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Alexis Gauthier: Vegetronic
Alexis Gauthier: Vegetronic
by Alexis Gauthier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gauthier has made the rare achievement of rich and fulfilling veg, this book will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired!, 9 Sept. 2013
Vegetronic by Michelin-starred Alexis Gauthier seeks to change the traditional equilibrium between meat and veg. Gauthier is not a vegetarian, and this book is not aimed at veggies; it is a celebration of the fruits of the earth and how clever combinations can inverse the old school meat with a side of veg culture.

Gauthier had a classical training, working for the like of Alain Ducasse, but he has become somewhat of a revolutionary making brave and eye brow raising decisions (printing the calories on his Michelin-starred menu). Whilst the catalyst for Gauthier's veg revolution was the shocking (although somewhat inevitable given the tonnes of foie gras he has tested) discovery that he had a dangerously fatty liver, his writing betrays a passion for fruits and vegetables deeply rooted in his idyllic childhood in southern France filled with: apricots, cherries, Herbs and flowers from his Grandmother and fruit from Uncle Henry (and occasionally a grumpy farmer).

The book is split into Juices, Flowers & Herbs, Vegetables and Fruits. The recipes are easy to follow and each comes with the calorific content, prep time and a complexity rating: easy, medium or hard. Gauthier is passionate about using ingredients in season; his enthusiastic writing reminds you each season yields its own bounty to be celebrated. He also explains the nutritional benefits and how to select and coax your harvest to perfection. Each dish is accompanied by a gallery-worthy inventive photograph that pops off the page.

The recipes start with meat and fish Jus and Broth used to enhance the flavour, they are easy to make and can be frozen. Flowers and Herbs, inspired by his Grandmother and traditional combinations from the Middle East and Africa, is an impressive and striking collection of wines, salads, soups, jellies and my favourite: marshmallow and ricotta ravioli, twist on trad spinach.

Vegetables is the heart of the book, packed with innovative combinations that will convert you to a Flexitarian (a lover of veg, who hasn't quite given up meat). Celeriac Purée with Bonito Flakes and Lamb Jus is the perfect autumn starter, not a million miles from a savoury crème brulee. The Umami Bomb (Parmesan and Wild Mushroom Custard) is a showstopper, with a difficult rating it might take a couple of attempts but is definitely worth it.

Move over boring fruit salad! Gauthier's final chapter - Fruits - is a collection of puddings and refreshing savoury dishes, filled with delights such as: compôte of Figs and Almond, which is served on toast with a drizzle of honey and yogurt.

This book is revolutionary, but if you need any extra incentive to add it to your bookshelf visit Gauthier's website and watch the shocking video...

Ice Cream
Ice Cream
by Benjamin Vear
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A one-stop ice cream guide delivered with great zeal and enthusiasm, 31 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Ice Cream (Hardcover)
Ben Vear's second book, Ice Cream & Other Frozen Delights, is a gelato compendium - containing everything you need to know about the mysterious ice that has been universally loved since its first incarnation as frozen milk, flavoured with herbs and spices in ancient China, to the modern Mr Whippy.

Ben is a fourth generation scion of family run Winstones Ice Cream, that began in the 1920's when his Great-Grandfather offered refreshments to passing walkers. The business has grown organically to produce more than 1,000,000 litres of ice cream each year. Ben is deeply passionate about the business: keenly preserving the Winstones spirit for sourcing the finest ingredients ethically and locally, whilst bringing his own flavours and scientific approach to the mix.

Ice cream making is somewhat of an alchemy - a scientifically complex balance of fats, solids and liquids - which in my experience essentially means it is very easy to screw up! Ben navigates you past the potential minefields with clear and easy-to-follow instructions. The book starts with a basic introduction followed by a chapter on each category of flavouring with striking pictures of each scoop.

The Introduction traces the history of ice cream from its royal roots, as the preserve of the rich and noble, to the modern day Mr Whippy, pumped full of air and chemicals. This is followed by an overview of the necessary equipment and ingredients, with detailed instructions for the basic technique accompanied by step-by-step pictures.

The flavours start with an exhaustive overview of national favourite Vanilla - discovery, extraction and useful tips for understanding extract versus essence followed by 17 variations. Ben starts with the most traditional, an adaptation of his Great-Grandfather's recipe, and graduates to the more experimental: Candied Bacon and Maple Syrup and the logic defying Baked Alaska. The highlight for me is the Moondust Frozen Yoghurt: vanilla, rum and toasted almonds topped with a sprinkling of sliver glitter - magical!

