Cooking the Books

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Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty changed the way people cook and eat. Its focus on vegetable dishes, with the emphasis on flavour, original spicing and freshness of ingredients, caused a revolution not just in this country, but the world over. Plenty More picks up where Plenty left off, with 120 more dazzling vegetable-based dishes.

The New Easy by Donna Hay

Quick and easy tricks, tips and recipes for super easy, super delicious meals. Donna Hay is all about making life easier. With her new book, Donna is all about giving you simple, easy and no-fuss recipes, techniques, tips and tricks to make cooking meals super easy, super delicious and super quick. The New Easy makes cooking fast, fun, easy and enjoyable, and is the perfect companion for every busy cook.

Delicious Love To Eat by Valli Little

There’s no better way to bring fresh inspiration to your everyday cooking than looking beyond your own kitchen. In Love to Eat, you’ll find a feast of 120 new recipes with a global twist, all translated into simple, exceptionally delicious dishes to take you from weeknight dinners to stress-free entertaining.

Jamie’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver

Jamie’s new cookbook brings together 100 ultimate comfort food recipes from around the world. Inspired by everything from childhood memories to the changing of the seasons, and taking into account the guilty pleasures and sweet indulgences that everyone enjoys, it’s brimming with exciting recipes you’ll fall in love with.

 

Adam’s Big Pot by Adam Liaw

This is a cookbook for modern families. Adam Liaw takes a practical and creative approach to family cooking, creating new flavours from ingredients you already know, all in just one big wok, pan, dish or pot.

 

The Spice & Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill

 This expanded and completely revised new edition is the culmination of Ian Hemphill’s lifelong experience in the spice industry. It is a fascinating and authoritative guide. Hemphill describes a wide range of global herbs and spices used in modern kitchens either alone or in wonderful blends. He completely demystifies the art of combining herbs and spices and home cooks can meet and enjoy a world of flavours previously found only at internationally inspired restaurants.

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Return of the Slow Cooker

Winter is almost upon us, and as the days grow darker and the nights become cooler, my mind turns to comfort food from my slow cooker.  Anyone with me? It’s time to pull out your slow cooker from the back of the cupboard, box or garage and begin to look forward to some delicious meals.  Slow cookers are a fabulous time-saving appliance, and there’s nothing better than coming home from a busy day out to a delicious concoction cooking away on your bench top.

Now, if you’re anything like me you’ll have your tried and true favourites (lamb shanks, beef hot pot) but I’ve pulled together a collection of Australian books for you to spice up your repertoire.  The best thing about this collection is that each of these books have been selected from the Boomerang Books list of Australia’s Top 1000 Bestselling Books, which means you can enjoy an additional 20% off the RRP.

250 Must Have Slow Cooked RecipesFirst, I bring you the 250 Must-Have Slow Cooker Recipes (pictured left), which contains recipes for time-strapped cooks and busy households, including breakfasts and desserts.  Recipes include cooking with meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, pulses, rice or pasta to create soul-warming dishes.  Yum!

If 250 recipes isn’t enough, try the The 1000 Recipe Collection – Slow Cooking, which has (as the title suggests) an astonishing 1000 recipes to choose from.  Getting hungry?

The Complete Slow Cooker By Sally Wise is a combination of two of her previous slow cooker books and is appropriately jam packed full of great recipes.  If you’re looking for ideas for delicious and nutritious meals from an experienced cook, you can’t go past The Complete Slow Cooker by Sally Wise.  According to the publisher, Sally Wise is the: “best known, best loved and the biggest selling author of books on slow cooking,” so you really can’t go wrong with this one.Women's Weekly Cook It Slow

Finally, a collection of Australian cook books wouldn’t be complete without including an Australian Women’s Weekly edition, and so I give you Cook it Slow by Australian Women’s Weekly.  Cook it Slow contains almost 500 pages of recipes and also includes other methods of cooking slow including oven and stove top recipes; making this book perfect for those without a slow cooker at home.

Let me know if you’re a slow cooker devotee, and if you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share with us.

If you’re still hungry for more, check out Slow Cooking By Hinkler Books.

