Simple: the food

UnknownYesterday I talked about the book itself; today, the food. This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

I’ve tried a good enough variety from the book now to say that they are mostly simple recipes, in the sense of being straightforward. They’re not all fast (which isn’t something she claims for them, either, but what some might assume), but there are few complicated steps. I like variety that Henry is including in the recipes – taking advantage, as she says in the intro, of the new ingredients available relatively easily in Western shops or online.

Some of the things I’ve tried:

Huevos rotos: basically braised eggs with fried potato and seasoning. I am so in love with this idea.

Cumin-coriander roast carrots with pomegranates and avocado: like it says on the tin, also walnuts. Very very good.

Cool greens with hot Asian dressing: the Asian there should be “Asian” (lime, fish sauce, ginger, chilli, garlic – generic Asian), but this was very tasty: any green veg you like (avo, peas of various description, cucumber, leaves…) with the dressing. Very good with the roast lamb (see below).

Salad of chorizo, avocado, and peppers with sherry dressing: turns out I had no sherry but red wine vinegar was ok. Also, fried bread (basically croutons)! Excellent in a salad!

Lamb and bulgur pilaf with figs and preserved lemon: leftover roast lamb has rarely been this good. Chickpeas, walnuts, spice… also bulgur makes a great pilaf, will make again.

Orzo with lemon and parsley: I couldn’t find orzo but it was still fine. Very, very simple.

Turkish pasta with feta, yoghurt and dill: the only dish I haven’t loved. Caramelised onion, buttermilk and Greek yoghurt, topped with dill and feta. I think I just didn’t love the yoghurt with the onion. It was very easy though.

Bacon and egg risotto: yes, that’s right. So good.

Slow-cooked lamb with pomegranates and honey: this is the lamb I paired with the Asian salad. It was very tasty and, of course, easy, since you just whack it in the oven when it’s marinated a bit. I like the pomegranate molasses with the garlic. Served with Greek yoghurt it’s superb.

IMG_1851St Clements and rosemary posset with blackberries: yes, apparently posset is what you call it when babies return some milk. Pretty sure this came first though. It’s boiled and then steeped cream (with peel and rosemary) and then mixed with citrus juice and left to set. I served it with blueberries. It was very nice and straightforward, although I do wonder if there are more interesting things to do with cream.

There are still a LOT of recipes I want to make and haven’t had a chance to. I’m very much looking forward to using this book to death.

Simple

UnknownI received this book from the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. It’s available now; RRP $39.99.

This book is a delight. It’s a bit like Julie Goodwin’s book in that it’s intended as a generalist cookbook… although I have to say I prefer Diana Henry’s cover. As well, there’s not a whole lot of cross over between the two books, which is great; this has some different chapters. I don’t know whether that’s Australia vs Britain, or just a difference in their styles, or what the publisher wanted.

Anyway. This post is about the book itself, while tomorrow’s post is about the food (spoiler: it’s been good).

So firstly: I LOVE a cookbook with a ribbon! It’s enough to make me want to retro-fit ribbons into aaaallll of my ribbonless cookbooks. Which means yes, I got a hardcover, and it’s just such a lovely object. It has wonderful heft.

Henry writes an introduction that covers an interesting array of topics. She gives the context for the book (12 years after Cook Simple); unusual ingredients becoming more available and making life more interesting; and some suggestions about how to think about cooking equipment. And, most intriguingly, a short section addressing the question of how many people each recipe serves. Finally someone confronts this issue! I like her rationale – especially the suggestion to just think about the people you’re serving and act accordingly.

The book is divided into chapters that are largely traditional – pulses, salads, chicken, vegetables and so on – with a couple of exceptions. You don’t always get a whole section on eggs; I like it. You also don’t usually get a section on chops&sausages, which… is not especially to my taste (I find chops an enormous waste of time, in terms of effort:outcome) but I can appreciate their ease, and they fit in the theme of the book. The very British aspect comes through in the fruit puddings chapter, followed by the ‘other sweet things’ chapter (cakes). And then there’s the chapter on TOAST. Yes, toast. Variations on eggs on, and smashed avo, in large part. Her reasoning is how happy toast can make you feel, and that with increasing interest in bread, that means we can make toast more interesting too. I love it.

In terms of layout, there’s a recipe per page. More than half of the recipes have pictures, most of which are pretty minimalist – ie it’s the food in a nice bowl shot in an arty way, rather than an impossible-to-replicate table setting. The recipes are easy to follow, and have that now-standard intro where it tells you maybe how to jazz it up, or exchange ingredients, or when to eat it.

Overall, this is a really nice book, and again a good one to give someone who’s just getting into cooking.

Acts of Kitchen: Renate and German food

AoK_logo_v2In which I reminisce about food I had in Germany and Austria, and Renate talks about the food she makes in her German home.

I think this is the soup that Renate mentions: Griessnockerl (Austrian recipe, but hopefully similar to the German version)

Frikadellen (German meat patties)

Kaiserschmarrn (torn pancakes)

Germknodel (steamed dumplings)

Chocolate

IMG_1839I like chocolate. I also like receiving parcels, and I like trying new things. Therefore, a chocolate subscription box seems like an excellent idea, and there’s an Australian one I have just signed up for: Bean Bar You. Each month it’s four bars from different manufacturers around the world – with one from Australia each time. Since I didn’t know there were that many Australian chocolate makers, I am intrigued! It is on the slightly pricey side, thanks to postage and all, but these are chocolates made usually by small businesses, using (so far; I’ve only had one box) less than industrial processes – so it’s artisanal, right, and you pay for that. And for the moment I’m really enjoying it.

