Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Nigella Lawson - Kitchen Cookbook Review

I'm sure many people will have bought this book already, or are getting it for Christmas (I won't tell if you've had a sly look!) It's an absolutely massive book, clocking up an impressive 512 pages. I just have to have a think of where I can house it since my shelves are rather full already. Oh well, don't think it'll stop me from buying more though! Obviously a lot of these recipes have featured in her BBC show, I've not quite caught up with my backlog. It's always good to find every recipe in the book that you've seen on TV, not always the case (Great British Bake-Off book I'm looking at you!). Nigella isn't necessarily everyone's favourite cook on screen, I know someone who can't bare to watch more than 5 minutes before he wants to kick the screen! I'm not quite so extreme in my reactions and she does make nice food, I'm just not overly enamoured with her flowery descriptions and her made-up recipe names. I can cope much more when it's a book! And this one is a very family orientated book so no over-complicated recipes.

If you can manage to lift the book you'll find chapters such as 'The cook's cure for Sunday-night-itis and The solace of stirring. There is a short introduction about what her kitchen means to her, useful items to have and a funny 'kitchen gadget hall of shame' - something a lot of people can relate to! Mini doughnut maker anyone? And I surely can't be the only one who bought a candy floss maker and used it once!

The photography is good and I'm pretty sure there's at least one picture for each recipe, huzzah!! I do like my photos! I started my trials with the Carbonnade a la Flamande, using brisket instead of shin of beef. Having had a delicious carbonnade in Brussels I knew the sauce had to be thick and rich and the meat falling apart. This recipe really delivered. It was easy to follow and the instructions were surprisingly succinct after a whole page taken up with a description of the dish. I put puy lentils in the dish to drink up some of the sauce. The sauce did need to be boiled a little after cooking to get a thicker consistency but became just right in minutes. I used Newcastle Brown Ale, that part of the supermarket confuses me so the fact that it said 'brown' and 'ale' helped me out!! I've made beef in beef before and used Belgian cherry beer which was completely delicious so I might use that again in the future. But all in all, very happy.

The second was another brisket dish, I've become slightly brisket happy after eating a yummy example from a place called Southern Eleven in the Arndale Centre in Manchester. They do the most amazing BBQ dishes, cooked for hours. Mmmmm! And pulled pork, and corn bread. Now I have a craving! So I thought I'd try to recreate it with the Texas Brisket. Sadly it wasn't to be. I was missing the liquid smoke but Nigella said this didn't matter too much. It kinda did. I ended up with a sweet onion sauce rather than anything BBQ like. It did go very well with the beef though.
It was also much thicker than I expected but I think my onion to liquid ratio was a bit off! Shame, I still haven't found my ultimate BBQ sauce recipe, the hunt goes on. Again, more lentils, saute potatoes and the ubiquitous fried cabbage!! Never gets old! So slightly less successful but still tasty.

This cookbook being mahoosive (have I mentioned the size of the book before?!) I thought I'd have to try more recipes than just 2. Next up was the Slut's Spaghetti! How cheeky! And you get a photo of Nigella eating a dish of it in her red silky dressing gown too! I'd made a pizza the night before and had some passata left so I thought this dish would be just right. Quick and simple to make. I had no black olive to hand so these were left out and I was probably a little free with the capers but I love them so that's fine. Plus my anchovy love is no secret so I'm always happy for an excuse the eat them. Very yummy indeed and going on my mental list of dishes to make when I want food quickly. Success, hurray!
Last of all was her Marmite Spaghetti. This definitely won't be for everyone but I'm a lover not a hater so it sounded great to me. Ooooooo, it was lovely and even quicker to make than the dish above. Not the healthiest of dishes, loads of butter and parmesan, but great for a quick fix and the marmite wasn't as overpowering as I thought it would be. Really happy with this.

Alas I have no photo but I tried the Sweet and Salty Crunch Nut Bars at a friend's house. Gorgeous though make too much of it and I think you'd need a second mortgage! A hell of a lot of chocolate going on but well worth it.

