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isabel in the kitchen (brisbane australia)

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A World of Cake
A World of Cake
by Krystina Castella
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.09

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge this book by it's attractive cover, 14 Nov. 2010
This review is from: A World of Cake (Paperback)
A very attractive looking book this which promises all sorts of delights. The author has adopted a novel approach starting with the descriptive first chapter "Cake Walk: A Sweet Tour of Cake History, Culture and Language" and continues this tour theme throughout with lists of cakes matching National holidays, World cakes for birthdays, Christmas Cakes around the World, Baby Cakes and so forth and an intriguing categorising of cakes into "family trees" of meringues, sponges etc.

The book has beautiful illustrations throughtout and presents as a very attractive package until, that is, one examines the recipes with close attention.

My first criticism is the number of recipes devoted to the Far East, India, China and Japan. These are fairly fiddly and complicated, best eaten in situ or at a restaurant. But that's as it may be, this wouldn't bother me if it not for the serious doubts I entertain as to the integrity of the author's research into her recipes.

Limiting my comments to those areas of cake-world that I know best: the Caribbean and the British Isles I was horrifed to see the author's Trinidadian Black Cake had red wine as an ingredient. This is not at all what one wants to see in a Black Cake whose taste must be mellow and suave; this is achieved by either port wine or kosher wine,both of rich provide a rich sweetness to the cake while red wine would add a most unwelcome souring element.

Zero marks too to the author's assertion that Hummingbird Cake owes it's provenance to Jamaica - it is generally credited to America's deep South and is certainly not part of the traditional canon of Jamaican cakes.

Moving on to the section on The British Isles there is a recipe for Victoria Sponge, that most quintessentially English of cakes, made as every baker knows with eggs, butter, sugar and flour (occasionally a little milk may be added). Here among rather strange proportions are lots of heavy cream, not as decoration but instead of the usual butter. Whatever it is , it's not a Victoria Sponge. Her Dundee Cake contains fresh pineapple chunks and fresh or frozen cherries!!as well as Guinness so it's a most peculiar hybrid of an Irish Guinness cake and some sort of fruit cake but whatever it is most emphatically not a Dundee Cake.

I don't need to go on, howlers like these abound throughout the book. I am not tempted to try any of the recipes and it is a clear waste of money to buy this book.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2011 1:29 PM BST

She Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth
She Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth
by Helen Castor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.10

76 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A near perfect book, 13 Nov. 2010
Helen Castor's study of queenship and power is a absorbing and gripping read. Narrated with a light and easy style this looks at the exercise of power by English queens; used as we are to history with the successful reigns of two Elizabeths and a Victoria it is easy to forget that this was not always so.

Beginning with the death of the fifteen year old Edward V1, son of King Henry of the many wives fame, and ending with the first successful queen regnant, Elizabeth Tudor, Helen Castor examines four examples of English queens who attempted to rule as well as reign.

As all four of the subjects of this book, Matilda, lady of the English, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of Valois and Margaret of Anjou, found, it was entirely acceptable to exercise power as the delegate or adjunct of a ruling male, but to attempt to do so in her own right was anathema for a woman. Nowhere is this made clearer than in the (male) chronicler's account of the 11th century struggle for power between Matilda, the legal heiress of England's crown and the Matilda, wife to King Stephen who carried out the fight for her imprisoned husband. Matilda, attempting to rule in her own right was described disapprovingly as unbearably proud and haughty while the other Matilda was warmly commended for " forgetting the weakness of her sex and a woman's softness, she bore herself with the valour of a man" .

I especially enjoyed the sections devoted to Margaret of Anjou and Matilda, Empress and Queen as I knew very little about them before.But what gripped me most was the little, telling details so often overlooked by other biographers and which bring their subjects to life with an touching immediacy. In the short opening section devoted to King Edward Tudor, I learnt of his wistful letters to his former companion Barnaby Fitzpatrick, that the Easter before he died Edward was treated to a spectacle of a danse macabre and that abandoned by all who had risen to power through him, he died in the arms of another boyhood friend, Henry Sidney.

Helen Castor demonstrates impeccable scholarship and a gripping narrative drive. Without doubt this is one of the best biographies I have read in quite a long while.

