Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Complete Book of Home Preserving ~ Mary Norwak

There is little in this world better than a cookbook that hits the mark perfectly, and in this case Mary Norwak has done it. From bottling to smoking, chutneys to crystallizing to liqueurs, this book has home preserving covered in every respect. Published in 1978, the photos are few and far between, and the food styling isn't quite up to today's standards, but if you are seriously considering preserving anything this book is the one to beat.

Not only is Mary comprehensive in her coverage of preserving subjects, but within each she explains the preserving process before providing a wide variety of recipes. Interested in potting meat, fish or poultry? Her chapter on potting details the best pots to use, how the meat should be prepared as well as how to clarify your butter for the essential layer of fat to preserve the meat. The recipes range from Potted Herrings and Potted Lobster through to Potted Mushrooms and Potted Pigeon - just in case you weren't sure what to do with that pigeon you caught crapping on your car.

Prefer to preserve something a little less unusual? Mary can get you cooking up a batch of Blackberry Jam, making your own Pickled Beetroot, creating your own Tomato Sauce or making Candied Chestnuts like a pro. Whether you're interested in Curing bacon at home, brewing your own Mead, or steeping some Sloe Gin, there are comprehensive instructional recipes, with excellent notes outlining how to get the best results from each preservation method, and troubleshooting should something fail.

This book is my favourite when it comes to preserving anything at all, so much so that when my mother wanted her copy back I tracked down one for myself and had the 35 year old copy shipped from the other side of the planet.

A fantastic resource from a noted author, this book is recommended for any cook wanting to stretch their preserving skills.

- Kath

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sex in the Kitchen ~ Opel Khan

Today I'm going to tell you all about Sex in the Kitchen, which I'm quite sure you've been dying to know about but have been too afraid to ask. Fear not, this is a topic I've explored at length and I'm more than willing to share this knowledge with you. There is something very sensual about the culinary experience, passionate and seductive, and Khan is quite unabashed in bringing this to the fore in his book, so let's step inside the pages for a moment and we can experience it together.

Pleasantly surprising, given that I'm sure the book was published with the aim of making sales based on clever marketing, is the fact that the recipes are accessible to the home cook, neatly presented with simple and easy to follow instructions, and each of them with a beautiful glossy photograph of the seductive treat. Further they stand up well to the test of time - published in 2004 the recipes don't feel dated and I'd happily partake in the proffered sex in the kitchen today, had I someone to participate in the experience with me (all the recipes serve two people).

The chapters venture from the sensual and romantic 'candlelit dinner', where you'll find tempting mains like the saffron gnocchi with broad beans & sage burnt butter, lobster with herb butter & spiced fig chutney, or duck breast with rose petal sauce to win over your potential lover, right through to the more base 'lust supper' where you can keep up your energy with a smoked trout salad or perhaps some fried haloumi with capsicum relish.

Elsewhere you'll find ways to remind your lover how sweet they are with the turkish delight soufflé accompanied by some home made vanilla ice cream, or perhaps you want to get straight to the point and pour them a slippery nipple. Personally I'm thinking about sharing a roast pumpkin, rocket & parmesan salad followed by the oven-roasted barramundi with clams, mussels & tomato, rounding it out with the saffron ice-cream & french meringue sandwich and then a pink lady. Anyone for dinner?

This book is recommended for adults - you know you all want it.

- Kath

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dark chocolate and orange truffles

Once upon a time I fell madly in love with a very wonderful person who happened to be rather fond of dark chocolate. We'd go to the movies where we'd hold hands and share a block of Lindt Intense Orange between us. When her birthday came along I was very keen to impress her, so I created this recipe especially, and as she liked the truffles so much I found myself recreating them every time I had an excuse to try and impress her.

The recipe is as follows:

1/4 cup cream
2 tbspn Cointreau
200g dark chocolate, chopped
(I like to use either Lindt 70% or a combination of Lindt 70% and Lindt 85%.)
Zest of 1-2 oranges, very finely grated
Cocoa (rich dark, good quality, to coat)

In a saucepan bring the cream, Cointreau, and orange zest to the boil, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Remove the cream mixture from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until the mixture is completely smooth. Transfer it to a bowl and chill.
Shape the chilled mixture into balls and roll in Cocoa to coat. Refrigerate.

This last step might need to be done in two stages, making rough balls and then firming them up again before smoothing them and dusting with cocoa.

I hope you enjoy the recipe - I have retired it from my repertoire as although the truffles have proven very popular, in the end I lost the girl and now it's finally time to start dreaming up new recipes to make for new girls.

