Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Giraffe Family Cookbook Review

This week's cookery book is The Giraffe Family Cookbook by Hugo Arnold - he of Wagamama cookbook fame (I have both the Wagamama books and will review at least one one of these days! Lovely noodles).

There are 40 Giraffe restaurants in the UK now so quite a few people should be familiar with the kind of food they can expect from the book. I've been to the one in Manchester a few times and have always eaten quite varied things and I've never been disappointed. The emphasis is on healthy food from around the globe, often serving brown rice instead of white, salads packed with veg and seeds and lots of vegetarian friendly dishes - but without appearing too worthy! Not to mention their cocktails which are rather delicious!

The book is a good representative of the Giraffe brand and features recipes you will have seen on their menus. There is a brief introduction from the founder of Giraffe, Russel Joffe, talking about the variety of food on offer and how they try to keep most of the food healthy and suitable for a family. Then it's straight in with the recipes, bar an introduction to each chapter.

Some of the chapters include Breakfast, Brunch and Sandwiches, Sharing For All The Family and Easy Stir-Fries, Curries and Noodle Bowls. There are photos for most recipes which are lovely and bright and the layout is really clear, with little Giraffe Tall Tales at the bottom of some of the pages, either with ingredient substitutions, information about ingredients or suggestions for other recipes using the same ingredients. Nice little additions as you leaf through the book.

The range of recipes is great and I can definitely see this appealing to a family as the food is bright and interesting and healthy enough to eat lots of it. Of course there are some less healthy items such as the Chocolate and Strawberry Pancakes and the Sunday Night Mac and Cheese
but who wants healthy food all the time right?!

The first dish I chose to make was the Prawn Cocktail with Chipotle Spiced Saucee. I have a confession to make however - I had no chipotle chillies so it probably tasted very different to how it should have done but no matter!! I love, love, love prawn cocktail and this isn't terribly different but the tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and paprika in the mayonnaise made for a nicely spicy sauce and worked well against the fresh salad. A nice twist on a classic though I don't suppose it will win any prizes for originality.

Other salads of note include Raw Asian Salad with Thai Dressing, Powerfood Salad Bowl (which reminded me of the Superfood salad in the Leon cookbook), Grilled Salmon Tostada Salad and Sushi Brown Rice Salad with Smoked Salmon.

The second dish I made was the Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Fondue Dip with Tortilla Chips. Absolute heaven. Not the cheapest dish to make as there were 3 kinds of cheeses involved, sour cream and obviously spinach and tinned artichoke - definitely not the healthiest option either! I didn't care, it was completely scrum and it was our whole meal rather than a snack or in addition to something else. It reminded me of a hot dip we had in New York last year and I've never been able to find a similar recipe till now.
There was enough artichoke and spinach to have some in every mouthful which was perfect. The sauce was perhaps a little liquid, I didn't measure the quantities so less soured cream or more cheddar would have fixed it. The recipe called for Monterey Jack cheese but I couldn't find this on the shelves so went with a cheddar instead. I am now in love with this recipe and had better stock up on tinned artichoke!

I really liked the book and as ever it has joined the many others on my wishlist. I think variation of flavours is great, with a lot of dishes inspired from either Latin America or Asia. You could never call any of the dishes boring. One downside is the huge list of ingredients for some recipes which could well put me off, for example you need around 22 ingredients for the BBQ Duck Fajita Burrito as well as a couple of sauces from other sections of the book. Phew! Though on the plus side a lot of the items are herbs and spices.

The dessert section is probably the weakest chapter of the book but to be fair there isn't a huge choice of desserts in their restaurants either and I'm never one to stray too far from a Belgain Waffle or piece of French Toast!

Next I want to make the Miso-Lime Salmon with Wasabi Rice and Green Onions and the Tequila and Lime Chicken Breast on Paella Fried Rice.

