If you could only keep one cookbook…

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…..what would it be?

Now, asking that question to someone like me, who has almost 500 books in her collection is tiny a bit cruel. I mean, how can I be expected to pick a favourite when there are just SO many good ones in my collection?

There are so many books that I love and many that are well-used (the two aren’t mutually exclusive for me – some I just like to read. Cookbook addicts will know what I’m talking about!) I mean, I pretty much adore anything from Jamie Oliver – his Ministry of Food book is perfect for anyone just starting out in the world of cooking and Gino D’Acampo’s books, well they are my favourite go-to for Italian meals. I’m also a fan of the Hairy Bikers and a spot of Nigella every now and again but when it comes to picking just one book FOREVER? It’s a really tough decision but I’m going to have to go with more of a simple classic – one that covers all bases.

Enter Mary Berry.

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Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook has everything you need.

This no-nonsense book contains over 1000 recipes for just about every occasion from adventurous dinner party dishes to firm family favourites this book is one for everyone from absolute beginners to competent cooks.  The recipes are easy to follow and include time-saving tips and there’s a whole heap of information on the general basics such as how to freeze, food safety and tips for flavouring and spices.    It is really well laid out and the pictures are great – always my bugbear in cookbooks – I need good clear pictures of recipes!

This is the book I would furnish my children with when they leave home!

Of course there are similar books out there that would also fit the bill – my hefty Good Housekeeping tome would come a close second and is very well thumbed. In fact I have a few versions from different years!

So over to you – if you could only keep one cookbook, which one would you keep and why?

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Review: Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics

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You know I love a cookbook, and I am also a bit of a Jamie Oliver fan so it’s stands to reason that I own each and every one of his books. I actually have an entire shelf dedicated to him in the kitchen.  I enjoy cooking his recipes so I was every excited to get my hands on a copy of one of his latest books.

Super Food Family Classics is the healthy-eating companion book to the hugely popular series “Jamie’s Super Food” which was shown on Channel 4 back in the summer. In this new book Jamie shows you how to freshen up your family favourites and expand your recipe repertoire to make your weekly menu something to shout about. There are ways to sneak in extra veg and ideas for no-arguments and no-fuss family dinners as well as some freezer-friendly ideas.

Every recipe is tried and tested, has clear and easy-to-understand nutritional information on the page, including the number of veg and fruit portions in each dish, plus there’s a bumper back-section packed with valuable advice on everything from cooking with kids and tackling fussy eaters, to good gut health, the importance of fibre, budgeting and of course, getting more of the good stuff into your family’s diet.

The book is split into several sections including Breakfast, Quick Fixes, Healthy Classics, Salads, Curries & Stews, Traybakes, Pasta & Risotto, Soups and Kitchen Hacks. As always, I like to settle down for a read through and make a list of things I want to try and for your viewing pleasure here it is.

Breakfast –
Pineapple pancake mess with yoghurt, coconut, cashews and lime
English breakfast frittata with bacon, mushrooms, spuds and tomatoes

Quick Fixes –
Sri Lankan prawn curry with tamarind, baby corn and pineapple rice
Creamy chopped salad with grapes, tarragon, chicken and croutons
Sesame butterflied chicken with peanut sauce, asian slaw and rice noodles

Healthy Classics –
Smoky veggie chilli with sweet gem and cheesy jacket spuds
Sweet potato fishcakes with chopped salad, feta and red pepper salsa

Salads –
Tandoori chicken salad with minty yoghurt dressing and poppadoms

Curries and Stews –
Baked tarka daal with cauliflower, split peas and chapatti
Balinese chicken curry with purple kale rice, chilli and lemongrass

Traybakes – 
Mango teriyaki salmon with brown rice and chilli cucumber pickle

Pasta and Risotto – 
Scruffy winter lasagne, savoy cabbage and creamy chicken stew
Garlic mushroom pasta, creamy thyme and truffle sauce
Sausage pasta, broccoli, chilli and sweet tomatoes

Soups –
Super leek and potato soup, herb parmesan and almond toasts

Kitchen Hacks –
Batch mince meat ragu, loadsa veg, beans and sun dried tomatoes

There are lots of lovely things to make in this book though not a lot that my fussy 9 year old will eat, even though it’s a family cookbook. I find that cookbooks don’t often cater to the fact that some children have food issues. Lots of nice ideas, but not always practical for many families. I’ll definitely be trying a few of the things listed though for the other 3/4 of the household!

