Posts Tagged ‘cookbook’

Hairy Bikers Ride Again

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017 | Books, Food

The Hairy Bikers Ride Again is a cookbook by Dave Myers and Si King. They spend their time riding around the world on motorbikes, finding new recipes and cooking. And then distilling this into books and TV shows.

In this instalment, they go through India, Argentina and Morocco and Belgium.

Chorizo crumb fish

Spicy mash

It’s an okay cookbook. It’s not your usual type: it’s split between them talking about their travels and then there is a bunch of recipes. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will come down to your personal preferences.

The recipes worked well. They felt a little safe but produced predictably nice food. Nothing has made it onto my “recipes to come back to” list, but both the vegetable and paneer curries are definitely close.

The 4-Hour Chef

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 | Books, Food

Tim Ferriss is a super-star. Jeff Goins nailed it when he said that people didn’t love Tim Ferriss for the message he brings, but just because he’s such a cool person that you want to me like him.

Since rising to fame with The Four-Hour Work Week, he has gone on to push the franchise with The Four-Hour Body and this, The Four-Hour Chef.

It’s quite clever the way he sells it (or sneaky). He sends you the audiobook for free when you join his mailing list. But there are no recipes in it: every 5 minutes the narrator says “please refer to the print or eBook edition for recipe steps and sidebars”.

Ferriss suggests that cookbooks are written for those who can already cook. They are arranged by category and don’t explain what is going on. Instead, this book is arranged by technique, starting from the basics and building up.

It is arranged into five sections: meta, domestic, wild, science and pro. In meta-learning, he talks about how to learn faster and more efficiently. He then takes you through the building blocks of cookery in dom.

In wild, we are treated to a narrative of Tim’s adventures. How to survive a disaster and catch a pigeon, for example. Science is similar: there is some science in it, but also plenty of stories: the time he attempted Ben & Jerry’s Vermonster, for example, or his food marathon: 26.2 dishes in 24 hours. Something I would love to try.

Finally, in pro, he rounds off with talking to some of the best chefs in the world about how they do what they do.

I tried a lot of the recipes in domestic. They’re fun. None have made my regular rotation, but I made the Vietnamese burgers more than once.

I also really enjoyed a lot of the explanations. Why do you need to brown meat? I knew why already, but no cookbook ever takes the time to explain it: it’s more folk knowledge. Why do you need mustard in a vinaigrette? Why do you rest steak? It’s all in here.

The science is a mixed bag. It’s really interesting to learn about all of the different aspects of the cooking process, gels, emulsions, etc. However, I struggled to follow along with the theory. I more felt like I was getting starter points to learn about it on my own. And some of the science in here is a little dubious. Like his original book, I suspect Ferriss doesn’t let the truth ruin a good story.

If you’re a Tim Ferriss fan, this is a no-brainer. Get the hardback: it’s a monster.

Introducing the Human Baby Cookbook

Saturday, April 1st, 2017 | Books, News

Unlock the secrets to cooking human baby with this beautifully presented new cookbook.

Been tempted to try the other other white meat, but been confused by unclear instructions, endless barbeque sauce choices and the law? Never fear: let us take you by the hand. Learn how to buy, prepare and cook a meat that is abundant, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

This no-expense-spared hardback edition contains 31 delicious recipes, each illustrated with a full-page full-colour edge-to-edge photograph.

For anyone who considers themselves a foodie, this is a must by. Nobody could possibly walk past your bookshelf without commenting!

Order your copy now for £29.99 (plus shipping).

Mary Berry Cooks

Monday, November 21st, 2016 | Books, Food

salt-crusted-fish

This is the second Mary Berry cookbook I have worked my way through, the other being Absolute Favourites.

I have eight recipes that are “keepers” from this book. That is two more than Absolute Favourites, and only beaten by two of the River Cottage cookbooks. It is useful for basics like roasting potatoes and vegetables, as well as some really nice starters, mains and desserts. I highly recommend this cookbook.

mary-berry-cooks

Fish Market Cookbook

Monday, September 26th, 2016 | Books, Food

fish-market-cookbook

In June we travelled to Iceland for our honeymoon, and were very impressed with a Reykjavik restaurant known as The Fish Market. So impressed in fact, that we shelled out for the cookbook while we were there.

The production values are high quality. Once you get past the menacing photo of head chef Hrefna Rósa Sætran wielding a knife on the cover, you find a hardback book, just under A4 size with a full colour photo of every dish. This is everything I want in a cookbook.

The recipes themselves are a bit more challenging however. I struggled to follow a lot of them. Perhaps they make more sense to a trained cook, but I could have done with many of the blanks filling in. The photography of the dishes is quite artistic and therefore, even though you have a photo, it is not always clear what you are aiming for.

salted-cod-hotpot
I don’t think it is what the salted cod hotpot should look like

I haven’t written about much from the book, but here is the breaded pork tenderloin I made.

