Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The American Diner Cookbook Review

I have an obsession with American diners. I've only ever been to a few in New York but I avidly watch Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network! I always end up craving burgers and massive plates of fatty foods - yummy! I've had this book from a while. It was on my Amazon wishlist for a long time but always seemed to be out of stock. I finally managed to nab it a couple of years ago and have only ever browsed through it, again feeling very hungry for having done so! The book was produced in America so all the measurements are in cups, pounds and quarts so the recipes take a little time to convert but it's very feasible.

A lot of the recipes come from different diners across America and there are black and white photos from many of them. There are no photos of any of the recipes which is a shame. A lot of dishes are familiar but it's a case of googling some of the recipes to see what they might look like, for example a Blackberry Slump or Chicken Tetrazzini. There are ocassionally some ingredients that a little mysterious such as Au Jus Mix (looks like it's beef stock mix) but I think most things can be worked out. There are over 450 recipes to choose from so there is always another dish to try and to be fair the book was produced for an American market so the recipes weren't catered towards British ingredients and measurements.

There's a great selection of recipes, chapters include Breakfast At The Counter, Sandwich Platters, Blue Plate Specials and What's For Dessert? There are pies galore as you would expect, as well as plenty of drink recipes like sodas and milkshakes.

I've wanted to make a Monte Cristo sandwich for ages as it sounded very wicked and fattening! There are in fact 2 Monet Cristo recipes in this book, I went for the 2nd one but I did vary it a little according to what I had in.

I didn't have any chicken so that was ommited and I didn't put any mayonnaise into the sandwich as I didn't really think it needed it. Also instead of sourdough I used the chollah bread we had left over from making French toast. It was completely yummy and I'd make it again. I'm a big French toast fan anyway and love combining savoury and sweet - I poured loads of maple syrup on these beauties! Yum!

Next up was a Sloppy Joe! It was a dish I'd heard of but I'd never tried it before so thought it was worth a go. The ingredient list wasn't too big and it was very easy to put together. I wasn't sure about the ketchup to mustard ratio but it was fine and it was actually delicious. The key is just to simmer the mixture for long enough for all the ingredients to meld together. Well worth a go. Jamie Oliver has made a version with a couple more ingredients (no kidney beans in mine) and this sounds a little spicier.

The last recipe I made was the Blue Cheese Burger. Not the most adventurous recipe but it had plenty of flavour and was still very moist. I liked all the melted blue cheese running through the burger.

So I'm pleased I finally made some use of this book and I'm really glad I have it. It's selling for a stupid price on Amazon Marketplace now but it is available of Kindle if you're super modern!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Peyton and Byrne British Baking Cookbook Review

This week I've been trying out the Peyton and Byrne British Baking. I've been to Oliver Peyton's restaurant at the National Gallery but I've never eaten in one of his cafes in London so I can't compare the flavour of the cakes but the recipes certainly seem to be a good representative of what is sold the Peyton and Byrne cafes. The recipes are very traditional, I love how all the fairy cakes are never once referred to as cupcakes! They are the sort of recipes that you hope would have been passed down from generation to generation, comforting cakes and pies you might have eaten at your grandparent's house. The design of the book is very simple which works really well with the theme of traditional British baking. The instructions are easy to follow and all the ingredients can be found in the supermarket. I like that dried yeast is used in the dough recipes - certainly makes life easier.

There are photos for most of the recipes which are full-page and I think they're really great. There are nice big close ups and most of the photos are of slices or the whole dessert with a piece taken out so you can really see what the cake/tart/pies etc looks like inside. It's really useful when you're baking to compare your efforts to someone elses. It also makes it looks like everything must be delicious as there is a bit missing with crumbs around the edges of plates!

The book has a short 4 page technique and equipment section at the start which would be very useful for the novice baker. The book is then split into 10 chapters including Biscuits, Fruity Cakes, Breakfast Goods and A Cup of Tea and a Bun! I'm pretty sure everyone would find something to make from each chapter.

I started with the Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe, but instead of making one big cake I made smaller loaves using a tin I'd bought a while back. They were really cute this way and I also think it meant they lasted longer. It would have been way too easy to devour the whole thing. The cake in the book actually looked quite brown and dense but this was the lightest sponge I'd ever made. The instructions were super simple to follow, I just reduced the cooking time and kept an eye on them in the oven. I halved the quantities so it made 3 smaller loaves but I still used a whole juiced lemon for the glaze as I love lots of lemon. They were just incredibly delicious, even if I do say so myself!! Every mouthful I was just going "oh my god this is yummy, mmmm, wow..."! I will definitely be keeping this recipe to hand whenever I want a pick-me-up cake. Amazing.

Then I thought I'd attempt the Black Forest Gateau. I'm not the biggest lover of chocolate cake, I think I've grown out of it a little. Don't get me wrong, I'd never turn down a piece of chocolate fudge cake but it would have to be warm with a considerable amount of cream poured over! But, add some cherries into the mix and I'm all for it. I made the cake a little differently, the cake in the book has been made as one whole sponge and then cut into 3 layers, but I won £15o of Lakeland vouchers a couple of weeks ago (woo-hoo!!) and bought myself the surprise cake tin they've been advertising in most cookery magazines. I thought this cake would work really well with the cream and cherries hidden in the middle.

Again, the recipe was easy to follow and everything turned out as it should. The cake obviously didn't take as long to cook but came out just as rich and dense. I had a little issue with the cake breaking up, even after leaving it to cool in the tin, but the one in the book was all cracked too so that was fine by me! That's what the cream on the top was for!! I used the Cake Release from Lakeland too which I will now have to make sure I have forever as it really works. I loved finding all that cream and loads of cherries in the centre and the syrup and liqueur mixture poured into the sponge added a lovely flavour. It wasn't too sickly as there was enough cream to balance the dark chocolate. I was proud of myself with this one, it was the first time I'd made a full cake, what my cake stand has been crying out for! But now I think I need to step away from the flour, eggs and sugar for a few weeks! Been eating way too much cake lately!!

As for the book, I can really recommend it if you're looking some traditional baking recipes that will turn out perfectly every time. I initially thought it would be too traditional for me but there are some great biscuit recipes and all the icings and frostings sound lovely, I think nearer Christmas the clementine icing will be used on something. I want to try out the pastry recipes too as I feel like anything I make from this book will be a success - fingers crossed!

Finally I just wanted to share the purple potato rapees La Mama made. Loved the dark colour though they didn't taste any different to normal ones!

I like the idea of having goth versions of food! When I can eventually have my own garden I'm going to try and grow lots of dark plants!