Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Stevie Parle's Dock Kitchen Cookbook

This is a gorgeously sumptuous looking book. It has a padded cover which begs to be held and have time spent with it.  The cover wrap has quotes from both Yotam Ottolenghi & Jay Rayner, both of who I respect greatly for their food wisdom, which gets the book off to a great start.

The book highly promotes seasonal cookery. Recipes are featured in the season when the ingredients are at their best. The treat of having one recipe per page with a colour photograph of the finished product on the opposite page is a real luxury. The result of the presentation of the recipes means that the book easy to read, and refer to.

The book is for those who are passionate about cooking and eating.  I think they are perfect for a special occasion meal.

Many of the recipes sound  really decadent:

Chicken roasted in mastic and pomegranate molasses with braised broad beans,

Cuttlefish Tagine  and

Mexican Octopus and pork crackling with tomato salsa

I love the idea of cooking all these at home, and this book has given me the opportunity to recreate restaurant dining at home in my country kitchen.

This is a unique book, with unusual recipes and flavours which is great if you're looking for something a little different from the norm.

Full of inspirational recipes the book would be perfect for the kitchen, or the coffee table. Either way it's a must read for all foodies.

This book was kindly sent to me to review by Quadrille Publishing.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Eat Your Veg - Arthur Potts Dawson

I love growing my own vegetables. There's nothing quite like the thrill of wandering down to the veg plot with a garden fork and digging up half a dozen potatoes for tea. In the winter and early spring the veg patch pickings are a little meagre, and at the moment I am enjoying the contents of a weekly veg box delivery.  This means that each week I have no excuse for getting my 5 a day BUT have to find yummy recipes to make the most of the box.

I was lucky enough to be sent Arthur Potts Dawson's book Eat Your Veg by Octopus Publishing to review and I was immediately struck with how bright and colourful the cover looks.

The book is split into five sections:  Roots & Tubers, Bulbs & Stems, Leaves & Flowers, Fruits and Fungi & Beans & Pods.  Each of these sections includes various skills and feasts such as Mash, Gratin & Pickle - all of which are very useful core skills to have. At the rear of the book is the obligatory index which is equally useful if you know exactly what vegetable you wish to use and just want a relevant recipe.

The introduction also has a handy section detailing What's Best When.  I try to eat as seasonally as I can, and try to grow as much as I can. It's so useful to have a quick reference guide for the vegetables that I either don't or can't grow, or for a special recipe

In this weeks veg box we received some celeriac and had no idea what to do with it.  The index gave me six options, and we decided to try celeriac remoulade.

The book says:
Remoulade is a classic salad that's absolutely lovely. Serve it with a ploughman's lunch or a piece of fish, or as a light snack with toast and cornichons. It's also great  in a sandwich with a slice of ham.

The recipe serves 4-6. We scaled the recipe down by half and ended up with a large portion each:

50g of salted capers
25g of horseradish root
3tbsp of homemade mayonnaise
500g celeriac
2tbsp of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

We found the recipe easy to make:

1:  Drain and chop the capers. Peel and grate the horseradish. Mix with the mayonnaise and capers in a  bowl.

Then cut the celeriac in half and and slice as thin as possible

3:  Add the celeriac matchsticks to the mayonnaise and chopped parsley mixture, season lightly

Towards the back of the book there is a brilliant Basics section which contains recipes for pastry, stocks, sauces and dressings. To test these out we decided to use the Homemade mayonnaise recipe which makes about 1 pint. Again we halved it to make 1/2 pint, but here is the recipe in full:

3 free range egg yolks
1tbsp Dijon mustard
2tbsp white wine vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
2tsp salt
pinch of pepper
500ml vegetable oil
2tbsp lemon juice

We found the mayonnaise recipe slightly harder to follow - but it was well worth it in the end.

We teamed our Remoulade with some cheese, boiled eggs and salad

There are so many recipes in the book which I am looking forward to trying- some more unusual than others. My book keeps falling open at the recipe for Iced pea and mint lollipops which sound very interesting.

This book is a very useable resource and one which will be my first port of call for vegetable main courses or sides. It is easy to read, has bright clear pictures and gives inspiration for even the most unusual vegetable.

Definately a book for everyone who enjoys a good meal.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Butlers Almond & Orange Dark Chocolate

When eating dark chocolate I like to ration myself and this 100g bar from Butlers of Ireland is marked into ten pieces making it easy to savour over a number of days. The chocolate itself is 58% cocoa solids which is good if you don't like a strong dark flavour, for me though I would prefer a deeper taste. The bar contains 6% roasted almond pieces which is enough to get a mild crunch in each bite, and the almonds are finely chopped so a subtle nutty flavour lingers on the palate. The candied orange pieces were a lovely addition giving the bar a hint of luxury, but the orange left me wanting more, perhaps a hint of orange oil would be nice, or more peel.

Overall this bar was nicely presented, and encased in a gold inner wrapping. It would be pleasant as an after dinner treat if you wanted to try something a little different.