Delicious Home Cooking by Valli Little

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ABC delicious. magazine has been a part of my life since it first came out in 2001.  It seemed to herald a new era in Australian food publications with it’s fresh photography and modern, exciting, but accessible recipes that didn’t require a trip to the gourmet store for every dish.  Each new month I was thrilled to find at least several dishes that I couldn’t wait to make and many of my back issues are still littered with bookmarks for dishes that I particularly enjoyed or never quite got around to before the next issue was released.

Highly esteemed home economist, food writer and chef, Valli Little, has been there every step of the way too.  English-born Valli came to Australia on a working holiday after studying at London’s Le Cordon Bleu and, like many English roses before her, fell in love with the sun, the lifestyle and a bloke. Her experiences as a food consultant, banqueting manager, gourmet store owner and private chef for the great and glorious back in England give her an enviable depth and breadth of insight into all aspects of food – as her name on the covers of all seven of ABC delicious. magazine bestselling cookbooks will attest.

“Home Cooking” is the most recent of these and continues the tradition of fresh, flavoursome, but not too fiddly recipes for the home cook.  In this edition, Valli gives us a hint of what goes on in her own kitchen as she shares her favourite recipes to cook at home along with her tips to turn a family classic into a cover-worthy meal without too much fuss.  Usefully, the content is divided into seasons as well as the different courses within each season and each recipe is as reliable, approachable and achievable as we’ve come to expect from this passionate and much-loved adoptee.   The book contains everything from tropical treats with a twist like the Coconut & Mango Tarts with Chilli Syrup,  to inspired, but simple tweaks like the Wasabi Pancakes with Smoked Trout or the velvety and indulgent Honey Pots de Creme – and, of  course, each dish is accompanied by lavish, full-colour photgraphy.

Chocolate Cheesecake with Cocoa Nib Cream

When casting my (often vacant) mind around for an acceptable dessert to serve to a visiting friend who is renowned for her stunning, sweet cookery  I recalled earmarking something in “Home Cooking” for a special occasion.  I don’t suppose you’ll be at all surprised to know that it was a Chocolate Cheesecake with Cocoa Nib Cream.  This seriously indulgent treat is an excellent example of the recipes offered in the book –  dependable, simple, but a bit special, too.  It really ticked all the boxes for everyone and was so simple to make – another winner in a long line of them for Valli Little and ABC delicious. magazine.

A wickedly rich chocolate cheesecake that is bound to impress anyone who is lucky to get some. Don’t forget the cocoa nibs – they give an added dimension with their crunch.

Chocolate Cheesecake with Cocoa Nib Cream

2 x 150 gm pkts Oreo biscuits (or similar)
125 gm unsalted butter, melted then cooled
250 gm cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups (500 gm) mascarpone
1/3 cup (75 gm) caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup (50 gm) cocoa
100 gm dark chocolate, melted then cooled
1 Tbs chocolate liqueur (optional)
1 cup (120 gm) cocoa nibs, plus extra to serve
300 ml thickened cream, lightly whipped

Grease and line 24cm springform cake pan.
Whizz biscuits in processor to fine crumbs. Add butter, pulse to combine, then press into the base of the cake pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 170C.
Wipe out processor (no need to wash). Place cream cheese, mascarpone and caster sugar in machine, whizz to combine. Add eggs, combine, then add cocoa, chocolate and liqueur. Process until smooth. Add half the cocoa nibs, pulse to combine, then spread filling over chilled biscuit base.
Bake 45-50 minutes until cake is firm to the touch, but slightly wobbly. Turn off oven and cool cheesecake in oven with door ajar. Chill for 2-3 hours or overnight before serving.
Fold remaining cocoa nibs into whipped cream. Pile on top of cheesecake and serve sprinkled with extra nibs.

Wookiee Cookies

Wookiee CookiesFinding the perfect present can be an arduous and pot-luck task, but the thrill when you do stumble upon the thing that’s just right is unrivalled.

I did an H&R Block-like fist pump when I found a present that was perfect not just for my Secret Santa, but a whole raft of current and future recipients. Including me. Because any gift this good warrants me buying one for myself.

