Friday, 29 April 2011

Gran's Kitchen - Review, Interview and Recipe

Before my post proper, I'd like to say that today is the royal wedding day for Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton, it's lovely to see a young couple in love. They both looked fabulous today, congratulations and wishing them all the best today and in the future :) Now onto the post!

Gran's Kitchen Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie May Brooker by Natalie Oldfield, published by Hardie Grant Books (UK) 2011. With many thanks to the publisher for my copy. This is just the kind of cookbook I like, a bit like the Hairy Bikers Mum's Know Best, except the book is all from one lady's recipe jotters.

The layout is good, fresh and mixed with a reflection on Dulcie's lifetime in pictures. Good food photography too, and plenty of them. Chapters are *Breakfast* Morning Tea* Cakes* Fred's Dinners* Desserts* and Preserves and Sauces* There are savoury dishes, but many more sweet and in particular baking recipes.

Dulcie was born in 1913 in New Zealand, and passed away in 2009. The book is written (co-authoured) by Natalie Oldfield, who is a Granddaughter of Dulcie. She in turn has a cafe and bakery in Aukland, New Zealand and sells a range that is based on her Gran's recipes.

Dulcie would have been about the same age as one of my own Grandmas (sadly now also gone), and how happy I would have been to have a book of her recipes! Still, I'm very happy to be reading and cooking from Gran's Kitchen. Dulcie was obviously a great cook, and her recipes are accompanied by pictures, which are done with a retro feel, really fitting the book well.

This is a lovely book to give someone who can cook, most recipes do not give cake tin sizes, but if you can bake you'll be able to choose the right kind of tin - the pictures help here too. Well, I managed anyhow!

Some, though not all of the recipes I have marked to try are: Ginger Lime Loaf, Cream Crackers, Cheese Straws, Neenish Tarts, Passion fruit Sponge Cake, Winter (savoury) Slice, Caramel Hazelnut Pudding and a beautiful Mint Jelly.

Here is an interview with the author Natalie Oldfield:

KJ: Do you have a favourite recipe from the book?

Natalie: This would have to be cheesecakes, it is something that I always LOVED to share with Gran, and she loved to bake with me!

KJ: Did your Gran get to see her book before she passed away?

Natalie: Yes the book released in NZ in Feb of 2009 and she passed away in March 2009.

KJ: What did she think?

Natalie: Gran loved to see her recipe's compiled into one book although she had so many more. She also wondered what the fuss was all about as for her these recipe's were just part of her daily life and nothing 'extra special' - she did however enjoy some competition and as the book climbed the top 10 on the best sellers book here in NZ she loved to hear where it was standing each week, right up until the night before she passed away this was part of our conversation.

KJ: What is your happiest memory of being in your Gran’s kitchen?

Natalie: Being together with friends and family, the smells and of course the eating! It was a place where everyone congregated - centre point of the home really.

KJ: Which recipe do you make that takes you back to your Gran’s kitchen?

Natalie: Probably Party Cheese Scones - always made for a special morning tea for a birthday etc or Peanut Brownies - these were always on the go in Gran's Kitchen as she would always give a batch away in a tin for your birthday. Dulcie never forgot your birthday even at the age of 95 she was the first on the phone to celebrate the day with you and remind you that your Peanut Brownies were waiting. She had many friends and family so this recipe was a well worn looking one!

Thank you Natalie. Here are some of my first makes:


A really classic, old fashioned recipe - we loved it, it reminds me of my Mum's porridge, except now I have a recipe! I have made this so many times now.

Cheese Cakes

I remember these from when I was little, layers of pastry, jam and sponge on top. The real advantage of making them at home is you can put in plenty of jam. Yum.

Luscious Lemon Slice

A delicious lemon and buttery slice.

Ciss's Sponge Cake

Such a light cake this one, made mostly with cornflour as the flour part, I did it in a 9" tin, a 10" one would have been fine too. It makes a big cake and I had a bit leftover. We thought it was even better the next day when the cornflour had calmed down a bit. Sandwiched with jam and cream, mmmm.

ANZAC Biscuits With permission from Hardie Grant Books - thank you!

1 cup flour

1 cup Sugar

1 cup rolled oats

pinch salt

1 cup coconut

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 lb (115g) butter

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon boiling water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Melt the butter and golden syrup, then add baking soda dissolved in water. Mix wet into dry ingredients.

Spoon onto greased oven tray and bake at 320 oF (160 oC) for 15 minutes.

Next Up: Leila Lindholm's One More Slice

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Cold Oven Cream Cheese Pound Cake - Cake Slice Bakers April 2011

With raspberries and whipped cream

It’s Cake Slice Baker time again, and our cake comes from the book that is being cooked from for this year (October 2010 to September 2011) Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman published by The Taunton Press 2009.

