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A History of Food in 100 Recipes
A History of Food in 100 Recipes
by William Sitwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force history of cooking., 20 April 2012
Food writer William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Kitchen magazine has written this book; I assume the inspiration was the British Museum's excellent History of the world in 1000 objects radio series and book.

Whilst there are 100 recipes in the book, it isn't really a recipe book as such. It's more a chronological meander through the history of cooking, starting with bread in ancient Egypt and ending with a simple recipe for stewed rhubarb using protected designation of origin forced fruit from the rhubarb triangle in Yorkshire.

None of the recipes are by Sitwell - sources range from the walls of an Egyptian tomb to an iphone app; the level of detail in recipe reflects the source. Each recipe is accompanied by a few pages discussing the source, and how the dish reflects a change in the way that we, as human beings, eat. So, for example, the recipe for a souffle discusses the career of Antoine Beauvilliers, the first restaurateur to offer his guests a choice of dishes from a menu, and who wrote L'Art du Cuisinier in 1816. Incidentally, it seems as though Antoine had some difficulties with his souffles, as there is apparently much discussion in the book about getting them to the table quickly, before they collapse.

The thing this book reminds me most of is Google. Not in a "do no evil" kind of way, nor in a "if you don't know the answer, Google will be able to tell you" kind of way, but in a "it's amazingly simple to get sidetracked" kind of way. The book is liberally cross referenced, so that, for example, you start with a recipe for apple pie, then follow a reference to turkey, and from there to hot chocolate, and so on. It's a real delight; I particularly found the early chapters fascinating, although I have to admit that I have limited interest in Virgil's recipe for roasting a goat.

In particular, the chapters from the 1970s hammer home the point of how lucky we are to be in an era when the importance of real food is returning, rather than ghastly frozen meals warmed up in an "unfreezer" - aka microwave. Life is so much better when olive oil is available from shops other than a chemists.

This book is essential for anybody with a passing interest in the history of food and cooking, and redefines what five stars should be. The main trouble I've actually had while writing this review is being disciplined enough to actually put the book down and get on with writing.

This book will solve many Christmas present problems, although I feel it would be unfair to make the recipients wait so long for a copy.


Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food
Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food
by Greg Malouf
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.00

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you need to know about high end Middle Easten Food, 19 April 2012
Malouf is the latest book by Greg and Lucy Malouf; Greg is executive chef at MoMo in Melbourne, and has now taken charge of the cafe at Petersham Nurseries, while his former wife Lucy is a food writer and editor. New Middle Eastern Food is their latest book, giving a wide ranging overview of recipes from all over the Middle East, particularly including Lebanon, Syria, Iran, North Africa and Turkey.

The book is formatted around the Middle Eastern eating style of sharing dishes; it's divided into seven main chapters; each chapter being further subdivided. There are chapters on soups, small dishes, large dishes, side dishes, bakery, sweet and larder. So, for example, the "large dish" chapter is split into seafood, and meat and poultry sections.

Flicking through this book, it's hard to know where to start. The flavours used look enticing, but as Middle Eastern cuisine isn't our daily cooking style, so it's a real treasure of new flavours and textures. Choosing what to cook is made slightly harder, as not all of the recipes are pictured, but it does mean that the final dish is a lovely surprise when served!

I would highly recommend this book for those who are looking to expand their repertoire, although it must be said that the influences shown in the book aren't just restricted to the Middle East: cock-a-leekie with dates and croques monsieurs is a dish that doesn't strike me as something from the depths of the souk. Sounds delicious, though. As does Portuguese marinated quail, whole salmon fillet in fragrant salt, tarator-style, yoghurt-baked fish with walnut-herb crumbs, barbecued young chicken scented with cardamom and thyme, chicken cooked on coals, Aleppo-style, with crushed walnuts, lemon zest and mint, crisp Egyptian pigeon with coriander salt, roast leg of lamb with spiced pumpkin... I could go on, but you get the idea. However, as the recipe names indicate, the food is more towards more complicated the restaurant type dishes.

This is a book that's well worth adding to our cook book library; we have nothing like it on the shelves, so it's gained a rare space. If you want to expand your cooking horizons, I suggest you have a look.


