As you all know I was sent some lovely cookery books to review recently and I have been busy putting them through their paces. I like to try some of the recipes out myself before I give you a nay or a yea!
One might enjoy looking at delicious food photos, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating . . . and I don't think you can judge a good cookery book by it's pictures alone. You have to get stuck in and get your hands dirty! (Note if you click on the pictures of each book it will take you to a page where you may purchase it if you are interested, as well as the link at the end of each book description)
The first one I cooked from was Teashop Treats, from the Reader's Digest. You all remember the Treacle Ginger Loaf I baked from it, I am sure. It was absolutely fabulous! Easily the nicest ginger loaf I have ever baked and eaten . . . so moist and gingery. There were no actual food pictures in the book, but it is filled with lovely little illustrations, that really make it quite delightful. Lots of recipes as well, for creating your very favourite British baking classics at home. Delicious delights such at Hazelnut Meringue Cake and Bara Brith (A Welsh Tea Bread) . . . Rich Chocolate Torte (my mouth water's at the thought), and MACAROONS! Who doesn't love a tasty macaroon?? There's savoury delights as well such as Cheese and Watercress Scones and Potted Ham . . . in short every recipe that anyone could possibly want to put together a tasty afternoon tea party for yourself or to be shared. I just love this little book.
The second book is Archer's Country Kitchen, by Angela Piper. Most people in the UK are quite aware of the popular radio serial on the BBC called the Archers. (I am not sure if it is available anywhere else.) From the back of the book:
Jennifer Aldridge, long-time resident of Home Farm, Ambridge, loves nothing more than creating delicious treats for her family and friends. Here she shares with us some of her favourite recipes that she has collected through the years. From Susan Carter's simple salmon and Parsley fishcakes to daughter Alice's controversial wedding party menu, there are over 150 mouth-watering seasonal dishes to enjoy.
I know you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover but I was quite taken with the cover on this one. I am most partial to polka dots in any colour . . . and when I cracked it open I was not disappointed! It is beautifully laid out with recipes according to the seasons of the year . . .
It is filled with delightful illustrations and tasty tidbits from the make-believe villagers of Ambridge. I found myself quite entranced with it.
Again, there are not many actual food photographs, (there are a few) but you don't really miss them as the illustrations more than make up for their lack.
There are also monthly Country Kitchen Calendar's scattered through out with all the seasonal holidays and celebrations marked as well as a few recipes that are perfect for that month.
On offer are scrummy sounding delights such as Chocolate Pye in Orange Crust, Mother's Mock Crab, May Day Salad, Grey Gables Coffee Granita and Brandy Syllabub, Angler's Salmon Surprise, and Stuffed Summer Cabbage to name just a few.
I took the time to cook a delicious vegetable stew called "Bert's Potager's Pot" and we were most pleased with it. Chock full of flavour, colour and texture . . . neither one of missed the meat at all. We enjoyed it warm from the oven one day with some delicious rolls, and the leftovers heated up the next day were even better as if that were possible!
*Bert's Potager Pot*
Serves 8 to 10
A delicious vegetable stew that can either be cooked on top of the hob or in a slow oven. Adapted from the book Archer's Country Kitchen, by Angela Piper.
2 TBS olive oil
3 large onions, peeld and chopped
450g (1 pound) waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
225g carrots, peeled and sliced (1/2 pound)
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
225g parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks (1/2 pound)
450ml of vegetable stock ( 15 fluid ounces)
2 bay leaves
salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole. Saute the onions until transparent, without colouring, over a moderate heat. Add the potatoes, carrots, celeriac, and parsnips. Cook (sweat) without colouring over a low heat for 510 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaves and seasoning. cover and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes. You can discard the bay leaves at any time. Note from the author: I leave this to cook slowly in the bottom oven (not hotter than 150*C/300*F/ gas 2) until Brian and Adam come in from the fields, and serve it with wholemeal bread and a good chunk of Mature Cheddar Cheese.
I really love this book too! I highly recommend.
Jennifer Aldridge's Archer's Country Kitchen, by Angela Piper
Next up Grandma's Quick & Thrifty Cookbook, by Reader's Digest. This is a soft covered book filled with kitchen wisdom from a bygone era, but by no means are the recipes out of date or so old fashioned as to not be worthy of note. From a time when food tasted good and wholesome and nothing was wasted, this is food that is coming back into Vogue with the recent financial turmoil and rising costs we are all having to face.
Although we may all enjoy the flavour and thrift of Grandma's recipes, not all of us have the experience, skills or the time to replicate them. This is a beautiful collection of classic recipes updated for the modern cook, which recall the warmth and security of childhood. All the recipes in the book come with their own special rating for speed and thrift.
There is kitchen wisdom which is filled with tips on how to shop wisely and store things wisely, cutting down on waste time and money. There are ideas on how to stock your pantry, and wisdom on choosing the best produce, fish, poultry and meats possible.
But that's not all . . . there is also advice on Kitchen equipment, cookware, bakeware and useful gadgets. Instructions on how to read a recipe and conversion charts also come in handy. This book would make an excellent gift for anyone just starting out on their culinary journey.
Each recipe is accompanied with a lovely photograph of the finished dish, timings, thrift ratings and time saving hints. The instructions are clear and concise, with such delicious offerings as Beef Pot Roast, Cheese and Leek Tart, Crackling Roast Pork with Fresh Apple Sauce, Smoked Fish with Creamy Parsley Sauce, Sweet and Sour Pork, Bubble and Squeak, Creamy Potato, Egg and Bacon Salad, Irish Soda Bread, Honey Cake, Melting Moments, Shortbread and many, many others . . . more than 200 in total.