The cake calls for cake flour which we don’t have in the UK. A substitution here is either ¾ cup plain flour and ¼ cup cornflour or 1 cup plain flour less 2 tablespoons, and replace the 2 tablespoons with cornflour. I made this cake twice (see below) and I thought measuring out one cup, taking out 2 tablespoons, and replacing them 2 tablespoons with cornflour worked best. This gives a substitution for one cup of cake flour.
In the making

This months cake is a cold oven cream cheese pound cake, unusual because you don’t pre-heat the oven. The purpose of this is to give a good crust, but still a tender crumb. I’ve certainly got a good crust, I was a bit alarmed by how dark is was when it came out of the oven, but it tasted fine and had a definite crust with a very tender, moist crumbed cake inside.

Cake and its silicone mould

I had to make this cake twice, the first one I made was resolutely stuck to the tin, and the cake came out tasting well, but looking a real shambles! I couldn’t have greased it well enough, but I’ve never had any issues with turning out cakes before, oh well, sigh. It didn’t go to waste though, as I put it out for the birds, and they along with three of my neighbours cats were seen tucking into it. Cats eat cake?! I hope it didn’t upset their tummies! Still I managed to bake a second one yesterday, I only made a half quantity and used a smaller silicone bundt cake mould. I’m very happy to say this second cake turned out of the mould with no problems.

The flavour in the cake was some grated ginger, lemon zest and vanilla extract, this gives an unusual but very pleasant flavour. I served mine for dessert tonight with raspberries and whipped cream. Mmm.

Do have a look at some of my fellow cake bakers cakes on the Cake Slice Bakers blog roll.

Next up: Gran's Kitchen

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Skinny French Kitchen – Review and First Makes

Before the main review of this post I’ll start with the winner of Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer draw: the second comment from Loving Food from the Humble Home Cook - please email me to arrange delivery. Well done!

J’adore The Skinny French Kitchen! Well, I am a bit of a Francophile where food is concerned; there is no getting away from it.

The author had co-authored two Cook Yourself Thin books, one in the UK and one in the US. This is her second solo cookbook, the first being Red velvet, Chocolate Heartache which I have recently been cooking from (more on that one another day though). When I first saw the title for pre-order I smiled – French food that I could slip into my cooking routine and know the calorie count of for the healthy eating plan- oh yes! Ah, le regime - see I took it all in when reading David Lebovitz’s wonderful blog.

The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood published by Bantam Press 2011. It’s a very nice book, with a distinct French and more specifically Parisienne feel from the photography. There are Paris shots, food shots and recipe shots too. I would have liked more savoury recipe pictures, but this is my only little moan here.

Harry does a good introduction to the book to set the mood for skinny French cooking. She also has little appendages to her recipes called “Skinny Secrets” where she tells us about how the recipes are skinny. Calorie count per portion on each recipe page as well. Chapters are *Aperitif* Sides* A Table for Two* Dejeuner sur L’Herbe* Cold Comfort * and finally * Les Desserts*. I like the layout, and each recipe has a nice intro from Harry.

No crème brulee recipe, Harry says she tried hard but it wouldn’t be made skinny, despite her best efforts. Maybe it could have had its own chapter at the end – the once a year blow out recipe (!), but that wouldn’t have been in keeping with the book at all.

I have bookmarked 61 recipes – which is more than half the book!! I couldn’t wait to get cooking, so here is my first round up of recipes. I have managed to find a link for the profiteroles recipe, so have posted it below. Here is a taster of the recipes I've tried so far, but do expect another post about this book!

Coq au Vin Blanc with Light Mashed Potatoes

Light and brightly flavoured chicken, liked it a lot. Served with the mash from the book which is less rich, but still yummy.

Chocolate Truffles

Small, but absolutely packed with flavour. I have kept some of mine in the freezer for emergencies!

Profiteroles au Chocolate

The choux pastry is made with Harry’s lighter recipe, and it really works. The lighter crème patisserie is a good consistency, but not sweet enough for me. I made this for our Mother’s day dessert, and we all enjoyed it. I’ll make it again but add a bit more sugar to the crème next time. Recipe link here.

Carrot Salad

This was light and delicious, a definite keeper.

Salmon in a Paper Parcel

Another keeper, the salmon is just gorgeous cooked in its own paper parcel. Another light and fresh dish. I added some prawns because I had some left over. The fussy little one will not touch salmon, but prawns go down well, so I did an extra parcel without wine and herbs and with prawns, and it still worked!

Crème Caramel

I liked this one, it isn’t rich at all, but a nice end to a slimmers midweek meal.


A bit of work, but a lovely reward of beautiful vegetables afterwards.

Crepes Suzette

A light version of the original, the sauce was particularly good, and we poured what was left into small glasses, hic!

Croque Monsieur

I’ve not quite followed Harry’s method here, (1) I’ve used soda bread (no yeast for me) and (2) I’ve not made them double deckers. Fabulous recipe, lighter than the normal one, but in a good way, not fatty, just cheesy, creamy and good.

Next Up: Cake Slice Bakers

Next Review Up: Gran's Kitchen

Monday, 4 April 2011

Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer - Review, Interview, Recipe and Giveaway

My cheesy gnocchi
Now for something completely different!!! It is true to say that this cookbook is different to any I already own.

