Since I started blogging my recipe reviews over on the Huffington Post UK blog I’ve more or less completely stopped reviewing cookbooks on this blog. I’m organising a full archive with links to all of the cookbook reviews I’ve done. It’s taking me a while because I keep changing my mind about how I want it organised – this is nothing unusual for me! That will be coming soon.
I’ll be doing a couple more cookbook-ish things as well in the future but for now I thought I would do some mini reviews of books that have been out a while but that I have gotten out of the library recently and enjoyed. So here’s the first.
The Cook and The Gardener – Amanda Hesser
Absolute Press – 2005
Illustrations: Kate Gridley
“The Cook and the Gardener” is all about Hesser’s (the cook) time spent at the Château du Feÿ and the influence of Monsieur Milbert’s (the gardener) walled garden and wonderful vegetables. This is pretty much the ultimate lifestyle/recipe book.
There are vast quantities of notes and long written sections with recipes dotted between them. The recipes themselves are organised in a seasonal frame with the best ingredients from each month highlighted one at a time. There are no photographs at all but small illustrations dotted through the book. It feels like something to sit and read on a Sunday afternoon while jotting down ideas for recipes for the week ahead.
I am always on the lookout for cookery books that can become staples in the kitchen. Books like Delia’s Complete Cookery Course or the Ballymaloe Cookery Course where you know you will find the right flavour combination, a good lunchtime idea or the timings you need for a roast dinner. “The Cook and the Gardener” is along those lines and has a very impressive number of recipes. There is a lot of writing in here so if you want just recipes this is probably not the right book but if you like the story behind the food it is very well written.
There are beautiful and rustic ideas all the way through that are inspired by classical French cooking as well as some lovely and innovative recipes. Some of the meals can be quite long and often run over several pages which makes it a bit more awkward to cook from but there are also lots of quick soups and sides. The notes that Hesser has included are wonderful and give a real insight both into her own cooking and also the way that you can adapt recipes to suit your own style.
This is not an easy book to get hold of anymore but I would highly recommend grabbing it if you do come across it. Lots of beautiful ideas for everything from large dinner parties to a comforting, simple supper dish. A real treat.
Posted by vclinde on March 6, 2012
Well, it’s been a really quiet week now that my poetry project is over. I’m currently trying to decide what to do for my next collection while also working on something that I had to put on hold while I was finishing the poetry.
I have reviewed ‘A Year in my Kitchen‘ and ‘Apples for Jam’ here as well as ‘A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse‘ over on the Huffington Post UK blog.
I plan on having some more variety on here soon but for now there might be quite a lot of cookbook reviews with only mini updates in between.
I’ve never been a big fan of Christmas and my family doesn’t do much festive stuff (apart from avoiding shops for a week). In fact I have always had trouble remembering the date of Christmas 23rd/24th/25th/26th? Honestly I can never remember which it is – so much so that my Mother was trying to wish me a happy Christmas season this morning and I thought I’d got it wrong again and that it was Christmas day today. She toyed with the idea of lying and keeping me in the dark but was kind enough just to mock me and laugh instead.
All that having been said, I do hope that everyone who celebrates various wintery festivals is having a lovely holiday season. I am off to visit my cousins tomorrow so shall mostly be celebrating the M1.
Happy Holidays everyone.
Posted by vclinde on December 24, 2011
Apples for Jam – Tessa Kiros
Murdoch Books – 2010
Photography: Manos Chatzikonstantis
I am a huge fan of Tessa Kiros’ recipes however this is easily my least favourite of her cookbooks. It is organised by colour and so is very difficult to navigate. The contents page at the front has almost no information but the index is well done. Page numbers could have done with being clearer, especially as you almost always need to use them to find a recipe from the main index.
The layout of the recipes themselves is much better with a clear separation of ingredients and the main text as well as clear headings. As with most of Kiros’ cookbooks there are little anecdotes in among the recipes which are nice enough to read but if you aren’t a fan of biographical details in cookery books they are very easy to avoid.
