Sunday 31 July 2011

Watercress Soup

Watercress, Leek and Potato Soup
from The Country Cookbook, Belinda Jeffery, Lantern, 2010.

Having a bundle of watercress to use, I went looking for a recipe. I felt sure I would find one in The Country Cookbook. My suspicions were right. And this recipe looked like it was an interesting one. It seemed as though it might be a variation on the good old potato and leek soup with watercress added.

What was interesting was that most of the watercress was cooked in the broth with the leeks and potatoes but some was saved until later. After the soup was puréed, the uncooked watercress was added and puréed in. Leaving the cress uncooked and adding it at this time added a stronger green colour to the soup. A dollop of goat's cheese was added at serving time.

This turned out to be a flavoursome soup, creamy and peppery.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

A Cook Book to Avoid

Vegetarian, Pippa Cuthbert & Lindsay Cameron Wilson, New Holland Publishers, 2010.

I watched MasterChef tonight wherein the contestants had to write the recipe for something they had cooked. The recipes were then tried out by home cooks to see if the recipes could be followed. There were mistakes in all of them. However, since the contestants had not done anything like this before it was quite understandable. What is not acceptable is to buy a published book and find it is full of similar errors.

One book I have unfortunately purchased is Vegetarian by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson and published by New Holland Publishers. I have only cooked three items from this book but so far have found errors throughout it.

One of the very worst was to look at a recipe, Mushroom & Tarragon Wellington, and find that nothing in it matched the name. From the ingredients it looked as though it was a recipe for a pasta with broccoli. It was obvious the wrong set of instructions had been placed under the title.

When you find an ingredients list that says 2 teaspoons of salt and the instructions say to add 1 tablespoon of salt you begin to wonder. Later on the instructions say to add the remainder of the salt. Something wrong with all of this. This was a recipe for Grown-up Mac and Five Cheese.

On the page next to this particular recipe I noticed that the ingredients list began with a subheading highlighted in red ‘For the tomato sauce’. Beneath this the ingredients list continues right to the end without indicating where the tomato sauce ingredients end and the recipe main begins. Not good.

Once you start to find these inaccuracies you lose confidence in the remainder of the book and it is difficult to go back to it. You don't want to waste time and ingredients cooking something that may not work due to errors in the instructions.

It is difficult to know whether these are editorial errors or those of the writers. However, I do feel that any proof reader should have been able to pick these up—or any others that are probably in the book that I have not discovered.

This is poor publishing. And even poorer seems to be their attitude. I wrote to the publishers on two occasions pointing out the mistakes thinking they would be pleased to have them picked up so that they could be corrected. They have not even had the courtesy to reply to my mail. Seems as though once they have your money they lose interest.

If this is an example of their publishing and of their attitude towards their public then I certainly won’t be buying any more of their product.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Hotcakes for breakfast

Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter
from Sydney Food, Bill Granger, Murdoch Books, 2000.

Very rarely do I cook anything for breakfast. It’s usually just cereal with cold milk. But this Sunday morning I was in the mood to make something. Naturally, I suppose, I turned to Bill Granger’s Sydney Food.

Being a hotcakes fan, I turned to these ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter.

The butter was a breeze to make. I did use a chocolate-coated honeycomb. How can you resist added chocolate?

The hotcake mixture had ricotta added to the usual mix. This also was no problem to prepare. I do think it’s vital that breakfast food is easy to make.

I failed a little on the frying of the cakes. I was using a new cast iron griddle and I think I was treating it a bit too gently. Next time it will be broken in and will be no problem.

The results: Tasty hotcakes enlivened with the honeycomb butter. This butter is so good. There was ample left over and that is currently being used up on toast.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Fun to make flavour feast

Colada Toddy
from Terre à Terre: The Vegetarian Cookbook, Amanda Powley with Philip Taylor, Absolute Press, 2010.

This book is such a lot of fun to cook from—but you need time. The recipes are totally different from anything I’ve seen in any other cookery books.

For a start, the names of each dish are somewhat humorous and don’t give any real insight into what the dish is going to be. The name of this recipe is Colada Toddy. This is a warm coconut and rum drink that accompanies the dish and, while an acceptable drink, it doesn’t in any way explain the meal which is an explosion of different tastes in a collection of parts.

There were six elements (including the toddy) to make up the whole. Each would stand alone easily to make a satisfactory eat; together they were a feast of flavours and textures.

The gazpacho, which to me is really a salad, was a mixture of green chillies, green capsicum, fennel, and celery. And then it was dressed with a mixture of wasabi, oil, galangal and lime. A crunchy salad with a bit of bite to it.

The Thai red relish turned out to be pickled shallots in a herb and vinegar mix. They’d make a nice nibble with cocktails.

The charred aubergine and umeboshi plum hash was a softly textured mix of aubergines, smoky and flavoured with a salty plum hash with added bits of fresh mint, red chillies and garlic. Eggplants are frequently lacking in flavour but make a good host for any you might add. This was a flavoursome delight.

The hero of the dish was the rice sausages. The recipe made more than were needed and I kept nibbling at them for a couple of days. Hot or cold they were an excitement of flavour. As you chewed you kept finding different tastes. They were hot and spicy, partly from the spice mix that was made prior to the sausages. This spice mix I am still using, sprinkling it on various dishes to give them an extra kick. The sausages themselves, as well as having the spice mix, had a mixture of herbs added (basil, mint, kaffir lime leaves) to add to the tastes.

When all of the six parts of the recipe were put together there was a flavour feast on a plate.

All in all it was a very time consuming meal to make—but well worth the time spent. As well as that I had a lot of fun making it—and even more so eating it. I am looking forward to when I have time to make something else from this book.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔ 

Thursday 28 July 2011

Eggplant, Mushroom and Asparagus Antipasto

Roasted Eggplant with Porcini, Asparagus and Chevre
from My Italian Heart: recipes from an Italian kitchen, Guy Grossi, Lantern, 2005.

I noticed recently that this particular cookery book has been republished with a different cover and in slightly different dimensions. I think I prefer the new cover but the recipes are the same.

I changed the recipe slightly, swapping chevre and feta, which I already had in the fridge, for the buffalo mozzarella in the recipe.

This turned out to be a wonderful dish to precede another meal.

There were a few different parts to it to prepare before putting the whole thing together. The eggplant had to be baked in the oven. The mushrooms had to be soaked. They were then fried slightly with garlic and other herbs. The asparagus was added. Lastly the eggplant.

When it was all placed on a plate and fried sage leaves and cheeses added it made a delicious dish. It’s well worth trying.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