Cookbook 141: the Aleppo Cookbook – Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria

I bought this book on sale a while ago, while the worst of the Syrian civil war (no war is ever civil) was happening, and as some of the profits were going towards refugees who had fled Syria, I was happy to get it. The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria by Marlene Matar, is the most honest cookbook I have ever purchased and cooked from.

That sentence probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. This cookbook takes the regular food of regular people and puts it into a cookbook. These are not the gourmet recipes of the elite or fancy tourist restaurants. These are recipes that use common ingredients, acknowledges that meat will often need to be cooked slowly and with tenderisers like vinegar, and that simple food is often very tasty and flavoursome. I really enjoyed cooking from this book. My only critique was that there might have been a bit too much liquid in the freekeh pilaf, but that’s pretty much it. Four and a half stars out of five.

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Cookbook 140: Thailand from the Source

I bought Lonely Planet’s, Thailand from the Source: Authentic recipes from the people that know them best, from Oxfam, thinking that it would be a great cookbook. And I was somewhat disappointed. My biggest problem is that there is not one vegetarian recipe. The index says there are, but all of them contain oyster and fish sauce, if not actual meat (bacon, chicken or minced prawns). I’m pretty sure, since I have been to many Thai restaurants in Australia, and since Thailand a country where many people practice Buddhism, that there are plenty of vegetarian recipes, but this book didn’t go looking for them. To me, that is a failure. The recipes I cooked were fine, nothing particularly special. Overall I give this 2 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 139: Cooking 4 Change

I backed Cooking 4 Change: 101 famous Kiwis share their favourite recipes by Dick Frizzell (with all profits going to charity) on Kickstarter. I wanted to love this book the same way I love some of the Kiwis who provided recipes (Sam Neil, Taika Waititi, Jacinda Arden, etc). It’s a great idea, get some famous people together, ask them for one or two of their favourite recipes, raise money for charity. Sadly the recipes in the book needed to be tested. When people write down their favourite recipes, they skip steps because they know what needs to happen next. For the casual reader and cook, this doesn’t work.

One of the recipes I tried to cook failed so miserably (a chocolate tart) that I just gave up and didn’t bother making it at all.

I can’t rate this cookbook highly sadly, though I want to, because the things I baked from it just didn’t work in ways I’d expect. 1.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 138: The Vietnamese Market Cookbook

I picked up The Vietnamese Market Cookbook by Van Tran and Anh Vu because I didn’t have a Vietnamese cookbook and I really love Vietnamese food. This cookbook didn’t disappoint. I cooked from it almost a year ago and I still remember how good the food was. A good mix of recipes, written in a conversational style, with information about how the recipe came to be included or how the recipe is important to the authors (I’ve left this information out, you’ll have to find the book to read it). Overall, 4.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 137: Unforgettable

I have a confession. I had never heard of Paula Wolfert before I backed the kickstarter for Unforgettable: The bold flavours of Paula Wolfert’s renegade life by Emily Kaiser Thelin. My lack of knowledge is clearly my loss because Paula Wolfert lived an amazing life, loved food, and wrote about it extensively. So I’m really glad I backed this kickstarter so I could learn more about Paula and her amazing cooking. I’m giving this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 136: Everyday Vegetarian – The Complete Collection

So I cooked from the Australian Women’s Weekly, Everyday Vegetarian: the complete collection an age ago (March 2018) and really don’t remember much about it. I do remember struggling to find recipes that both my vegetarian house-mate (allergic to capsicum) and my friend who was visiting (MAOI diet) could eat. I don’t recall the taste of any of these dishes, so we’re going with a very standard, successful because it’s an AWW cookbook, score of 3 out of 5. I have photos, so you can enjoy those, but no notes because I haven’t the foggiest.

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Cookbook 135: New French Table

Scott’s parents gave him this cookbook from friends or friends or something like that. New French Table: A fresh take on classic recipes by Emily and Giselle Roux has a wide range recipes covering soups, salads, international influences, breads, preserves and desserts. I didn’t actually eat all the recipes I made from this book (because I don’t like cauliflower), but it was well received by everyone who ate dinner that night. I also didn’t take a photo of the meatloaf, because it’s just not that attractive. Overall 3.5 out of 5.

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Cookbook 134: Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food (and revisiting cookbook 115)

I’m quite behind in writing these up, so they are not going to be in a particular order, and i may forget what I thought about recipes. 2018 has been a year, and I’ve been flat out for most of it. It’s not been bad for me personally, but it has been from stressful to bad for many people I love and care for, so my energy has been taken up helping and caring where I can. So, let’s review.

Because my sister doesn’t want material things while she is waiting for her house to be built (she doesn’t have anywhere to put them), I offered to cook her a two to three course meal for her birthday. Her partner grew up in Indonesia and was hugely excited to find that I had Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food cookbook as she is considered the go-to cookbook expert for Indonesians, and so he wanted me to cook a couple of dishes from that, and my sister wanted some recipes from Curry: Fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to complement the other recipes, and a meal was born. I’m going to detail the recipes from Curry, but not put as much effort into them as I am Indonesian Food, because that is the focus for this review. FYI Sri Owen was also involved in writing Curry, so the whole meal was tied together by one recipe author.

I really liked Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food cookbook. To start with, it’s actually gorgeous. Mine is hardcover, a purple background with gold embossed batik style patterns. The photos in the book are lovely, and the book is broken up into different periods of Sri Owen’s life, where the recipes are from “grandmother’s recipes” and “street snacks”, details on staples and basics, and methods and techniques. It’s easy to follow, the recipes I cooked were delicious, and I’d happily cook from this book again. 4 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 133: The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook

The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos had been on my wish list for some time.  When I saw it for sale for a very reasonable chance I bought it immediately.  The reason it was on my wish list?  It has a section on Yemeni food, a cuisine I fell in love with when I discovered (now closed) a Yemeni restaurant in Melbourne.  It is so hard to find Yemeni cookbooks, so this book made me happy.

The cookbook covers food from Greece through to Afghanistan, is well laid out and has great photos.  There are a couple of minor issues though which makes this book less than perfect.  The first being that one of the recipes we cooked clearly missed a step of rinsing the salt out of some leeks, because the dish became too salty to eat.  I think this book could have done with a bit more testing before publishing, but that said the other two dishes were delightful and I do look forward to cooking more from this book.  Overall I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 132: The Jewelled Kitchen

The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy is a stunningly beautiful cookbook.  I bought it because it looked so beautiful and I was intrigued by the recipes inside.  Sadly, despite it being beautiful, the recipes did not work for me the way I hoped and it was a tiny bit disappointing.  I think that as I cook more from this book I will be able to adjust the recipes to work more for me.  Right now I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

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