As a chocoholic it's great to try brands I haven't tried before, and Butlers is certainly one I'll be looking out for next time I'm looking for an indulgent treat.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Yesterday's Sun - Amanda Brooke - Book Review

Holly & Tom move to a rural English village to begin their new life together. Holly's unhappy childhood haunts her, but with Tom's family background she believes she can move on with her life. Her job as a sculpter allows her to spend time getting to know her new environment and make friends with a past occupant of her house. Tom is a journalist whose job takes him away from Holly for long periods of time, leaving her to make the biggest decision of her life without him.

Holly discovers a moondial half buried at the bottom of her garden which takes her into a future where Tom and their beautiful baby daughter live, but where she is absent. Holly has a choice to make - does she save herself, or the life of the baby she has already fallen in love with.

This novel is the debut from the author and is inspired by her own personal torment when her son died prematurely. It is written with great feeling and emotion from the author, that left me feeling very sad in places for all the characters, as it is not just Holly who has demons to battle with.  This book does not have a happy ending, nor a conclusive one. It is a sad ending, but satisfying to the reader.

The thing that sets it apart from so many other books in the  "tragedy/drama" genre is the use of the moondial. The supernatural element describes the future/and the past excellently and works well in this context.

This book is featured as one of the eight books selected in Richard and Judy's Spring Book Club 2012. I enjoy looking at the books featured in this list as it rarely disappoints.  The choices they make encourage me to try authors and books I would not normally read, and this book falls into this category. I usually prefer my books to be less emotional, however I'm pleased to say I was glad I didn't judge this book by its cover as it was well worth the read.

The  whsmith edition features bonus material which includes notes from the author and a Q&A with the author and Richard and Judy

I was sent a copy of this book to review by WHsmith

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Steampunk! - Book Review

This is an 'Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories' from fourteen masters of Speculative Fiction.

Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. A world of automatons, ornate clockworks and time travel, where scientists and dreamers, intrepid orphans and schoolgirls solve dastardly crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments and hover over volcanos in steam powered airships.

Steampunk to me is very “Heath Robinson” a mish mash of old and new, young and old mixed together with bits of the future and obscure concepts too. It requires imagination, thought and a little bit of romance.

This is a great introduction to the concept of steampunk as there is a mix of short stories and graphic novels in the book. A huge advantage for the reader with short stories is that it's so easy to dip in and out of the book, and I enjoyed the interspersal of the two graphic novels between the twelve short stories

I particularly enjoyed the graphic novel: Seven Days Beset by Demons by Shaun Cheng about a characters unrequited love. The drawing is so intricate and full of little extras that I found myself reading the story & glancing at the drawing, then returning to the beginning to look more closely at each frame of the story to see what I had missed. A simple story illustrated brilliantly by the author, which deserves several re-reads.

A stand out short story for me was Some Fortunate Future Day by Cassandra Clare. Rose's father has gone off to war and she lives in the country awaiting his return. She has had no human contact for six months , and spends her days in the company of her servant robots. When she encounters a soldier injured near to her house, she nurses him back to health and dreams of a life together with him in the Capital. She'll do whatever it takes to make him want her in his life.

The anthology features authors from America, New Zealand, Australia and the UK, & also acknowledges influences from the great Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki. The diverse mix of nationalities adds to this great compendium which has certainly aroused my interest in cross-genre fiction and graphic novels.

This book was sent to me for review by

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Death Sentence - Mikkel Birkegaard - Book Review

Frank Fons is a very successful crime writer. His books are famed for their shock factor and now someone has recreated a murder scene straight from one of his novels. Frank needs to become detective and try to work out who is committing the crime before it's too late.

This is a really well written novel which is not for the faint hearted, It's a fast paced story which is full of details of each of Frank's novels through his career. Frank's personal life is also explored in the book and the flashbacks of his family life is interspersed with details of his book publications. This is a very graphic and brutal story with some of the violent scenes proving a little bit too much for me. I have to admit that although the ending itself was well written, I could only skim read it through my fingers as it really was gruesome.

Was the gore necessary? Yes it probably was (if you can cope with it!!), as it was the climax to a nailbiting book which kept the reader guessing to the end - and beyond.

I loved the book, even through the skim reading and therefore give it 4.5 out of five.

I look forward to reading more of this author in the future.

I'm a member of the Transworld Book Group and was sent this book to review by Transworld

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Water Room - Christopher Fowler - Book Review

This is the second book in the series. I have not read the first, but it did not seem to matter. There were references to the first which got me up to speed with the back-story of the two main characters.

London's two longest serving detectives Bryant and May are like chalk and cheese, both completely different characters who work tremendously well as a team. The Peculiar Crime Unit is an offshoot of the Met, set up to deal with those crimes which don't quite fit the 'normal' remit.  They find themselves investigating an unusual death of an old lady in her basement which leads to them going deep into the underground rivers beneath London.

This is a wonderful crime novel with wonderful colourful characterisations of both Bryant & May but the mix of individuals they meet along the way.  Both detectives are eccentric, the reader learns so much about them with the intricate details given about their lives.  The eccentricities add to the drama & by the end of the book I felt as though I almost knew what made them tick.

This is quirky intelligent crime drama.  It is very well written with lots of weird and wonderful facts about London.  I loved the pace of the book which kept me wanting to keep reading to wonder what on earth was next on their agenda. Very much recommended.

I'm a member of the Transworld Book Group and was sent this book to review by Transworld