I like that there are little notes at the end of each recipe about making things ahead of time and also if the recipe freezes well and how long for. A lot of thought has gone into each dish and you can tell it hasn't just been tried once and then bunged in the book. There's inspiration for different occasions, Scallops with Thai-scented Pea Puree could easily be served at a dinner party, so it isn't all family-style cooking. Nice ideas for party food too - could be good for a little event coming up this week!

Next I want to make Churros and her Dragon Chicken among many other. Oh, and in the photo for her Lone Linguine with White Truffle Oil she has the same plates as us!! Rock on Blue Denmark!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Tea at Fortnum and Mason Cookbook Review + The Snow Day Bake-Off

As I'm now part of the UK Food Bloggers Association I thought it might be fun to join in with some bake-offs. As the weather has been horrible over the past week I wanted to take part in the Snow Day Bake-Off as organised by A Slice of Cherry Pie. It was also a perfect chance for me to use my new Fortnum and Mason cookbook. http://www.asliceofcherrypie.com/the-food-blogging-community/the-snow-day-bake-of/ Brrr, all wintry in our garden - always better to be looking at it from inside!
This is such a sweet little book. I didn't actually know what it would contain but at £3.99 from The Book People http://www.thebookpeople.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/qs_product_tbp?storeId=10001&catalogId=10051&langId=100&productId=199678 I thought it was worth the risk. I've bought so many cookery books from here. They're always bargains and I often find things on there I was after anyway. I've got my fingers crossed that Bill's Basics turns up on there soon under £10! The risk definitely paid off with this book though as there are some lovely recipes.

The first 40 pages are all about the history of tea and how that ties in with the history of Fortnum and Mason. There is also a section about different teas; their characteristics, infusion notes and drinking notes. It would make a great gift for anyone who likes afternoon teas or would like a nice posh brand of cookery book in their collection!

There are photos for about half of the recipes. The book itself is only small and just over 100 pages long.
I wanted to bake some biscuits for an extended-break we were having at work for a colleague's last day before maternity leave and I couldn't resist having a go at making the Macadamia and Stem Ginger Cookies from the book. They were exactly as described, crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle and the ingredient quantities were bang on. I'm not often very good at baking but I was very pleased with these biscuits and they went down very well at work, I think there was only one left at the end of the day and that soon went! Hurrah!

The macadamias were a nice contrast to the soft, chewy centre and it was nice to find little pieces of stem ginger throughout. Such a good recipe.

So much so that when I went to a friend's housewarming party this weekend I thought it would be nice to make a little gift of some ginger biscuits without the nuts, having been told that ginger biscuits were her favourite. I used the box from a previous cupcake treat and luckily the biscuits were just the right size to fit in. Pretty!

I hope they were enjoyed. The recipe says they keep well for 5 days in an air-tight container, that's if they last that long! I made yet another batch yesterday for La Mama to take to one of her end-of-term parties with her adult education classes. I varied the recipe to make them vaguely festive! I put little bits of marzipan, some ground ginger and cinnamon and some candied peel and left out the stem ginger. It worked out very well and the marzipan just added a hint of background almond flavour. I like the soft citrus flavour you get when you bite into a piece of peel.

I also gave a small amount of the dough to my brother for him to make mint chocolate biscuits. He seemed to like them. They look quite pretty all marbled but it's probably just because they weren't mixed properly - shall we lie and say it was on purpose?!

So I think it's fair to say that the ginger biscuit recipe was fairly successful!! It covered a few snowy days and hopefully many clearer days in the future.

As the book is based on afternoon teas there is a selection of savoury goodies too. Classic sandwiches such as Smoked Salmon and Herb Creme Fraiche and Chicken with Tarragon Butter. Probably not the most difficult things to prepare but an afternoon tea book with be lost without a few sandwich recipes. I decided to make myself a Welsh Rarebit for lunch today as I've never actually had one and you can't go far wrong with cheese and bread.

The sauce was very quick and easy to make, unfortunately I had no Fortnum and Mason hot mustard to hand (common Northerner that I am!) so I used a nice dollop of Dijon mustard instead. Very nice indeed, though it always helps if the bread is especially delicious.

Other lovely looking recipes in the book include cranberry and lemon scones, rose biscuits (I'd like to make these next), sugar-crusted cherry cake and blueberry and vanilla financiers. A lovely looking book and I will be returning again and again to the biscuits recipe.