There is a very Italian style to a lot of the recipes, which is not at all surprising and for me was very welcome. I love Italian cookery and the warmth of that region really comes across beautifully. At first glance the recipes don’t appear to be very original but they are mostly classic recipes that Kiros has improved upon which makes all the difference.
The recipes are brilliantly written with a very good balance of basic and more challenging as well as a nice rounded combination of sweets, savouries, meats and veggie dishes. A few of the ideas are a bit too long and overly complicated to fit into the family theme I think but as I am not a family cook I wouldn’t like to say for certain. Most of the ingredients used were easy to get a hold of and there are several store-cupboard meals that can be done easily as well.
There are a good number of pictures in the books although there could have been more if the non-food ones had been replaced with photographs of the recipes. The food has been wonderfully styled and matches the philosophy of the book perfectly.
My favourite recipes were the Baked Pumpkin with Butter and Brown Sugar, the Baked Ham and Cheese Bread Pudding, the Mince and Potato Croquettes and the Chocolate Toffee Nut Squares. There was a huge number of recipes in ‘Apples for Jam’ that I will be trying out, a lovely collection altogether.
As with ‘Food From Many Greek Kitchens’ this is a book fully of great recipes but awfully put together. I love the ideas but it’s incredibly awkward to use.
Posted by vclinde on December 22, 2011
‘Food From Many Greek Kitchens’ – Tessa Kiros
Murdoch Books – 2010
Photography: Manos Chatzikonstantis
The introduction to this book is rather different containing the Greek alphabet with examples of words for that letter as well as a useful glossary of terms. This is a lovely reminder of the long history that Greece has and feeds well into the first section of Traditional Foods.
The organisation of the book is rather odd and it can be hard to find things in it, the contents has very little information about what is in each section but everything is listed in the index.
The photography is brilliant and a large number of the recipes have pictures with them which is a huge boon with foods that may be less familiar (there were certainly a lot that I had never heard of) although there are a lot of pictures of ovens, table settings, windows etc. that would have been much more useful if they had food in them. On a similar note there are huge patches of white space around the rather squashed text which seems wasteful.
The range of recipes is excellent and the seafood especially are really different and interesting. Quite a few of the titles had no explanations alongside to show what they were and in some cases it was pretty hard to guess. The notes from Kiros about her life and small anecdotes are dotted throughout the book and break up the recipes nicely without interfering with the flow.
The sweets are especially interesting. They are amazing and very different but not so much as to be intimidating to people who are unfamiliar with Greek cookery (me!). There is also a lot of insight into the herbs and spices used in Greek cooking which is lovely for playing around with flavours. Some of the ingredients that Kiros uses are harder to find but she often gives alternatives for the less common items so that replacements can be found.
I had a few niggling problems with this book but the main is the font – it is in a light teal colour and lots in italics making it really difficult to see even when sitting and reading through so would much harder using it while cooking.
Overall this is a great collection of recipes but a terrible book, definitely worth reading through for the ideas but much harder work than it should have been which is a real shame. The best recipes for me were the Melomakarona Honey Cakes, the Sesame Bread Rings, the Fakes Lentil Soup and the Grape Juice Pudding.
Posted by vclinde on December 15, 2011
This week I have fallen hugely behind on my poetry. Not sure why, I just kept forgetting that it needed to be done so I’m hoping to remedy that as soon as possible.
I have posted reviews of Forever Summer and Easy on this blog.
I’ve also posted a review of Notes From My Kitchen Table on the Huffington Post UK blog.
To continue the foodie theme going on this week I have blogged about a few of the other food sites that I love around the internet and I have been playing around with the joy that is peppermint bark.
I have spent time with people I love, drunk a shameful number of Starbucks’ red cups, wrapped many presents for various birthdays and christmassy things. I have read ‘Byzantium‘ by John Julius Norwich, ‘Clockwork Prince‘ by Cassandra Clare and ‘Between Shades of Grey‘ by Ruta Sepetys.
And now I really should go and write some poetry…
Posted by vclinde on December 11, 2011