Cookbook 152: Simply Italian: Cooking at home with the Chiappa Sisters

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.

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Cookbook 151: Polska – New Polish Cooking

I bought Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak because I wanted Pierogi recipes. And then it took me ages to get around to making them, and sadly I haven’t yet made them again. Not all the dishes were successful when cooking from this recipe book, and I know how to fix the one that was the least successful – add more herbs (always add more herbs and spices). The beef dish was a completely surprise to all of us. We weren’t certain how it was going to go and then it turned out amazingly. If you eat red meat, I certainly recommend giving it a try. I want to cook from this book again, so I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 150: Nigellissima

Nigellissima: Instant Itality Inspiration by Nigella Lawson was a Christmas gift from a very dear friend, and what an amazing book. My copy is second hand and so will differ from the relaunched version I’ve linked to above in font and photos and possibly layout, but that doesn’t really matter. This book is great and fully of very tasty food. Only one dish wasn’t to our taste, and that’s because it was WAY more spinach-y than we expected. Everything else was amazing.

The instructions are clear, the results tasty and I give this 4 out of 5 stars. (Though Nigella’s use of a 15ml tablespoon is annoying – I’ve corrected this in the recipes)

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Cookbook 149: Our Korean Kitchen

A few years and a few employers ago, I worked near a little Korean restaurant in the CBD, and I went there often enough that the owner would greet me personally and do everything he could to make sure that my lunch friends and I could find somewhere to sit (including moving other patrons). And so it was obvious that I should buy myself a Korean cookbook and try to make some of the dishes myself. So I bought Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo a while ago (not sure how long ago), and then waited for Korean ingredients to be a bit more accessible to me living in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Last weekend was it, and we cooked a banquet for ourselves and it was amazing.

Not all of the instructions were great, but they were mostly timing issues. For some dishes I had to steam/simmer the dish longer than instructed. See the notes at the end of each recipe. This did not change the taste of the dishes (they were all amazing), and again I already have questions about when I will next be cooking some of these dishes. Overall 4 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 148: Essentials of Slow Cooking

I bought Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking some when, clearly when I was thinking about slow cooking, and now, finally, I have cooked from this book. And it’s a real shame that I waited this long, because the book is amazing. I like that it provides both stove and slow cooker options for every recipe (apart from the sides). I like that the book is in metric as well as imperial (which I won’t include because it’s time to get with the program), and I liked the recipes that I made from it.

The mushroom ragu that was made was too mushroomy for the vegetarian of the house-hold, and the spicy squash recipe has WAY too much sugar in it, however both of these things are easy to fix and the meat dishes I made were amazing. I’m going to give this 4 out of 5 and work on fixing the recipes next time.

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Cookbook 147: Now for something sweet

It was the start of lock down (a million years ago) and there was concern about everyone who had a book launch around this time because suddenly there were no events, and how would people know about all these great books. One of the books launched was Now for Something Sweet by the Monday Morning Cooking Club. I am a total pushover when it comes to baking books (well almost all cookbooks), and I thought that supporting local authors with their new publication would be a good thing. I could never have been more right with this book, it is amazing.

There is no way that I will be able to make all the recipes in this book, some of them outstrip my Jill of All Trades cooking skills, but that doesn’t stop me looking at them and planning how I might somehow gain the skills to cook some of the amazing layered cakes and other things. The book itself is beautiful, with great photos and provides details on each of the authors, where the recipes come from, and information about technique. I can’t wait to cook more from this book, and it’s definitely going to be my go-to sweet baking recipe book for some time to come. 5 out of 5 stars

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Cookbook 146: The Monet Cookbook: Recipes from Giverny

I bought The Monet Cookbook: Recipes from Giverny for Scott when I was at the Musée d’Orsay last year (2019). It’s a collection of 80 of Monet’s recipes (as taken from his own recipe journals), from his home in Giverny, France. Alongside the recipes are prints of Monet’s art, photographs of Monet and his family, friends and fellow artists. It’s a beautiful book.

The recipes (when I made them some time ago) were tasty, the instructions easy to follow, and if you like French home cooking, and enjoy Monet’s, I recommend it. 4 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 145: Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

My wonderful Scott bought me Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking for my birthday. It’s a fantastic book. Bourdain starts up by insulting you (the reader) in the introduction:

This book aims to be a field manual to strategy and tactics, which means that in the following pages, I will take you by the hand and walk you through the process in much the same way – and in the same caring, sensitive, diplomatic tone – as I would a new recruit in my restaurant kitchen.

Which means that if, from time to time, I refer to you as a “useless screwhead”, I will expect you to understand – and to not take it personally.

Every word in this book can be read in your head with Bourdain’s voice. His writing style is the same as his speaking style, clear, beautiful, and considered. The recipes are the rotating dishes depending on the season and availability of ingredients that were available at Les Halles when he worked there. The instructions are clear, and thanks to the standards of these dishes there are plenty of videos available on YouTube if you don’t quite understand the steps described.

I loved this book and am looking forward to cooking from this book again. It is not vegetarian friendly as such, the vegetable only dishes really are only potato dishes (quite tasty potato dishes nonetheless). Like a lot of French bistro food, the vegetables come in the dish with the meat. I cooked three dishes from this book over one weekend, and so have all three to share. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 144: Slow Cooker: The complete collection

I bought Slow Cooker: The complete collection by the Australian Women’s Weekly from Aldi where it was on sale. Like all modern AWW cookbooks it says that it is triple tested, and that it contains “200 of our best slow cooker recipes together”. I love slow cooked food, it’s tender, tasty and means that you can set and forget. I loved the AWW cookbook Cook it Slow and despite not cooking a slow cooker recipe at the time, I have cooked others since and they have been great.

Which makes this cookbook such a bitter disappointment. Every single dish I made out of it (3 over 2 weekends) has been a disappointment. Each one of those dishes would have been better cooked in some other way. It may be that my slow cooker isn’t great or maybe was a bit too small, but none of these dishes worked. I won’t be keeping this book and I rate it 1 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 143: Classic Cookies – Biscotti Macaroons and More

Who doesn’t like a good biscuit/cookie/macaroon/biscotti? Yes, I know there are plenty of people out there who don’t like sweet food, which I just don’t understand, but ok maybe not everyone likes one. But for those of us who do, this book, the Australian Women’s Weekly’s Classic Cookies Biscotti Macaroons and More is a fantastic addition to your cookbook library.

Click on the link above and see the beautiful retro styling, it’ll take you back to retro… time… Anyway, I bought this on a clearance sale sometime ago, and then decided to make gingerbread and shortbread for Christmas (one of my family traditions), and then later the chocolate chip cookies for isolation. All of them were a hit, and I am interested in trying more recipes out in this book. Overall 4 out of 5 stars.

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