Tuesday, 22 June 2010

200 Super Soups / 200 Meals for Two cookbook reviews

This week I'm reviewing two rather natty little cookbooks, both from the Hamlyn all-colour cookbook range. I've gone a little mad for these at my local library, I think I have everything available out at the moment. They are only £4.99 each, or an even better bargain on Amazon - £2.99, I'm just figuring out which ones I want to buy! But don't let the price deceive you, there are loads of brilliant ideas contained within. First up in the 200 Super Soups cookbook by Sara Lewis. This is definitely one I'm going to buy. I don't really need more soup books in my life but this book is a thousand times better than the 2 New Covent Garden books I own. The design is clear and concise, there are photos for each recipe and there are a ideas for accompaniments - and even alternatives to recipes making the already brilliant 200 recipes a much bigger number.

There is a short introduction about different types of soup, how to make stocks and ideas for finishing touches. To the point and all the info you need. The different sections of the book include speedy soups, chilled soups, winter warmers and something special.

The first soup I made was the Vietnamese beef pho, a dish I've enjoyed eating out but have never made before. The ingredient list looked quite long but I already had all the ingredients as I make fragrant soups quite often as they're easy to make, healthy and most of all, delicious. The pho was equally fragrant and delicious. I didn't simmer the stock for long enough, I will do next time as the ginger and star anise flavours probably weren't as strong as they should have been - that's what you get for not reading the recipe properly in advance! There is a nice alternative recipe with prawns and kaffir lime leaves which sounds lovely so that's one to add to the 'to make' list - getting longer by the second! So this book was on to a good start.

The other soup I tried was the summer vegetable soup, opting for asparagus as we had stalks which seemed a shame to waste; nice and seasonal too. Again, very easy to make with a very short list of ingredients needed and a really gorgeous flavour. Both recipes I made were from the healthy section but they certainly didn't feel worthy dishes! I didn't even need to season the asparagus soup as the flavour was strong enough. Obviously the quality of the veg will always affect the dish you're making so seasonal soups are best if possible.

So very pleased with this book, if you couldn't already tell! Price is amazing, it's just the space I'm running out of! Luckily these books are petite and oh so browsable.

The second book to try was 200 Meals for Two by Louise Blair. The introduction this time contains information on food groups and store-cupboard and fridge essentials. Perhaps not as useful as the soup introduction but still nice to have. The sections in this book are brunch, light bites, quick suppers, special occasions and desserts. I love brunch recipes and with full-page photos everything is even more inviting, especially the baked eggs with salmon and the blueberry French toast.

I have made just one recipe from this book so far, hot haloumi with fattoush salad. I'd never eaten haloumi before and always wanted to try it, it just seems so expensive to buy for one meal so I waited till I found a good price (Asda grilling cheese - good stuff!). My god does that cheese squeak! It was pretty weird to eat but I loved the flavour which went really nicely with the fattoush salad, with added avocado. The dressing was really simple and added a nice subtle garlic flavour. I would make this again, just gear myself up for the freaky texture - I know what to expect!

Not a concise testing of the cookbook but I can tell that everything looks really tasty and easy to make. Yet another one I want to buy. There are 26 different titles in this collection which is extremely dangerous! I have 200 Desserts on it's way to me, and 200 Chicken dishes waiting for me at the library. It's a serious addiction! The only ones I've read and wouldn't buy so far are the 200 Super Salads and 200 Barbecue Recipes. The salad book is nice to glance through but nothing complicated enough that you couldn't put together yourself, and I wouldn't get enough use out of the BBQ book to justify buying it.

A little addition for this week, a lovely and fresh recipe from the June 2010 issue of Prima magazine. Ginger and lemongrass chicken with mango and basil. The topping was easy to make, just ginger, lemongrass, 5-spice, soy sauce and olive oil all whizzed up together. No need for hours of marinating which was great, just straight in the oven. The little mango salad was perfect with the chicken and absolutely perfect for these hot days when you don't want to cook for too long or eat really heavy food.

I'm now going to cook some tofu fried rice from yet another 200... book and cry over how rubbish the French football team is :-(

Monday, 14 June 2010

Bill's Sydney Food cookbook review

It's been a while since I've written a new review - but I was checking out the lovely food available in Stockholm! Below are a couple of photos from the Saluhall which is a gorgeous indoor market with loads of things on offer. All the salads and sandwiches looked gorgeous, unfortunately we were still incredibly full from breakfast and no eating was involved. Oh well. It was also super expensive, as was the rest of the holiday. Lots of window shopping instead of actual buying.

But breakfast was outstanding at our hotel, the Rival (owned by Benny from ABBA - oh yes! And we saw him there!). The hotel had its own bakery and the breads were absolutely scrumptious, yup, scrumptious! One morning I ordered french toast which was lovely, and another morning these rather lovely looking pancakes.

On the other plate is a very red concoction of crispy bacon, serrano ham, gravalax, said example of scrumptious bread and a tomato slice to appear healthy! There was also eggs any way you pleased, pastries, a cheese board and the usual suspects. I'm dreaming of going back soon! Oh, and Stockholm was lovely too!

But on to my own cooking. I bought some ricotta on special offer and then wasn't too sure what to so with it so purused my cookbook collection for something other than spinach and ricotta lasagne, yummy as it is. Bill Granger came up with the goods in his Bill's Sydney Food - the original and classic recipe collection. I'm trying to own all the Bill Granger cookbooks, falling for the man when his series was on BBC1. His grinning got me, the looking just a little too long at the camera while smiling widely made me love him! I keep waiting for another series of his to be shown over here as we only got his holiday series, but there's a new cookbook due in September so maybe we'll see something soon.

The book is really cleanly laid out, representing the food really well, and no faffing around with loads of introductions, just a nice foreword and straight into the breakfast section, where I found my 1st recipe - ricotta hotcakes. I think these are the main attraction at Bill's cafes, never to be taken off the menu. I can see why.

They were incredibly light and fluffy, a combination of the whisked egg white and the ricotta. I halved the quantities and the mixture easily made 10. The only downside was waiting for the next batch to be cooked before I could eat them!

A serving suggestion:

And don't be mean with the maple syrup. If I can't have pancakes in Stockholm then I can have hotcakes in Manchester!

The rest of the breakfast section looked just as inviting, coconut waffles, homemade crumpets and breakfast muffins will certainly get me reaching for this book again.

My second recipe was from the lunch section, chicken noodle soup with lemon. Another big thumbs up. I'm a big sucker for soup, my next post will actually be on a soup book. There seemed to be quite a few ingredients but I already had everything I needed, just opting for sweetcorn kernels rather than baby corn and rice noodles instead of lasagne sheets. The lasagne sheets seemed a bit of an odd choice but visually I suppose it works quite well.

I really liked the twist on the usual chicken soup recipe and the broth was really light and flavoursome, and just enough chili to make the lips tingle! Without doubt I would make this again and it's incredibly healthy, easy to make and a joy to eat. Again the rest of the lunch section looks simple, healthy and inspiring. Same goes for the dinner section. I like that there are full page colour photos next to each recipe so you know exactly what you're aiming for.

So another recommended cookbook with maybe one downside - no grinning photos of Bill himself!!

And one last little recipe I tried as a side dish, hot paprika potatoes with garlic mayo from the July 2010 issue of Good Food magazine, hot off the press. Except I forgot to take a photo, but you can tell from the empty plate that they were really nice! Easy to make too, just boil new potatoes for 5 minutes, then coat in oil, paprika, chili powder, sea salt and cumin and roast till crispy. Maybe I'll get a picture next time I make them!