Wednesday, 13 July 2011

James Martin - Masterclass Cookbook Review

I've been dipping in and out of cookbooks these last 2 weeks but haven't really stuck with one. I decided however to try James Martin's new book - Masterclass - properly. Unfortunately I had a run-in with some freezer burnt squid so there went my idea of making of making his Chilli Salt Squid. Boo.

There seem to be a fair amount of cookbooks out this year all about teaching cookery, such as the Rosemary Shrager book I reviewed a few weeks ago, and the Cookery School book I looked at a while back. James Martin's new book also follows the same idea, though it doesn't alienate a more confident cook. The book is split into 10 chapters including Soups, Stews and Pies, Red Meat, Pasta and Grains and Vegetarian. The introduction is very brief, it pretty much goes straight into recipes which I appreciate. There only seems to be 1 photograph per 3 recipes which is a shame but what is there is mouthwatering, apart from the Braised Fennel with Breadcrumbs and Ricotta - it's very beige! There is a good mix of the simple which could be made easily (Cream of Cauliflowers soup, Bang Bang Chicken and Poached Pears in Perry) to the more challenging (Chocolate, Mint and Satsuma Bread, Classic Beef Wellington and Potato and Duck Confit Terrine with Sweet Red Cabbage Chutney).

At first I wasn't sure if there was a lot I would want to make, I don't tend to make pies, I don't eat lamb and the side dishes are pretty boring, but on second and third viewings there were more and more things I fancied trying - unfortunately the chilli squid being one! Oh well! There wasn't any fresh in our local supermarket either so I was obviously being told something!

There are a few step by step pages to teach you how to do things such as filleting round and flat fishes, how to cut a chicken into 10 pages and how to poach an egg. I don't think I'd buy the book for these guides, there are books that do it better but it is a nice addition. For my first recipe I tried the Best Beff Burgers in the World. How could I not check if these lived up to their name?! The quality of beef is key in this recipe, James asks for tail of beef fillet or great quality minced beef. I went with the cheaper mince offer which worked well. There were plenty of additions to the burger including dijon mustard, chopped gherkins (more the better in my opinion!), shallot and double cream. The cream was a surprise but there was no egg in the mixture so it helped to bind the burger.

The burgers were easy to put together and grilled well. The additions added a great richness and tang to the burger. Maybe it wasn't the greatest ever burger I've eaten but I'll definitely be following this recipe again.

The other recipe I made was Basil Chicken with Lime. I made this with chicken thighs instead of breast which just took longer to cook. I prefer chicken thighs as they stay moist much longer and they have a lot more flavour. The marinade was quick to make and smelt gorgeous. It only needed marinading for an hour and this gave enough flavour to the chicken. The sauce wasn't the prettiest after being in the oven but it tasted gorgeous. The green chilli added a hint of spice and the mix of the mint, coriander and basil was really fresh and fragrant. The lime at the end really lifted everything. The sauce would be great with fish too and I'll be keeping this recipe safe.

Not the most exciting recipes to try but I couldn't fault them on taste. The book's recipes aren't earth-shatteringly new but you can pretty much guarantee that they'll taste delicious and will be easy to follow and make which is pretty important. I do prefer his My Kitchen book but I think there are some lovely additions in this new cookbook. The Chicken Kiev recipe using panko breadcrumbs looks gorgeous, as does the Rum Babas with Chocolate Sauce. The Cinnamon-Dusted Doughnuts are also going on the 'must make soon' list along with the Pork Burgers with Apple Chutney and Rarebit. Actually, most of the book looks pretty tasty! Maybe it's one to buy afterall ...!

Also this week I needed a cake recipe to use up some cherries we had. I looked through book after book and there wasn't much call for fresh cherries till I found a recipe for a Cherry Crumble Cake in Rachel Allen's Bake book. La Mama wanted some cakes to take for a party she was having for one of her French classes so I split the mixture into muffin cases rather than making one whole cake. Rachel's Bake book hasn't failed me yet and they were probably the most successful cakes I've ever made - and I only got to eat 1/2 of one! Oh no! But I'll probably make these again this weekend as I want more! Try them too here.

I also really enjoyed Simon Hopkinson's new show The Good Cook on BBC1 last friday. The Sticky Toffee Pudding looked amazing, I think I put on weight just watching it being made! We had some chicken thighs left after making the Basil Chicken so decided to make Simon's Coq Au Vin. I liked how the chicken was marinated overnight in the red wine, herbs and garlic. It was a last minute make so we had no celery or carrot but it didn't matter too much. I also put in diced chorizo instead of pancetta which added a really nice background flavour. It was absolutely delicious with some wild mushrooms. The sauce was just thick enough that you didn't waste any (before one of the cats got to it that is!) and I'm looking forward to seeing what he makes this week. Another accompanying book that's going on my wishlist!

1 comment:

  1. I don't think you are alone on your views on The Good Cook. I didn't have any preconceptions before watching it but any programme that makes you drool so much, cannot be a bad thing!