I also made a Game Casserole with Caramelised Apples and Cider this week as Waitrose had a special offer on the mixed game packs, consisting of pheasant, mallard, pigeon and partidge. Very seasonal indeed. I also added some red cabbage. Hmmm, I think the apples were my favourite part! I'm glad I've tried the different meats but I found them too strong a flavour and almost liver tasting which isn't great. Ah well, it's good to try something new. If I haven't put you off then find the recipe here: http://www.waitrose.com/recipe/Game_Casserole_with_Caramelised_Apples_and_Cider.aspx
Picked up a delicious After Eight cupcake from a lovely place nearby, And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon http://www.dishandspoonfood.co.uk/ Looking forward to trying the other flavours soon. I needed cheering up after missing out on 2 Bill Granger books during the silly Amazon Black Friday deals. Did anyone manage to get anything? Wii Consoles for £50 :-( But mostly 2 Bill Granger books for £15 - woe is me!! Did get a good deal on some boots though I suppose.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Rachel Allen - Entertaining at Home Cookbook Review

This week I have been mostly trying out Rachel Allen's new book Entertaining at Home. As previously posted I absolutely love her Bake book and I also have her Food For Living book. I wasn't sure what I would make of a dinner party cookbook as I rarely cook for people other than La Mama and my brother. The book is pretty big with a lot of different menu ideas. Chapters include Brunches and Lunches, Eating Outdoors, Casual Meals and Small Celebrations. These are split into courses and there are also menu suggestions at the end of each chapter.

The introduction isn't too long which I always appreciate but it gives some nice advice about dressing the table, how to set the cutlery if you're having something a little more formal (a great drawing that makes everything very clear) and how to budget and stay calm!

The layout for the book is much the same as her previous books, everything is very clearly laid out and the instructions are simple to follow. There aren't as many photos as I would like and sometimes the full-colour photos are a bit of a waste, for example opposite the venison sausages with celeriac puree there is a photo of some dishes and out of focus copper pans - I'd much rather have a photo of the dish instead! Oh well! The food photography that is included is beautiful with a nice selection of table cloths!

Obviously I was not making this dish for a dinner party! The glass dish is very unattractive but I couldn't find anything else in a suitable size! Also the eggs look like boobs but the less said about this the better!! This is the Baked Eggs with Creamy Kale, the first recipe in the book. I was only making this for 2 so had to reduce the quanities by two thirds, but I didn't actually follow the quanties. I don't think it mattered too much as long as there was enough cream in the kale and enough cheese on top.

It was very easy to make and tasted delicious. The egg was a nice contrast to the texture of the kale and the cream made it a richer flavour. This would definitely be a great starting point to a dinner party but equally it's a nice dish to have at any time. La Mama said she'd prefer it with spinach so I'll try that next time.

My second dish was the Slow-Roast Ginger and Citrus Shoulder of Pork from the Casual Meals section. I used shoulder steaks instead of a whole shoulder so I cooked it for half of the 12 hours recommended (!). The overnight marinade was simple to put together, I just left out the coriander as a certain brother won't eat things with green speks on it, but mostly because I didn't actually have any coriander! The smell coming out of the oven all afternoon while this was cooking was divine. It smelt like chinese ribs. Yum. The pork was really soft and sweet and there was enough marinade left for a little sauce. Again, as this recipe was for a large pork shoulder I pretty much made up the marinade quantities but it didn't matter at all as this was so, so delicious. I served it with courgette and wilted spring greens with chili flakes.

The brother had it with crispy spring greens as he loves Chinese seaweed. Really easy to make, just takes ages hovering over a frying pan. I was asked when I'd be making the pork again so I think it was a great success!

So great praise for this book. The only annoying thing is the quantities but I understand this as you're meant to be making food for larger amounts of people - it's a given - so I can't grumble too much. Most things sound gorgeous and look very pretty. I want the gin and tonic lemon sorbet in my life and I need the salted caramel chocolate tart in my life! Yet another book to add to my wishlist, this copy is from the library but I just don't want to give it back.

And here is the kind cat who 'helps' me on the computer. Maybe he writes his own blog when I'm not looking!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Good Granny Cookbook Cookbook Review

This week I have been making hearty food from Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall's The Good Granny Cookbook. It's cold outside so it's time to make casseroles and thick soups and this book certainly gives you plenty of ideas.The title of the book is an obvious give-away of the contents, though as stated in the introduction some recipes are traditional dishes tweaked to suit modern palates. It is a mostly British-based collection though there are plenty of European dishes too such as Jansson's Temptation, Salade Nicoise and Risotto; not forgetting the rest of the world with South African Bobotie and Angel Cake USA. Afterall, our grandparents may well be from different corners of the globe. I have French grandparents on one side of the family and this is definitely where my culinary influences have come from.

There are 11 chapters altogether, including Breakfast, Sunday Lunch, Monday Left-overs, Fish On Friday and Treats and Sweets. The Monday left-overs are a particularly relevant section now as well as in our Grandparent's time and make good use of remaining chicken, potatoes p>
The layout of the book is very simple with no photographs of any dishes. There are a few colour illustrations which give a homely feel - almost as if this is a book that has been passed down to you. I would normally be crying out for photos but as most of the dishes are familiar to us it doesn't seem to matter quite so much and I don't think that they would suit the style of the book as there are no glossy pages.