I chose to make the Stuffed Jacket Potatoes with Leeks and Cheese. It was very easy for me to cut the proportions in half for just the two of us and they were very easy to make. I usually have leeks and potatoes and cheese in the house and they made a really tasty and satisfactory lunch for the both of us today. I used half fat cheese as well, with no problems. They'd make a tasty light supper as well, accompanied with a mixed salad and some whole grain bread. Very, very scrummo!
*Stuffed Jacket Potatoes with Leeks and Cheese*
The perfect light lunch or supper. You can add ham or fried bacon to the filling, or sweet corn and sauteed red pepper. Replace the Cheddar with cream cheese or blue cheese, or scoop out the potato and mash it with avocado and grated cheese. Alternateively instead of the leek, add canned salmon or tuna, chopped fresh chives and grated cheese. Adapted from Grandma's Quick & Thrifty Cookbook, by Readers Digest.
4 large baking potatoes (about 1 KG or 2 1/4 pounds)
1 large leek
1 1/2 TBS butter
125g grated strong cheddar cheese (1 scant cup or 4.5 ounces)
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Scrub the potatoes with a stiff bristled brush and pat dry with paper toweling. Prick them a few times with a fork. Place them into the oven directly onto the oven rack. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the potatoes are soft when tested with a small sharp knife and the skin is crisp.
Trim the darker green section from the leek and discard. Cut the white stalk in half lengthwise and rinse to remove any grit. Drain well and thinly slice. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the leek and saute for 5 minutes, without colouring, until soft.
Using tongs, remove the potatoes from the oven. Allow to cool slightly and then cut a slice from the top of each. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl, using a spoon. Add the sauteed leek and the cheese to the potato flesh and season with some salt and black pepper. Mix to combine well.
Spoon the mixture back into the potatoes and replace the tops. Place the potatoes onto a baking tray and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot.
I really like this book too and would highly recommend. It's a great all purpose book for anyone wanting to cut back a bit on money and time, but not flavour!
Grandma's Quick & Thrifty Cookbook, by Reader's Digest
Last but not least I was given the Reader's Digest Quick Cooking Bible. From the back cover:
You may have been seduced by promises of a three course meal that can be cooked in 30 minutes, but found yourself with a kitchen full of dirty pans, an expensive bill for ingredients and a hungry family wondering why you've been in the kitchen for an hour and dinner still isn't ready. The Reader's Digest Quick Cooking Bible doesn't make any extravagant claims, but it does deliver the goods: 365 recipes which can be prepared from scratch in 30 minutes or less. A few recipes require some slow cooking after preparation, giving you the chance to do something else or just relax with a glass of wine, but most will take you from fridge to plate in under half an hour.
A pretty bold claim indeed!
It is filled with quick and simple recipes using widely available and . . . most importantly, inexpensive ingredients. There are recipes for every day and occasions . . . to treat the unexpected guest, to satisfy the kiddies at teatime, or for a special dinner party.
Each is accompanied with a delicious looking food photo, as well as prep and cook times. The instructions are clear and step by step for every dish. Also included are suggestions for accompaniements and menus to help you plan a whole meal.
There are tips on stocking the fridge, freezer and store cupboard so that you have the means at hand to put together a delicious supper any day of the week.
Tasty offerings include Chicken Thyme and Mushroom Soup, Stir Fried Teriyaki Steak Salad, Garlic Seafood Pasta, Mustard Mayo Sole with Tarragon-Orange Courgettes, Cinnamon Mustard Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Peppers, Peppered Beef with Pecan Nuts, Fresh Fig Puffs, Sesame Fruit Fritters, and Cinnamon Strawberry Pancake to name but a few.
There are also little sections like 5 Great Ways with a Tin of Tomatoes, 5 Great Meals with a can of Baked Beans, etc.
I found a tasty recipe in that section for a Bean, Cheddar and Potato Bake. It sounded fabulous and like something Todd would really love. Simple ingredients such as minced beef, onions, carrots, potatoes, tinned baked beans, cheese . . . It went together beautifully and was delicious! True to the book's claim, the dish was ready in 30 minutes! We both enjoyed it very much. Hearty, filling, economical and delicious! What more could you want? (Once more I used extra lean beef mince and half fat cheddar cheese, with no problems. I also had no fresh new potatoes, but did have a large tin of already cooked new potatoes, so it was a great store cupboard meal!)
*Bean, Cheddar and Potato Bake*
Sort of a beef and bean cottage pie with potatoe cobbles, topped with cheese and baked. Delicious!!
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
500g of lean minced beef (about 1 pound)
300ml of beef stock (1 1/4 cup)
1 to 2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
a bay leaf or a bouquet garni
600g of new potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds) peeled
420g tin of baked beans (14 ounce tin)
salt and pepper to taste
50g of grated mature Cheddar Cheese (scant half cup)
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/gas mark 6. Place the onion and carrot into a large skillet along with the minced beef. Cook and stir over moderate heat until lightly browned. Add the beef stock, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook gently for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime slice the potatoes and parboil them in boiling lightly salted water for about 8 minutes or just until tender. You do not want them to be breaking up. Drain well.
Remove the bay leaf or bouquet garni from the mince mixture. Add the tin of baked beans, undrained and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired, adding some salt and black pepper if necessary. Spoon half of this mixture into a shallow casserole dish. Top with half of the potato slices. Spoon the remainder of the mince mixture over top and the final layer of potatoes. Scatter the cheese over top to cover.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
No surprise here, I highly recommend this book as well.
Reader's Digest Quick Cooking Bible
All in all, I really liked all of these books and think they would make a fab addition to the family recipe collection. many, many thanks to Crystal from FWMedia for sending me them to test out!