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Review: Nostalgic Delights by William Curley

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I was recently sent a copy of a book called Nostalgic Delights: Classic Confections and Timeless Treats which is written by William Curley.

In this book William Curley, who is an award-winning chocolatier, aims to recreate childhood memories and times gone, taking classic recipes and modernising them with his own, unique creations.  The idea was to produce a book where the reader can create classics at home and evoke their own nostalgic memories.  William’s ethos centres around using the best ingredients and techniques available, while making his recipes accessible to home cooks – some of the recipes are very simple to make with minimal ingredients.

I don’t often make sweets and desserts but I do love eating them and I am game to give anything a try so was interested to have a flick through this book and see what I might like to make. I’m also very nostalgic about food and I love retro recipes and cooking so it sounded right up my street.

This is a lovely book, jam packed with over 256 pages of recipes complete with stunning photos – step by step photos where necessary which is really helpful.  It’s safe to say this isn’t really a book aimed at complete novices – there are quite a few skills and challenging techniques to master but it’s all part of the fun!

The book is split into several sections as follows: Chocolate Confectionery, Bakery Favourites, Patisserie Modern Classics, Ice Cream and Gateau, Afternoon Treats, Frivolities. Lets take a look at things I might like to attempt (ignoring the fact that some might be way out of my capability!)

Chocolate Confectionery –
Cartwheel
Cinder Toffee
Marzipan Orange Bar

Bakery Favourites –
Fruits of the Forest Tart
Chocolate Cherry Bakewells
Bee Sting

Patisserie Modern Classics – 
Black Forest Gateau
Charlotte Royale
Strawberry Shortcake

Ice Cream and Gateau –
Bounty Ice Cream Bar

Afternoon Treats – 
Rout Biscuits
Viennese Whirls
Arlette Biscuits

Frivolities – 
Cherry Drops

We should probably be straight up here – there’s no chance of me making a Charlotte Royale. I saw them do it on Great British Bake Off a few years ago. It looked way too fiddly, but lets just pretend. I’d like to eat it at the very least!

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Cookbook Review: Mary Berry Foolproof Cooking

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Who doesn’t love a bit of Mary Berry huh? I have a couple of well-thumbed Mary Berry books in my extensive cookbook collection – both vintage and modern – so I was keen to see another of her most recent books. Foolproof Cooking was published earlier this year to accompany her TV series of the same name.

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I’m sure that Mary Berry needs no introduction whatsoever so I am not going to insult my readers intelligence however I will tell you, in case you didn’t know, that another of her recent books, Mary Berry Cooks, was the fastest-selling hardback non-fiction title in 6 years and was the Number 1 food and drink title in 2014. Her popularity is certainly not waning.

As you would expect with Mary, the recipes contained in the book are straightforward and simple and for the most part quick, though some do take a little more prep than others. Generally all recipes would be suitable for a novice cook or someone less confident in the kitchen.

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The book is split into several sections as follows; Sharing Platters & Nibbles, Breads Soups & Starters, Fish, Poultry & Game, Pork Beef & Lamb, Pasta & Rice, Salads & Vegetables, Desserts & Puddings, Sweet Pies & Tarts, Cakes & Biscuits and The Foolproof Kitchen.  Each section contains foolproof no-fuss advice and tips.

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I really liked the Foolproof Kitchen section at the back of the book. In it Mary takes you through the essentials for a well-stocked store cupboard – splitting this between the basics and extras to enhance your cooking. She also talks about what you can and can’t freeze and how to prepare food for the freezer and there is a really helpful section on foolproof family food. These pages give you some tips on preparing tasty, nutritious family food when you’re short on time and on a budget – most of us know what a challenge that can be!

