Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Rosemary Shrager's Absolutely Foolproof Classic Home Cooking Review

After my ice cream adventures last week I thought I'd try out a new library book - Rosemary Shrager's Absolutely Foolproof Classic Home Cooking. It seemed like a challenge, could I make a hash of these recipes - was I a total fool?!
The book contains a lot of recipes and it's really well laid out. There are several chapters including Salads and Dressings, Emulsion Sauces, Custards and Souffles. Each chapter starts with a classic recipe such as a Fish Pie or Pasta with a Fresh Tomato Sauce. There are photos of each stage of the recipe and the instructions are very clear. There are then some tips and ideas and also some variations so the dish can be practiced a few times without making everyone eat the same dish again and again!

The other recipes vary from the easy to the more advanced so the book is suitable for all levels. One negative aspect of the book's design is the font for the recipe titles and ingredients lists are in red and can get a little lost in bright light which is a little annoying. The instructions are in black which are much easier to read.

My first recipe was for the Tiny Meringue Mouthfuls to go with my ice cream last week. They were really easy to whip up - I even did the 'holding the bowl over my head' trick and there were no accidents! They took a little longer to bake than stated but this was because of our rubbish oven. The texture was absolutely perfect, squidgy and marshmallow-like in the middle and crisp on the outside. For me they were a little too sweet so I'd probably reduce the amount of icing sugar next time, or maybe follow the recipe for her Classic Meringues instead. They kept really well in a tin, not that they lasted that long!

The second recipe I tried was from the Pancakes and other Batters chapter. The main recipe here was for Pancakes stuffed with Ratatouille but also has Pancakes stuffed with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Ham and Toad in the Hole. I made Cherry Clafoutis as it's a favourite but only my Grandmere can make a really great one. A test indeed! The batter was easy to put together and the quantities were just right. I added a little kirsch to the cut cherries before putting them in the dish, as I saw on Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets a while back.

The cherries tasted lovely after adding the alcohol! However the clafoutis was really solid! I'm a fan of really heavy yorkshire puddings so I didn't mind too much but it didn't compare to Grandmere's - but her's is a lot more like cake so the ingredients must be different and I'm well aware I made a recipe from a batter section. I'd probably give another recipe a go next time but if you're in the market for a bit of stodge then this is definitely one to try.

My last recipe was Fougasse. I've made this a couple of times before, following a recipe from the Hairy Bikers and been happy with the results. This time I decided to make the dough completely by hand rather than use a bread maker or my food mixer to knead the dough. I think I'll probably go back to the machines! The bread looked lovely coming out of the oven but it wasn't as light as I'd have liked it. I made it with black olives and thought that the suggested extras should have been taken into account when adding salt to the dough as I thought, even as a huge salty food lover, it was a little strong. Shame. It worked better a little toasted though that's not really the point of fougasse. A miss for me here, but maybe my kneading skills were to blame.

I think I'd recommend the book to people who want to try and extend their repertoire while having someone there to help them out and offer advice. I think I probably have most of these recipes in other books so I'm not sure if I'll buy it or not. Definitely worth a look from your local library though.


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