Cookbook 176: The Violet Bakery Cookbook

The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak was one of those books that I lost the photos of cooking from a couple of years ago, and a gift from my sister. I remember cooking ginger snap biscuits and corn and chilli muffins from the first time I baked, with the biscuits turning out great and the corn and chilli muffins being both the driest and oiliest muffins I’d ever eaten – flavour good, texture bad.

This time I decided to bake some other recipes and it was ok, but nothing amazing. None of the recipes were better than the recipes for similar things in other cookbooks, and this won’t be one I keep. Overall I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 175: Simple Italian – The Essentials of Italian Home Cooking

When I heard that Silvia Colloca’s Simple Italian – The Essentials of Italian Home Cooking was available, and I had a credit on my Booktopia account, I bought this immediately. I absolutely adored her Made in Italy and I wanted to have more of that magic and discovery. Goodness I was disappointed. And those are words that I don’t want to have to write. I think that Silvia Colloca is a fantastic cook, she’s great at communicating her love of cooking food, she has great rapport with people that she works with on screen, and the way she talks about Italy and her family is lovely.

This book isn’t good though. I cooked 4 dishes from it, over two months, because I thought that the first time that maybe I’d selected poor recipes, or that I had made a mistake, and then the second two were also not great, and I did make a mistake for one, but the other I followed the instructions carefully and it was still a disaster. Notes will follow after each of the recipes as normal, so you can see what went wrong/wasn’t good about the dish. Overall, 1 out of 5 stars, don’t recommend.

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Cookbook 174: Carpathia – Food from the heart of Romania

I bought Carpathia: Food from the heart of Romania by Irina Georgescu because I’d never specifically eaten Romanian food, and because the book itself is stunning. Just check out the cover, how beautiful (no honestly, click on the link I can wait). The book has a some vegetarian recipes in it, which is good, and a lot of tasty stuff. The instructions were good, the photos in the book are stunning, and the vignettes of life in Romania makes me want to visit when international travel is a thing again (if that ever happens).

I do want to make the recipes I cooked again, and to try out some of the other recipes in the book. So right now I’m giving this 4.5 stars out of 5, and will revisit this for the fun of it sometime later.

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Cookbook 173: The Real Food of China

So I bought this book on sale somewhere, some when, because it is a big hefty hard cover and it was full of recipes that I wanted to try out. The Real Food of China by Leanne Kitchen and Antony Suvalko acknowledges the vast heritage of Chinese cuisines as well as the fact that the authors are limited in access to ingredients outside of China and just space in truly representing the true scale of Chinese food. That said, the book is 431 pages (including the index), full of beautiful photos of food, people and places, and easy to follow recipes.

This cookbook had one recipe I heard a lot about last year, and to my knowledge is the only cookbook I own with this recipe included – scrambled egg with tomato. Everyone seemed to be talking about this dish last year and it was only recently that I tried to make it for myself and that was thanks to this cookbook. It really is as good as everyone was saying. I was really happy with all the dishes from this cookbook and want to try some others from here as well. Overall I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 172: Cooking on a Bootstrap

I backed Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Monroe a very long time ago, and it’s been on my “must cook from soon” pile for a while. So I did and it was good. Jack Monroe is:

…an award winning food writer and bestselling author. She works with Oxfam, the Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group, Plan Zheroes, the Food Chain and many food banks, schools and childrens centres to teach people to cook and eat well on a low income, and campaigns against the causes of poverty and austerity in Britain and abroad.

https://cookingonabootstrap.com/

I love Jack’s activism, their passion, and their determination. I follow her on Twitter and love seeing what she’s up to, whether it be in relation to food, talking about poverty, or just describing a perfect day. I backed the kickstarter before I knew how awesome Jack was, and I’m now a huge fan.

So the book, Cooking on a Bootstrap is about inexpensive and healthy meals. From making very quick bread to feed a hungry child, to remembering the favourite recipes from childhood. Jack literally has all the receipts on how much food has cost over the last decade or so, and knows how to stretch a small budget to make healthy food. If your library doesn’t stock this book, ask them to get it. Of course food in Australia is priced differently (and more expensively) than in the UK, but many of the recipes, particularly the vegetarian ones, are still quite cheap. Overall I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 171: Tasty Pride

I wanted to love this cookbook, I certainly love the idea, Pride and recipes – what’s not to love?

Anyway Tasty Pride, edited by Jesse Szewczyk is a collection of recipes from queer activists and chefs to celebrate Pride. I bought it to support my local queer bookshop Hares and Hyenas (Melburnians – support them, they are awesome) and because cookbooks. Sadly I was really disappointed by the book. For starters there aren’t a lot of recipes in the book that I would cook – that’s personal taste – and of the ones that I would cook, not a lot of them have accessible ingredients here in Melbourne. That’s because the book is published for the USA, and US ingredients aren’t necessarily available in Australia. Oh and US imperial measurements because… why?