Curry Easy
Curry Easy
by Madhur Jaffrey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.96

122 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lighter, fresher, vibrant Indian cooking, 8 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Curry Easy (Hardcover)
I agree with the previous reviewer. This is not a re-working of Indian recipes, either of Madhur Jafrey's previous books or of the well-known hackneyed staples of restaurants or other Indian cookbooks.

Everything is ligher, fresher and if these words can be applied to food then the book exudes a joy and a vibrancy which is apparent as soon as one turns over the pages. The recipes are Indian but many are from the kitchen of the author's family and friends and are simple, easy to make, and do not require many spices or ingredients.

These are recipes you could use to make a whole Indian-inspired meal or just pick one as an accompaniment to a roast, a steak, a casserole. There are some delightful Anglo-Indian recipes such as Cheese Toast,Chicken Mulligatawny Soup, Sausage Curry of Beef/Lamb Jhal Faraizi (not the restaurant version) but a spicy hash of roast beef and potatoes.

Some standouts are the Salmon in a Tomato-cream Sauce, the variety of regional fish curries, the array of kebabs and lentil dishes, the emphasis on grilling and stir-frying, the perfect-for-a-picnic Chicken with Vindaloo Spices, the Sri Lankan Beef Smore, an interesting take on a pot-roast and the Karhai Broccoli.

This is an Indian cookbook which reflects our desire for tasty, easy-to-prepare food that won't pile on the pounds. Totally enticing it will give you a lifetime of ideas and favourite recipes. If you buy only one book on Indian food this is the one I recommend.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 7, 2011 11:11 AM GMT

Rambler's Rewards: Cooking from Coast to Coast
Rambler's Rewards: Cooking from Coast to Coast
by Elizabeth Guy
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars comfort food at it's best, 27 Sept. 2010
This is not a guidebook to the Coast to Coast Walks or a list of places to eat and stay en route. Rather this is a very personal collection of recipes from the authors Elizabeth Guy, Pat Kirkbride and Pat's mother Doreen Whitehead who for many years ran a legandary B & B and cafe and was a well-known personality in Wensleydale and Swaledale.

So these are family recipes, arranged according to a walk through a day from breakfast, breads, lunch, sweet treats (for teatime), supper, fish, vegetarian dishes and puddings. None of the recipes are complicated or time-consuming nor do they demand special ingredients. Local food and producers such as Swaledale cheese, Salked watermill and Cordingley honey are featured throughout the book but are not intended to set the cook off on an exhaustive hunt for must-haves; the local products are featured so that if you are in the vicinity you might want to look them up and try them. If not the authors urge you to search out for similar products where you live.

The recipes, are solidly, comforting English food at it's best (though with a quite a few nods to other food cultures such as pizza, lasagne, risotto or ratatouille). Game or Egg and Bacon Pie, Broccoli and Blue Wensleydale quiche, Vegetable, Tomato, Mushroom soup, Salmon en croute, Boiled Gammon with a sweet and sour sauce, lots of warming casseroles, Rice pudding, Treacle tart and Chocolate and Coffee-Walnut sponges along that with very traditional speciality Yorkshire Parkin are some of what's on offer. These are dishes just as suited to a busy working life as for a day out in the country. Most can either be prepared ahead of time or made at the last minute.

The authors draw a close connection with food and the landscape as the book is illustrated with evocative scenes from the Coast to Coast Walk, as well as of the recipes.

As soon as I opened my copy I knew I was on a winner. I've cooked from it constantly and it's not let me down.

The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties
The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties
by Linda Collister
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the british baking book of my dreams, 25 Aug. 2010
This is the one! The holy grail I have searched for all my baking life.

I have an absolute passion for British baking(and eating)and until now my longings have remained unsatisfied. I have wanted a book which has clear, well-written authentic recipes that work; recipes that haven't been dubbed-up with additional, non-traditional ingredients, recipes that are part of the great British baking heritage but equally are enjoyable today- without reflecting yesterday's tastes - using dripping or lard in cakes for example. Julie Duff's Cakes Traditional and Modern has a firm place on my shelf but a great many of her recipes fall into that category and are of mainly historical interest.

