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Cookbook ReviewsRecipe book reviews of the latest cookbooks with sample meals
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Cooking Book Reviews
Little Old Lady Recipes
Our website brings you our favourite recipes that granny used to make and we were delighted to be asked to read the American Little Old Lady Recipes which is a collection of home dishes from mums, grannies and great grannies. This wee gem is packed with easy to follow meals with simple instructions. There are no fancy ones here: just a few instructions using wholesome ingredients resulting in comfort food, family dinners and no nonsense dishes.
Do not let the fact that this is a US volume put you off. There are some wonderful ones collected in this handy sized book. This gives you the opportunity to try those you would not normally cook. For example there is no-one better than a grandma from America to get one for pumpkin pie or fried chicken.
The author, Meg Favreau, does not just collect these from those who have been cooking and feeding friends and family for decades, but brings her well know charm and humour. She also brings her experience as an editor of the website Wise Bread which helps people to live more economically. She achieves this with some wonderful photos by photographer Michael E. Reali who rather than bring the reader photos of the dishes instead has produced pictures of the ladies relaxing at home, in the kitchen and enjoying food, adding to the charm of this wee gem.
It is broken down into convenient chapters of breakfasts, soups, salads, casseroles, appetizers and refreshments, suppers, sides and sweets.
So we have those for blueberry muffins, coffee cake, doughnuts, split pea soup, ambrosia, macaroni and cheese casserole,chicken and dumplings, liver and onions, meatballs, oatmeal raisin droppers and pecan pie.
In amongst them are thrifty hints to make them go further or for cheaper ingredients. There are also some wonderfully amusing quotes from the old ladies. For example 77 year old Ruth writes
A grandmother isn’t the same thing as a restaurant. Shut up and eat the eggs.
Whilst 84 year old bridge club hostess Gladys writes:
If you are working in the kitchen and someone asks if you want help, immediately remove your apron, hand it to them, and go in the living room to have a drink.
To continue the thrift theme, 88 year old Thelma advises:
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
It will make a wonderful addition to any family kitchen, especially those who want to serve appetising and filling meals on a budget.
The Cookiepedia is the most fun we have had in the kitchen. This has over 50 that we just had to try! It really caters for those with a sweet tooth and an imagination since the author, Stacy Adminando, suggests many alternative toppings and fillings. An example of which is the peanut butter cookies which suggests adding jam to make peanut butter and jelly ones.
Stacy Adminando draws from her Italian American upbringing where she learnt how to cook a wide range of them with her granny, mother and sisters. It is a collection of these traditional cookies such as chocolate sandwich along with modern ones such as pistachio butter.
An informal approach has been taken with it which starts with the spiral notebook binding and continues with Stacy's fun comments that introduces each. There are serving suggestions and a notes section so that families can tweak these so that they soon will have their own family favourites. Hints and tips are also here such as how to get a zesty or gooey cookie. For example the mint thins suggests making additional chocolate chip cookie dough to form mint thin stuffed ones.
Chapters describe the world of them such as the terminology used by those who bake these delicious biscuits, equipment needed to get the best from your baking and conversion charts from US measures to UK measurements.
A unique approach to the pictures sees an introductory double spread photograph of each prior to the sections of buttery, chocolaty, fruity and nutty and seedy. This helps the reader to pick their treats for that days baking. Our favourites are French macaroons with classic almond fillings, oatmeal raisin with plenty of raisins caramel nut bars with a buttery shortbread crust and poppy seed squares.
It really is delightful, bursting with ideas for those packed with flavour and fun.
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Fishy Fishy Cookbook
We never thought that one day we’d be reviewing a recipe book by TV star Dermot O’Leary. The Fishy Fishy Cookbook is inspired by the restaurant he co-runs with James Ginzler and Paul Shovlin with chef Loz Talent in Brighton. Their ethos is to serve locally caught fish that is seasonal and ethically caught. Those they serve can be found in it such as seafood risotto and Thai style mussels along with family favourites like fish cakes and their fish and chips.