- Kath

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mango magic ~ Bay Books

I once dated a girl who was allergic to mangoes. It lasted less than six weeks, and I haven't dated anyone since, which begs the question was I so traumatised by the possibility of not eating mangoes again that I have vowed off relationships? Perhaps that's not the only reason, so let's suffice to say I am a little bit in love with this fruit, and when I came across this book many years ago it found a place in my bookcase very swiftly.

I'm going to be honest with you here - the book was first published in the late 80's and it looks it, however if you are willing to look past the slightly dated food styling, you'll be pleasantly rewarded by the experience. Bay Books are an experienced cookbook publisher, and the book is easy to read and easy to use. Simply laid out recipes with straightforward methods and loads of big glossy photos provide an easy to use book for cooks of any experience level.

Admittedly I haven't cooked a lot of the recipes within the book, largely because I have to fend off my children to get near mangoes, so they tend to be eaten unadulterated, however there are plenty of reasons within the book to take your mango experience further.

You might start with the Indian mango salad which features chilli, yoghurt and coconut, or the Mango tabouli, but personally I'd skip the Seafood mango mould. For main dishes I feel spoilt for choice - I'd probably cook the Chicken with green mango curry, the Mango pork medallions or perhaps the Devilled mango crab which looks rather heavenly despite the name. And then you move onto the sweet stuff.

This is where the mango is truly in its element. The Mango soufflé, the Ginger mango cheesecake, the Mango ice cream, each and every one will leave you weak at the knees. I'm already thinking about when I'll make myself the After dinner mangoes, slices steeped in lemon juice, water and Cointreau, dried and rolled in cinnamon sugar and frozen for a cooling after dinner treat.

Now really, all this should be enough to satisfy the mango aficionado, so it comes as a pleasant surprise to find additional chapters on baked treats, pantry goodies and refreshing drinks. Personally I'm going to skip past the Mango gingerbread and its like, and drool over the Mango jam, the seven different chutney recipes (the Mango nectarine chutney sounds positively sinful), and the Spicy mango sauce. And while all this drooling is going on, a nice glass of Mango rum ice should keep me pretty well satisfied.

Recommended for mango fans, and those who love them.

- Kath

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rum Drinks, 50 Carribean Cocktails, from Cuba Libre to Rum Daisy ~ Jessica B. Harris

It's a warm day. I've been working hard in the garden and now it's time to chill. Whether you've earned it with a bit of hard physical labour or you just feel like relaxing, it's hard to go past a cool glass of something to set you on the right track to relaxing. If that's where you're at right now, you need look no further than this handy little cookbook. Rum drinks has got your cool classics and tropical tipples covered, along with a few other very handy bits and pieces.

The book commences with a background to rum and it's influence on history, then follows on with a chapter on all you'll need to know to mix your drinks, including no less than eight various sugar syrup recipes, including how to make your own grenadine. There are garnishes galore, and if you were ever curious about your liquid measurement conversions you'll find what you need here. I would expect most readers will skip past these chapters and head straight to the recipe sections, though with the glossy historical photographs you may find yourself caught up reading before you get anywhere near making yourself that drink.

It's the rum drinks though that you're looking for, and the book has two chapters of these to delight and tempt you. Where to start though? The first of the two chapters contains your classics, so you might like to start with the Canchanchara - nice and zingy with lime juice and honey, or perhaps the timeless Pina Colada. The Punch à la Noix de Coco with its freshly grated coconut, vanilla bean, lemon zest and nutmeg is also a promising option, or of course you can channel your inner Hemingway with a cool Mojito.

Moving onto the chapter on tropical tipples a little more variety sneaks in, and you might go with a Yellowbird featuring orange and lime juice and Tia Maria, a Rum Bloody Mary, or even indulge in a Boa Noite with the tartness of passionfruit juice. Throwing caution to the wind the chapter even has a recipe for the good old Shandy, and in my books that makes it a winner - definitely my cooling drink of choice after working in the yard.

And once you've started to relax you're probably going to be thinking about something to nibble on - well no need to fear, the book has you covered there too, with a nice little chapter on Caribbean snacks. The Plantain Chips or the Coconut Crisps will go nicely with your Rum and Ginger, or if you were interested in something a little more substantial you might go with the Sugarcane Shrimp or the Dominican Fried Chicken to accompany your High-Octane Limeade. And if you're not sure what nibbles to have with which drink, the final party planner chapter has that all done for you.

This is a nicely put together book, recommended for anyone experiencing warm weather who might be thirsty. Not one for recovering alcoholics or children though.

- Kath