The veritable gift gold? A brilliantly conceived, brilliantly executed Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes. Featuring such recipes as Wookiee Cookies, Yoda Soda, Hoth Chocolate, Princess Leia Danish Dos, and (my favourite) Boba Fett-ucine, it’s simultaneously both incredibly practical and useful, and outrageously entertaining.

The recipes are incisively, tongue-in-cheek clever, but they’re also recipes that would see the light of day. That is, ones you’d actually cook, instead of admire and dismiss as too hard, too time consuming, or filled with ingredients too exotic and too tricky to source.

The book is a hardy hardcover, but is spiral bound so it can be laid flat for easy reference while cooking. Better yet, the pages are made of a special glossy, wipe-clean material for those of us (kids and adults alike) who tend to spread our ingredients beyond the bowl.

There are also stickers at the back that contain such gems as Yoda saying [and I’m paraphrasing here, because I gave the book away and have yet to purchase my own copy] ‘Eat it you will. Good for you it is.’ It’s referring to spinach, with a clever little accompanying image.

I first bought this cookbook for my brother, massive Star Wars fan that he is, but it’s clear that this book has broad, age- and gender-transcending appeal. It was a hit with my Secret Santa recipient, and the people who witnessed its unwrapping. My best friend’s eyes lit up when I described it to her, and she’s ordered a copy for her boyfriend. My work colleague has ordered one for her three, school-aged boys. I’ve ordered one for me. And at least three of my (girl) friends have earmarked it for themselves.

What I’ve realised, coincidentally, is that this cookbook is almost a solution for my cooking issues, about which I moaned in a previous blog. (For those of you who didn’t suffer through it with me, the summary is that I can’t cook and I struggle to find cookbooks that cater to my quirky, no herbs-or-spices, vegetarian needs.)

Part of the reason it’s perfect is that the recipes are straightforward and engaging. My guess is that they’re designed so kids (to whose cooking abilities I’m about equal) can master them easily. And, although it does contain some recipes with meat, I can forgive it that, because this cookbook takes the pressure off cooking with a capital ‘c’ and injects the fun I’ve been missing.

I figure that between this cookbook, and the volume two that’s available and that I’m placing an order for now, I should find some recipes that suit my eating tastes and cooking proficiency. That and a handy gift that I can give to people of varying ages, genders, and cooking abilities.

Chocolate cookbooks

CHOCOLATE! Is there anything in this world that can possibly compare? Well… okay… there is red wine and cheese, of course… and I’m sure that I’ll blog about them in the future, but for now — it’s chocolate! My last two posts have been about cookbooks and recipes, so it seems logical to conclude with the greatest of all dessert ingredients. It can be combined with so many different things — from fruit to cheese, from cake to cream — and, of course, it’s brilliant on its own.

In Australia, I guess, when you say chocolate many people immediately think Cadbury (even though the company originated in the UK). It’s not the greatest chocolate in the world, but I do rather like Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. It has quite a unique taste (maybe it’s that glass and a half of full cream milk the advertisements keep telling us about), and it can be quite good to cook with. Which brings me to Joanna Farrow’s book, Simply Cadbury’s Chocolate — one hundred dessert recipes, each and every one containing some type of Cadbury chocolate. This book also includes an introduction, with a very brief history of chocolate (less than one page, so it leaves out a hell of a lot), a history of Cadbury chocolate and some general instructions on how to cook with chocolate. It’s a pretty good basic chocolate cookbook. It’s been a while since I’ve used it, but looking through it now, I’ve found a recipe that I haven’t tried but would like to. “Millionaire’s Shortbread” is a biscuit topped with rich caramel and two different types of chocolate. I think I’ll try it this weekend.

Much as I like Cadbury, there is better chocolate out there. I’m thinking Lindt, Haigh’s and Koko Black, amongst others —or one of my favourites, Michel Cluizel. The darker the chocolate, the more pure the experience, in my humble opinion. While I enjoy most levels of chocolate from milk to 99% dark (white chocolate is an aberration, which can have a small place in cooking but should never be eaten on its own), my ideal approach is as follows: 70% dark chocolate when consumed with the accompaniment of milk; 85% with coffee; and 99% with single malt scotch whisky.