It has a guide to the types of fishing practices, how it is delivered to shops and markets and guides to buying and filleting various types. This includes how to humanely kill and cook live lobster in your kitchen. There is a handy reference table to the months to buy fish in season.
The photos capture the emotion of the sea in the pictures of the fishermen and family cooking outdoors and the photographs that accompany them inspire the reader to try them. Each is simple and there are alternative ingredients and serving suggestions.
They are broken down into starters, barbecue and outdoor eating, mains, special fish and a wide range of sauces like Marie Rose sauce, butters like garlic and herb butter and side dishes such as mushy peas. There is a lovely surprise section of desserts taken from the restaurant menu with a delicious classic crème brulee with shortbread.
Starters of tempura oysters with tomato and chilli jam, scallops with chorizo and clam chowder. These may seem complicated fish dishes but the joy of this is that the authors make them seem so effortless to prepare and cook.
Everyday mains that can be cooked easily are whole baked lemon sole with a lemon herb and Parmesan crust, monkfish wrapped in Parma ham, baked plaice with garlic and thyme new potatoes and a quick fish and prawn curry.
Outdoors and BBQ ones are barbecued mackerel with Jonathon’s Uruguayan potato salad. A sample can be seen on our Mackerel Recipe page.
Kedgeree has long been a favourite breakfast meal of our team and in here there is a spicier version along with other breakfast dishes such as kippers.
Meals for special occasions are lobster linguini, lobster thermidor and grilled oysters.
It has over 90 which will appeal to most tastes and makes cooking with fish so much easier. It is a must for kitchens.
We have long admired the recipes of Sue Lawrence. So when we were asked to write a cookbook review of her latest Eating in we were delighted and her latest will not disappoint. Whilst we write about the traditional Scottish recipes that your granny made Sue Lawrence takes these and gives them a modern twist. For example regular readers will know of my love for Cullen Skink and she has re-invented this into a quiche with her Cullen skink pie. Other modern classics include what Sue describes as an ideal pudding for Hogmanay: warm chocolate shortbread and pistachio mousse cake. That said Eating In is not just about foods from Scotland, it will appeal to all tastes.
She won Masterchef in 1991 and hasn't stopped writing since in a range of publications and newspapers. Her passion shines through in Eating In and her meals are ever so easy to follow as is her style of writing. For Eating In she guides her reader through the seasons in the kitchen via events and celebrations. She starts will the biggest of all Scottish celebrations - Hogmanay and New Year's day. The preparation can start well before the meal is needed to free up time. So the Chinese noodle salad with mango, crab and ginger would grace any New Year's Eve buffet table. For New Year's Day lunch when many a head may be sore from over indulgence and lack of sleep she recommends her hot smoked salmon tart with rocket and creme fraiche or perhaps her goose fat stovies to soak up the alcohol. Now we love our beef stovies and would never have thought to use goose fat as stovies but they are all about leftovers and this is a ideal for using up the excess goose fat from Christmas roast potatoes.
Continuing the Scottish theme she now provides some for a Burns Supper and for St Andrew's Night. Here readers will find another wonderful twist of a traditional Scots recipe. She has created and shared her hummus with haggis and pine nuts, an ideal way to introduce it to those who have not sampled our national dish. She also provides a bit of background. So readers will learn how Macsweens factory makes it and what goes into it. Other haggis dishes are scallops with haggis and pea mash.
Sue Lawrence is always teaching us new treats and we learnt of Bride's Bonn the traditional Shetland cake and bread which she incorporates into her chocolate and whisky mousse.
Sunday roast dinners are haunch of venison with mushroom sauce whilst less formal TV dinners are a creative haggis nachos and a Stornoway surf and peat.
They will save the modern home cook plenty of time and quick ones are hairy tattie fishcakes and black pudding with goats cheese and grilled peppers.
Summer dishes are lamb tagine with artichoke and quails eggs and a delightful gooseberry fool. Picnic food that quickly became favourites all year round is the plum and orange oaty squares. The most creative we have read so far from Sue Lawrence is her Irn-Bru cake in her Hallowe'en guiser's tea section.
