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Cookbook ReviewsRecipe book reviews of the latest cookbooks
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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 recipe book Little Old Lady Recipes which is a collection of home dishes from mums, grannies and great grannies. This wee gem of a cookbook is packed with easy to follow meals with simple instructions. There are no fancy recipes here: just a few instructions to follow using wholesome ingredients resulting in comfort food, family dinners and no nonsense meals.
Do not let the fact that this is a US cookbook put you off. There are some wonderful recipes collected in this handy sized book. This gives the home cook the opportunity to try dishes and meals he or she would not normally cook. For example there is no-one better than a grandma from America to get a recipe 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 to the cookbook. 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 little old recipes 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 of a recipe book.
Little Old Ladies is broken down into convenient chapters of breakfasts, soups, salads, casseroles, appetizers and refreshments, suppers, side dishes and sweets.
So we have recipes 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 the recipes 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 homemaker Thelma advises:
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
Little Old Lady Recipes was first published in 2011 by Quirk Books Philadelphia. 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 cookie book has over 50 recipes 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 recipe which suggests adding jam to make peanut butter and jelly cookies.
Stacy Adminando draws from her Italian American upbringing where she learnt how to cook a wide range of cookies with her granny, mother and sisters. Cookiepedia is a collection of these traditional cookie recipes such as chocolate sandwich cookies along with modern cookies such as pistachio butter cookies.
An informal approach has been taken with Cookiepedia which starts with the spiral notebook binding and continues with Stacy's fun comments that introduces each cookie and biscuit recipe. There are serving suggestions and a notes section so that families can tweak these recipes so that they soon will have their own family favourites. Hints and tips are also included such as how to get a zesty or gooey cookie. For example the mint thins recipe suggests making additional chocolate chip cookie dough to form mint thin stuffed cookies.
Chapters describe the world of cookies 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 in Cookiepedia sees an introductory double spread photograph of each cookie and biscuit prior to the sections of buttery, chocolaty, fruity and nutty and seedy cookies. This helps the reader to pick their treats for that days baking. Our favourites include French macaroons with classic almond fillings, oatmeal raisin cookies with plenty of raisins caramel nut bars with a buttery shortbread crust and poppy seed squares.
The Cookiepedia really is a delightful book bursting with ideas for cookies 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 a recipe book 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. The meals they serve can be found in their Fishy Fishy Cookbook such as seafood risotto and Thai style mussels along with family favourites like fish cakes and their fishy fishy fish and chips.
The Fishy Fishy Cookbook is so much more than a recipe book. It has a guide to the types of fishing practices, how fish is delivered to shops and markets and guides to buying fish and filleting various types at home. 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 the recipes at home. Each recipe is simple to follow and there are alternative ingredients and serving suggestions.
Fish recipes are broken down into starters, barbecue and outdoor eating, main meals, special fish meals 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 recipe.
Starters in the Fishy Fishy Cookbook include tempura oysters with tomato and chilli jam, scallops with chorizo and clam chowder. These may seem complicated fish dishes but the joy of this recipe book is that the authors make them seem so effortless to prepare and cook.
Everyday main meals that can be cooked easily at home include 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 meals include barbecued mackerel with Jonathon’s Uruguayan potato salad. A sample recipe from the Fishy Fishy Cookbook can be read on our Mackerel Recipe page.
Kedgeree has long been a favourite breakfast meal of the Scottish Recipes team and in Fishy Fishy there is a spicier version along with other breakfast dishes such as kippers.
Meals for special occasions include lobster linguini, lobster thermidor and grilled oysters.
The Fishy Fishy Cookbook has over 90 recipes which will appeal to most tastes and makes cooking with fish at home so much easier. It is a must for home kitchens.
We have long admired the recipes of Sue Lawrence. So when we were asked to write a cookbook review of her latest book Eating in we were delighted and her latest Scottish recipes cookbook 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 Sue has re-invented this great Scots recipe into a quiche with her Cullen skink pie recipe. 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 is a cookbook that will appeal to all tastes.
Sue won Masterchef in 1991 and hasn't stopped writing recipes and about food since in a range of books and newspapers. Her passion for food 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. As with many of her recipes 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 Sue 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 an ideal recipe for using up the excess goose fat from Christmas roast potatoes.
Continuing the Scottish theme Sue now provides some recipes for a Burns Supper and for St Andrew's Night. Here readers of her book will find another wonderful twist of a traditional Scots recipe, haggis. Sue has created and shared her hummus with haggis and pine nuts recipe, an ideal way to introduce haggis to those who have not sampled our national dish. With her recipes Sue Lawrence also provides a bit of background to the ingredients. So readers of Eating In will learn how Macsweens factory makes haggis and what goes into a haggis. Other haggis dishes include 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 recipe.
Sunday roast dinners include haunch of venison with mushroom sauce whilst less formal TV dinners include a creative haggis nachos recipe and a Stornoway surf and peat
Eating In recipes will save the modern home cook plenty of time and quick and easy recipes include hairy tattie fishcakes and black pudding with goats cheese and grilled peppers.
Summer meals include lamb tagine with artichoke and quails eggs and a delightful gooseberry fool. Picnic food that quickly became favourites all year round with Scottish Recipes is the plum and orange oaty squares. The most creative recipe 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 the recipes of Eating In 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 Sue Lawrence is no exception. There is her traditional tablet recipe 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.
Eating In has many eye catching photos of the recipes and ingredients to accompany her new book and there is the added treat of pictures from Scottish locations. The background to ingredients is a welcome addition to Eating In, such as the history of Mull cheddar as are the food 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. Food recommendations by Sue include where to find the best cheese scone in Scotland.
Eating in 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 easy in the kitchen using readily available ingredients. Her recipes are ideal for those on a budget or with a large family to cook for and please. No home 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 easy to follow at home. Leila starts from the basics of Italian cooking recipes and then takes a journey with the reader to help them create more interesting recipes. As an example her recipes for pizza start with the basics of pizza dough and then tomato sauce before writing over a dozen savoury pizza recipes. Along with the Italian recipes there are hints and tips to make cooking Italian cuisine at home easier.
Making pasta at home 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. Other pasta meals include 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 recipes rather than the traditional egg filling.
Italian desserts include ice cream, a tiramisu semifreddo recipe and a wide range of cheesecakes.
One More Slice is not restricted to Italian food and Leila Lindholm includes her favourite International recipes that have a strong American flavour. So readers have access to a range of recipes for bagels. Waffles, fruit pies, pancakes and chocolate brownie recipes.
If we were only permitted one Italian cookbook in our kitchen from the many we have owned then One More Slice would certainy be our top choice. We love the recipes and adored the photographs of Tuscany and the relaxing Italian lifestyle that are between the recipes. The Italian recipes are so easy to make.
One More Slice 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 following up book to A Piece of Cake.
Special Cupcakes was a pleasure to read because we love them, especially brightly decorated cupcakes. The author, Wendy Sweetser, and photographer Ian Garlick, have created a stunning book full of wonderful cupcake recipes that are easy to follow and bake. Special cupcakes is a good value book with about fifty cupcake recipes and lots of advice and tips to help you create your own cupcakes.
It would be easy to think of cupcakes as simple fairy cakes but they are so much more and Special Cupcakes writes about the history of these single person cakes through literature, cookery books and even on TV. It then moves onto the basics of cupcakes baking, the equipment and the paper cup sizes and a step by step guide to making your first cupcake and decorating it with icing. Another chapter describes how to present cupcakes as gifts with nicely decorated boxes, cellophane bags and ribbons. Then the book moves onto more complex cupcake recipes which have easy to follow instructions so that your creations will soon look like those pictured. Unlike other cooking book reviews and books there is at least one photograph for each recipe.
It is broken down into sections to make finding that special treat quick and easy. So there are chapters dealing with parties, romantic occasions, cupcakes 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 an international book so has events that most Scottish people would not celebrate such as Independence Day but readers can substitute this recipe for St Andrew's Day and decorate the icing in the colours of the Saltire. That's the joy of Special Cupcakes, the recipes are interchangeable and can lead to new creations. Other occasions include 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 Scottish Recipes were offered On a Stick! for our cookbook review page we expected simple recipes based on quick ingredients. However we are pleased to say that On a Stick is so much more than this. Food photographer Matt Armendariz has created over 80 delicious recipes which range from light snacks, main meals, sweets, puddings and alcohol teasers.
There are photos to accompany each recipe and these are easy to follow with preparation time, list of ingredients and step by step instructions.
Matt Armendariz has an apt slogan for his book: party on a stick. The recipes here 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 in On a Stick and this includes 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 recipe is based on quail eggs, breadcrumbs and parmesan.
What we love best about On a Stick, which sets it above other recipe books, is Matt Armendariz's enthusiasm for his cooking and photography. This really is a labour of love with evidence of romance between Matt, his recipes 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 recipes. 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 included with ingredients and recipes to create these from scratch. Examples include mango salsa and peanut dipping sauce.
Sweet foods on a stick include 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 recipe of peanut butter, bananas and crispy bacon on toasted grilled bread.
No party is complete without alcohol and Matt has included several alcoholic based stick treats which include margarita jelly shots, mojito melon fruit skewers and red and white sangria pops.
On a Stick was first published in 2011 by Quirk Books. 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 from recipe books. 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 the foods of Scotland recommends the Scotch beef and lamb and Arbroath smokies.
The Food-lover's Guide to Europe lists each Region's food dishes and specialities and local produce and talks about the local markets, farmers markets and food 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 food 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 include the Paris food 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 recipes from each country. For example the Scotland section has an Arbroath Smokie pate recipe. As we read this book we were delighted to read a potato pancake recipe from the Rhineland which is a variation on the Potato Scones with additional ingredients such as grated onion and spices such as nutmeg.
The Food-lover's Guide to Europe would make an interesting read for someone about to travel to Europe and for the home kitchen chef 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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