bowl food

Unknown.jpegI have had this book for one million years. I am a very big  fan of bowl food in general, so I remember that when I first saw it I was really quite excited. I haven’t cooked much from it more recently, because I got distracted by other shinies, but I would never give it up.

The book is divided into convenient categories: soups; salads; pasta; rice; wok; curries; one pots. Every recipe has a photo accompanying it; they’re not crazy-styled, just straightforward and attractive. The recipes themselves are also straightforward: easy to read, and easy to follow The recipes don’t have numbered instructions, but most of them aren’t especially convoluted so it’s not too tedious.

One of the aspects I really like about this book is how varied it is for me, as a white Australian. It’s got pea and rocket soup; fattoush; Thai beef salad; chicken and pork paella; and yellow curry with vegetables. Some of the recipes call for a rather long list of spices, but it has always been worth it… and reassure me of some love of authenticity, for whatever that means.

Some of the recipes I’ve tried:  Continue reading “bowl food”

Not-So-Humble Vegetables

Unknown.jpegI have had this book for a long time. I think it was my mother who gave it to me, within the first couple of years of my moving out of home. I haven’t cooked everything from it – nowhere near it. Everything I have cooked has been good, and – as is appropriate for a Women’s Weekly publication – is straightforward to create. It’s not a particularly adventurous book, but that’s ok – that’s not what it’s aiming to be

The book is arranged by key ingredient – asparagus, beans, lettuces, silverbeet – so pick what you’ve got in the house and go from there. Each section has information about how to boil, steam or microwave each vegetable. There’s only a few recipes for each vegetable, but it’s a good variety and means that it’s not overwhelming.

Some of the recipes I’ve tried:

Bean, hazelnut and roasted capsicum salad: I am a sucker for any salad that instructs you to put nuts in it.

“Roman style” green beans: means prosciutto and mushrooms and pine nuts.

Moroccan carrot salad: dates, almonds, coriander, cumin…

Malabar mushroom curry: ginger, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, coconut cream…

Bombay potato masala: onion, garam masala, tinned tomato, lots of other spices…

… I’m not very adventurous when it comes to choosing actual vegetables. So I have never used the recipes for jicama, or chokoes, or even witlof. But I like that they’re in here.

Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits

Unknown.jpegThis book has been a part of my life for my entire life. My mum had it, and sometimes baked from it. When I left home, my mum got me a copy… but it was the new version: Unknown-1.jpeg

And… I did cook from it, but it never felt like the proper book. Then when my Nana moved into a smaller place and wasn’t cooking any more, I was lucky enough to inherit her copy; I gave mine to someone else who didn’t mind the cover as much.

At one stage I thought I would try to cook my way through the whole thing, but that kinda petered out. Nonetheless, I have cooked a lot of the recipes. And they are fine. So very fine. The recipes are easy to follow, they use straightforward ingredients, and they are invariably delicious. The book is straightforward and – look, it’s a Women’s Weekly book. It’s trustworthy. It’s arranged by ingredient – almond, chocolate, peanut, walnut) – which is brilliant for this sort of book. Pick your star ingredient, then pick your recipe, and go. Also, calling this a biscuit book is selling it short. There’s lots of slices, there’s meringue, rum balls, chocolate crackle… look, if I was forced to have only one book for cooking sweet things, this would probably be it.

A sample of the recipes, alphabetically: Continue reading “Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits”

London: The Cookbook

Unknown.jpegThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost. It’s out now; RRP $39.99.

This is a book of two parts. Partly, it’s a celebration of food joints in London – the traditional, the fancy, the new, the hip, and so on. Secondly, and less substantially, this is a cookbook. For me, therefore, this isn’t quite the book I had hoped for.

So, the first bit. It’s split into six sections: London Classics (e.g. The Ritz), New Classics (e.g. Ottolenghi), The School of St John (those influenced by “maverick restaurateurs Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver), Down the Markets (like Borough, the oldest fruit and veg market in London), In the Neighbourhood (“exotic” ingredients) and Meet the Producers (like England Preserves). Each food place gets a few nice, artsy photos, and a write-up about the food, the influence of the restaurant itself or its chef, and some other relevant comments. If you’re a foodie in London, or visiting London frequently, or have a real thing about dreaming of where you’re going to ear when you visit a city, then this book will really work for you. It’s not really my thing, not least because me getting to London is an exceptionally rare experience.

The recipe side of the book comes from many of the restaurants featured offering up one of their classics. This means there’s not a whole lot of consistency across the recipes, which isn’t necessarily a problem but does mean the book feels a bit disjointed for someone like me who’s mainly there for the food. Interestingly, very few of the London Classics offer recipes. Anyway, I’ve tried a few of the recipes…

Paneer and potato curry (c/ Southall): tasty, but not exactly a remarkable or unusual recipe.

Mushroom fajitas (c/Brick Lane): also tasty, and also not a particularly unusual or remarkable recipe.

Braised shoulder of lamb, shallots and flageolet beans (c/ Rochelle Canteen): I like beans with my roast lamb; this is similar to a Jamie Oliver recipe. I liked the inclusion of fennel a lot. Sadly, I didn’t cook this for as long as necessary; I followed the recipe but it needed a lot longer. I had a lot of lamb and ‘stock’ left over (it includes quite a lot of stock and wine), which I later turned into a stew/soup sort of thing with added beans or lentils.

There’s only a few other recipes that vaguely grab my attention.

It’s a nicely presented book: I really like the cover, and the photos are lovely, and the recipes are easy to follow. If you’re super into London, or into the food culture of cities, this may well suit you better than it did me. It does deserve to be appreciated.