Lemongrass and Ginger Cookbook: Vibrant Asian Recipes
Lemongrass and Ginger Cookbook: Vibrant Asian Recipes
by Leemei Tan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SE Asian cooking perfectly distilled into one volume., 12 April 2012
Rarely is a book's subtitle so apt - vibrant Asian recipes - sums up Leemei Tan's first book Lemongrass & Ginger perfectly.

Lemongrass and Ginger is another excellent book from Duncan Baird Publishing, obtaining a well earnt place on my shelf next to both French Brasserie and Mighty Spice. Knowing what other titles are in the DBP pipeline I am eagerly anticipating a culinary world tour - all with the same characteristic modern twist. It may not be intended to be a series, but there is a strong cohesion with food styling and photography and layouts.

But back to Leemei's Lemongrass & Ginger. I loved it from the first flick through, and having read more and cooked from it, I still love it. Distilling Asian cooking into just over 100 recipes is an impressive feat. I am not an expert on the region, but to me there seem to be no obvious gaps, all dishes are exciting appealing and enticing, adapted for modern kitchens and a new generation of cooks who want to experience traditional Asian cooking at home.

One of the highlights of the book is Leemei's evocative and warming introduction, full of passion, colour and personal history. Onward to the recipes, arranged by country Japan & Korea, China, Philippines & Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam and lastly India & Sri Lanka. Each chapter is prefaced with an introduction, explaining the main characters of each country's style cuisine - now I feel I actually know and understand the difference between each.

At the end of the book there is a "basics" section containing a glossary & techniques section, with recipes for 20 spice pastes & stocks, and explanations of techniques from rehydrating dried mushrooms to preparing squid.

Most recipes have a short introduction giving more background and insight into its origins, and how it could be adapted, for those who are also armchair cooks around 3/4 of the recipes have a mouth-watering photo. On my to-cook list are the delicious and exotic sounding Phunket-style Pad Thai (served on an omelette), Malaysian coconut & lemongrass scented rice with squid sambal, Sri Lanken hoppers, sizzling beef with ginger & spring onions. You should be able to cook the majority of recipes in this book using ingredients available in a large supermarket.

Perfect for a present, those who want to know more about and to understand Asian cuisine, and for those who already are competent cooks and want to refresh their Asian cooking.


The Silver Spoon (Cookery)
The Silver Spoon (Cookery)
by Phaidon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.37

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you could ever need to know about Italian Cooking, 20 Mar 2012
I love Italian food. Simple, and with a focus on the best presentation of fresh ingredients. Of course, not being Italian and not having been immersed in an Italian grandmother's cooking throughout my childhood, I'm sure that my main experiences of Italian food is one degree removed from the real thing.

For those who, like me, do want to experience the real thing comes The Silver Spoon, a comprehensive cookbook of regional Italian food. The blub claims that this is Italy's best selling cookery book (although, at 1504 pages, I'm not sure a word as simple as "book" covers this. "Tome", perhaps, or is that a little pretentious?), and I can easily believe it. Over the 60 years that this book has been published in Italy, it has evolved into the definitive source, containing over 2,000 recipes and around 450,000 words. It is weighty too, at 3.2kg, it is the second heaviest cook book I own, the weighty crown won by Larousse Gastronomique at 3.4kg!

The book is broken down mainly into the constituent parts of a meal, with colour coded chapters on: antipasti, first course, eggs and frittata, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, game, cheese, desserts and finally a chapter on menus for festive occasions and one on menus by special chefs. Within each chapter, the recipes are arranged by the main ingredient; so, for example, all cauliflower recipes are together. The recipes are generally short, avoiding over complication; most of the recipes are unaccompanied by photos. This is a book stuffed full of text, designed to live in the kitchen and be used. It's not one for the coffee table.

Talking of cauliflower, we tried the cauliflower with ham; where boiled cauliflower is then roasted with ham, parmesan, boiled eggs and fried breadcrumbs. It sounds unconventional, but was actually delicious, with the flavours blending well together, offset by the crunch of the breadcrumbs. And this shows the big advantage of a book like this: it's so comprehensive that no matter what you have in the fridge, there will be some new recipe to try.

Some of them are surprising to me, and show that, if nothing else, traditions can change. I'm not sure you would have found recipes for chutneys, burgers and tagiatelle with yabbies, butter and sesame seeds when the book was first published in 1950. And I'm not quite sure how keen I am on any of the eleven recipes for brains.

However, this book does deserve to fight for a place on the cookbook shelf, as a definitive source for Italian recipes.


