Wow, this is a lot of cookbooks. Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan is a new addition to my bookshelf, because I have had so many people rave to me about the food of and in Hong Kong, and I can’t travel for the foreseeable future, so recipe books it is.
I like that this cookbook not only talks about the brands of certain sauces that you should buy, and the types of places you can get them, but also gives you information as to where you can try this dish in Hong Kong if we’re ever allowed to travel internationally again.
Tony Tan is a very well renowned chef (who does not have a wikipedia page), so you can trust that the recipes in this book have been well researched and thought about before being published. The one gripe I have with the recipes that I made was that one of them didn’t give guidance on approximately how long something should be deep fried, and the answer was longer than I did. Otherwise the recipes were delicious and we’d cook them again. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
So this book, Modern Flavours of Arabia by Suzanne Husseini, is out of print in Australia, which is a shame, because it’s a good book. Not surprising though as it was published in 2012, and that is a long time in publishing years. However, if you do see if for sale in a second hand bookshop, and you like what I describe below I do recommend buying it. We cooked 3 dishes, heavy on the yoghurt and lemon, and loved all of them… well the cauliflower was loved by Nigel and that is the main thing about cauliflower.
The dishes are really generous, the instructions aren’t too hard to follow, the flavours were delicious, and there are several other dishes in this book that I want to try. Overall rating 4 stars out of 5.
One note, some of the recipes call for pine nuts and I don’t support the pine nut industry (I haven’t for some time), so just used extra slivered almonds. I’ll list the pine nuts in the recipes, but I beg of you to stop buying pine nuts and just enjoy the awesomeness of almonds instead.
Also, there are more nuts here than you need. If cooking all these dishes just halve the nuts.
It’s hard to go past a good bread cookbook, and frustratingly with the constantly reducing number of bookshops in Melbourne, it’s hard to browse bread cookbooks to know if they are good or not (or have the types of bread I want to cook). Thankfully this online purchase of Simply Bread by The Australian Women’s Weekly was a good one. The book guides the user through several different types of bread, from basic through to pastries, sweet breads (not internals), quick breads, etc. It doesn’t address the bread vs cake thing that I have in my head sometimes – do breads have to contain yeast in them to be breads, or is any rising agent sufficient – but that’s just my head.
Being an AWW cookbook and triple tested, it was clear and easy to use, the results pretty much as described and the hardest part of the book was choosing which bread to make. I over committed and planned to make 4 different types of bread, but due to time and general bleah at the state of the world, I only made two. This is ok. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars
So when I first started this cookbook project I said I wouldn’t cook recipes I had cooked before, which means all of you missed out on my favourite recipe from a little taste of Morocco. I’ve made this lamb kefta recipe a number of times, and it’s deadly if you make your own harissa, but with store-bought it is lovely. It goes super well with pearl couscous and I really enjoy eating this dish every time we make it.
Put the lamb, onion, garlic, herbs and spices in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the meatballs in batches and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, or until browned all over. Remove the meatballs and set them aside in a bowl.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in the frying pan, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon and paprika and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
Stir in the tomatoes and harissa and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the meatballs, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until cooked. Stir in the coriander, then carefully break the eggs into the simmering tagine and cook until just set (about 10 minutes). Season and serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.
I picked up the very imaginatively named Hungarian Cook Book by Tamás Bereznay at a souvenir shop in Budapest some years ago, as a gift to Scott who wasn’t on that trip with me (I was travelling with James, Nigel and Jacinta). I specifically chose this book because it had a decent vegetarian section which meant that I could cook for both meat eaters and vegetarians, something I appreciate in a cookbook.
Generally the recipes were not too hard to follow, the dishes were delicious, but there were some minor quirks – which are probably as a result of adapting traditional home-cooked recipes to a cookbook. When you know how to cook something because you’ve cooked it 1000 times, you are prone to leaving out steps, or not making the instructions clear – because of course you know what you mean. As I said, the food was delicious, and we muddled our way through the most complicated recipe (the pancakes) with the help of the internet to confirm a step – I’ll make that clear in the recipe. Overall I give this book 4 out of 5 stars because of the flavours and because I am a confident enough cook to know what I’m doing. If you are new to cooking, I’d give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars and not recommend it.
Oh yeah, I forgot, the pancake/crepe recipe provided by Bereznay was a total and utter failure. The recipe I am providing to you is my own (well it belongs to the PMWU cookbook) and will work far better.
Firstly, its authors are Omneya “Minnie” Khairat, wife of the Canberra-based Egyptian ambassador, and their teenage daughter.
And, secondly, “Minnie’s Taste of Mediterranean Delight” is aimed at helping get food on the table for disadvantaged people back “home”.
Attaching a charity to the cookbook was another inspiration to publish and, to put it simply, Omneya says: “We can help people, so why not?”
Family friends, Docklands Press, sponsored the project, allowing all proceeds to go to the Egyptian Food Bank. The authors say that the sale of one book feeds a disadvantaged Egyptian family for a week.
