Cookbook 187: Sumac – Recipes and stories from Syria

I really wanted to love Sumac: Recipes and stories from Syria by Anas Atassi. It’s a beautiful book, the photos throughout are lovely, the stories of Atassi’s childhood in Syria are engaging, the recipes sounded great. However it was not to be. The recipes I selected were all sweet and tart, in ways that I don’t like savoury food to be. The only dish that was really enjoyed instead of looked at weirdly after tasting, was the cauliflower dish, and I don’t like cauliflower (Nigel enjoyed it though).

If you like sweet, tangy or tart savoury food, then this cookbook is for you. It definitely isn’t for me, and I’m giving it one out of five stars and will be retiring it from my collection.

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Cookbook 186: My Lisbon

I travelled to Lisbon in 2018 and loved the city and it’s food (though Porto is definitely my favourite Portuguese city). It’s a city I want to return to, to travel the streets, eat more food, and just enjoy my time there. So I bought My Lisbon by Nuno Mendes, wanting to recreate a little of that Lisbon magic in my house. Oh boy was I disappointed. Though glad I didn’t pay the going price of $90 for this book, I would have been MUCH more disappointed if that was the case.

To begin with, there are not that many vegetarian dishes in the book that suited my household, and with recipes broken up into “pastries, snacks, lunch, small plates, dinner, desserts and sandwiches”, I had to go through section by section to find recipes to make for the dinner I was creating. The recipes I chose in the end were either odd or boring. There is a recipe for a leg of lamb cooked in a bottle of wine with bacon and onion. None of this flavour was in the lamb itself. It was tender, but it was just lamb. The bread and kale dish tasted nice (apparently, I don’t do kale), but the texture was odd, and cooking it was a pain. The roast vegetables were nothing special. It was so disappointing. 1 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 185: Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and beyond

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ukrainian food and have always loved the flavours when I’ve had the opportunity to try it (sadly not enough opportunities), so when I found Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and beyond by Olia Hercules, I immediately purchased it. There are a lot of recipes in this book, including a lot for bread which I really want to try at a later point, and I really enjoyed cooking from it.

There was one dish I completely messed up, and that’s my fault not the recipe book’s. I won’t include that in this post because I have not successfully cooked it, and one day I will and I will revisit this book and we can talk about how good (or not) that dish is. Overall, I give this cookbook 4 stars, and am looking forward to going back and trying other things.

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Cookbook 184: Miguel Maestre’s Feast: 100 Generous Recipes to Share

Who doesn’t like the idea of cooking for a stack of people (most people, I know)? I like the idea of cooking for a stack of people, and cooking interesting recipes that are specifically to share with other people sounded like a great idea, so I picked up Miguel Maestre’s Feast: 100 Generous Recipes to Share in the hope that it’d have some amazing recipes and I was not disappointed.

It wasn’t easy selecting which recipes to make, and I know that there will be readers out there who will roll their eyes at the “hummus”, I did too, but overall I liked this book and want to come back to it and try some more things. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Cookbook 183: La Paella

I wanted a good paella cookbook, one that wasn’t from the US, and it turns out that they’re not that easy to find. Eventually I settled on La Paella by Louise Pickford, an author who was born in the UK, lived in Australia and now has moved to France. I thought she’d probably be able to provide recipes that will work for my availability of ingredients and preferred style of cooking.

And the book isn’t just paella recipes, there are rice puddings, rice heavy stews and some Spanish style pasta dishes. Because cooking paella is a big job, I only ended up cooking two vegetarian ones from the book so far, and a rice pudding. I definitely want to come back and cook more because so many of the recipes look amazing. I’ve already cooked one dish from this multiple times because it is tasty and easy to make. 5 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 182: Epic Meatballs

Yeah, brace yourselves because this is not going to be a good ride. I bought Epic Meatballs: 120 next-level meatball recipes including recipes for sides, sauces and garnishes by Matteo Bruno because I love meatballs. What a great concept, a whole lot of stuff, meat or veg, in a ball, with a sauce. You may remember The Bowlers Meatball which I cooked from ages ago, and which I’ve gone back to. Great book, highly recommended. This book by Bruno? Terrible book, don’t recommend. In fact, if someone gives you this cookbook as a gift, they probably don’t like you.

So what is wrong with this book? I’d suggest that Bruno didn’t actually test any of the recipes, and wrote down what he thought he did, versus what he actually does. There are other things, the Chunky Italian Red Sauce is measured in weight (kilograms/pounds) and the meatball recipe that calls for that sauce asks for it in volume (litres/ounces). The vegetarian meatball I cooked (there are very few vegetarian recipes in this book), completely failed, actually being too liquid to cook. The meat meatball had little structural integrity. I give this book 1 star out of 5. Stay clear.

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Cookbook 181: Nat’s What I Reckon: Death to Jar Sauce

Nat’s What I Reckon was one of the bright spots in the pandemic. His (very sweary) videos on cooking tasty food with love were incredibly uplifting and brilliant. There was a point during the early days of the pandemic when each new video filled me with joy, and I’d make time in my day to see what was on the menu. Of course he was pressured into writing a cookbook, and my lovely friends Nadia and Ameel bought it for me. Nat’s What I Reckon: Death to Jar Sauce is an amazing cookbook. Click through on that link and see the gorgeous artwork that graces the pages, because this isn’t a traditional cookbook, this is a cookbook in illustrated form. Tri-colour comic (pink, black and white) demonstrating the steps of the recipe, including the swearing and other commentary that Nat usually makes.

I’ve made two recipes out of this book, and I’ve made them twice because they really are that good. I’ll provide links to Nat’s videos where I can find them, so you can see the steps if my translation of the words to page, without the beautiful graphics, doesn’t make as much sense as you’d hope. Overall 5 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 180: Florentine

I saw Florentine by Emiko Davies while killing time in a bookshop a long while ago, and I flipped through it, partly because I love Florence and partly because I really liked the look of the cover. I loved the recipes inside, the photos of food and Florence, and the fact that there were vegetarian recipes inside as well, so I put it on my wishlist to buy. And then I eventually bought it.

I cooked two pasta dishes from the book, though the gnocchi and the sugo di pomodoro are separate recipes. I even got out my pasta maker and bought duck for the pappardelle all’Anatra, which was absolutely amazing. Highly recommend this book, 5 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 179 – To Asia with Love

After hearing many people rave about Hetty McKinnon and her cookbooks, I bought To Asia with Love hoping it would be a great addition to my collection. It is an interesting cookbook, with some things I want to still try and one recipe that I don’t think I’ll ever eat again, though Nigel wants to make it himself as he loved it.

The instructions are clear, the ideas solid, and the book is entirely vegetarian, so an easy one to cook from in my household which has one vegetarian. Overall 3 out of 5 stars.

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Cookbook 178: Chocolate

So I bought this Chocolate by Olga Jones from the amazing Karen Wyld who had closed her bookshop and was selling all her remaining stock. It’s a very pretty book and on one of my favourite topics, so of course I bought it. The two recipes I made were perfect, and the double choc biscuits are incredibly simple and amazingly delicious. Can’t recommend this book highly enough, I’m looking forward to trying more recipes when the weather is more suitable for baking. 5 out of 5 stars.

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