Sugar, Caramel and Toffee is the most decadent chapter: a detailed explanation of caramelisation, instructions for salted caramel and toffee is followed by indulgent Banoffee Pie and Salted Caramel ice cream (which is dangerously quick to make - ready in just a couple of hours).

The chemistry of our insatiable love for Chocolate is explained alongside instructions for tempering and the perfect chocolate sauce. This chapter goes well beyond a humble choc-ice with imaginative infusions of rosemary and truffle oil.

Ben goes local to the extreme, encouraging you to forage in hedgerows, for the Berries chapter. Here you can make the most of Britain's plump fruits with Gooseberry Fool and Balsamic, Blackberry and Strawberry ice cream.

Citrus guides you through the potentially disastrous addition of citric acid to milk and cream. The show stopping Lemon and Squid Ink looks more like a work of art than humble scoop, whilst the Blood Orange Sorbet is the ultimate refresher.

From here the book turns towards a more mature pallet. Herbs and Spices covers a wide array, from their most popular Mint Chocolate Chip to Wasabi - an unexpected success that is recommended with smoked salmon or game.

Botanical is the most experimental collection that sounds positively Heston-like, try Earl Grey Tea and the vibrant Matcha Green Tea (just don't use a standard green tea bag...it must be matcha or you will have a murky disappointment!).

Alcohol is another perilous ingredient, but worth the effort for Guinness ice cream and Absinthe ice lollies.

Don't skip the Accompaniments, which will showcase your homemade wonders in waffles, meringue nests and sugar-spun baskets. The final recipe pays homage to Mr Whippy, this 21-st century version involves freezing the mix in icecubes and blending to achieve the iconic whippy shape and texture without the chemicals.

You cannot help but be inspired by Ben's infectious love for ice cream

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deb is a legend and this book is a classic - I wish it had been published 10 years ago!, 27 Aug. 2013
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is the long awaited first book from blogging superstar Deb Perelman. Deb registered the The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is the long awaited first book from blogging superstar Deb Perelman. Deb registered the Smitten Kitchen domain in 2006, since then she has amassed a loyal following of fans (we are talking millions) and a shelf full of awards for her no-nonsense recipes and sublime pictures. Deb doesn't come from a long line of chefs, or have a classical training - she is self-taught, driven by a dissatisfaction with restaurants and a fanatical drive to achieve the perfect [insert literally anything here].

Deb's style is characterised by both her compulsive search for the ultimate recipe and welcome requirement for efficiency (she cooks from a postage stamp sized kitchen in NY). As a relentless tweaker, she makes fine adjustments to each recipe and assesses the marginal benefit of each bowl, utensil and ingredient - is it worth it / does it make a difference / would I miss it. The resulting recipes are refined, achievable (even for those in a tiny kitchen, on a tight budget with no time) and most definitely worth it!

The book is organised by course, with beautiful pictures and the captivating story behind each recipe. Deb's instructions are easy-to-follow, honed after almost a decade of writing blogs and responding to comments from her followers. For the more complicated techniques there are step-by-step pictures, cooking notes and a summary of the things you can prepare ahead.

Notes and Tips is a summary of Deb's cooking conventions, with precise definitions of the terms and amounts used in her recipes. This section also contains useful tips for substituting hard to find items.

Breakfast is an indulgent chapter of pancakes, buns, cereals and frittatas (Deb is particularly fixated with these). The Muffin is textbook Deb: seven iterations of recipes led to the gloriously simple Plum Poppy Seed Muffins. Chunky Granola will see you turning your back on the shop brought stuff, and for the health conscious the addition of egg white and olive oil allows you to reduce the fat and sugar.

Salads is packed with healthy, robust salads full of flavour and colour - not a slimy tired leaf in sight. My favourite is the Courgette Ribbons in Almond Pesto: cut the courgette into delightful ribbons (you can use a peeler - mandolin not necessary) and toss the ribbons in the pesto dressing.

Sandwiches, Tarts and Pizzas contains everything form the humble, but morish, Rye-Bread Toastie with Emmental and Red Onions to full blown Pizza. The Pizza Dough section guides you through what you do (an oven that gets hot) and don't need (bread machine, dough hook, pizza stone, pizza oven...), there are two recipes to suit your schedule: rushed (done in 45 minutes) and leisurely (requiring 8 hours+ in the fridge).

