Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Gizzi's Kitchen Magic Cookbook Review

This week I thought I'd try my new Gizzi Erskine cookbook, Gizzi's Kitchen Magic. I borrowed it from the library but I knew it had to be mine immediately. I love the design of the book - never judge a book by its cover? Pah! This one has Gizzi sprinkling glitter onto a cake - it must be brilliant!

There are 13 sections in the book, including soups and salads, curry, spice and all things nice and bread and pastry. Each sections starts with hints and tips and some accompaniment ideas, for example there are explanations of different cuts of beef and what they can be used for; then a few recipes for butters to accompany steak. These additions as well as the 'proper' recipes are really interesting and will prove very useful when I continue to make things from the book.

My favourite aspect of the book is the tattoo-esque pictures that appear on most pages, maybe I'm being shallow but a cooking pot with wings makes me very happy! Gives me ideas for more tattoos of my own, and I know that Gizzi herself has a gorgeous whopper of a tattoo on her back. Lovely!As for the vital recipe tests I made the self-saucing lemon pudding and chicken katsu curry. First the lemon pudding. This recipe really stood out as it looked quite simple to make and the ingredients were quite cheap and easy to find. I loved the idea of a self-saucing dessert, I'd seen a similar recipe somewhere else but never got round to making it. Unfortunately it wasn't a great success. The pudding was supposed to contain passion fruit too but I just wanted to make it with lemon. I followed the recipe exactly but after the cooking time elapsed there was no apparent sauce, just a raw looking mixture with a browned top. Very disappointed and thought it would go to waste.

Yet it was saved - hurrah! After hiding the dessert in the fridge overnight I decided to stick it in the microwave to warm it up and try a little. This cooked the bottom and it was no longer a milky mess. There was no longer any chance of it being self-saucing but at least it was cooked and it tasted lovely and fresh. I've even been asked to make it again! If I do make it again I might try reducing the milk to see if it makes a difference, or perhaps like the brownies last week I shouldn't make it in a glass dish. Still, not the best start for such a good looking book.

Here is what it should have looked like:

I wasn't sure how my second dish of Chicken Katsu Curry would turn out after my disappointing dessert. I'm not keen on Indian curries but love the fresher tastes of Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese food. I absolutely adore sushi and miso soup and would happily scoff ramen noodles all day long. I have however only tried katsu curry once in a London branch of Wagamamas after a great Avenue Q show (mmmm, Daniel Boys!). I really enjoyed the sweet curry sauce and the crunchy chicken and wanted a recipe when I came home. I was thoroughly upset that there was no katsu recipe in the Wagamamas cookbook I promptly bought - surely it's their most famous dish? So imagine my delight at finding a recipe in Gizzi's book.

It was throughly delicious. It was worth finding panko breadcrumbs, surprisingly only 2 minutes away from my work! I was suspicious about the sauce while I was making it but once it all cooked down it tasted just like the infamous Wagamamas dish and a great contrast to the crunchy chicken. The only thing I changed was that I used chicken strips instead of full chicken breasts but it meant more crunchy breadcrumbs and that it cooked quicker so it was fine. Phew, the book is redeemed, and if you wanted to 'sex up' the recipe as suggests just add Japanese pickles. Next time, next time.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ottolenghi take two - plus brownies

I carried on my Ottolenghi testing this week as there were so many recipes I wanted to try. First on my list was the chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic. This was a perfect accompaniment for a nice steak. Really simple to prepare and nice to eat broccoli that hasn't had the life boiled out of it, or as a soup as I would usually prepare it. The chilli didn't add too much heat and the Ottolenghi addition of garlic really added a gorgeous flavour. I added a little lemon juice at the end, as suggested in the recipe. Another recipe to add to my repertoire. It would be really nice added to a mixed salad or served with some fish.
Next up were the turkey and sweetcorn meatballs with spring onion. I made so many of these so I have lots left over for some pasta tomorrow, and then some! I altered the recipe slightly as I was supposed to put stale bread in the mixture but soggy bread makes me gag so I just couldn't do it!! Wuss! But they held together pretty well, a few stray sweetcorn kernels here and there but nothing to worry about. They stayed really juicy, turkey is notorious for drying out, and I enjoyed the crunchy addition of the sweetcorn. That's what I've liked about all the Ottolenghi recipes, the differing textures in each dish which makes everything a bit more interesting.

And finally, I wanted to make some brownies to take to work to say thank you for my beautiful new MAC Hello Kitty lipstick (your loss is my huge gain Charlotte!). There is a brownie recipe in almost every cookbook ever made (slight exaggeration) so I decided to try Rachel Allen's recipe from Bake, removing the hazelnuts and adding a ton of mini marshmallows. I'm aware that it looks like my brownies have mumps but hey! There is also some glitter on there as requested but it doesn't show in the picture.

They tasted delicious, a huge hit of sugary, sticky chocolate, but forget about making slices! At room temperature this was more like a pudding and it had to be eaten with a spoon. Not going to stop anyone eating something so yummy but not what I was expecting when I made it. It was slightly easier to work with once it had spent the night in the fridge however. Cooking it in a glass dish may have made my sticky mess according to La Mama so I'll try again in a metal dish, couldn't find a suitable size this time round.

Will do a proper review of the Bake book when I've tried a few more recipes.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Ottolenghi cookbook review

The lovely Charlotte lent me the Ottolenghi cookbook this week, after it being on my wishlist for at least a year. We spent a dangerous 15 minutes before work salivating over the recipes, lots of recommendations of what to make came my way! This book has many gushing reviews on Amazon and I'm afraid I'm just going to add my own! So far I have only made 1 side dish from the book but the ingredients have been bought for my next trial of chargrilled broccoli and sweetcorn and turkey meatballs.

The book is incredibly inviting. The photos bring the food to life and all the desserts look divine, but vegetables are the star of the show here.

I decided to make the french beans and mangetout with orange and hazelnut. It sounded like an awful lot of flavours together, as a lot of the recipes in this book do, but they all worked beautifully together. I couldn't find any mangetout, who knows why, so I used sugar snaps instead. The dish was very easy to put together and tasted delicious. I will have my beans no other way now! You might think that the hazelnuts are unnecessary but they added a whole new dimension to the flavour and texture of the dish.

As the book says, if you don't like lemon and garlic then you won't like many of the dishes in the book, but it definitely isn't something I have a problem with. There are some dishes I'd avoid, I'm not keen on flavours like cumin or fennel so I'd either omit the ingredients or just move on to the next recipe. There are also quite a few lamb dishes (I don't eat lamb since meeting a lovely sheep called Martha on a farm when I was little!!) but again I'm sure I could substitute lamb for chicken.

There are plenty of dishes I do want to try however and as well as the other 2 dishes I have in mind I also want to try the brioche recipe soon, as I am now the proud owner of a stand mixer! No bright red Kitchenaid alas but I'm sure it'll do the same job.

I may well be ordering this cookbook in the near future for myself. Ta Charlotte!
We had the beans with Delia Smith's Braised sausages http://www.waitrose.com/recipe/Delia#
It absolutely doesn't look the same and looks pretty rank in this photo but trust me, it is totally yummy no matter how the apples are cut or how grilled the sauages are! The shallots are cut into our sauce so they melted away into the sauce. Cider and meat is always a big win so how could this dish fail? The beans didn't really go with the dish so we kept them separate!

And I returned to the savoury muffins from my last post, this time making them with mozzarella and cured ham. Very lovely but I think I'd go back to replacing them with feta cheese. It added way more flavour. I also added a small amount of dijon mustard which added a great background flavour.