Modern Cookery for Private Families (Classic Voices in Food)
Modern Cookery for Private Families (Classic Voices in Food)
by Eliza Acton
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian Delight, 20 Mar 2012
Modern Cookery for private families by Eliza Acton, published in 1845, so pre-dating the more well known Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management by sixteen years; in many ways, Modern Cookery was the precursor to Mrs Beeton, and one of the first cookbooks aimed at the housewife, rather than the professional chef. As such, it was intended to be comprehensive; there are 636 pages, each of which contains several recipes, so it's hard to imagine that much escaped coverage in its 34 chapters. This was also the first cookbook to list ingredients separately from the body of the description. The time that the recipe will take to prepare and cook is also included - as much of a help to modern cooks as it would have been to our Victorian forbears.

The book is stuffed with recipes that are miles away from what is commonly found today. Celery vinegar, lots of mutton recipes, the lady's sauce (for fish) merely show the range. There are also little jokes throughout - the publisher's pudding, which can scarcely be made too rich, compared to the poor author's pudding, or the printer's pudding. And then there is the elegant economist's pudding, a way of using up old plum pudding by lining a pudding basin with slices, filling it with custard and cooking.

Were I to choose a favourite recipe from this book, I think that actually I would go for a whole meal. As a classic book, it should be a classic meal: potted shimps, a beef-steak pie all followed by the welcome guest's own pudding. In contrast, I have little interest in either tapioca or sago soup.


Madame Prunier's Fish Cookery Book (Classic Voices in Food)
Madame Prunier's Fish Cookery Book (Classic Voices in Food)
by Madame Prunier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you could ever need to know on classic French fish cookery, 20 Mar 2012
Madame Prunier's fish cookery book is an exhaustive collection of recipes - if it's not in here, it's not in the library of classical French fish dishes. After still timely, and very useful chapters on the basics of cooking fish - frying, poaching etc, comes a chapter on sauces. The rest of the book is divided into chapters on hors d'oeuvres, soups, fresh water fish, salt water fish, shellfish, and turtles, frogs and snails. I doubt there's much call for the recipe for turtle soup nowadays, particularly as the first stage of the recipe is to kill the turtle by decapitating it.

The range of recipes is simply mind-boggling. For example, there are no fewer than one hundred and fifty nine different recipes for sole. Where to start? I quite fancy Sole Edouard, simply because of the name (poached sole filets served on a lobster and truffle salpicon, with mushroom puree, in case you were wondering). One of the results of this concentration of recipes is that each one is really just in shorthand, a few sentences to remind the cook as to what each dish involves, rather than step-by-step instructions, so it's not one for the faint hearted.

If you only want one book about classical French fish cookery, this is that book. If it's not in here, it doesn't exist.


Simple French Cooking for English Homes (Classic Voices in Food)
Simple French Cooking for English Homes (Classic Voices in Food)
by Xavier Boulestin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for novices, more of a feel for the recipes., 20 Mar 2012
Simple French Cooking for English Homes by Marcel Boulestin - the first television cook - is a lovely little book (114 pages) giving details of uncomplicated dishes, using (generally) inexpensive ingredients. Like the other books in the series, the recipes are to modern eyes very sparse, with no list of ingredients, and commonly little in the way of measurements used. Also, there are many variations around a basic theme, so for example there are thirteen different omelette recipes.

Admittedly, some of the dishes are, as would be expected, not in line with modern sensibilities. Fried sheep's brains, for example, is not something I have an urge to try. Three recipes for brains is three too many. But there are plenty of other dishes of interest: a traditional blanquette de veau, for example.

The book isn't one for novice cooks. Many of the recipes are really just a few notes to remind one about the essentials of a dish. It's assumed that the cook will already have a feeling for such things as how long a piece of fish takes to cook.

I particularly like the recipe for roast chicken. Simply "Birds should be roasted in front of a clear fire". Sounds good to me. I'm less sure about the salad of beef and herrings.


The Gentle Art of Cookery (Classic Voices in Food)
The Gentle Art of Cookery (Classic Voices in Food)
by Mrs C.F. Leyel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, Genteel and Charming, 20 Mar 2012
Starting with The Gentle Art of Cookery, this book of 750 recipes fills 430 pages, including index and a rather wonderful chapter on "The Alchemist's Cupboard", which details all the dry stores a well equipped kitchen should have. The authors seemingly had a particular fancy for the Army and Navy stores, as well as long lost condiments such as Lazenby's Hervey Sauce.