The Main Dish is split into Vegetarian and Seafood, Poultry and Meat. These are hearty recipes that can be cooked in isolation or combined for a feast. Roasted Aubergine with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and Cumin Crisped Chickpeas, is delicious and comes with a useful tip to avoid greasy veggies: rather than drowning the plant, just oil the pan first - like you would for a pancake (I'm not sure why I've never tried this before). Pistachio Masala Lamb Chops with Cucumber Mint Raita contains one of the few less common ingredients, Chaat Masala, discovered at an Indian restaurant. Lamb chops are browned and coated with masala, pistachios and spices before baking.

Sweet Things is a mesmerising collection of cookies, tarts, cakes and sweets. Buttered Popcorn Cookies are an unexpected success, Deb's recipe makes those perfect cookies: fudgy in the middle and golden on the outside. Other crowd pleasers are the Gooey Cinnamon Squares and the Blueberry Polenta Butter Cake.

Party Snacks and Drinks provides useful advice for how to host a relaxing supper party that you will enjoy as much as your guests - planning ahead, just one show-stopping dish and making sure you have time to test the Prosecco. The book finishes with a fantastic guide to equipping your kitchen - essential for those who are space and budget constrained.

Deb is a legend and this book is a classic - I wish it had been published 10 years ago!

The Art of Pasta
The Art of Pasta
by Lucio Galletto
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.84

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring collection of recipes that will have you digging out the pasta maker!, 16 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Art of Pasta (Hardcover)
The Art of Pasta is an exhaustive, but never dull, pasta bible written with deep experience and infectious enthusiasm. Its seems that Lucio Galletto is a man driven by love - it led him from his native Italy to Australia, drives his restaurants and art collection - and this book is brimming with it! The book is the third he has written with author/journalist David Dale, and it comes richly illustrated with a fusion of photographs drawings by Anson Smart and Luke Sciberras.

Galletto's style is nurturing, like he is imparting a lifetime of knowledge, so you can feel confident in your approach and encouraged to try more adventurous recipes and techniques. The provenance and characters behind each technique and recipe are fondly explained, next time you tuck into ravioli filled with potato remember the poverty that spurred its creation, or think of Marino's mother when you are eating passatelli.

The first section covers the basics: dough, colour adaptations (including chocolate, squid ink and saffron), rolling, cutting and cooking. Complex tasks are clearly and simply explained, with detailed instructions and tips to help with the subtle nuances of each technique. My first attempt at farfalle shaping accidently turned into maltagliatai, the romantic term for badly cut pasta! If you don't want to venture into making pasta, the cooking section covers dried pasta too. I was amazed by the volume of water required for cooking: one litre for each 100g of pasta.

Soups and Broths, that originated as humble peasant food, is the ultimate comfort chapter. The broths are packed with beans and vegetables: the Bean and Pasta Soup, combines butterbeans prosciutto and tomatoes with maccheroncini pasta (little tubes). This is the ideal chapter for anyone on a budget, or a health kick.

Some Basic Sauses covers pestos, tomato sauces and ragùs. If you only read one page, make it number 56. This will change your view of `spag-bog' forever; classic bolognese is what you should be eating, packed with: mushrooms, pancetta, chicken liver, veal, beef and pork sausages.

Dried Pasta begins with a reminder that it should only be cooked until it is al dente, and helpfully explains exactly what that is along with the best dried pasta/sauce pairings. Uncooked sauces, that are simply tossed with hot pasta and served immediately, are childishly simple but full of flavour. The recipes typically require few, but good quality, ingredients.

Once you have mastered Fresh Pasta the possibilities seem endless. The black pasta is my favourite, whet your appetite with Black Tagliatelle with Grilled Scampi and Leeks, a mouth-watering combination of just 3 ingredients.

Filled Pasta is a little more involved, but the instructions are clear with tips on how to get the right consistency of filling - not too soft or too wet. Beetroot Ravioli is rich in colour, the beetroot bleeding through the pasta, whilst Duck Egg Ravioli from Logan Campbell (head Chef at Galletto's Sydney restaurant) combines truffle, asparagus and chestnut mushrooms with duck egg yolk poached to perfection inside the ravioli.

Baked Pasta is ideal dinner party fodder. The more traditional tray bakes, lasagne and cannelloni, are presented alongside more delicate dishes like Campbell's Three-Weed Lasagne with Blood Orange and Marjoram.

Gnocchi, although not technically pure pasta, is the final chapter. This is serious comfort food! Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and Pistachios combines the rich nuttiness of pistachio with creamy gorgonzola.

This book is a classic; it deserves to be read cover-to-cover (with a large glass of wine) before the corners become dog-eared and pages smeared with pasta dough!