For each of the chocolates, you get one of these: img_1836.jpg

… which is intriguing and almost confronting for me, because I’m not very good at IMG_1835thinking about smell (“it smells like dark chocolate”) and the difference between texture and creaminess isn’t always easy for me to enunciate, or even notice. But I really enjoyed thinking about those different aspects, actually, and it certainly forced me to stop and think about what I was eating. The first time I had some of each, anyway. I wasn’t always concentrating that hard, don’t worry.

img_1838.jpgAnd it has been worth it, even for just one box. I didn’t love every single one, although there were certainly none that I rejected! I opted for dark chocolate only and it was intriguing to see how different even dark chocolate can be. Of course there were differences in just how dark each was, which contributed, as well as the source of the beans etc. My favourite was the Origin, which is convenient because they’re the Australian brand. I can see myself buying some of their chocolate in future, given the range of dark chocolate they appear to have.

img_1837.jpgBean Bar You asks you to rate and review the chocolate you receive in order to keep refining what they send you, and I’m interested to see how this ends up working. I also got to opt out of chocolate with coffee in it, which made me happy.

 

Acts of Kitchen: Mt Zero Olives

AoK_logo_v2 In which I discuss exciting new things in my breakfast world (weird, right?) and two new cookbooks I’ve received to review, and Richard talks about Mount Zero Olives.

Thai Food Made Easy (with a link to Indian Made 51zOv8lLFgLEasy too)

Apple fridge oats (not the exact recipe I used but I can’t find that…)

Mount Zero Olives! 

Thai Food Made Easy: the food

51zOv8lLFgL

This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

In the last post I discussed the appearance of the book (overall, very easy to use). This post is about the food. I’ve only cooked a few dishes so far, but each one has worked as advertised. The short version is that everything has had an interesting balance of flavours, and most of them I would happily cook again.

Sesame chicken salad: blanched celery, poached chicken, a dressing of chilli and garlic and ginger and spring onion and fish sauce and vinegar. So easy, so fresh, so lovely.

Pork and pickled cucumber salad: well, the cucumber doesn’t pickle that much, but look: I’m trying pork! This was delicious, with peanuts and coriander and mint and chilli and lime.

Prawn noodle salad (it hasn’t even been that warm here but I’m on salads anyway): more ginger! and coriander and peanuts. Again, so tasty. Would make a good starter at a fancy-pants dinner party.

Barbecued pork and herb salad: more pork! This marinade was ace: coriander seed, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, turmeric, five-spice, chilli, pepper… nom.

Massaman curry: look, I cheated and bought massaman paste. Whatever. This was fantastic. Slow cook the beef and THEN turn it into a curry with coconut cream and potato… definitely making this again.

Braised chicken with rice, turmeric and spices: like the label says. Easy and tasty.

… these are just a small example of what the book has to offer. I am dead keen to try the variation of chicken satay with lemongrass, turmeric and ginger, and the Thai fish cakes; pork belly may be in my future, and I may yet make a curry paste from scratch (again, I did do it a million years ago).

The one sad thing is that, as with Indian Made Easy, there have been a couple of instances where instructions did not entirely make sense: not making it clear how long to cook something (fortunately, that was common sense) or instructions to add a dressing at step 3… and then again at step 6. None of these are make or break, but they do surprise me in a book that should be more closely edited.

Thai Food Made Easy

51zOv8lLFgLThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost. It’s available now: RRP $39.99.

As with my other book reviews, this will be in two parts. This post is about the book itself; the other will be about the cooking.

This book is in the same series as Indian Made Easy. The cover isn’t quite as pretty but as you can see it’s still very attractive. This is a fairly hefty book, at roughly A4 and about 250 pages. It’s presented with a recipe per page spread, with a colourful picture opposite. Most of these pictures aren’t too intimidating. Sometimes they are suggestions for how to present the food; other times they’re just of ingredients, or steps along the way of preparation. The recipes themselves are easy to follow, although as with Indian it still throws me to have the ingredients put into fresh/pantry/spices categories. It makes it easier when planning a shopping list, but not when I’m trying to find the quantity of something while cooking.

The book opens with an introduction claiming Thai food is “electrifying and invigorating” which can be true of course but I get eye-roll-y when these sorts of claims are made for a cuisine, as if to the exclusion of others. What I do like is the emphasis on the “rot chart” – proper/unified/balanced taste: hot and sweet, sour and salt. Thinking back on the recipes I’ve cooked from the book so far, that sounds right.

Next up is a “Top 12 star Experiences in Thailand”. I am not a huge fan, to be honest; it’s all a bit too tourist-y squirmy. No, I don’t know what the alternatives are for UK and Australian readers either.

What I do like is the section outlining what the different ingredients are that are essential to Thai cuisine, from lemongrass to tamarind pulp. This is a very useful little section to get your head around the different flavours. I also like the “15 must-have herbs and spices”, mostly because it lists some of the prime recipes that use each one, so if you buy a good knob of ginger you know there’s at least five recipes you could use it in (there’s way more).

The recipe sections themselves are divided into snacks and finger food (several spring rolls); salads; slow roast, smoking grill and hot wok; fish and seafood; curries and soups; rice, noodles and sides; desserts and drinks. I like the way that this suggests the range of recipes and types of food that Thai offers, and makes it easier to pick what sort of food you’re wanting to make. And then I really, really like the ‘menu planner’ section at the end. It has seven suggestions for what sort of meal components to put together, and although I m dubious of their ‘midweek dinners’ with five courses (some courses not a lot of effort, but still!) I deeply appreciate examples of how to balance different flavours and components across a whole meal and will probably get terribly ambitious some time and actually follow one of the suggestions.

Overall this book is pleasant to look at and easy to use. I anticipate using it a lot in the future.