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All You Knead is Bread: Over 50 recipes from around the world to bake & share
All You Knead is Bread: Over 50 recipes from around the world to bake & share
by Jane Mason
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.33

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book for those keen to learn to bake bread, 7 Dec. 2012
Home baking here in the UK is on the rise. It's probably the Great British Bake Off factor, but baking books are springing up everywhere, and one of the latest is All You Knead is Bread by Jane Mason.

There is such a huge difference between proper bread that's been given time to rise gently and develop its flavour and with a proper crumb and rich texture, and the sort of pap that's found on supermarket shelves, that turns into a little ball of mush as soon as you start chewing, and that you can tell just from picking it up is a loaf without any substance.

When bread really was the staple carbohydrate, I don't think that the general population would have even looked at a loaf of sliced white. The rich range of traditional loaves found in each country beat the modern mass produced, Chorleywood process loaf into a cocked hat (why are things beaten into a cocked hat anyway?), and for a truly satisfying breakfast, there's nothing like a slice of proper toast, with proper marmalade on top.

This book is wide ranging, introducing me to all sorts of different breads from around the world, but by necessity it isn't exhaustive. For example, there isn't a recipe for saffron buns, nor for soul cakes, but there are plenty of recipes for breads that I haven't come across before. I really fancy trying the potato and rosemary bread, Danish rye, pide ekmeghi, maritimers' bread, beer bread, and the Easter bread. As well as the recipes for less common breads, Jane also includes a chapter on introducing the concepts and ingredients for straightforward loaves, including sourdough. I do like the little essays about Jane's travels around the world, and her experiences of the local bread wherever she goes.

The recipes themselves are clear and well explained, aided by the longer section at the front of the book which gives more details about each stage of baking bread. The photography is also good; nicely styled and clearly illustrating the finished results, showing us what we're aiming for. Giving further guidance are her videosfollow; so you can really see the process in action - a great help for the inexperienced baker.

In summary, this is a great book for those who wish to explore the world of breads, and particularly those who are looking for inspiration from around the world. As I said, it's not exhaustive but as apparently there are 3,600 different types of bread in Germany alone, it' really can't be, but for the keen baker, it's well worth adding this book to your shelf. The punning title does set my teeth on edge, though.

The Square: Savoury: 1
The Square: Savoury: 1
by Philip Howard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £40.00

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse at the art and skill of a top chef, 23 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Square: Savoury: 1 (Hardcover)
There are cookbooks aimed squarely at the "I'm bored of my standard repertoire of week night suppers, and I want some inspiration". Equally, there are cookbooks aimed at "I'm having a dinner party, and I want to make something a bit special". And then there are cookbooks from Michelin starred restaurateurs and restaurants; uber aspirational, requiring a dedication to both acquiring ingredients and time given to cooking the dish that make using from these books not an exercise in cooking, but an exercise in producing a work of art, albeit a copy.

Philip Howard chef and co owner of The Squarefollow, based in Mayfair, London, with two Michelin stars, has launched a cookbook, which has been over 10 years in the writing, the first of a two, subtitled Volume 1: Savoury. The book itself is beautiful, on heavy, shiny paper stock, with each recipe simply but stylishly photographed and then written up over 3 or 4 pages or so. The 526 pages - this is not a small book - are organised into chapters on: basics, amuse-bouches, soups and consommes, salads, from the cold larder, from the hot lader, pasta, risotto, shellfish, fish, meat, and game.

Obviously, cooking food of this type is akin to a military exercise; it's immediately obvious that a brigade of sous chefs (each with a quiver of Japanese knives made by the most obscure cutler imaginable) would be immensely useful. For example, a Roast chicken consomme with stuffed wings, morels and foie gras calls for 32 ingredients, among which are 5 kg of chicken carcasses, 2 whole chickens and 2 chicken breasts.

What this book does illustrate is that at this level, the amount of work that goes into dishes of this quality is immense, and while the cost of a tasting menu at the restaurant (at £110) seems steep, it reflects that work. For those who want to have the time and patience to cook in that way at home, this book will allow you to try your hand at producing food worthy of fine dining. It is a beautiful volume and a must have for anyone interested in food and dining.

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient with Recipes
Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient with Recipes
by Jennifer McLagan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting fat might not be such a bad idea, 21 Nov. 2012
Should one want to eat a healthy diet it seems to me that it's currently particularly difficult to know exactly where to start. Low carb? Low fat? High protein? Fasting days? Throwing her hat into the ring is Jennifer McLagan, with this book about - as the title suggests - the much maligned food type of fat.

