Tuesday, 19 October 2010

How to Eat In Cookbook Review

This week I have been trying out Adam Byatt's How to Eat In. I'd seen a sample recipe in Stylist magazine and thought it looked lovely so borrowed it from the library - always good to try before you buy!The point of the book is being able to make tasty food at home, rather important these days when maybe people can't afford to go to restaurants as often as they'd like.

I liked the look of the book, the design reminded me of James Martin's My Kitchen cookbook, I'm actually surprised that they are made by different publishing houses. There are photos for most of the recipes, I can deal with that but what I do find annoying is that recipes span over 2 pages and you have to turn over to complete the dish. Just a small thing but I do find it quite frustrating!

The range of recipes is quite nice. The bread section is small but good. I will have to try foolproof white bread to see if it really is foolproof enough for this bread fool! Mine is usually undercooked in the middle. The starters chapter is probably my favourite and this is where I chose my first dish - the smoked haddock and sweetcorn chowder.

I'd had this chowder with clams in New York and loved it. I was supposed to put clams in this soup but I thought the haddock was enough. I also only had the dyed varity of haddock but again I don't think it mattered too much, it didn't affect the colour of the soup as I had feared it might. The soup was completely delicious and a great success. The only annoying thing was that a skin formed on the top quickly if it was stirred regularly or eaten fast - the eating fast wasn't too much of a problem! You wouldn't want to eat too much as it could get quite sickly with all the milk and cream but it made a great lunch dish. Brilliant.

Some of the dishes do seem quite expensive, such as putting fresh morels in a quiche, and some are slightly out of reach such as roasting teal - not sure where I'd find it, but mostly the recipes look feasable and tasty.

I copped out a little when it came to my seconds dish, I was in fact going to make the morels, broad bean and goat's cheese quiche as we have dried morels from France but I couldn't whip up the enthusiasm to make pastry - plus I was missing the fat to make the dough so it was a non-starter! So instead I chose a nice and easy dish from the outdoor eating chapter - mushroom and goat's cheese burgers.

Being very cold I didn't cook this on a barbeque but it was fine in a pan, portobello mushrooms as a bap and goat's cheese as the burger. Simple yet effective! Ok, it didn't test my cooking skills but it tasted lovely and I'd happily eat it again.

Desserts look good, the dougnuts and the 10 minute banana and maple ice cream look particularly nice. I like that there are a range of recipes, some more geared towards family meals and others are more show-offy and take more time and skill to prepare.

Not sure it's one I would rush out to buy but actually I liked the book more each time I looked at it. I'd say borrow it from the library if you can.

Also this week I finally had a go at making some cornbread. I found a recipe leaflet in Tesco for some chedder cornbread muffins and I had all the ingredients so decided to give it a go, halving the quantities as I wouldn't know what to do with 12 of the muffins!

Oh dear, how disappointing. The recipe stated I could use fine polenta or fine cornmeal so I used polenta as that's all I had in. They were much too tasteless and nothing like cornbread I've had in America. Such a shame, they were very light and the right colour but the polenta made for a grainy texture which I didn't like. The bits with cheddar tasted nice but that's because it actually added some flavour! Oh well, better luck next time. I've probably put you off now but if you want to try the recipe you can find it here: http://www.tescorealfood.com/Recipes/Cornbread-Cheese-Muffins-with-Salad.html

I see that they've removed the polenta option and now I know why! I'm going to buy some fine cornmeal and have another go as I know how delicious cornbread can be.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Bill's Basics Cook Book Review

I would have written this entry earlier but I was having laptop woes. Luckily it seems to be fixed now without losing my precious photos, mp3s and saved recipes folder. Phew! So now I can write about the joys of the new Bill Granger cookbook Bill's Basics.

I'm always very happy to see a new Bill book, it's especially exciting this time around as he's living in England and looking for a cafe site in London! Woo! Looking forward to visiting when it's open.

As for the book, it's full of classic recipes, most 'with a twist'. There are no pretensions when it comes to his dishes and nothing looks too daunting. The chapters have changed from Bill's usual breakfast, lunch and dinners, now sorted into baking, soups, salads, desserts etc. The photography is great and there is an image for each recipe which I always appreciate.

The first recipe I tried out was the Lemon Chicken. It was simple to make and really healthy without feeling worthy! There was no cornflour in the sauce but it still compared nicely to a take-away lemon chicken but so much better to know exactly what went in. The addition of ginger really made the sauce zing and the five-spice cooked into the chicken skin really came through too. Delicious.

Next up was the My Spaghetti Carbonara.

Oh my, I never make carbonara which is stupid as it's my favourite pasta dish. Horribly unhealthy but too delicious to pass up. We've made it twice in 2 weeks! Pretty successful then! Spring onion and dried chili flakes are the Bill additions which add a bit of spice and a soft onion flavour without being imposing. I also added some exotic mushrooms though I can't for the life of me work out which variety they were from the description on the packet! I'm going with 'shiro shimeji' but not sure! I just know I'll make this again and again. It's also easy to rustle up when you're in a hurry or just ruddy hungry!

There were so many recipes I wanted to try and I had all the ingredients to make the Fish Cakes so I made a third dish! Shock horror! A blog first! The dish is served with a raita but I served mine with some watercress instead, I don't think it needed a sauce as the fish cakes themselves were so flavourful and moist.

I made 2 attempts as there was so much mixture. First time like an idiot I left out the egg so they weren't the easiest to flip over in the pan but they were nice and chunky and the lemon and ginger really lifted the flavour.

The second time I remember the egg, which was probably a little large for the amount of mixture left but it completely changed the texture. This time they were really light and almost like a souffle. Granted they don't look very different and the garnish didn't change but there honestly was a big change! The taste was still there though and I added a little bit more lemon which was nice. The spring onion seemed to cook out a little more as well so there was less crunch. The mixture kept very well overnight and the recipe was a great way to use up the tin of salmon we've had for an age - I much prefer tuna in a salad though it's hard to get a whole tin to ourselves when we have 4 greedy cats who seem to consider tuna their drug of choice!

If you want to try this recipe you can watch the man himself make the dish: http://thismorning.itv.com/thismorning/food/fish-cakes-tasty-raita

So it's a mahoosive thumbs up for this book, not just because I love Bill so much but because his recipes are so good and things always turn out so well. I want to make every dessert in the book (bar the tiramisu - bleurgh - coffee and soggy biscuits!) and every soup too as well as a whole other recipes.