Cookbook 124: The Working Cook: Quick recipes for busy people

I found The Working Cook: Quick recipes for busy people, by Carina Cooper, in Coburg’s Little Free Library.  I was lucky, because after I found this book and took it home, someone set the Little Free Library on fire, and everything was destroyed.  It’s since been restored, and I need to drop by again and find out what is there now.

This book is quite British, but the ingredients aren’t hard to find in Australia, and the recipes aren’t too complex, some of them are quick as advertised, and there are sections for slower dishes such as those you might want to cook on a weekend for friends – even those dishes are not particularly difficult to prepare. The dishes we prepared were very tasty and successful, and this will be a book I enjoy coming back to.  Overall 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 123: The Spice Routes: More stories and recipes from the World Food Cafe

So it’s been AGES since I’ve last cooked something for this blog, mostly because I’ve been incredibly wrapped up in studies and attempting to have a life while studying (which I think was a silly idea).  I’m in my mid year break now, so I plan to cook and enjoy the food.  This book, The Spice Routes: More stories and recipes from the World Food Cafe by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott (that’s a lot of Cs) tells the stories of spice trade around the world and then offers some signature dishes (apparently) to showcase those spice.

It’s ok.  The information about the spice routes and who traded what with whom and when is quite interesting.  The recipes leave a bit to be desired.  The instructions aren’t as good as they could be (insufficient temperature guides, insufficient detail about ingredients) and well two of the recipes didn’t really work that well.  I’d completely rework two of the recipes if I was ever going to cook them again (unlikely) and they’d be slightly different dishes.

I’m giving this book 2.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 122: The Dumpling Sisters cookbook: Over 100 favourite recipes from a family kitchen

I bought The Dumpling Sisters cookbook: Over 100 favourite recipes from a family kitchen after I got a $50 Dymocks gift voucher from my work after completing 5 years of service.  I liked that it was written by two Chinese, New Zealand women (who according to the bio over at Fishpond (link above) are incredibly smart), that it was full of recipes that I was itching to try, had vegetarian variants for some of the non-vegetarian dishes, and had good commentary on the dishes.  I also really liked the title, and that was a large part of me picking it up in the first place to look inside.

The recipes are clearly written, most of the ingredients are easy to find at Asian grocers (though not all), and in many cases the ones which are harder to find are optional.  I really enjoyed everything I cooked from this cookbook and would happily repeat the dishes I cooked from, as well as try almost everything else from this book.  The Ma Po tofu I made was vegetarian (I substituted eggplant for the minced meat, as suggested by the recipe) and I will write the recipe as stated in the book, including the alternate suggestions in the notes.  Also, the chicken cashew nut stirfry serves 2 people. I doubled the recipe so there would be enough for all of us.

Overall, I give this book 4.5 out of 5.

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Cookbook 121: Moroccan soup bar: Recipes of a spoken menu and a little bit of spice

Because my husband’s boyfriend is a lovely and awesome man, he bought me the newly released Moroccan soup bar: Recipes of a spoken menu and a little bit of spice cookbook for Christmas.  I have been waiting for this cookbook for many many years.  I have eaten at the Moroccan Soup Bar several times, and always enjoyed it. It’s hard to get into because it’s so popular, so I don’t go as much as I would like.

It is evident in this cookbook that the recipes by Hana Assafiri are ones she is very familiar with.  In the recipes I made, there are some minor issues with the conversion from a spoken or loosely written recipe down into a cookbook format.  There are some issues with ingredients being divided in different sets of the recipe, but without much guidance as to how they’re divided?  Half each, a sprinkle here and the rest there?  It’s something that trial and error will improve, but it’s not always the best way to go about it.  The eggplant dish, which was incredibly tasty, was quite watery, and I’d probably halve or reduce by a third the amount of water that goes into that dish if I made it again.

All of the recipes in this book, and indeed in the restaurant, are vegetarian.  They are all tasty, but require some work to ensure that they actually work for you.  Overall I’d give this 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 120: Italian Moms: Spreading their art to every table

I supported Italian Moms: Spreading their art to every table on Kickstarter because it sounded so sweet.  A son helping his recently widowed mother put together a cookbook of her (and some of her friends’) favourite recipes in order to remain financially independent.  The book is peppered with stories about growing up in Italy, moving to America, love, family, food, and advice.  It really is quite delightful.

There are a few minor issues with the instructions in the book.  It is definitely for experienced cooks, and even then, experienced cooks who are willing to apply judgement to the recipes contained therein.  In some recipes that would have really benefitted from weight measurements (I’m thinking of the roast potato recipe specifically) that instruction isn’t there.  Consequently, they were very very salty indeed.  Also, when I was roasting the lamb, it came out WAY too rare for me.  I knew with that length of time that it would come out rare, and gave it an extra 15 minutes, but I had to put it back in for almost another 20 minutes before I thought it was edible.  Detail as to how rare the meat was likely to be with this cooking time would have been good. Also, next time I will halve the amount of oil in the recipes.  There was way too much oil.