I have to admit that I like fat. Good butter dripping from freshly baked bread or hot crumpet. The grassy, peppery notes of really good extra virgin olive oil. The thin, glistening, translucent wafers of Spanish or Italian style air dried hams, or even for that matter the criss-crossed fat on my mother's roast ham. This book is proposing that far from being an evil that's best avoided, a suitable amount of fat in our diet can actually be a good thing. The way that fat can flavour a dish means that we can be satisfied with eating less, with commensurate benefits for our waistlines.

The recipes are organised by type of fat: butter, pork fat, poultry fat, and beef and lamb fats. Each chapter starts with an extensive discussion of the particular fat; of the recipes, I do like the look of the butter chicken, salted butter tart, Cheong Liew's braised pork belly, Boston-style baked beans, duck rillettes (I LOVE rillettes!), duck confit, chicken liver spread, cassoulet, and marmalade pudding. What does spring out is just how traditional many of the recipes are, show how recent the fear of fat is, and how important fat used to be in our diets, and whilst it's true that many fewer of us do the kinds of physical work that used to be the norm, isn't a smaller portion of a really tasty dish a much more attractive idea than a large plate of dry tastelessness?

For those who wish to read further, there is a bibliography, but I think that I'm just going to stick with my plan to make rillettes. Did I mention I love rillettes?

Leon: Family & Friends
Leon: Family & Friends
by John Vincent
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.49

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great all round family cookbook, perfect for when you are building your library., 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Leon: Family & Friends (Hardcover)
Leon family and friends is, as the name suggests, a cookbook aiming to provide unpretentious recipes for feeding your nearest and dearest. It's co-written by one of the founders of "healthy fast food" concept restaurant Leon (an establishment which I most admire, incidentally)

It's a very appealing book, lavishly illustrated with photos of the authors', er, family and friends, but in a way that's charming rather than irritating. Some great ideas on children's cooking, both for things they'll enjoy making and for heathy dishes they might actually eat. Examples include pesto chicken, fish finger wrap (actually a posh fish finger sandwich but made me laugh), and showing kids how to make fresh pasta and pizza, to name but a few.

Difficulty rating is mild to moderate - even the most inexperienced cook will find plenty to get stuck into.

There are lots of digressions into snippets of nutritional info, which are entertaining and informative. The book is divided into three sections: Today - which covers breakfast, brunch and quick meal ideas for tired kids in the evenings; Tomorrow - cooking for special occasions where some planning might be required; and Yesterday - indulging in the authors' nostalgic family food memories and which contains such classics as Crepes Suzette and Coq Au Vin.

The book spans a wide range of cuisines and dishes,- I guess a lot of which passes for British these days with plenty of both Asian and traditional English recipes. Among other digressions, there's also a useful and inspiring chapter on quick meal ideas from the tins and packets languishing in your store cupboard.

Some quite creative categories - "A walk in the park" which are things you can leave in the oven for an hour or so and go out, and they'll be done when you get back. Recipes are very clear and well laid out.

I tried out a couple of the pasta dishes - the Ragu a la Toscana for entertaining friends - and the chill crab linguine when I had some over-ripe cherry tomatoes to use up, and both were absolutely delicious.

I'm going to give this book four stars, with the caveat that if you already possess the Nigels, the Nigellas, the Jamies and the Delias there might be little new for you in here, but as a good all-round family cookbook you could do a lot worse if you're just starting to build up your library.

World's Best Cocktails: 500 Couture Cocktails from the World's Best Bars and Bartenders
World's Best Cocktails: 500 Couture Cocktails from the World's Best Bars and Bartenders
by Tom Sandham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you want to know about spirits & cocktails - history, making of and current trends, 13 Nov. 2012
There is something enticing about a cocktail, conjuring images of a Gatsby lifestyle or a two martini lunch, triggering a nostalgia for a world we are far too young to have known, and which probably didn't exist anyway. However, a cocktail as an aperitif rather than a glass of white does make a nice change, and while a gin and tonic doesn't really count as something complicated enough to actually be considered a cocktail, it's nice to have a guide to some more esoteric drinks, and one might as well have something comprehensive.

The World's Best Cocktails, by Tom Sandham, is certainly exhaustive and weighty tome with over 500 cocktail recipes in its 304 pages. Organisation is logically by spirit, with classic recipes followed by newer creations. Each chapter also as a short discussion on the history of it's particular spirit, styles of the spirit and then classic and modern cocktails using it. Interspaced through the book is a guide to cocktail bars around the world, showcasing their speciality drinks - mixing at home is all very well, but a cocktail is really something that is better mixed for you; also, to show what's happening at the cutting edge of cocktails, there are also contributions from a number of bartenders of (I have to assume, but I actually don't know) renown.