Just as there is more to chocolate than Cadbury’s, there is more to cooking with chocolate than Farrow’s book. And so we come to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Chocolate by Christine McFadden and Christine France. While this book doesn’t really fulfil its title’s claim, it is a damn fine dessert cookbook… my favourite, in fact. It has over 200 recipes, including one of the best chocolate fudge recipes I’ve ever come across, and the rather brilliant “Malt Whisky Truffles”. It also devotes 23 pages to the history of chocolate, 6 pages to “Cultivation and Processing”, 6 to “Taste, Quality and Presentation”, 12 to a section on different chocolate from around the world, and a final 8 pages on “Physiology and Psychology”. Great reading!

Let me finish up with my thoughts on hot chocolate. I find most hot chocolate mixes a little too sweet. I prefer to make mine with plain cocoa, to which I add a little sugar, thus making a hot drink with a touch of bitterness. Of course, once upon a time, the ancient civilizations of Central America drank an unsweetened drink made from cacao beans called chocolatl. Where am I going with this? Well, I felt that I should link this whole self-indulgeant chocolate post to some good quality literature — in this case, Sand Fussell’s novel, Jaguar Warrior, which is set in Aztec times and in which the main characters make the aforementioned chocolatl. [Sandy Fussell has previously visited Literary Clutter to talk about Jaguar Warrior.]

Anyone out there have a favourite chocolate related book? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

And tune in next time for some random stuff.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Send me chocolate… if you can’t send me chocolate, the least you can do is follow me on Twitter. 🙂

Cooking with books: the old and the odd

More cookbooks today! I’m going to start off with some old ones, because over the years cooking has changed… and sometimes it’s nice to go back in time.

Let’s start by going back to the 1970s with the Australian Women’s Weekly’s Cooking Class Cookbook. Although my copy is the 1992 reprint, it certainly looks like they didn’t bother updating anything. The photos have that 70s feel, as do the recipes — lots of rich food cooked with lashings of butter and oil. I’m sure that the Two Fat Ladies would have approved. If you happen to ever come across this book in an op shop, buy it… it’s great. I can highly recommend the “Baked rice custard”, the “Greek Baklava” (is there any other sort?), the “Lasagne” (when you finish eating your serve, your plate is coated in a buttery oil slick), the “Boeuf Bourguignonne” and the “Moussaka” (although I skip the step where you deep fry the egg plant). And this book even has instructions on how to flambé your fruit. What more could you possibly want? Well… what about Alison Burt’s gloriously 70s extravaganza, Fondue Cookery. This was a gift from a friend, and I have to admit that I’ve not tried any of these recipes yet. But my wife and I are planning to one day get our retro on and host a fondue party — so with this book on our shelves we will be up for the challenge.

Now let’s go back a little further, to the 1940s, in country Victoria, for Mrs Lottie Jackson’s Cookery Book. Published in Maffra to raise money for various charities, it was a collection of recipes submitted by local women. It was so successful that it has been reprinted twice, most recently in 2005. There are a number of really interesting things about this book. Firstly, being a wartime publication, many of the entries are cut-back versions of standard recipes, obviously assuming that people had less resources at their disposal. The Christmas Pudding, for instance, has a lot less fruit than any other pudding recipe I’ve seen, and is flavoured with a cup of cold tea rather than any sort of alcohol. There are also a lot of recipes calling for the use of dripping. The other really interesting thing about the recipes in this book, is the assumed knowledge of the reader. I had to look up a more recent pudding recipe to discover that “floured pudding cloth” is cloth that has been scalded in boiling water and then dusted on both sides with flour. And I still have no idea what it means to “put in slide” — which is what you’re supposed to do to the malt biscuit batter once you have rolled it into balls. (Hmmm… it could be a typo for all I know.) Some of the recipes don’t even tell you what temperature to set your oven to.