The special events menu continues with an anniversary meal of rib-eye steaks and roasted mushrooms. Though all are special, even the main meals for day to day cooking are wonderfully inventive and celebrate the best of Scottish ingredients such as the venison chilli and Hebridean fishcakes.
We Scots are well known for our sweet tooth and she is no exception. There is her traditional tablet in sharp contrast to modern sweets and puddings such as raspberry cranachan cheesecake and Ecclefechan tart with butterscotch yoghurt.
The seasons and events culminates with Sue's Christmas snacks of Mrs Thomson's cheesy oat biscuits and chicory with haggis and pomegranate.
It has many eye catching photos to accompany it and there is the added treat of pictures from Scottish locations. The background is a welcome addition, such as the history of Mull cheddar as are the memories of Sue and her family. Childhood memories of fruit picking, jam making and of Sue's dad's naughty childhood games are particularly touching. Recommendations by Sue include where to find the best cheese scone in Scotland.
It is one of the top recipe books that we have read for many reasons which include the wealth of recipes and the way the author makes life effortless in the kitchen using readily available ingredients. They are ideal for those on a budget or with a large family to cook for and please. No house should be without Eating In by Sue Lawrence.
One More Slice
One More Slice written by TV chef and regular magazine and book writer Leila Lindholm is a one stop Italian cookbook full of popular Italian recipes that are so simple to follow. Leila starts from the basics of Italian cooking and then takes a journey with the reader to help them create more interesting meals. As an example those for pizza start with the basics of pizza dough and then tomato sauce before writing over a dozen savoury pizza suggestions. Alongside there are hints and tips to make cooking Italian cuisine easier.
Making pasta is so much easier after reading One More Slice. Leila Lindholm describes how to use a pasta machine to create and shape pastas like raviol. She then moves onto more complex dishes like ricotta, lemon and chervil ravioli. Others are fresh gnocchi and accompanying sauces like Sicilian tomato sauce, bolognese and carbonara sauce.
Bread accompanying Italian meals are not forgotten and One More Slice has an extensive chapter about how to bake sourdough and then develop to baking a range of baguettes, corn bread and cheese bread. The stuffed bread of tortano is described along with several new rather than the traditional egg filling.
Italian desserts of ice cream, a tiramisu semifreddo and a wide range of cheesecakes.
It is not restricted to Italy and Leila Lindholm adds her favourite International ones that have a strong American flavour. So readers have access to a range of bagels, waffles, fruit pies, pancakes and chocolate brownies.
If we were only permitted one in our kitchen from the many we have owned then this would certainy be our top choice. We love that they are so easy to make and adored the photographs of Tuscany and the relaxing Italian lifestyle.
It was published in 2011 by New Holland Publishers. The title could be said to refer to another portion of cake or pizza but refers to One More Slice being the follow up to A Piece of Cake.
Special Cupcakes was a pleasure to read because we love them, especially brightly decorated ones. The author, Wendy Sweetser, and photographer Ian Garlick, have created a stunner full of wonderful treats that are easy to follow and bake. It is good value with about fifty and lots of advice and tips to help you create your own.
It would be wrong to think of them as simple fairy cakes but they are so much more and it writes about the history of these single person cakes through literature, cookery books and even on TV. It then moves onto the basics of baking, the equipment and the paper cup sizes and a step by step guide to making your first and decorating it with icing. Another chapter describes how to present them as gifts with nicely decorated boxes, cellophane bags and ribbons. Then it moves onto more complex ones which have easy to follow instructions so that your creations will soon look like those pictured. Unlike others there is at least one photograph for each.
It is broken down into sections to make finding that special treat quick. So there are chapters dealing with parties, romantic occasions, topped with fruit and flowers, special events, exotic ingredients and even a healthy section. This avoids dairy products, eggs, sugar and fat for those with specific health problems or who follow a certain lifestyle. This is international so has events that most Scottish people would not celebrate such as Independence Day but readers can substitute this for St Andrew's Day and decorate the icing in the colours of the Saltire. That's the joy of Special Cupcakes, they are interchangeable and can lead to new creations. Other occasions of Christmas, Halloween, Easter and St Valentine's Day. It would make a great Christmas present for those who love to bake.