Illustrated guides at the end of the book cover glassware, ingredients, garnishes and techniques - firstly shaking and throwing and then the -ings - stirring, muddling layering etc. Our only criticism is that some of the recipes are printed across photos and could be hard to read after a cocktail or two.

Cocktails, like food, are susceptible to the whims of fashion. In the same way that there's really no such thing as a timeless cook book, I would think that every cocktail book betrays its era on every page. However, this is an excellent and comprehensive volume for cocktail lovers, those who want to learn more about drinks and spirits or to learn to make excellent cocktails at home.

The Ice Cream Sandwiches Book
The Ice Cream Sandwiches Book
by Donna Egan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A cute and pretty book, but a niche too far?, 10 Nov. 2012
Donna Egan, of the Buttercup cake shop in London, has written this little book on ice cream sandwiches (nothing to do with the latest Android update), a collection of 50 recipes of sugary treats.

The great majority of the recipes are for ice cream biscuit sandwiches; a delight far beyond a plate of custard creams and bourbons. The second chapter has the biscuit recipes where the grated apple cookies, fruitcake cookies and mocha cookies look particularly yummy. Chapter three is for the ice cream, where some of the recipes need an ice cream machine (but the sandwich recipes do mention that you can buy it if needed). Finally, there is a little section of sinful treats - milkshakes, cola floats etc.

The book is very pastel pink pretty, with plenty of cutely styled photographs, but overall I'm not entirely sure if this books earns its shelf space apart from when planning a birthday party for 6 and 7 year olds, it is a niche too far. Once the idea of an ice cream sandwich is planted, it seems to me that inspiration can be endless, and doesn't necessarily need a book.

True Blood Cookbook
True Blood Cookbook
by Karen Sommer Shalett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Do Vampires Actually Need Cookbooks?, 30 Oct. 2012
This review is from: True Blood Cookbook (Hardcover)
How much do vampires need cookbooks? Surely the only thing they need is a dog-eared piece of parchment handed around, with "Find neck. Drink blood" on it? For vampire fans, or rather fans of True Bloodfollow, the cookbook "True Blood; Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps" has been published.

The recipes, by Marcelle Bienvenu, are a roundup of Southern classics: biscuits in gravy, candied sweet potatoes, fried chicken, corn bread, grits, and jambalaya; in all, a total of eighty-five recipes. The book is abundantly illustrated, mainly with photos from the series, and each recipe is introduced by a short paragraph by the character who supposedly provided the recipe. This does result in a large book (224 pages) considering the number of recipes, a reflection of things like using a whole page for a gin and tonic. There are things that to the non-initiate of Southern food do sound a little off the wall - ham with red eye gravy (basically reduced coffee) - joining it on my least likely to cook list is the Plaisir d'Amour Rabbit Stew. The dishes I would like to try are the Southern classics mentioned above.

The recipe also differ in that quantities within recipes are given in weights and cups; for example cracked eggs benedict calls for 1 ½ pounds of pork, 8 oz of pork liver but all the other ingredients are measured in cups. Slightly annoying in that it does mean that both scales and cup measures get dirty. Perhaps it's a book designed for men, and intentionally using everything in the kitchen?

For fans of the show who are looking to bring their interest into the kitchen, the book rates five stars. For someone looking for a book of standard Southern US cooking, then it's OK but I'm sure there are better books out there with a much greater range, with more emphasis on the food and less on photographs of the cast.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 3, 2013 5:41 PM GMT

The Pressure Cooker Cookbook
The Pressure Cooker Cookbook
by Catherine Phipps
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No need to get steamed up about pressure cooking, 10 Oct. 2012
There is more that you can do with a pressure cooker other than potatoes and one-pot stews, and to prove it, Catherine Phipps has written this book. She gives us over 150 recipes, broken down into chapters on Soups and Stocks, Starters, Snacks and Savouries, Meat, Poultry and Game, puddings and so on.

Unsurprisingly (and greatly to the benefit of taste and interest), the recipes are a lot more than just sticking everything in the pot and bringing it up to pressure. There's quite a lot of frying off beforehand before the pressure cooking itself, so most recipes aren't hands off. However, the wide range of recipes means that most will find something worth trying. I particularly fancy the sardine recipes (I'm a big fan of sardine toasted sandwiches), rillettes (I LOVE rillettes), the baked bean recipes (of course, the speed with which beans and pulses can be cooked in a pressure cooker being a great boon for those who aren't fans of lugging tins home).