But I love this book nonetheless. For all its frugalness, the Christmas Pudding recipe is very tasty and has been a staple at my wife’s family Christmas get-togethers for generations; and the shortbread biscuits are brilliant. It also holds a special place in my heart as my grandmother-in-law (who turned 90 this year, btw) gave me her original, well-used, 1940s copy.

Now, from the old let’s go to the odd. Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola®. Published by HarperCollins in 1994, it is written by Ralph Roberts and Elizabeth Candler Graham, who, according to the book’s cover, is the great-great-granddaughter of Asa Griggs Candler, founder of Coca-Cola®. Every recipe in this book, from “Chicken in Coca-Cola® Sauce” to “Jell-O-Delite Salad”, contains either Coca-Cola® or a Coca-Cola Company product, such as Sprite® or Minute Maide®. I found this book in a discount bookshop many years ago and bought it simply for its weirdness. To be perfectly honest, I’ve only ever made one recipe from it — “Coca-Cola® Cake”. It was nice but unremarkable, and I couldn’t taste the Coca-Cola®. Here are some words of wisdom from the introduction:

“The idea of enhancing the flavour of food with Coca-Cola is by no means a new one, thus the very appropriate use of the word classic in the title. From its introduction in the 1880s, there is no doubt that someone has been using Coca-Cola for cooking.”

Do you have any odd or old cookbooks you’d like to tell us about? Leave a comment below.

That’s it for this post… but I’m not finished with food just yet. Tune in next time for some chocolate!

Catch ya later,  George

PS Follow me on Twitter… or I may be forced to blog the entire “Jell-O-Delite Salad” recipe.

Cooking with books

I like to cook. Mostly it’s because I like to eat. But there’s also a level of creativity involved — modifying existing recipes and sometimes just making something up from the ingredients you have on hand. Of course, a good cookbook is an indispensible tool. So today I present for your edification, the first in a series of posts about my favourite cookbooks.

As a stay-at-home dad, with a wife who works full-time, I tend to do most of the weekday cooking. I’m also endeavouring to maintain a writing career at the same time, so meal preparations are often rather rushed. Meals that are relatively easy to prepare, but are also tasty and interesting, are a must. For this reason, my most used cookbook is Meals in Minutes, which is from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks range. Although I have adapted each of these in some way, my most often used recipes from this book include “Warm chicken and potato salad”, “Spaghetti with prawns, coriander and peanuts”, “Asparagus and chicken Risotto”, “Risotto Marinara” and “Risotto Napolentana”.

Next in line are two books for the Murdock Books range of cookbooks — Fast Food: quick and easy everyday ideas for cooks in a hurry and Bowl Food: the new comfort food for people on the move. Lots of great recipes in these, including “Roast pumpkin, feta and rocket penne” (which also works really well with baby spinach substituted for the rocket), “Chicken and cider stew with apple and potato mash” and “Pumpkin Risotto” (this recipe uses roast pumpkin — it is my favourite risotto recipe).

Now, of course, not all my cooking has to be quick and easy. On the weekends and holidays, I don’t mind spending a little extra time to make something special. This leads me to four cookbooks…

The first is Gabriel Gaté’s Weekend on a Plate. I have a soft spot of Gaté and his cooking. He is the first celebrity chef I ever watched on television (a show called What’s Cooking), and a number of years ago I was able to attend an event for which he cooked some sample meals. I got to meet him at this event and have a short chat about cooking, as well as getting his autograph in my copy of his book. You can check out Gaté’s website here —

Next, we have Terry Durack’s Yum. Part memoir, part recipe book, it is mostly text, designed with minimal artsy black and white photos instead of the standard food-on-plate shots that accompany recipes in most cookbooks. Even if you never cook one of it’s recipes, it would make an interesting coffee table book.

“It was the slipper, silky, mother’s nightie feel of it that got me at first; a reassuring and arousing smoothness of impossibly luxurious proportions.”

In this opening sentence, Durack is describing his first encounter with a smoked oyster at age six. His experiences then lead into the recipes.

Now we come to Tuscan Cookbook by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer. Another recipe book that could double as a coffee table book, with its beautiful photography and memoirs of a journey to Tuscany by these two foodie ladies. I’m rather partial to a good bread and butter pudding… and there’s a real stunner in this book.