The language can also be a bit confusing. It is written in American English, rather than proper English. I was struggling to find shrimp chips, until I realised they were prawn crackers. A few times I wondered whether the translation had become a bit muddled. Some of it appears to be in need of a proofread too. The hot chocolate cake recipe for example: it says “melt the chocolate and water in a double boiler.” There is no water in the recipe, but there is some butter that is never mentioned. The word was almost certainly supposed to be butter.

This resulted in a lot of the recipes being duds for me. I simply couldn’t re-create them, and even when I could, they did not even resemble the picture most of the time.

Then there was the search for ingredients. Leeds has twice the population of Iceland, and four times the population of Reykjavik. Why can’t I find these ingredients? We did venture in to the Thai supermarket and international supermarket, with some success, but there is still much on my list that I have not been able to locate. Not that that is the book’s fault of course.

cheesecake
The cheesecake made an appearance at my Gran’s birthday party (left), my Grandma’s wake (right), a dinner party and one just for Elina and I.

When the recipes did work though, they were delicious. The pomelo and papaya salad with sweet cashews has quickly become a go-to salad for parties, and the white chocolate cheesecake is so easy and so delicious that we have had a continually rolling batch of them on the go for about a month now.

It might not be the most practical cookbook ever. However, it has produced a few tasty recipes and is a lovely way to remember our trip.

Which cookbooks are the most useful?

Saturday, September 24th, 2016 | Books, Food

cookbooks

We don’t often repeat recipes in the Worfolk household. There are so many amazing cuisines, cookbooks and ideas out there that we try something new almost every night. However, there are some recipes that are tasty enough, quick enough or reliable enough that they are reused on a semi-regular basis.

As you might imagine from knowing me, I keep them on a spreadsheet. I thought it would be interesting to analysis how many recipes from each cookbook made it onto the spreadsheet and therefore which cookbooks have stood the test of time.

I have linked through to the review, where one exists.

Recipe Count Cookbooks
13 River Cottage: Veg Every Day
11 River Cottage Every Day
6 Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites
4 Paul Hollywood’s Bread, Cakes & Slices, 30 Minute One Pot, Nordic Cookbook
3 River Cottage Bread*, The Fish Market, Curry Bible, Thug Kitchen
2 Baking: 100 Everyday Recipes, Soups, The Accidental Vegetarian, Paul Hollywood’s Pies & Puds, River Cottage: Light & Easy, Chocolate
1 River Cottage Fish Book, Kenwood, Moomin’s Cookbook, Linda’s Kitchen, Easy One Pot, Nordic Bakery
0 500 Ways To Cook Vegetarian, River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh’s Three Good Things

* indicates I am still working my way through this book.

This isn’t an exact science. I re-use some recipes more than others. If anything, Veg Every Day deserves to be higher because I use that a lot, whereas although I have marked Easy One Pot as having a recipe I would re-use, I certainly don’t go for it anywhere near as much.

It is also unfair on some of the books. A lot of the baking books for example are full of amazing recipes that I have yet to try, but one might day and find they are definitely keepers.

Based on these figures, it seems sensible for me to recommend River Cottage and Mary Berry cookbooks. River Cottage consistently does well. The original River Cottage Cookbook isn’t really a cookbook, it’s more of a book about self-sufficiency, so it is not surprisingly it did not do well. The River Cottage Fish Book did not score so well either, but it was fun read. At the other end of the table, both of my favourite River Cottage cookbooks are storming ahead.

Mary Berry is also on the recommendation list because I am working through my second cookbook of hers at the moment and that is also going to score well. Plus they’e excellent for easy meals and dinner parties as they almost always contain instructions for making in advance.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I have finished working my way through Mary Berry Cooks that added 8 new recipes onto my spreadsheet. That puts it in third place behind the two River Cottage books.

Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 | Books, Food

Absolute Favourites is 2015 cookbook by Mary Berry. It ties in to a TV show that I haven’t seen.

One of the things that Elina always comments on is how practical Mary is, especially in comparison to Paul Hollywood. Hollywood will insists on all kinds of different kitchen implements, whereas Mary will usually find a way to re-use the same bowl. This shines through in the book. Most of the recipes have a “you can do this bit in advance” or “make this and freeze it for later” section.

I was very much amused by comments such as “teenagers will love this”. It is organised by meal time and does classic dishes: steak with peppercorn sauce, meatballs in tomato sauce, fish pie. It still feels contemporary though: chilli burgers, sticky chicken and tapas all put in an appearance. The dishes are easy to make too.

