Monday, 24 September 2012

Nigellissima, Review and First Makes

Being a big Nigella fan I was very happy when I had my copy of Nigellissima Instant Italian Inspiration by Nigella Lawson Chatto & Windus 2012 in my hands.

It is a relatively slim book for Nigella, but as she says in the introduction there are lots of her Italian recipes in her other books, and this book is full of new recipes. Chapters are: *Introduction* Pasta* Flesh, Fish & Fowl* Vegetables & Sides* Sweet Things* An Italian Inspired Christmas* Notes*. The notes one at the end gives make ahead and leftovers advice for some of the recipes, where this is appropriate.

The photography is stunning and Petrina Tinslay needs a mention here as she manages that hard to capture thing where the food photography is both something that you would like to cook and eat; but somehow art at the same time (David Loftus is another star at this). The recipes are easy to follow and well laid out, all preceded by chatty introductions from Nigella.

You can feel Nigella’s love for Italy in her words, and it is a book that inspires you to the cooker. The only thing I don’t like about this book is the weird cover. When I think of Italian food nowadays I imagine a cornucopia of good things or a fantastic beautiful and great tasting ingredient. This cover doesn’t sit well with that image for me, but hey ho. There are a good number of pasta dishes, but there is a lot more besides. I particularly like the Italian-Inspired Christmas chapter, which is full of good things.

It is Italian inspired though, so don’t be expecting a book of truly authentic Italian Mama’s recipes. I’m not as hung up on authenticity as some are. My base point is I like to know what is actually authentic about cuisines that are not my own; but I tend to then alter them to what I like and my own family will eat anyway, - is that not just what Nigella has done here? If the results are as good as the prawn pasta rose and nutella cheesecake below – I can cope with a bit of inauthenticity!

So how about a little taster of the recipes? Tortelloni Minestrone, Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta, Farro Risotto with Mushrooms, Italian Roast Chicken with Peppers and Olives, Beef Pizzaioli, Tagliata for Two, Iced Berries with Limoncello White Chocolate Sauce, Romanesco with Rosemary, Garlic, Lemon and Peccorino, Chocolate Nougat Cookies, Chocolate Salame, Cappuccino Pavlova and an Italian Christmas Pudding Cake.

My friend Anna G has also had great success with the Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, so it is now also on my long list of to-makes as well. Here are the dishes I’ve cooked so far:

Chilli Crab Risotto
There are a number of risottos in Nigellissima, but this is the only rice one. It’s light, delicious and very filling.
Vanilla Panna Cotta
Silence reigned when I put this one out, and I’m not surprised it was a perfect panna cotta. Rich, dreamy, and vanilla scented. Nigella has three panna cottas in the book - this one, a Nutella one and a coffee one – we will try them all eventually.
The strawberries here have a teensy bit of balsamic vinegar added. I bought a high end bottle of balsamic last time I was in Valvona and Carolla in Edinburgh, and it added a pleasant depth to the berries. You do need a good vinegar though, because I have tried this berry / balsamic thing with cheaper vinegar and it just doesn’t do.

This is meatloaf by another name. It was ok, needed a bit of help I thought, maybe some crispy bacon through the base and olives on top. This is the only recipe here I wouldn’t try again.
A cheeky little tiramisu, made in moments. I halved the recipe to make just two. Although I do think hubby felt a bit robbed that there wasn’t a big dish to have seconds from!

Cherry Tomatoes with Olives
Gosh, this was so good, simple and not for children (alcohol), but hubby and I had this as a side dish and little one had just tomatoes and olives, so that worked out well. It’s a simple dish, but very good.

Gnocchi Gratin
Unusual this one, but we all liked it, fastest potato gratin ever.

Prawn Pasta Rosa
We all loved this one, I changed the method slightly and added the chilli at the end after removing little ones portion so everyone was happy. Creamy tomato kissed pasta with prawns, yum yum. I’ve made twice now, once with the pasta suggested and once with spaghetti. Spaghetti gets our vote.

Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic and Almonds
I halved the anchovies here, and I really liked this alternative pesto. I’ll make it again just for me, I found it’s sweet – sour pull good. My little one took such an aversion to the telephone cord shaped pasta that she had to be bribed with pudding to eat it (well she couldn’t have just Nutella Cheesecake for tea!). I’ve heard before of children who will eat say spaghetti but not other shapes of pasta as it doesn’t taste the same, but so far I’d managed not to experience that first hand. I get off very lightly really!

Nutella Cheesecake
This is an amazing dessert, simple to pull together and so good to eat. As a general rule I like sweeter puddings than this, but the base is sweet and the filling not so much, together they are fabulous! If you like Ferrero Rocher give this one a go. I would have expected my daughter and myself to like it, but even hubby who would never eat Nutella normally, was won over by it too. This is the one I’m making to take to events this party season. You can find the recipe here.

Next Up: Under the Walnut Tree

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

My Summer Round Up

When I started blogging I had this idea in my head that I would blog about cook books and also kitchen bits and pieces. I’ve never really managed to get round to the latter, but I’m about to remedy that here and now!

Baking Dishes
Last Christmas my mother-in-law gave me a voucher and I used a bit of it on these pretty little baking / pudding dishes. They came from The House of Bruar.

Some of my very favourite flowers, the world seems such a beautiful place when there are peony flowers in my kitchen.

