedy loves knives, buying a new one in every country she visits to add to her well-used collection. Each knife (bought) tells a story and has a purpose unique to the country from which it originated. This, along with tales of her travels and a short fact-file, serves as an interesting introduction to the country and the recipes within each section.

You really get the sense that this book has been years in the making. All those childhood years travelling with her historian father, accompanying him on research trips and being encouraged to keep a travelogue (but actually only managing to keep a food diary), has seemingly culminated in a book that makes you want to travel, visit markets, eat at family-run restaurants and discover local delicacies. Allegra’s engaging personality comes out in her informal style of writing, you really do feel like she’s talking to you and you’re travelling with her.

This is the first book by Allegra (of Leon and Economy Gastronomy fame) which doesn’t contain her own recipes. Instead she has collated recipes for dishes of particular significance (cultural, historical or nostalgic) she has eaten around the world. She shares recipes with us she was given by people she met along the way (borrowed) as well as those she has recreated (stolen) using her taste memory, scrap book notes and the odd dodgy holiday snap (which, as a nice touch, we can see for ourselves in the book).

Whilst the photography didn’t grab us or fulfil its role of enticing us into making the food, once a decision to cook had been made, the food we tucked into was full of bold flavours and simple to make (though we weren’t short of leftovers, many of the recipes being for 6 to 8 people and difficult to downscale).

In our short trip, we visited Norway, Malawi, the Philippines, Mexico and a couple of US states sampling salmon and leek soup, chicken and peanut rice, pumpkin curry, homemade peanut butter, pork adobo, green juice, oaty buttermilk pancakes, apple and chicory slaw with pecans and blue cheese dressing and a West Coast ricotta cake. We also shared the stories behind our favourite knives; surprisingly they weren’t all kitchen knives.

Bought, Borrowed & Stolen is a book I can relate to on several levels. My dad is a geographer; for me every holiday was a fieldtrip and this travelling had a huge influence on my passion for languages and, in part, my fascination with food and cooking. I too was encouraged to write a diary as well as put together travel scrapbooks and photo albums which became increasingly focussed on the food we cooked and ate. The tradition continues today, in my recipe folder, in my, as yet, unshared food diary and on my blog.

The book also serves to confirm that people interested in food do apparently strange and random things – I’m not the only one and I’m not crazy. Or, at least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

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