Where perhaps it falls down in our kitchen is that perhaps the quintessentially English dishes are just a little bit boring. I felt like I was going easy on myself when I picked one of these up. The food does not suffer because of it though: everything we did was reasonably tasty or better.

My two favourite dishes were the lentil shepherd’s pie, a great alternative if you want to cut down on your meat intake, and the fish pie (shown below).

fish-pie

This is a super recipe that uses chunks of bread as croutons that you sit on top and toast slightly, revealing a sea of fish pie underneath.

This isn’t the most adventurous cookbook I have had but it has a lot going for it: the recipes are simple, easy to get right, have scope for pre-paring many of them and produce lovely results. Well worth investing in if you want to cook some English.

mary-berry-absolute-favourites

Nordic Cookbook

Monday, May 16th, 2016 | Books, Food

the-nordic-cookbook

The Nordic Cookbook is a book on Nordic cooking by Magnus Nilsson. The first thing you notice about it, is it’s size. It’s not quite A4, but it’s not far off. The depth of it is even more impressive. It weights in at over 750 pages. It’s so heavy: a real struggle to lift with one hand.

It covers Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

It is well presented. Being so big, it does not have great structural integrity. The spine moves around a lot. It stays open really well though. It also comes with two ribbons for saving your place.

The chapters, organised by food type, are broken up with full-page photographs from across the Nordics. Many of which are very beautiful. It’s printed in quite a dull matte.

The recipes themselves are poor. Nilsson starts the book by explaining that you won’t be able to make a lot of the recipes because you will not be able to get the ingredients or do the cooking methods. He’s right. There are maybe five recipes to a spread, so there are probably somewhere in the region of 800 recipes in this book. How many did I manage to make? 19.

This is in-part by design. He explains that is a guide to Nordic food, rather than a recipe book. Some of the stuff is just boring. Everything is served with boiled potatoes. Some stuff you have to cook for six hours.

You also need some local knowledge. There is typically a paragraph or two for each recipe, one explaining where the dish comes from and a brief one explaining what to do. Other than that though, you are pretty much on your own. Photos are few and far between. Occasionally you get a full-page photo with six dishes on it, each one labelled. So there is sometimes a pictorial guide, sometimes not.

If you are after a book that captures the essence of Nordic cuisine, tells you how to make authentic recipes and contains some beautiful photography, this is a good book to get. As a straight-up cookbook, it’s less useful.

Hugh’s Three Good Things

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016 | Books

Three Good Things on a Plate is a cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I am a self-admitted Fearnley fan. This book does even more to reinforce that. Sure, he is an Old Etonian toff who’s recipes take hours to prepare because he has nothing else to do than mess around at River Cottage. However, it is unfair to level him as a one dimensional chef.

In River Cottage: Light & Easy he threw off his traditional indulgence in complicated recipes to demonstrate dishes that could be made in 20 minutes. In Three Good Things he shows us what you can do with three simple, easily-accessible ingredients.

If you have the title of the book, you have the whole concept. Each recipe is based around three ingredients. This does not include basics such as salt, pepper, oil, etc, but for the most part sticks to the rules. Don’t like one of the three ingredients? He even includes a “swaps” section to suggest other ingredients you can replace it with.

As with the River Cottage cookbooks it is beautifully presented in hardback with a full-page photo for each recipe. As is also typical, the book contains a lot of recipes, coming in at 400 pages.

One of the downfalls of simple recipes is that you have to get on with the ingredients. I found myself skipping past quite a few recipes because, even given the swaps, I couldn’t make them work to suit both my own tastes, and those of Elina. Many of the dishes are quite light and therefore perhaps more suitable for lunches than dinners.

However, we did get plenty of dinners out of the book and those that we did were usually wonderfully quick and simple to prepare.

hughs-three-good-things

Kenwood recipe book

Monday, March 14th, 2016 | Books, Food

When you buy a Kenwood stand mixer, you get a hardback recipe book with it. It is designed to get you started. The first section is things you can do with each of your attachments. Sensible enough.

This quickly loses track though. It talks about mixing things on medium. What is medium. I have ‘minimum’ and then 1-6. Is it half way up the dial? Somewhere else suggested I should only mix dough on min and 1. Which is it? I would expect a book designed to go with the product to be a little more clear.

brioche

The recipe for brioche was a disaster. The contents of this bowl in no way constitute a dough. Or anything you could bake. At best, you might be able to get it off your dough hook with a lot of hot water and scrubbing.

skillingsboller-2

The Norwegian Skillingsboller was a much greater success though. I was sceptical when they first went into the oven. They were already tall enough and things normally rise rather than expand out. They did indeed however, and all was well.

kenward-recipe-book