I cooked from this cookbook a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been struggling with writing it up since. For a first attempt at a cookbook, it’s really good, however it really would have benefited from an editor. The contents page lists all the recipes included in the book, and the page numbers are wrong, more of a guide to where the recipe is versus where you’ll find it exactly. Some of the recipes are missing steps and ingredients, which is not helpful for a cookbook. This is definitely not one for a new cook, but someone who is happy filling in the blanks. I’m going to rewrite the recipes a bit so they make more sense (hopefully), and my notes will detail what I’ve changed, as well as what I thought of the dish.
One final thing before I get to the recipes, I really did love the author’s Egyptian take on Mediterranean foodstuffs. I would like to try more things from this cookbook. Overall I rate it 3 out of 5 stars.
The Book of Lost Recipes: The Best Signature Dishes From Historic Restaurants Rediscovered by Jaya Saxena was a Christmas present from very dear friends of mine, and it’s really interesting. The book is a collection of recipes from US restaurants that have closed down but that were once very popular. There is a bit of history about each restaurant, where it was located, and where the recipe was found. The recipes are not, as it could have been, collections of weird and wonderful food, from hard to find ingredients, they are instead comforting food that is incredibly tasty.
The cookbook isn’t great at having a wide range of vegetarian recipes, but I managed to make this work during this lockdown period when our resident vegetarian is here full time with us. There are a good number of vegetarian recipes, but don’t buy this cookbook if you don’t eat meat. All but one of the dishes were successful, and the one that wasn’t successful wasn’t a failure, it was just not as pictured in the book (which made sense when I thought about it), and a tad too salty. This book also had the best lamb shank recipe I’ve had in ages, and I want to do it again because it was just so good.
You may not be aware of Zaleha Kadir Olpin’s UK Masterchef episode where the “judges” told her that her chicken rendang wasn’t sufficiently crispy enough, and was a mistake for her dish. They were clearly wrong, and anyone who knows anything about Malaysian food wanted to smack those judges upside the head.
Zaleha Kadir Olpin’s perfect perfect revenge is her new cookbook My Rendang Isn’t Crispy and Other Favourite Malaysian Dishes. The foreword by Vicki Treadell, former British High Commissioner to Malaysia (Australia at the time the book was published), is also another lovely “get stuffed” to the judges who thought they knew everything about food but clearly didn’t.
So there is a lot to love about this book before you even get to the dishes inside. Malaysian food is one of my favourite foods, I love Nasi Lemak as a dish to eat any time of day, and find it hard to go past a roti canai with whatever curry is going. Surprisingly this is only my third fully Malaysian cookbook, and I really should cook more Malaysian food.
On to the recipes! Only one dish didn’t really work out, and that was partly because of the appliances I have. That dish was the coconut rice, so if you don’t have a rice cooker that will make coconut rice, I recommend this recipe instead. All the other recipes were delicious and although sometimes slightly fiddly, they worked well and deliciously. Overall, this book gets 4.5 stars out of 5.
My Saturday didn’t go to plan. I was going to make a couple of masks and then cook from One Knife, One Pot, One Dish by Stephane Reynaud, a cookbook I bought with reward and recognition money from my workplace. The idea of being able to easily cook a couple of dishes, not make too much of a mess, and enjoy some tasty food appealed when I bought it, and appealed when I decided to get the cookbook. The masks and my sewing machine had completely different ideas. They decided that cooking wasn’t as important as themselves, and as I almost broke down in tears because I couldn’t put my sewing machine back together, I realised that I was only a spectator in cooking food that evening.
Thankfully Scott was to the rescue and because the dishes were straightforward and in one pot, he could do the entire Coq au Vin without any drama, and I managed to help with the kale dish because by that time I’d managed to do everything I could do with the masks (including tidying up). Both the dishes were tasty (I ran out of energy to cook the dessert, but the sweets in this book all look good). It was hard to select which dishes to cook out of this cookbook because so many of them look amazing. Overall we rate this book 4 out of 5 so far. We want to try some other dishes (so this might change).
I bought Simply Italian: Cooking at home with the Chiappa Sisters by Michela, Emanuela and Romina Chiappa at the start of the pandemic, and because I had seen their show, well Michela Chiappa’s show Simply Italian. And that show really really annoys me, because Michela keeps talking about how she and at least one of her sisters is getting married, so they’re travelling Northern Italy to find recipes for the wedding, and that was cute for about 5 seconds, not an entire TV series. That said they are good cooks, love good Italian food, and write a great cookbook. Oh and they dry their pasta by hanging it outside, which might work in Wales, but is a really bad idea in Australia. Lots of little annoying things.
The online reviews for this cookbook were a bit mixed, which concerned me to start with, but it was an unnecessary concern. The recipes are mostly clear, there are dishes we want to cook again (and modify for fun), and other dishes we want to try. I do recommend the cookbook, though you have to order it from outside Australia. Lots of family recipes, great photos, and instructions on how to make your own pasta (useful if you have never done it before). All the dishes were appreciated and rated highly by the household. Overall I give this 4 out of 5 stars.