Like many older cookbook, the recipes are short - this is not a book which takes the cook step by step through each dish, and it doesn't list ingredients at the start of each recipe. The recipes are divided by chapter; while many of the chapters themes are unsurprising (vegetables, meat, fish, for example), some of the others are more uncommon; chestnuts, "dishes from the Arabian Nights", Almonds, and Flower Recipes.

Of course, food is as subject to fashion as, well, fashion, and therefore this collection is not at the cutting edge of molecular cuisine. However, a good number of the recipes are worth trying, especially the more traditional dishes.

If selecting a recipe to try and one to avoid, braised pheasant with chestnut puree sounds interesting. As I really can't stand rabbit, I would avoid all the rabbit recipes as a matter of principle. Probably the hare recipes too.


Saved by Cake
Saved by Cake
by Marian Keyes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hug in a cookbook, 21 Feb 2012
This review is from: Saved by Cake (Hardcover)
Saved by Cake is as much about mental illness and depression as it is about the baking. It is a brave, honest and somewhat paradoxically upliftingaccount of depression by Marian Keyes, whose legions of fans adore her witty warm writing and believable characters, making her one of Britain and Ireland's most popular authors.

Marian discovered baking and found that the concentration required, the almost magical transformation from raw ingredients to a cake and subsequent deliciousness all helped. It has not "cured" her, but it helps. And baking helps me too - I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from feeding people - my poor guests are sometimes treated like foie gras ducks and geese when I am on a roll.

Saved by Cake contains 8o delicious recipes (all photographed); covering the basics to more esoteric numbers such as wasabi & white chocolate cupcakeswith salt caramel icing or balsamic, black pepper and chocolate cake or even sweetcorn, coconut and lime loaf.

The book is filled with Marian's warm and witty writing, who can fail to be charmed by instructions to "decorate pinkly" or a recipe for defibrillator cubes - with enough energy to bring a person back from the dead. There is even the three milks cake (AKA hug in a cake) for when you have a bad shock - such as a massive credit card bill after a shoe binge! I've made a note to make this for when my bill next arrives.

The book is perfect for a present, for the new or experienced baker, for someone who has no intention of baking but just loves Marian, or for someone who needs a hug in a book.


First Preserves: Marmalades, Jams, Chutneys
First Preserves: Marmalades, Jams, Chutneys
by Vivien Lloyd
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you want to preserve then this is your book, 21 Feb 2012
The first national marmalade week starts on the 25th of February, so First Preserves: Marmalades, Jams, Chutneys by Vivien Lloyd is a timely arrival. This is an ideal guide for those less experience in the alchemy of preservation, as it gives full details - well illustrated by photos - of the processes involved in all three products mentioned in the title. Vivien who has been making preserves for 25 years and judging for 18, certainly is an expert, and in 2008 won "Best of the Best" with her entry to the World's Original Marmalade Festival.

I am a huge fan of preserving, and are few thing I enjoy more, or find more relaxing, than spending the afternoon with cooking a cauldron of jam or chutney for the store cupboard, the end result is both delicious and a perfect gift.

The marmalade recipe goes into great detail about the basic recipe for Seville orange, with plenty of photographs to reassure the novice marmalardier about how the brew should look. After leading us through the basic recipe, the end of the chapter gives details of the full range of variations around the basic recipe.

The second section is on jam, and similarly to the marmalade chapter, the basic techniques are given, clarified by photographs. New to me is the method for detecting whether the jam is set, by seeing how the jam comes off a spoon when it's tipped over. Among the recipes that sound particularly enticing are gooseberry and elderflower jam, greengage jam and rhubarb and loganberry jam.

Likewise, of the chutney recipes there are a good number that look well worth giving a go. I fancy the damson, ginger and cardamom, date, and pear and ginger chutneys. Again, there are extensive pictures showing all stages of the chutney making process.

The final chapter is about competitions, giving guidance on how to enter the world of competitive jam and chutney, and includes a very helpful section on common faults and how to avoid them.

This book fully deserves to be described as authoritative; I can't imagine that outside the realm of the most fanatical jam-head, most people don't really need more than one book on jam and preserve making. The way that this book shows the details of the basic steps mean that this is that book. This will be replacing my current preserving bible.


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