These are all minor issues really, and ones that will fade with time and familiarity.  For a first time cookbook (and without experience of learning how important good instructions are), this is a fantastic project and I really love it.  Overall 3 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 119: The Australian Women’s Weekly: All-time Favourites

I decided, thanks to a mild weekend, that I would bake. Summer in Melbourne has been quite mild, so it’s been easier to cook than not.  And since my sister had kindly given me The Australian Women’s Weekly All-time Favourites, I decided to give these recipes a try.

As you’d expect from the Australian Women’s Weekly, the recipes are all triple tested, tasty and likely to succeed.  The two complaints I have about this book was that the recipes suggested, at times, that you use a “small mixing bowl” without actually defining what that was, and that it recommends melting chocolate and cream in a saucepan on a stove versus in a glass bowl over boiling water (which is less likely to split the cream or burn the chocolate).

The recipes I made were very tasty, were highly enjoyed by everyone in the house, and I’ll definitely be cooking from this cookbook again.  Overall, 4 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 118: Masterclass step-by-step

I’m back and cooking, though I am behind updating this blog.  This time I cooked from The Australian Women’s Weekly Masterclass Step-by-step.  The selling point of this book (it was bought for me) is that it is to help you cooking simple restaurant food at home.  Most recipes in the book have additional pages with step by step photos of various steps.  This would be quite helpful for those who are learning how to cook and want to learn new techniques.

I found the recipes interesting, but some of the ingredients weren’t going to be easy to find.  This is a serious cookbook with an expectation that you will seriously source some of the ingredients.  There was a duck ragu that I couldn’t make because I couldn’t easily find duck thighs in my area, and a fish dish that was also interesting was going to be difficult as I don’t shop at places that sell fresh fish.

The instructions were clear, the diagrams helped, and there were no obvious issues.  Overall 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 117: Eat With Love

I haven’t been blogging much recently or cooking for that matter, because I’ve been sick.  Treatment is over now, and I’m about to go to India for a wedding (and a cooking lesson).  Once I get back in early December I hope to return us all to our regular program.

So… a while ago I cooked from Eat With Love: Middle Eastern Cooking by Samira El Khafir, a book my mother gave to me after I was diagnosed.  I wanted to love this book, I really did.  It had the types of recipes in it I love and especially it had a recipe very similar to the chickpea bake at the Moroccan Soup Bar (in Melbourne – if you haven’t tried it you really should). I thought this book would be awesome.  Instead it was… well only just ok.  The chickpea bake was soggy, the meatballs a bit dry, and the brownie not to my taste at all (though I don’t like orange blossom water, so that’s probably my fault).  Overall I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 116: Culinaria Hungary

I wanted a Hungarian cookbook, because I love Hungarian food (If you live in Melbourne, you really should try The Hungarian sometime).  I looked online for recommendations and Culinaria Hungary was recommended by many people for both the recipes as well as the explanation of Hungarian culture, origins of food, the people, and the country itself.  It certainly is a great book to read through, I spend an afternoon browsing through it before selecting the recipes I was going to make.  I certainly have a better appreciation for the country, the food, and can’t wait to visit it in a few years time.

The instructions in this book are not written for a novice cook.  If you are new to cooking, you want to cook from several other books (I recommend most Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks) and be familiar with cooking before you use this book.  The instructions are just vague enough for an experienced cook to have to read them a couple of times before starting to cook.  The recipes are fairly straightforward when you know what you’re doing.  The results are tasty, and the servings are ginormous (now added to my dictionary because apparently it wasn’t a word).  Overall I give this 4 out of 5, just marking it down for the poor instructions in parts – which I will try and correct where necessary.

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Cookbook 115: Curry: Fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia

I bought Curry: Fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia after flipping through my sister’s copy when I was visiting her for lunch.  It looked interesting, I like curries, and my sister said that the recipes she’d made from it were quite tasty.  So of course I wanted to try it out.

I was somewhat ambitious in my meal selection, but I thought I had it all planned out so that we’d have the right amount of time to prepare everything.  It was pretty much all ready on time, but it wasn’t all good.  Some of this might have been me hurrying, but at least one of the recipes actively let me down when I was making it.  Also, the food wasn’t as tasty as it could have been, I expected more flavour, quite a few of the dishes were very mild.  That said, we had left over lamb curry so I froze that and we had it again for dinner last night – and the chilli had clearly strengthened between when I made it and when I defrosted, reheated and than ate it.  It was a far less mild dish.

Because one of the dishes failed so spectacularly (it tasted good, but it really didn’t work) I will only give this book 3 out or 5 stars.

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