Gnocchi in the making
Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer with Audrey and Philip Gordon published by Hardie Grant Books 2011 in the UK. It's a cookbook, it has recipes, it's a coffee table book with some breath taking photography of Italy, but... it has been written with a real comedy slant - see the herb on Audrey's teeth on the cover! Some of the funny parts are a little biting to say the least, but others are really funny, on more than one occasion I laughed out loud. There are comedic parts all the way through the book - Audrey is one formidable woman! She puts me in mind of some of the Masterchef and Food Network Challenge judges. You know the kind I mean - they can move the contestants to tears of misery or joy depending on their comments.

The recipes are seasonal Summer recipes, the book is a Summer in Italy memoir with recipes woven through it. I am what I am though, and I wouldn't have reviewed it if the recipes weren't any good, but the two I tried were very good. The recipes are all accompanied by a colour picture. Chapters are *Maggio / May*, Giugno / June*. Lugio / July* and *Agosto / August*. Layout is clean, but embellished to give a little bit of Italian flair. It's colourful, vibrant, beautiful pictures of Italy and many of Audrey herself too.

Here is a short interview I did with Audrey (thank you!):

KJ: What made you choose Tuscany for your destination? Audrey: I’ve always loved Italy. It’s the home of great artists like Michelangelo and Mussolini, as well as some of the world’s finest cooks. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Giacomo Brunetti? I spent several months under him when I was an apprentice chef. What that man can do with a fava bean is simply extraordinary.

KJ: Did you have fun cooking and writing the book? Audrey: I actually never cook and write simultaneously, ever since spilling beef ragout onto my laptop computer’s keyboard. But it was a joy working on new recipes. Every one of them has been fully tested of course, mostly on nursing home residents (so it’s hard to get clear feed-back) and I look forward to my readers trying them out themselves.

KJ: What are your favourite sweet and savoury dishes from the book? Audrey: My favourite sweet dish actually came from my grandmother. It’s a cherry-chocolate cake and I re-printed the recipe from one of her cooking diaries that she kept during the war. Obviously I had to replace the powdered egg and get rid of a few of the more stridently anti-Germanic sentiments scrawled in the margin, but it’s otherwise completely authentic. As for my favourite savoury dish, I think it would my Super-Super-Super Slow Roasted Pork. It’s worth every one of the 73 days it takes to cook.

KJ: Your book has a real fun slant to it, what made you choose to do that? Audrey: I think we sometimes take food and cooking a little too seriously. Has the perfect tomato and basil salad ever changed the course of history? Quite possibly yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it too.

Thanks to Hardie Grant Books for my review copy and also for an extra copy to give away to one of my readers. To enter leave a comment on this post by Tuesday 12th April 2011 11.59p.m. Name out of the hat, winner to be announced with my next post.

Pumpkin Risotto

The recipes I chose to try were Gnocchi di Ricotta con Pomodoro or Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce and Risotto alla Zucca or Pumpkin Risotto. The risotto was lovely, some of the squash melted into the sauce, the bacon and broccoli florets added extra layers of flavour. The ricotta gnocchi was really good too, my first home-made gnocchi, and totally different from shop bought - much better in my opinion. I really enjoyed making these little cheesy dumplings, it may have been my first gnocchi but it won't be my last, it was oddly therapeutic, a fabulous stress buster. Some other recipes I have marked to try are Eunice's Chocolate and Raspberry Cake, Cherry Pie and Roast Vegetable Salad.

I have been given permission to share a recipe on my blog, so here is the gorgeous gnocchi so you can try too if you like.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce

My recipe notes: Hope Audrey won't be too cross with me but I used Parmesan instead of Pecorino cheese, as I couldn't get any when I went shopping. I also didn't puree the sauce as we like chunks. Here is the recipe as per the book:


From Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer, Printed here with permission by Hardie Grant Books - thank you.

Some people say that they find gnocchi a little ‘stodgy’. They have obviously never eaten the homemade variety and should, therefore, refrain from commenting on things they quite clearly know nothing about. These gnocchi are as soft and pillowy as a freshly made bed.

250 g ricotta

250 g pecorino romano, freshly grated

1 egg

pinch of nutmeg

salt 1 cup plain flour, plus extra for dusting

extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 × 400 g cans Italian tomatoes, juices retained

1 bunch basil, leaves picked

pinch of sugar

freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, to serve

1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, pecorino, egg, nutmeg, a pinch of salt and half the flour. Mix to create a dough then add the rest ofthe flour.

2. Roll out the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and shape into six tubes. Cut each tube into about 20 pieces, then press the tines of your fork into each piece to create the ‘ribbing’ effect typical of gnocchi.

3. To make the tomato sauce, heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic until lightly cooked.

4. Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes

5. Pass the mixture through a food mill to remove the tomato seeds, then add the basil leaves and sugar. Season as necessary.

6. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in batches. Remove each one as it rises to the surface, usually after about 2 minutes.

7. When all the gnocchi are cooked, top with the tomato sauce and serve with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Next up: The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood