Now that spring finally, and belatedly, seems to be here, it is the time to start on some resolutions and goals. Recently I have been sent a number of books, all perfect for those who are less experienced cooks, perfect for those who would like to get stuck into their kitchens and start cooking some great food.
All reviews, apart from Donal Skehan’s Great Food For Less are by Ed.
Modern Flavours of Arabia – Suzanne Husseini
Good Introduction to Middle Eastern Cuisine.
Modern Middle Eastern cuisine seems to be on a roll at the moment. After Malouf the other day, we have now received Modern Flavours of Arabia, written by Suzanne Husseini, a food writer and television presenter based in Dubai.
It’s arranged into five main chapters – breakfast, mezze, lunch, dinner and dessert. Recipes are a mixture of Middle Eastern classics (labneh, fried halloumi, baba ghanouj, hummus, kofta, tabbouleh, falafel, shawama, shish kebab and shish tawouk) , together with some more modern recipes that use the classic flavours as inspiration.
Of the more modern recipes, I was particularly taken by the idea of roasted cauliflower with citrus and tahini sauce, herb and nut crusted labneh balls, spicy chicken wings with fresh hot tomato salsa, lemony garlic chicken with rice and yoghurt sauce, cauliflower fritters with yoghurt and mint dip, pistachio ice cream, baklava, sesame and pistachio nut biscuits and spiced ricotta filled dates.
This book looks ideal for those wishing to try some Middle Eastern cooking, and want something that’s not as haute cuisine as Malouf, which we reviewed the other day. Recipes are aimed at home cooking for families – they’re not restaurant recipes needing fifteen different things all to happen at the same time, thirty seconds before serving. If you’re looking to give this cuisine a whirl, they have a look at this book.
Modern Flavours of Arabia, published by Hardie Grant Books, cover price £14.99
Modern Flavours of Arabia: Fuss Free Rating ***
Fish Easy by Mitch Tonks
Takes the Fear out of Fish
Restaurateur, fishmonger, food writer and self-taught cook (as well as being an ex-accountant) Mitch Tonks has written a new book, Fish Easy, promising over 100 simple, 30 minute fish recipes, most of which are pictured.
The recipes are arranged by cooking style: on the grill, in the pan, in the oven, raw cured and salads, and finally a chapter on mayonnaise and other basics. The simpler recipes are presented very straightforwardly in just a page of larger font. More complicated recipes are shown traditionally, with a list of ingredients and detailed instructions. As the essence of fish cooking is fresh ingredients and simple preparation, none of the recipes are particularly long or complicated.
I can’t imagine not being inspired by this book – if not to follow the recipes as written, then just to use them as a starting point for your own creations. This is not to say the recipes don’t look interesting: I’m very keen on trying sea bass with clams and sherry, sardine fritters with caper mayonnaise, fish in salt pastry with lemon, garlic and rosemary, monkfish with sage and roasted garlic, and especially the recipe for salt cod – one of my favourites;an entrant to my all time best dishes was salt cod at Petersham Nurseries. About the only recipe not included is one for fish pie, which I suppose sums up the book not doing the obvious.
Fish Easy, published by Pavilion, cover price £19.99
Fish Easy: Fuss Free Rating ****
Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less – Donal Skehan
Great affordable home cooking
There have been a number of frugal cookery books published over recent years and Donal Skehan’s Kitchen Hero: Great Food for Less both impresses and stands out. The book starts with a general guide to frugal food shopping, telling the reader which cuts of meat are which – how many people actually know that chuck steak comes from the neck and shoulder for example? Knowledge is dispensed in a factual and non patronising way. Brief advice is given on growing your own, and how to love leftovers.
Recipes are accessible, requiring the minimum of equipment, and come with suggestions on how to vary them the next time you cook them. Many are traditional recipes from Donal’s family – from his mother’s, grandmother’s and aunt’s kitchens, the food he grew up on. There is a wide range of dishes, family friendly one pots, cakes, healthy green stir fries and curries and stews. As well as classic Irish and British dishes food is spiced up with international influences, Indian spices, Thai curries to cowboy beans. I like the fact that Donal encourages you to try lots of vegetarian dishes, with cheap, filling and delicious lentils and pulses. We loved the Indian chicken & rice bake (basically a biryani). Well written, it is like Donal is standing next to you in the kitchen, helping and gently encouraging.
If proper cookery – rather than the current food science – were to return to the National Curriculum this would be the perfect book for students to learn to cook from. Essential for those wanting to learn to cook, leaving home for the first time, or needing to cook good home food for others.
Kitchen Hero: Great Food for Less, published by Harper Collins, cover price £18.99
Great Food For Less: Fuss Free Rating ****1/2
What to Cook & How to Cook It: Fresh & Easy – Jane Hornby
Enables the Non Expert Cook to Impress
Jane Hornby has followed her book for less confident cooks, What to cook and how to cook it, with a healthier, seasonal sequel, with more recipes for picnics and dinner parties, What to cook and how to cook it: Fresh and easy.
Like the previous book, Fresh and Easy is aimed at demystifying cooking, with numerous photos illustrating every stage of every recipe. It’s a format that does result in a pretty big book – 350 pages for 77 recipes, but it does mean that it’s always quite clear as to what has to be done next, and how things should look whilst being prepared and cooked.
Like her previous book, this is a great book if you’re not an habitual cook, enabling you to produce great looking and tasting food with assurance. The food for friends section in particular contains many recipes that look like they deserve trying: herb crusted lamb with pea puree and tomatoes, and the pulled pork sharing plate, for example. Likewise, from the barbecue chapter I fancy spicy mackerel with orange and radish salad, chimichurri-style burgers, goat cheese and polenta stacks and finally chargrilled beef and vegetables with horseradish cream.
This is the first book where, whilst trying a recipe, H hasn’t made any “how about you…” or “you know, you could….” suggestions after I’ve produced the dishes, which says something about how easy the recipes are to follow and produce attractive and tasty food.
Fresh & Easy: What to Cook & How to Cook It, published by Phaidon, cover price £29.95
Fresh & Easy: Fuss Free Rating *****
Thank you to the publishers for sending me complimentary review copies of the above books. Opinions are our own. We were not required to write a positive review.