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My only bugbear with the book is that there is not a colour photo accompanying each recipe. It’s not a huge deal but it is something I like to see in a cookbook. I am won over by a nice picture and always more inclined to cook something if I have seen it first – I’m quite a visual person.

Recipes I have put on my “to try” list include;

Tomato & Basil Salad with Whipped Goat’s Cheese and Parma Ham
Spiced Blackened Salmon
All-in-One Fish Gratin
Chicken & Bacon Lattice Pie
Mexican Tortilla Bake
Passion Fruit Pots
Creme Caramel
Apple Frangipane Tart
Apple & Apricot Pie

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Can’t wait to give a few of these ago, and of course when I do I will be telling you all about how they went on this here blog!

Mary Berry Foolproof Cooking is published by BBC Books and is available to buy from Amazon with a current selling price of £9.99 (RRP £25).

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Cookbook Review: Scook

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I was recently sent a copy of Scook by Anne-Sophie Pic, who happens to be the only woman in France to hold three Michelin stars for two of her renowned restaurants. Scook is the name of her own cookery school and this new book is a wonderful collection of over 100 recipes that allows us to discover the wonders of French cooking in the comfort of our own homes.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a cookbook hoarder collector but when I was offered this book to review, it occurred to me that I don’t actually own any French cookery books.  I’ll be honest, French cuisine isn’t something that’s really ever appealed to me –  I’ve never been bothered about cooking or eating French food. Which made it all the more interesting to read this book.

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This is a weighty tome. My first thought was that it would be an excellent gift for anyone who wanted to learn French cookery as it looks pretty impressive.  The book is split into five sections – Entertaining, Everyday, Classics, Homemade and For Children.  Each recipe clearly guides you through the different processes with easy-to-follow instructions.

What I also liked about this book was scattered throughout were a range of tips and tricks for helping with tricky techniques, like buttering a soufflé dish or teaching you how to make tomato concasse. These items offer step-by-step guidance alongside great quality photos.

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The idea behind Scook is that it makes the most exquisite of recipes accessibly to everyone so it can be enjoyed by cooks of all levels. There’s certainly some things I would feel confident enough to try out myself, though I’ll be honest, Mussel royale with pumpkin cream, Courgette and bay leaf savoury custard and Poached egg with snail foam are dishes that are probably never likely to appear on a Meal Planning Monday post and foie gras isn’t what I would normally call an ‘everyday’ dish but there are lots of things to experiment with.

Some of the things I would like to give a try include (and these are just an example, this book is huge!)

Entertaining;

  • Saint-Marcellin cheese croquettes
  • Roast duck breast with black cherry compote
  • Pommes soufflées reinvented
  • Cinnamon and cherry clafoutis

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Everyday;

  • Tarragon chicken with rice pilaf
  • Ravioli gratin with caramelised onions and a light nutmeg bechamel
  • Grandmothers brioche with hazlenut spread
  • Apricot macaroons
  • Lemon tart with Italian meringue

Classics;

  • Creme caramel with muscovado sugar
  • Vol-au-vent
  • Green asparagus with mint hollandaise sauce
  • My pommes dauphine
  • Iced Grand Marnier souffle

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Homemade;

  • Raspberry shortbread biscuits
  • Chocolate financiers
  • Pogne de Romans
  • Almond pannacotta with raspberry confit and crumble
  • Tandoori beef bourguignon

For children;

  • Boulangere potatoes with bacon
  • Praline cream choux buns
  • Little chocolate pots
  • Glace fruit cake
  • Lyonnaise Mardi Gras doughnuts

I know, nothing too adventurous there, and I tend to sway towards the sweet.

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I am really impressed with the breadth and creativity of the recipes in Scook but I am afraid I’m still not convinced by French food. There’s way too much game, offal, foam and jellified things for my liking!

If you’re interested in French cooking though then this book would be perfectly up your street. There is so much to choose from whether you wish to create a simple supper for the whole family, an elegant main course showstopper for your dinner party or a delicious French classic, there is something in here whatever your cooking ability.

Scook: The Complete Cookery Course by Anne-Sophie Pic is published by Jacqui Small and is available now with an RRP of £40.00.

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