Finally, we have Recipes of Japanese Cooking, which, according to the cover, was “Supervised by Yuko Fujita and Navi International”. This book was a gift from a friend living in Japan, and each recipe is written in both Japanese and English. It also includes information on the culture, traditions and etiquette of food in Japan. I can highly recommend the “Sukiyaki”.

As I said at the start, I like cooking. And these few books barely scratch the surface of my cookbook collection. So tune in next time as I delve into some of my more unusual ones.

And if you have a favourite cookbook, or foodie book, leave a comment and tell us about it.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

Three Wakefield Press books nominated for Le Cordon Bleu World Food media Awards

The biennial, international food and wine festival “Tasting Australia”, is coming up here in Adelaide in a few weeks time. It is a week long “foodie-fest” which also involves some industry events, including the awarding of the Le Cordon Bleu World Food media Awards. This year South Australia’s own Wakefield Press has had three of their publications nominated for the prestigious awards – “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook“, by Liz Harfull has been nominated for Best Hard Cover Recipe Book (under 35 Euro) and Lolo Hobein’s “One Magic Square” and John Barlow’s “Everything But the Squeal” have both been nominated for Best Food Book.  The nominations come from a jury of over 50 international food industry professionals looking at the best the world has to offer in the field of food media and Wakefield Press have every reason to be deeply chuffed for scooping three nominations in such a competitive arena!

Liz Harfull’s “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook” is a joy to look at and thumb through with the format a credit to the book designer.  It is the first book to pay tribute to the – mostly country – cooks who enter the agricultural and horticultural shows of South Australia.  Inspired by a book of artwork from US State Fair posters and recipes,  Harfull, who is originally from the South East but now lives in the Adelaide hills, spent over  seven months researching and writing, attending the country shows and visiting the prize-winning cooks out of show time.  The book features a story on a prizewinning cook from each of the area shows, with one of their winning recipes.  This isn’t haute cuisine, but the kind of food a lot of us were brought up on – or wish we were – so if you are looking for a completely reliable recipe for lemon slice or homemade pasties, I’d suggest that you start here!  Each entry is accompanied by plenty of full colour photo’s of the cooks and their food, the shows and a wealth of archival photo’s, some dating back to the beginning of the last century.

Lolo Hobien is another denizen of the Adelaide hills, having emigrated with her husband and children to Australia from  Holland in 1958.  She is no stranger to nominations, with “One Magic Square” winning a Gourmand World Cookbook award for Best Innovative Cookbook in 2008 and the Bicentennial/ABC Fiction Award for her earlier novel, “Walk a Barefoot Road”.  In “One Magic Square” she shows how it is possible to have a productive food garden in as little as a single square metre.  With many well-intentioned veggie patches failing because of ambitious beginnings, she suggests designs, planting tips and pointers on soil maintenance which should put home grown produce within the reach of all of us.  Easily accessible for the novice gardener, this book also offers  suggestions for the more experienced gardeners – and I know some – who enjoy dipping in and out at random.

Everything But the Squeal” is written by Englishman John Barlow, who now lives in Spain with his wife and son.  In it, he documents his year of traveling around Galicia to fulfill his goal of eating every bit of the pig which is the dominant meat in that damp, green north-western corner of Spain.  To achieve this he determinedly makes his way through astonishing amounts of rich, fatty, but frequently very tasty piles of pork in every possible incarnation.  In the process he both observes and takes part in many of the cultural celebrations of Galicia, some of them dating back to pagan times, including one called “Dirty Day” which I cannot even begin to describe!   He meets up with some surprising locals and becomes familiar with a breed of pig that was considered extinct up until less than 20 years ago, but is now making it’s way onto the plates of gourmets around the world.  This is really a very affectionate homage to both pork and the people of Galicia and a very amusing read.  Having said that, I did read most of it in one sitting, subsequently dreaming of pork all night and, on waking, felt ever so slightly queasy.

Amanda McInerney is a book and food lover from the Adelaide Hills.  She writes her own foodie blog at: http://lambsearsandhoney.com/