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”

Cook as I say, Not as I do

UnknownMany, many years ago a dear friend gave me Cook as I say, Not as I do.

I have never cooked anything from this (well, not yet) but I will never get rid of it. Partly because of its provenance and partly because it is just so funny; I really want to be able to share it with the young people in my life (ok, mostly girls, because the characters are mostly girls and it deals with girl issues).

There are eight separate chapters. Each chapter is a vignette of a daughter’s life, in correspondence with a maternal figure in her life. Sometimes the relationship is good, sometimes a bit wonky, sometimes non-existent. Sometimes the relationship is like Saffron and Edina in Absolutely Fabulous. Sullivan introduces the collection as being a set of found documents, “apparently abandoned by their original collector” – and while the found footage idea can sometime be a bit dubious, in this case of such domesticity I think it works.
Every double page has a letter from the mother-type on the left (very occasionally the daughter speaks back) – they’re in a wild variety of handwriting, and many of them go in for a species of guilting. The righthand side has a recipe of some sort, and these too reflect the mother’s personality: to whit:

Divide the raisin bran in half. If you had to share everything the way I did when I was young, this part will be easy.

I love it.