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Bake & Decorate
Bake & Decorate
by Fiona Cairns
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Perfectly Bake and Decorate with Ease, 11 May 2011
This review is from: Bake & Decorate (Paperback)
I really love this first book by Fiona Cairns. It is packed full of enticing, inspiring projects that crucially, given Fiona's status of Royal wedding cake maker, are all very achievable by an average cook in an average kitchen.

Beautifully illustrated with full page colour photographs for each recipe the book is divided into two sections; bake and then decorate.

The books begins with glossaries covering ingredients, equipment and baking & decorating tips.

The 30 recipes in the bake section cover the classics, such as a chocolate celebration cake, Victoria sponge, sticky ginger cake and coffee & hazelnut cake etc. Contemporary cakes with more exotic flavours also feature such as a star anise, almond and clementine cake or pistachio & orange blossom. The comprehensive bake section is finished off with macaroons, meringues and biscuits, giving you all the baking recipes that you need.

On to the decorate section and some stunning, modern cakes. Most of the ideas in here are very simple, but highly effective. A chocolate cake is covered with deep pink icing and splattered and flicked with chocolate in homage to Jackson Pollock, a forest of Christmas trees grows atop a fruit cake. Vibrant sugarpaste roses cover a chocolate cake in a Bollywood inspired centrepiece (the roses are very easy to make from the clear instructions). The sweet shop cake is perfect for a child's party, and I love the retro feel of the mosaic cake, so simple but so very effective.

As well as large cakes the book features a selection of small cakes with daisy and sunflower cupcakes for a spring tea party, and flying insects or fondant hats! In the final section on biscuits there is a gingerbread mobile, Christmas tree decorations and Easter biscuits.

The reasons this book is so effective is firstly the clever cross referencing - each bake is linked to the decoration ideas for that recipe, and vica versa, so there are many permutations and variations for each bake or decoration idea.

Fiona writes delightfully, and explains everything clearly so it really feels that she is standing next to you, encouraging and giving you the confidence to try something new.

MasterChef at Home
MasterChef at Home
by DK
Edition: Hardcover

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emcompasses the Best of Masterchef 2010, 14 April 2011
This review is from: MasterChef at Home (Hardcover)
MasterChef at Home would be an excellent present for fans of the programme, the book contains 200 recipes and 9 menus from the amateur, professional and celebrity competitions from the 2010 series.

Like all books from Dorling Kindersley the volume is clearly laid out and beautifully presented. Recipes are well laid out with the time taken and ingredients clearly standing out. Photography is beautiful, and most recipes are accompanied by a full page photo, helpful "Mastertip" or comment from John, Gregg or Michel Roux Jr.

The book is divided into 6 colour coded chapters; starters, vegetables & fish, poultry, meat, game & desserts. I do wonder why they have a separate game chapter, but have not separated vegetables & fish.

Dotted throughout the book are 8 masterclasses from the fabulous Monica Galetti covering topics from dressing a cook crab, making mayonnaise, filleting a flat fish. Each is no nonsense, well written and accompanied by step by step photos that will hold the hand of any cook attempting the task for the first time.

Recipes are wide and varied. I love both Alex Rushmer's duck dishes, one with spiced tobacco caramel and the other tea smoked. Dhruv Baker contributes saffron glazed scallops with apple and pistachio puree and oil. For spring there is a rump of new season lamb with crushed spring vegetables from Neil Mackenzie followed by Jo Jenkin's rose and orange rhubarb zabaglione.

Recipes vary in skills needed, although I think that everything in the book could be made by a confident cook, and many recipes can be broken down into smaller parts or simplified making them more manageable. Pommes mousseline for example really is just mash with cream, which seems far more attainable! I can see that some of the recipes here will become regulars in my kitchen.

Given the enduring popularity of Masterchef I can see the book becoming an annual event, I am quite looking forward to recipes from both Tim and Jackie in the 2011 edition!

French Country Cooking
French Country Cooking
by Michel Roux
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Classical, 5 April 2011
This review is from: French Country Cooking (Hardcover)
If a book can be summarised in one word, then the one word description for this book is classic. If you are looking for a guide to all that is fashionable in the kitchen - how to cook sous vide,or the best way to make a soil or foam - then this is most definitely not the book for you.

