Sunday, 31 October 2010

alice’s Cook Book - review

Some cookbooks are really just for looking at: browsing through whilst snuggled up in the front of the fire on an autumn afternoon. Alice’s, however, despite having many beautiful photographs and a casual, retro, arty layout, is all about the recipes. Each new chapter is introduced with a photograph and there are a couple more strewn throughout, but the real focus is food for friends.

With 5 chapters, including ideas for Sunday lunch, Camping and Open Fire cooking and Supper ideas to share, the recipes themselves are grouped into whole meal ideas for up to 6 people. Each idea also has a ‘hands-on’ time, making it easy to flick through and find something you can do in the time you have. Many of the smaller ingredients that create the flavour, however, aren’t the regular run-of-the-mill store cupboard options you might have in all the time and I feel a specific ‘shop’ to ensure you have everything you need would be in order before attempting some of these. Examples you might not have (certainly I don’t) include mustard seeds, elderflower blossoms, curry leaves, tahini, and chick-pea flour. And although I have red and white wine vinegar, I’d also need to add sherry, cider and rice vinegar to my collection.

Feeling peckish later in the evening after a Sunday dinner of ‘Very Garlicky Roast Chicken’ , a very moist and easy to prepare garlic and lemon chicken, I decided to use up some leftover roasties to make the Woodland Hash from the Picnics and Happy Camping chapter. This really simple recipe didn’t need an extra shop and said it would only take 10 minutes. I was very tempted by the Stickiest Gingerbread on the next page, but not having any stem ginger in syrup, I made the choice to stick with savoury rather than sweet.

The ingredients are simply potatoes, mushrooms, eggs and a flavoured oil, the preparation of which isn’t included in the 'hands-on’ time, but also, could be done much more quickly and simply if you were in a hurry, or, as Alice suggests, adding a few sprigs of thyme and cloves or garlic to the mushroom pan will do the job. The idea is to cube and gently fry the potatoes, turning up the heat to brown off when they’re cooked through. Use the same pan to fry the mushrooms, then move to the side of the pan and fry your eggs. I was asked to use ‘very fresh free range’ so used the last two laid earlier today from the hens! Plate up the fried eggs then pop the potatoes back in with the mushrooms to heat through.

The recipes are presented simply and are very easy to follow, written in short paragraphs so you can do one thing at a time without becoming confused as to what you’re meant to be concentrating on! There are also ‘short cut’ ideas throughout, from breakfast to tips for making life easier as you cook.

And the taste of our Woodland Hash? Well, I sat in front of the wood burner, not in a wood, with a plate of hot, warming and tasty food that I’d whipped up using leftovers, and a tasty recipe: Simple yet flavoursome. Thanks Alice!

Post Script: As a full-time teacher in my ‘real life’, I do think that your ‘sense of advanture’ (Page 53) when playing with the quantities for Damper Bread Sticks, should perhaps read ‘adventure’, but I know what she means!

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Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Merlotti x

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