This is a lovely collection of the very best of British baking, sweet and savoury. It runs the gamut from pies, bread, biscuits, tarts and flans to cakes. All the homely foundation stones of our rich traditions are here: Scones, Crumpets, Shortbread, Madeira cake, Cornish saffron buns, Bacon and Egg Tart, Cornish Pasties and Beefsteak and Kidney Pie among many others.

Alongside these are some unusual regional specialities such as Stargazey Pie, Westmoreland Tart, Cornish Clotted Cream Cake. As the book accompanies the BBC series the Great British Bake-off there are winning recipes from the contestants too.

The book itself is impressively heavy which conributes to it's authoritative sense and has lovely photos of each bake.

This is such a winner I haven't had it out of my hands since it arrived. I look forward to many happy years of baking it's yummy, moreish treats.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2014 11:01 AM GMT

Gregg's Favourite Puddings
Gregg's Favourite Puddings
by Gregg Wallace
Edition: Hardcover

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, delicious recipes that you'll really want to make and eat, 31 July 2010
This book has all the hallmarks of a classic. A collection of recipes that are uncomplicated to make, produce delicious, reliable results and use ingredients that are either likely to be in your pantry or fridge already or are easily available and not esoteric.

Chapters cover Fruity Puddings, Tarts, Flans and Cheescakes, Chocolate, Classic Puddings, Ices and Mousses and Basics. Each recipe is accompanied by a cheery little aside from Gregg which makes them even more appealing as it seems he is standing by your elbow as you turn the pages and decide which one to make.

What I really, really love about this book are that there are plenty of homely, old-fashioned British recipes, the unfancy sort that everybody really wants to eat. Comforting staples, such as Summer Pudding ( no strawberries, the abomination ), Bakewell Tart, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Gregg's most-requested recipe, for Rhubarb Crumble stand alongside lesser known pieces of deliciousness such as Eve's Pudding, Apple Snow, Brown Betty and Treacle Tart.

Bread and Butter Pudding is as it should be:buttered bread, milk, eggs, little sugar and a few sultanas; no need to mess with the essential nursery simplicity of this pudding, although there is a chocolate version for those who can't help themselves.

Apart from the British recipes there are heaps of simple versions of recipes that have become part of everybody's repertoire nowadays: Pavlova, Clafoutis, Creme Brulee, Tiramisu and a lovely Tarte au Citron but what marks them out from the myriad of recipes available for these puddings is that Gregg's versions are easy to make and true to the originals with no unnecessary additions or riffs to sully their purity.

This is a book I will turn to again and again for inspiration and the perfect end to a meal -though plenty of these recipes make lovely teatime treats as well.

Levi Roots Food for Friends: 100 Simple Dishes for Every Occasion
Levi Roots Food for Friends: 100 Simple Dishes for Every Occasion
by Levi Roots
Edition: Hardcover

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings fantastic Caribbean flavours to the kitchen, 16 July 2010
I love both of Levi Roots two previous books and I love this one too. But this latest offering is perhaps my favourite. While his other books concentrated on Caribbean cooking,in this book the emphasis is on adding a Caribbean flavour to food.

This is a collection of great-tasting, uncomplicated recipes written with Levi Roots' usual flair. Since the accent is more on adding Caribbean flavours to food rather than pure Caribbean recipes Levi Roots adds an irresistible Caribbean take on dishes everybody loves to give them an unique twist; try his Brixton Pizza, Super Regal Coronation Chicken, Cuban Roast Pork, Breakfast Wraps, Caribbean Shepherds Pie, Sunshine Burger or Grilled Lime and Honey Chicken Skewers.

There are lots of fruity desserts and sunshine-inspired drinks in the Party chapter: dubbed-up Pimms, yummy Iced rum coffee, punch and a daiquiri.I love the chapter on baking, lots of good recipes here such as the Chocolate Orange Cake, Banana Cake with Choc Chips or the extremely boozy Rum and Coffee cake (don't eat this and drive).

Every possible occasion is catered for including Brunch, Picnics, Supper, High Tea. Most of the ingredients are readily available and not too esoteric. Mainly, preparing these recipes involves stocking up on tropical fruit and vegetables, rather than an intensive search for unfamiliar and hard-to-come-by items.