Spotty Pot
I have a few bits and pieces from this the Polish pottery Polie, but this new one is the jewel in the crown, it’s just gorgeous!

Grater, Peppermint Extract and chocolate Coffee Beans
I’d never seen a chocolate grater before, and although it was pricey I thought it needed to be added to my kitchen kit. I haven’t used it yet, but soon… I love Steenberg’s Organic Rose Water, so when I saw a different one I had to try it, haven’t made anything minty since, but when I do I’ll go steady, it smells very potent. I always buy these little chocolate shaped coffee beans when I see them, they are just right for decorating coffee desserts.

Oh be still my excitable chocoholic heart! I’ve fancied something from Choccywoccydoodah for years now, and at last this summer the time came when I ordered a box of their chocolates. I LOVED these - think I might need to ask nicely for a box for my birthday!

Jubilee Cake
I was itching to make this cake, and when we were going to a Jubilee BBQ and desserts were asked for I took the chance and made it. This was the cake from the front of the BBC Good Food Magazine earlier this year to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it is a Mary Berry cake. The sponge is given a bit of interest from ground almonds and Greek yoghurt. I increased the buttercream to cover the sides as well. I liked this one a lot, and will file away the recipe for another time too. Recipe here.

The Smithy, High Street, New Galloway
We stopped here for a tea, coffee and a fancy piece (Scottish for a lovely sweet biscuit / cake). The millionaire’s shortbread here was gorgeous, the best I have eaten out and about. This is beautiful scene  beside it.

Cook Book Stand
How pretty is this cook book stand? I have been looking for a new one for about 4 years now, but have never seen ‘the one’. I was asked by Dotcomgiftshop if I’d like to review something from their kitchen range, and when I saw this I knew this was it! It’s quite tall, but this seems to be a good thing as I haven’t sparked the book pages and it is closer to my eyes so easier to see! I love its cute gingerbread house feel, and the pretty heart at the top is the icing on the cake. See here if you fancy one.

So that was this seasons bits and pieces. :o) Back to normal next post!

Next Up: Nigellissima

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Lorriane Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food

The title pretty much says it all - Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food 100 Fabulous, Easy to Make Recipes HarperCollinsPublishers 2012. Here in the UK it is accompanied by a BBC2 television series and recipes are indeed fast, fresh and easy.

This is her third cookbook, and it is done in a very similar style to the previous two, glossy pages, clear text and good pictures of the food and Lorraine herself too.

Chapters are: *Canapes & Cocktails * Starters, Snacks & Soups * Salads * Chicken & Duck Mains * Beef, Lamb & Pork Mains * Fish & Shellfish Mains * Vegetarian Mains * Cakes & Puds * Bread & Pastry * Tasty Treats *.

Some of the recipes I have marked to try soon: The Union Cobb, Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup with Chive Mascarpone, Gingerbread Pancakes with Parma Ham & Maple Syrup, Maple and Balsamic Glazed Lamb Chops with Mint, Toasted Almonds and Feta Couscous, Blueberry and Oat Muffins and Dulce & Banana Cake.

Some of her ideas here are great (see the cookie pops below) and she often gives a bit of a different spin to dishes like Five-Spice Roasted Duck Breast with Cherry and Shiraz Sauce plus Sesame Noodles. I could feed hubby and myself easily from here, our little miss or a more traditional palate not so much. There are plenty new ideas for the “What to have for Supper?” question. One of the really good things about this book is that the main courses all incorporate the sides to go with them, and I know I find that really useful when I’m in food-on-the-table-as-fast –as possible mode. Although I’ve liked both of Lorraine’s previous books, this one is better than her last one I think. You can really feel her creativity in the kitchen here, as with Baking Made Easy.

So far I’ve made six recipes, and here they are.

Wild Waldorf Salad
A Waldorf salad mixed up a bit with the addition of dried cranberries and a honey mustard Greek yoghurt dressing. We all liked this one.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
A bit of a hotch-potch of a recipes this one. Sausage meatballs and a sweet and sour sauce. Hubby was very taken with this one, I thought it was ok.
Lozza’s Lamb Biriyani
A kind of a quick fusion biryani! It was delicious the spices and coconut milk working well with the other ingredients. We both like this one, will make it again with chicken or prawns which Lorraine says both work well here. I served ours with some mango chutney on the side.

Chicken Fajitas
A good fajita recipe, I was particularly taken with the addition of chives to the cream. Although I did use half fat crème fraiche instead of sour cream, but the flavours are very similar. Actually I just did a couple of spoons of the cream as it is normally just me who eats it, however hubby liked it too and the bowl was soon empty.

Prawn Linguine with Chorizo & Cabernet Tomato Sauce
Meaty, gutsy and very Spicy! I halved this one for hubby and myself, I did it with the chilli and harissa paste, hubby was very happy but it was a bit too spicy for me. Lorraine says to use tomato puree instead of the harissa if you don’t like it too spicy, and you know me and my wimpy chilli ways! A keeper this one. Recipe here.

Shameless Shortcut Cookies-and-Cream Lollipops
A very naughty recipe made with Oreo cookies and Nutella (although it could have been cream cheese). Put a very big smile on my daughters face, and I was only just behind her! Made me feel like a child again. These are now known as ‘cookie cake pops’ in our house.

Next Up: Summer Round Up followed
Then:      Nigellissima