I only cooked two dishes from the book, one successful and the second only successful because I used my existing cooking know-how to make it work. Clearly no Triple Testing AWW kitchen was available for this book. As many of the recipes were submitted by chefs, there is also an expectation that you have access to some non-standard cooking equipment (meat injectors anyone?). I was tempted to cook a dessert from the book, but they were too complicated for me to juggle alongside cooking the other two dishes. Overall I give this 2 stars out of 5. The dishes were tasty, the idea of the book inspiring, but everything else made this too hard.

The recipes have been converted to metric (except for the cups, because just use metric cups and you’ll be fine, except where you won’t because the recipe is broken)

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Cookbook 170: Parwana

Oh my god, I don’t generally gush straight up about the cookbook that I cooked from but Parwana: Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen by Durkhanai Ayubi and Farida Ayubi is amazing. This is not just a cookbook, it’s an insight into Afghanistan, family, making a new home, and more. The recipes are grouped by themes instead of ingredients, so the chapter titles are beautifully poetic, “Roots & Belonging”, “The Dissipation of a Dream” and “The Plight of the Displaced” as an example. Parwana is a restaurant in Adelaide (even more of a reason to go there), and the cookbook features some of the food served at the restaurant. It’s a very generous book, both in serving sizes and in letting the reader in on the story of the family.

Every single dish I cooked from this book was amazing. Each one was declared the best they’d ever tasted of that kind of dish. This is how amazing this book is. 5 out of 5 starts, go and get your copy already.

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Cookbook 169: Lazy Fare

I backed Lazy Fare by Jane Cornes Maclean on Pozible, I love the idea of a cookbook that provides delicious and easy dishes to make. I didn’t know at the time that Jane was a “Award winning writer, ex Gourmet Traveller state editor and self confessed lazy person” (same link as above), which is definitely an added bonus. My correspondence with Jane has been lovely so far, she offered to send me another book to potentially gift to one of my readers, and I’m not really sure how many fans I have (I know of maybe 3), so I declined the kind offer.

The cookbook is a collection of recipes and thoughts on food in all sorts of ways, working in the industry, travelling with food, origins and spread of dishes and ingredients, seasonality and more. I cooked three dishes, one with home grown beetroot, and each was delicious. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. There were some mistakes, and they are totally my responsibility. I’ll mention them as I go along. Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it as a purchase.

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Cookbook 168: Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca

Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca was a Christmas gift to me from Scott. We’d watched her TV show when it was on SBS and marvelled at how thin she stayed while eating such glorious food. The cookbook is a collection of recipes, and really gorgeous photos, from the Marche, Abruzzo and Molise provinces in the eastern costal regions of Italy. I’d recommend looking at this book in a bookstore or library just to check out the photos, becase they are stunning. I now want to travel to these areas just to see the sights – though I’d probably need to speak some Italian to make that an easier exercise.

Anyway, the cookbook. Silvia Colloca’s family is from these regions of Italy, though she grew up in Milan. Silvia now lives in Australia, and travelled back to Italy to collect the recipes from people, make a TV show and write a book. And it was all very successful. I ended up making four recipes from this book, three on one day for dinner, and a cake (as I had some apricots that needed to be consumed) on another. All the recipes were successful and we’re already talking about making some of them again this weekend. Can’t wait to cook from this book again, 5 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 167: All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cusines of China

All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cusines of China by Carolyn Phillips was a birthday or Christmas gift to me by Scott some time ago. It’s another book that I cooked from in 2019 and lost all the photos (and memories) of, so I cooked from it again. I want to state for the record that I massively stuffed up a lot of this cook-through of this cookbook, and that’s all on me, and not the recipes themselves. I thought I could substitute one thing for another (see below), and I thought I could substitute one cooking method for another (also see below). I didn’t do a good job of this cookbook, though I vaguely remember the other dishes I made in 2019 being ok (except for the beanshoots and tofu – I don’t like beanshoots that much). I plan to revisit this cookbook in the future and try a different set of recipes, right now I’m giving it 4 out of 5 for the receipes that worked – as they were amazing.

What you see below are the receipes as written (and links to YouTube vidoes on techniques where appropriate), and the details of what I did wrong. Don’t repeat my mistakes. 🙂

This cookbook looks at the 35 regions of China and documents their recipes, grouping them into soups, starters, side dishes and main dishes. As the author says:

Of course, All Under Heaven is by no means encyclopedic; as far as China’s foods are concerned, what lies between these covers is little more than the tip of the iceberg. Rather, this book is meant to be a subjective compliation of my personal favourites from each part of the country. The reason for this is simple: China’s culinary traditions are so vast, ancient, and varied that each one of the thirty-five cuisines touched upon here deserves a book of its own.

Carolyn Phillips – All Under Heaven.

The book was written and published in the US, so there are ingredients that aren’t necessarily available in Australia, and measurements that aren’t in metric (because why would you do that?). If that bothers you (it does bother me, so you’re not alone), keep that in mind.

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