In fact, I can't wait to cook my way through this book. Full of fantastic Caribbean flavours it fills me with an urge to head to the kitchen and get cooking. Plenty of inspiration here.

My new favourite in my cookery library and a stayer.

Cake: A Global History (Edible)
Cake: A Global History (Edible)
by Nicola Humble
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.59

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nigel Slater likes this book and so do I, 1 July 2010
When I read a piece about cakes recently by Nigel Slater in The Guardian giving one of his own recipes and one from this book and read that he was thoroughly enjoying this book I immediately wanted a copy too. Nigel Slater is a bit of a culinary hero of mine and I share his self-confessed obcession with cake. Like Nigel this is my preferred treat(apart from fruit) and one that I can very happily ignore hand-made chocolates for. Preferably, the cake has to be home-made, quite simple to make and look at and not sugar-packed. Just like Nigel's own cake recipes.

This is not actually Nigel's book but I do see what he likes about it. A slim, elegant volume with charming, whimsical essays on The History of Cakes, Cakes around the World, The Culture of Baking Cake, Rituals and Symbolism of Cake, Literary Cakes and PostModern Cakes and beautifully illustrated, this is a book to dip into or read from cover to cover as the fancy takes you.

There are a handful of excellent recipes at the end, some of which have already become part of my baking repertoire. My only complaint is that there weren't a lot more. I would to see Nicola Humble write a book of cake recipes.

My Friend the Mercenary
My Friend the Mercenary
by James Brabazon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.07

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking good read; highly recommended, 3 Jun. 2010
This is not usually the sort of book I would go for but having read the extracts in The Times I thought I would give it a whirl and I am glad I did. Once I had picked it up I couldn't put it down.

Th first part of the book covers in gory detail the author's experiences in Liberia as a journalist with the mercenary Nick du Toit who he hired to protect him and the growing friendship between the two men. Not for the squeamish or faint-of- heart.

In the second part of the book the action moves to Simon Mann and the infamous Wonga coup - which luckily for his health and sanity James Brabazon missed out on experiencing personally. If life imitates art, then this is Frederick Forsyth's The Dogs of War writ large and terrible; it is almost as if Simon Mann and his merry band had set out to recreate the novel's plotline except that real-life is not quite so tidy nor good and evil so clearly demarcated. And the emotions and motivatitions it portrays run the full gamut from courage and endurance in great adversity to greed and utter stupidity.

The narrative is gripping and fast-paced and Nick du Toit emerges as the anti-hero who engages our sympathy, if only for his survival against all the odds from the torture and hell of Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea.

And having read this, I have just crossed regime-change off my list of 101 Things To Do Before I Die.

Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court
Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court
by Lucy Worsley
Edition: Hardcover

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars history "lite", but very enjoyable nonetheless, 9 May 2010
The scene: Kensington Place in the early eighteenth century. The main characters are a disparate and motley bunch: Prince George Augustus(later to become George the Second), his wife, the "fat, funny and adorable" Princess Caroline and Henrietta Howard the mistress Prince George thought due to his position rather than his desire. Then there is the ubiquitous Lord Hervey, Peter the Wild Boy and Mustafa and Mohammed George's Turkish servants. One of Mohammed's duties was to treat George's haemorrhoids while Mustapha dealt with his laxatives.

The wide-ranging supporting cast is as full as the whole court itself and features such characters as the enchanting Molly Lepel who was rather too fond of the bottle and the unloved heir to the throne Prince Frederick.

Concentrating on the lives of the main characters the book ranges widely throughout the life of George the Second as both prince and king and paints a vivid portrait of the preoccupations of court life: an endless round of back-biting, place-seeking, scandal political and sexual, strict attention to etiquette and endless games of cards to kill time.

Nothing is gone into very deeply but it is a highly enjoyable and engaging romp through the largely overlooked period of the reigns of the first two Georges. It left me wanting to know much more, especially about Caroline, acknowledged to be "the cleverest queen consort ever to sit on the throne".

Frothy as the lace ruffles on the court ladies gowns, this is a highly addictive read.

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