On A Stick
When we were offered On a Stick! we expected simple ones based on quick ingredients. However we are pleased to say that it is so much more than this. Photographer Matt Armendariz has created over 80 delicious treats which range from light snacks, mains, sweets, puddings and alcohol teasers.
There are photos to accompany each and these are easy to follow with preparation time, list of ingredients and step by step instructions.
Matt Armendariz has an apt slogan: party on a stick. They are a fun way to feed your guests and are suitable for informal get together where the emphasis is on socialising. The food on sticks and skewers will soon get your guest talking as well as having tasty snacks in between conversations.
Most countries and cultures are touched upon such as Chinese chicken satay, Middle Eastern dish of beef and vegetable kebabs, Vietnamese Bo La Lot, Bratwursts with Sauerkraut relish and creamy horseradish dipping sauce from Germany and an American dish of chicken and waffles. The British classic of fish and chips has even been served on a stick. More remarkable is the author's ability to serve spaghetti and meatballs on a stick. An alternative Scotch egg is based on quail eggs, breadcrumbs and parmesan.
What we love best about it, which sets it above others, is Matt Armendariz's enthusiasm for his cooking and photography. This really is a labour of love with evidence of romance between Matt and his passion for feeding his guests. His innovative techniques and imagination is infectious and soon the reader is dreaming up their own skewer and cocktail stick treats. Not that these are limited either. Matt Armendariz also suggests using rosemary branches and sugarcane as skewers.
Accompaniments such as dips, glazes and sauces to finish off each snack or meal on a stick are here with how to create these from scratch. Examples are mango salsa and peanut dipping sauce.
Sweet foods on a stick are caramel popcorn balls, chocolate covered cheesecake and ice cream sandwiches served with homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Fans of Elvis Presley will be delighted to make a snack on a stick based on the singer's peanut butter, bananas and crispy bacon on toasted grilled bread.
No party is complete without alcohol and Matt has added several alcoholic based stick treats of margarita jelly shots, mojito melon fruit skewers and red and white sangria pops.
It makes a great book for those wanting to add a bit of fun to a buffet or dinner party.
The Food Lover's Guide To Europe
The Food-lover's Guide to Europe, written by freelance journalist and travel writer Cara Frost-Sharratt is a little bit different. It still has recipes, in this case from regions around Europe, but is also a quick guide through areas of European Countries such as Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and the UK. For example sections are dedicated to the food and drink history of each region, their exports, notable wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks such as coffee. The section about those of Scotland recommends the Scotch beef and lamb and Arbroath smokies.
It lists each Region's dishes and specialities and local produce and talks about the local markets, farmers markets and shops. For the Scottish section there is a mention to Sugar and Spice old fashioned sweet shop and tea room in Arbroath, the Milton Haugh Farm Shop and the Cheesery in Dundee. There are some lovely photographs of Eastern European foods and European markets that make you want to jump on a plane and get something to eat. Holidaymakers will enjoy reading the sections that suggest food and drink related activities available to tourists. These are the Paris walking tour, truffle hunting, beer weekend festival, chocolate tours, coffee tasting and Christmas markets. The Angus and Dundee section describes the Arbroath Sea Fest, an Angling Trip and the Dundee Flower and Food Festival as three things you must not miss.
For those travelling to Europe and needing ideas of the most popular places to eat there is a Where To Eat section for each region which caters for different budgets ranging from top class restaurants, mid-range eating place and bistros and cafes. The Scottish section recommends Gordon's Restaurant in Inverkeilor, The Blue Marlin in Monifieth and Mercury Maia in Dundee.
Moving onto the cookbook reviews sections brings readers several from each country. For example the Scotland section has an Arbroath Smokie pate. As we read this we were delighted to read a potato pancake from the Rhineland which is a variation on the Potato Scones with additions such as grated onion and spices such as nutmeg.
It would make an interesting read for someone about to travel to Europe and for those wanting to cook meals from around the Eastern World. It is an easy read and ideal to pick up from time to time.
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