If, however, you are after a compendium of classic French recipes, then this collection from the Roux brothers is well worth a look. Organised into 12 regions, the recipes celebrate all that is vital, earthy and rich about classic French cuisine.

It must be said, however, that this is not a book that bows much to modern sensibilities. It seems as though the starting point for many of the recipes is butter. A willingness to plunge into the world of offal, tripe, hearts and brains also helps.

The huge advantage of a book such as this is that it is a one stop shop, go-to for the classics. So there is quite possibly the richest quiche Lorraine imaginable. A guide to proper bouillabaisse. Pissaladière (how long has it been since I've had pissaladière? Coquilles St Jacques. Cassoulet. Choucroute à L'Alsacienne. Crêpes Suzette. Galette des Rois. I could go on, but you get the idea. And just because something isn't fashionable doesn't mean it's not delicious. In fact, I might have to nip into the kitchen and give my arteries a workout right now.

British Seasonal Food
British Seasonal Food
by Mark Hix
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.94

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best of British, 5 Mar. 2011
This review is from: British Seasonal Food (Paperback)
The fact that concern over food miles, seasonal, local and fresh are all currently high scoring words & phrases in foodie buzzword bingo is a good thing in my opinion. I far prefer to enjoy fresh produce in season than suffer some water-laden abomination that tastes of nothing and has been flown half way around the world.

Mark Hix - previously of the celeb's favourite The Ivy; now with his eponymous Oyster and Chop House in Farringdon and Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis, Dorset and most recently Hix Soho, is a champion of British food and his "British Seasonal Food" has just been published in paperback.

The book is arranged by month, with six to twelve recipes per month - with more recipes for the months of plenty in the summer, with choice being more limited in winter and early spring. Original drawings illustrate the book, and there is a beautiful photograph by Jason Lowe for the majority of recipes.

The book is firmly rooted in Mark's restaurant background. It is also not a book for the fainthearted or squeamish, chitterlings, brawn and offal make delicious appearances, making this book much more than just another run of the mill seasonal cook book. Other ingredients used range from razor clams to wild garlic, venison chops, cod tongues to cobnuts. All the recipes are possible with recourse to either a well stocked food hall or foraging from an ancient hedgerow or beach. Information on how to source the more esoteric ingredients is included (make friends with your butcher and fishmonger), but a measure of planning and forethought will be needed to cook many of the recipes. Although the experienced cook will be able to adapt many of the ingredients. Interestingly many of the unloved cuts of meat, such as lamb breast, can be bought very cheaply as there is little demand for them, a bonus in these times of economic uncertainity.

The recipes definitely look flavoursome, but I'm not sure if they all could be considered fuss free. Sometimes, however, taking trouble to cook something out of the ordinary is what makes cooking fun, and I am happy to celebrate the best of seasonal British food and produce.

On my to cook list are purple sprouting broccoli with pickled walnuts and roasted garlic (March), rhubarb tarts (April), stuffed breast of lamb (May), lamb sweetbreads with peas (July), slow cooked pork belly with autumn squash (September) and scallops with black pudding and artichoke puree (December).

Express Housekeeping
Express Housekeeping
by DK
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do you dream of being a domestic goddess but the reality is more of a domestic disaster?, 1 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Express Housekeeping (Hardcover)
"Do you dream of being a domestic goddess but the reality is more of a domestic disaster?"

This is the book that I wish that someone had given me when I set off for my second year at University for my first flat share. More importantly this is the book that I wish my flatmates had read and learnt from before I moved in with them.

Easily turn your home from cluttered chaos to cleaned organised efficiency, with the hints, tips and routines within. We (mainly) all hate cleaning, but all feel far better when our homes are clean, tidy and decluttered.

Every cleaning routine is clearly illustrated with the Dorling Kindersley signature crystal clear layout, and there are photographs of every stage of each process, breaking down the most daunting and scary jobs down into easily manageable segments. There is a handy estimate time for every task, which again makes everything seem manageable and doable. Routines start with basics such cleaning the bathroom, and include oven cleaning, removing red wine stains from the carpet, hand washing to effective decluttering as well as everything else that could possibly need doing.