There are some recipes where the inclusion of pressure cooking seems a bit contrived. For example, the recipe for scotch eggs where the eggs are pressure cooked rather than boiled, before being covered and deep fried. We also found the book a little light on photos with only around 1 in 4 of the recipes illustrated. The photos that are present are bright with simply unfussy, minimally propped styling.

However, in summary; for those who are looking at the pressure cooker stuck at the back of the cupboard, and are looking for inspiration, it's well worth considering this book.

The Great British Bake Off: How to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers
The Great British Bake Off: How to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers
by Linda Collister
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.98

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular bakes - but lacking on photos and the basics, 10 Sept. 2012
To accompany the new series of the GBBO comes the latest book of recipes for the baking fiend, The Great British Bake Off - How to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers, a sizeable book of 320 pages. Organisation is straightforward, with chapters on Cakes, Biscuits, Breads & Sweet Dough, Tarts, Pies, Desserts, Puddings and the basics. The recipes themselves, as befits the follow up to the first GBBO book, are generally more complicated so, for example, there isn't a recipe for a victoria sponge.

On flicking through there a a good number of recipes that look well worth trying - multi seed savoury crackers; fig, walnut and gruyere bagels, lardy cakes (a childhood favourite); pistachio salambos; pecan pie; chickpea, spinach and mushroom wellington; and classic apple strudel for example. But it is also noticeable that many of the recipes involve a lot of post cooking assembly - for example, there is a jubilee cake, best described as a Union Jack battenberg. I have to admit that I'm not quite sure I could be bothered with the complication; I will agree that for a one-off celebration, though, it does look great. But perhaps the moment for a jubilee cake has gone? In contrast, however, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether to try a recipe as not every one has a photo showing what the finished article looks like.

However, we did try the treacle tart, and found it pretty straightforward (although, truth be told it's pretty hard to imagine a treacle tart that isn't straightforward), and there are plenty of other recipes that are similarly uncomplicated, but basically, this is a book aimed at someone whose inspiration has been fired by watching the program, and wants to spend a weekend afternoon creating something special. If all you want is simpler recipes for those moment when you just fancy whipping up a quick cake, then other books are perhaps more suited.

Let's Eat: Recipes from My Kitchen Notebook
Let's Eat: Recipes from My Kitchen Notebook
by Tom Parker Bowles
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book, but one for the more serious cook, 19 Aug. 2012
Reviewed by a friend of Fuss Free Flavours

I was looking forward to reading this book as I've long enjoyed Tom Parker-Bowles' food writing in various publications over the years. Like many cookery books, it sells a lifestyle as well as recipes, and this didn't disappoint; the anecdotal style made it an easy and entertaining read straight through.

However, on to the recipes, which are split up into five broad categories: Comfort food (which spanned British and French classics, a whole subsection on eggs, and puddings,), Quick fixes (not quick enough for me, I'm afraid - crab cakes, for example, would be way too fiddly to make when I'm tired at the end of the day and just want something easy, but admittedly my bar is quite low here....).This chapter also includes a section on Tom's favourite cocktails; Slow and Low (which I think is self-explanatory, but yes, basically stuff you cook for ages on a low heat), From Far-Flung Shores - recipes inspired by Tom's travels in Asia and South America. And finally, Cooking for Children, which the author admits is heavily influenced by Annabel Karmel and mainly involves recipes which you can blend to a puree for babies, but which are also suitable for older children.

The two recipes I tried - Beef Stroganoff and Porcini Risotto were absolutely delicious. In his introduction, the author says that "All the dishes in this book are within easy reach of anyone who can turn on an oven and grasp a knife" which is probably true, but many of them are certainly not the easiest versions of particular dishes you'll find - the trifle, for example, requires you to make your own sponge as well as your own custard from scratch, which is a bridge too far for me. Tom definitely doesn't believe in shortcuts

I really wanted to try the some of the Thai and noodle recipes, which looked extremely beguiling, but we have a long term house guest and most of those recipes are for two people (however large one's wok, I feel you really cannot cook for more than two otherwise it gets overfull and doesn't stir-fry properly). Some of the spices can only be sourced online or from speciality shops which is a bit annoying if you want to make something at short notice and only have a Tesco to hand. However, I will definitely be trying them once we're only cooking for two again.

I was very keen to review this book, having got into a bit of a cooking rut, making the same ten or so dishes over and over again and getting quite bored with myself. And while it's been fun, I don't think this is going to be the book to get me out of that rut. It's a great read, but I honestly think it's for a slightly more serious cook than me.

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