The dish we started with was the Mum's Fish Pie as we had quite a bit of frozen fish that needed to be used up. The recipe was very easy to follow and the white sauce was simple to make. We added French beans as we had some spare. I'm not a great fan of mash so it probably wasn't the best dish for me. It just felt a bit boring but it was certainly filling and did its job. Next time I'd probably add some garlic or a little spice to the sauce to lift it a little.

The second dish was a much better success. Braised Red Cabbage with Spicy Sausages from the Mid-week Meals chapter. I love the colour of this dish, it's so vibrant and inviting. I used some Toulouse sausages as the recipe called for a really flavourful sausage. Everything went brilliantly together, it's like eating mulled wine! It's super easy to make, the chopping of the cabbage and apple takes longer than the actual time spent frying the ingredients and bunging it into the oven! It takes a couple of hours for the cabbage to get really soft and absorb all the sweet liquid but it's well worth it. I've got quite a bit of cabbage left as I was only making this for 2 so I can see myself making this again in the next few days.

The final conclusion about this book is that it's a great one to keep handy. It might not be the most glamourous book to have on your shelf but I think you'd probably use more recipes from it day-today than from a glossy wonder. Most things look very simple to make and don't contain huge lists of ingredients. Somerset Chicken, Mustard Potatoes and Norwegian Cream all sound delicious and I'm glad to have a great sounding recipe for Rum Baba that uses yeast instead of a usual cake mixture. Perfect!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Gregg's Favourite Puddings Cookbook Review

The review will be short and sweet this week. I'm not quite sure where the time has gone but again I've been lax in my cookbook reviews. That hasn't stopped me taking out about 15 at the library, and making an order from The Book People for even more!

This weekend I was in Edinburgh to visit a lovely friend which was great. I can highly recommend a restaurant in Leith called The Compass - had a lovely smoked salmon and caper salad.

Last week I finally tried a recipe I've lusted after for a while in Gregg's Favourite Puddings - the cherry and white chocolate tart. The book itself is really rather nice, though the recipes are nothing you couldn't find in a lot of other cookbooks. There are attractive photos for a lot of the recipes but not for all. As most of the recipes are recognisable it doesn't matter quite as much, people already have an idea of what the desserts look like.

The chapters are split into fruity, tarts, flans and cheesecakes, chocolate, classic puddings, ices and mousses and basics and bites. My favourite recipes were probably in the first and second chapters as I'm always partial to poached pears, tarte au citron and cheesecake. The cinnamon cheesecake sounds delicious and one I'm sure I'll get round to making one day, as well as the macadamia and vanilla tart. I like that there are some recipes that take some skill to make but also there are things you can whip up quite quickly like the baked bananas with fudge sauce.

I just made one recipe from this book which isn't the greatest test but at least I know how great the recipe for sweet pastry is which makes me think all the other tarts in the book will be delicious.

There was a photograph of this tart and I have to say my attempt didn't look too different which is reassuring! The addition of cinnamon in the pastry added a lovely background flavour though not overpowering. My rolling skills are not very good when it comes to sweet pastry so my base was much thicker than it should have been - how do you do it without breaking the pastry - so it wasn't as fine as it should have been but it cooked well. I didn't actually get to eat much of this tart as La Mama seemed to love it! The section without cherries was for my picky brother.

I had quite a bit of filling left as my case was smaller than required, but this was actually great news as I cooked the filling in some ramekins in a bain marie. Oh wow, I think I preferred this to the tart! It was like a crema catalana which I adore. I'll definitely be making this again, and then at least I can avoid rolling out the pastry! It was also a nice surprise that the filling mixture wasn't over-sweet which could have been a problem with so much white chocolate. It just gave it a rich vanilla flavour - very delicious indeed.

Whether it's a book that you need to rush out and buy I'm not sure but I would recommend borrowing it from your library and having a go at a few things. The triple chocolate brulees look very impressive and I really want to try making the chocolate pancakes with rum butter - I can imagine how nice that would be with some Sailor Jerry's rum. What I would like to know is - just how many of these desserts has Gregg Wallace made himself?! Still, the quote on the front of the book made me laugh : "Gregg is the best possible judge of a good pudding" - Michel Roux Jr!