Bistro Cooking
Bistro Cooking
by Cyril Lignac
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars France's answer to Jamie Oliver delivers traditional bistro cooking with a modern twist, 15 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Bistro Cooking (Hardcover)
Cyril Lignac, with his refreshing attitude and poster boy good looks, is often hailed as France's equivalent to Jamie Oliver. He was voted the country's favourite chef, has television programmes, cookbooks and a healthy eating revolution to his name. Lignac worked with the likes of Alain Passard, Pierre Hermé and Alain Ducasse, before going solo with his own restaurants, which are celebrated for their modern twist on traditional French cooking.

Bistro Cooking is a homage to his Saint-Germain des Prés restaurant: Le Chardenoux des Prés. The book showcases Lignac's contemporary take on traditional French bistro cooking. Packed with Arthur Delloye's lavish photographs from the restaurant, this book deserves a space on your coffee table before the pages are spattered with wine and cream!

The forty recipes, based on the restaurant menu, are neatly organised into starters, mains and desserts. The instructions are easy-to-follow, with clear labelling of the preparation times and, most satisfyingly, each is accompanied by a crisp full page photograph of the exquisitely presented dish.

Starters are brimming with flavour, but most (save for the odd slab of fois gras) are mercifully light. To whet your appetite, imagine Carpaccio of Sea Bream Flavoured with Citrus and Espelette Chilli Pepper: the components can be prepared in advance and assembled when ready to serve. Burrata with Ligurian Olive Oil and Grilled Vegetables is characteristically unfussy, but rich with the flavours of aubergine, artichoke and courgette. The twist on the classic French bistro sandwich, the Croque-Monsieur, requires a little planning (refrigerate for 8 hours), but is easy to prepare as a hearty starter or, for those with a smaller appetite, a delicious weekend lunch.

Main Dishes are split across seafood and meat. Griddled Scallops with White Asparagus and a Creamy Orange Sauce will impress, with the orange foam giving it that cheffy feel. On the meaty side Braised Beef Cheek with Mild Spices, Macaroni Gratan with Mature Paremesan Cheese is one of the more relaxed mains, and the cooking time (4 hours 30 mins) leaves you free to host your guests - this is sure to be a dinner party hit.

Desserts are irresistible, this is my favourite chapter. Lignac's famed Chocolate Éclair looks decadent - almost sexy - whilst other recipes expertly combine nutty and fruity flavours. The Rice Pudding with Bourbon Vanilla, Mango Coulis is childlishy easy to prepare and tastes divine. The book finishes in a flourish with bistro favourite Salted Caramel Macarons.

A triumph of accessible but no less sophisticated recipes, which are free from the rigidity of the old guard of French cuisine.

Chocolat: Seductive Recipes for Bakes, Desserts, Truffles and Other Treats
Chocolat: Seductive Recipes for Bakes, Desserts, Truffles and Other Treats
by Eric Lanlard
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring collection from a Master Pâtissier!, 12 Aug. 2013
Eric Lanlard, veteran of Baking Mad and Glamour Puds television series, has compiled an indulgent compendium for his most loved baking ingredient: chocolate. Lanlard's fascination with chocolate is firmly rooted in his childhood, and his enthusiasm for the precious commodity is infectious.

The book begins with A Brief History of Chocolate: a concise insight into its ancient beginnings (uses varied widely from aphrodisiac to currency). The following introductory chapters, Know Your Chocolate and Working with Chocolate, cover essential techniques for selecting, storing and manipulating chocolate.

Having covered the basics, Lanlard gets down to some serious baking; the recipes are split across four chapters, with clear instructions (handy lines split the recipes into sections for easy reading), insightful tips and tantalising photographs from Kate Whitaker.

From the Bakery covers humble buns, nibbles and bling cakes. My favourites are the decedent Salted Butter Caramel Cake and nutty Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti.

Desserts & Puddings is comprised of show-stopping recipes that are guaranteed to impress, Chocolate and Banana Tarte Tatin is surprisingly easy and deeply satisfying, whilst the White Chocolate and Passion Fruit Cheesecake is bursting with flavour and colour.

Truffles & Treats is packed with chocolates and sweats from the traditional to more experimental (see Lapsang-Souchong Pralines) that, wrapped up in a smart box or jar, would make fantastic presents. Lanlard finishes off the book with Drinks, Spreads & Sauces, which features the ancient Spicy `Aztec' Hot Chocolate, laced with nutmeg and cinnamon, it is the perfect restorative at the end of long day, and rich enough to satisfy even the most ardent chocoholic.

No matter how much I have eaten, I can always find room for chocolate. Lanlard's Chocolat is an inspiring collection from a Master Pâtissier.

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