There is nothing in the book that is startlingly new, or ground breaking, but there is lots of common sense advice and ideas and the general assurance that running a home is not an arduous task and can be (dare I say it?) Fuss Free, and good housekeeping does not take as long as one might think especially with lots of handy time saving techniques, as well as useful checklists - when did you last clean the filter in your washing machine for example?

The book is also full of greener and more frugal cleaning alternatives - using vinegar and baking powder for example, saving you pounds and helping the environment.

This book is perfect for anyone who is struggling with their home, and would be an excellent present for someone leaving home for the first time, or as a bible left in a rental property! The only downside is that the cover is maybe a little too pink to equally appeal to both men and women.

How Not to Get Fat - Your Daily Diet
How Not to Get Fat - Your Daily Diet
by Ian Marber
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.94

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diet without "dieting", 27 Jan. 2011
Diet. I am not a fan of the word. Diet is all to frequently used in place of "dieting", and as a result seems an austere word with connotations of deprivation. A diet is what what you eat, or how you eat; I strive for a diet high in plants, but lower in refined sugar and saturated fats, and certainly allowing treats. ABalance, variety and moderation are key to my diet. A diet is a way of life surely? Not a temporary quick fix before an important occasion, or after a holiday.

Enter the Food Doctor, Ian Marber, who has written this excellent diet book, giving anyone the tools and knowledge to allow them to eat well, without the need for dieting, and importantly allowing them to break the vicious yo-yoing from weight gain to dieting cycle.

Rather than dieting to lose weight, Ian believes that by eating well all the time, and stopping those hunger pangs that lead to binges, you will lose weight, feel happier, and most importantly eat good food that keeps you satisfied. It is a logical and persuasive argument, and I think one that works.

The book is set out into 3 sections. The first explains the theory, which is basically about keeping your blood glucose levels stable, so you never feel starving hungry and this likely to binge. You can achieve this by eating regular, frequent meals that always combine protein with complex carbohydrates.

The second part is the most interesting for me, and it sets out 50 Food Doctor approved foods and gives interesting recipes & serving suggestions for each one. Recipes are wide and varied, who would feel deprived eating grilled pork chops with sage and mustard sauce or flat bread pizza with vegetables and goat's cheese? There are plenty of vegetarian recipes in the book, although fish and and (to a lesser extent meat) still feature.

The third section contains meal plans, with fictional characters, showing how you can use the diet and recipes in your daily life. Examples are given for a family with young children, a single 30 something woman, students, teenagers and a vegetarian etc. Importantly everything is both affordable and achievable.

It is a simple, but powerful concept and one that is worth trying, if you want to diet without dieting.

I Love Curry
I Love Curry
by Anjum Anand
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love "I Love Curry", 13 Dec. 2010
This review is from: I Love Curry (Hardcover)
Quadrille sent me my copy of I Love Curry a good few weeks back, which has given me the opportunity to read it several times. I am sure that nearly everyone is familiar with Anjum Anand, who was the star of the BBC's Indian Food Made Easy. I Love Curry is Anjum's third book, containing 50 great curry rercipes to cook at home, and with a full page colour mouthwatering photo for every dish, the book also makes readers hungry for the curries!

The book is divided into logical sections, starting with "bites", then the curries; vegetable, fish & seafood, poultry and meat; followed by side dishes, breads, rice, salads and raitas. The book begins with a helpful introduction on Anjum's secrets of great curry and there is a spice glossary at the end.

The recipes are well written, approachable and clear, so do not let the longish lists of ingredients put you off. Most of the spices in the book are readily available in the supermarket, those that are not can be bought in a specialist shop or by mail order (Anjum lists her favourite suppliers - including one of my favourites Steenbergs). If you lack one or two specialty spices from a recipe I rercommend jumping in and making it anyway, I have adapted or left things out from several recipes in this book and the resulting curries have all been delicious.

Although this is not a vegetarian book, I would happily recommend it to a vegetarian (or vegan) as for most of the recipes substituting pulses, beans, tofu etc for meat will work well. Unlike many Indian recipe books it is also fairly light on the diary, using oil rather than ghee for frying for instance.

I think that this is a great addition to any cookbook collection, and an excellent present to a curry lover.

What to Cook and How to Cook It
What to Cook and How to Cook It
by Jane Hornby
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.96

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone can cook with book!, 12 Dec. 2010
Jane Hornby is a trained chef and has spent many years working for the BBC Good Food Magazine and has edited several of the Good Food series of 101 recipe books. Published by Phaidon this book is beautifully laid out and perfectly photographed. Every step of every recipe is clearly photographed, from a line up of ingredients (which makes a long list look far less daunting) to how to chop and prep to the finished dish. It is the visual equivalent of having Jane at your side in the kitchen. Coupled with the ultra clear and well written directions I believe that anyone provided with an equipped kitchen could cook anything from this book.

All the recipes can easily be created from ingredients exclusively bought from the supermarket. For the novice cook there is a handy shopping guide, glossary and preparation photos.

There are 100 recipes in the book, divided into sections to cover all eventualities including Breakfast and Brunch, Light Lunches, Simple Suppers to Desserts and Baking. Recipes cover British classics such as a full English breakfast, simple soups, sausages & mash, all manner of roasts, to apple crumble & custard. Also included are lots international dishes such as Pad Thai, Mediterranean fish stew and key lime pie, and of course the carbonara recipe! I think that the book covers the vast majority of dishes that people in Britain would name as their favourites.

I am thrilled to have a copy on my cookbook shelves, and I think that due to the outstanding photography and unambiguous instructions it is also a perfect present for any novice or unconfident cook (how many other cookbooks actually clearly explain how to separate an egg for example?) I am already looking forward to Jane's next book.

How I Cook
How I Cook
by Skye Gyngell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.50

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skye, simply perfection, 22 Nov. 2010
This review is from: How I Cook (Hardcover)
I am a huge fan of Skye Gyngell and was delighted when Quadrille offered me a copy of her latest book "How I Cook" for review. I own a well used, and food splattered, copy of "A Year In my Kitchen" and one of the best meals I have ever had in my life was at the Petersham Nurseries, where Skye is Head Chef. Skye's skill and genius lies in her ability to use a fantastic quality of local and seasonal ingredients which she cooks with a huge amount of thought, but simply, layering the flavours with fantastic effect.

On first receiving and glancing through the book, I was blown away by the superb photography by Jason Lowe (who was the photographer for Skye's other books). Against the shabby chic background of the Petersham Nurseries the food looks so delicious, with very clever styling that makes it look as if it has not been styled. Jason is the only photographer that I have come across that can make a bunch of empty jam jars or a half jar of coulis look attractive, he has a rare talent and the perfect style to work with Skye's food.

The book is arranged in to sections for the time of day; breakfast, Sunday lunch, afternoon tea, late night supper, or by suggested menu. Recipes are simpler than in Skye's other books and should be easily accomplished by any regular home cook. There are lots of familiar recipes, shortbread, ratatouille, potato salad, scrambled eggs, bread and butter pudding etc. All of which I have cooked many times, but to see Skye's interpretation on them is hugely inspiring and makes me want to enjoy cooking them all again using her twist on ingredients or method. For example Skye's scrambled eggs are made by gradually adding cold grated butter whilst the eggs are cooking.

The recipe for slow cooked courgettes served with mint is genius and is going to be a staple for using up my late season and enormo courgettes next year (I used it for my last 2 courgettes and straggles of mint from my window box).

Other delicious sounding recipes I am keen to try are slow cooked lamb with artichokes, peas & mint, a chicken and rice one pot, creme caramel with Pedro Ximenez. I am intrigued by an apple and green tomato pie which will be made next year at the end of summer when I have some green tomatoes.

On average I cook 2 or 3 recipes from every cook book I own, I will be making considerably more from How I Cook. As well as the recipes it is also a great read, had this been a Christmas present I would have been happy for all of Boxing Day curled up in front of the fire reading this. A great present for another or for yourself!

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