Hamlyn quick cook recipe books review

As much as I enjoy cooking, there are many days when I don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen cooking. Other days I happily spend longer in the kitchen baking our bread, a cake for a special occasion or trying out slightly more time consuming recipes. When time is short I often fall back on a few much loved, simple recipes. Sometimes though I feel stuck in a cooking rut when it comes to quick meals.A few weeks back I was sent a collection of 6 cookbooks that might just be the answer to those evenings when you get home from work, tired and hungry. Hamlyn quick cook books each contain 360 recipes that can be cooked in 30 minutes or less. Each page includes 3 recipes that share a common group of ingredients/theme and is paired with a full colour photograph of one of the dishes. The 3 recipes are always one that can be cooked in 10 minutes, one in 20 minutes and one in 30 minutes. For example I chose to cook crab fried rice which took 20 minutes but if I only had 10 minutes I could have cooked crab and rice salad with lime dressing or if I wanted to spend 30 minutes cooing I could have cooked crab and rice cakes with lime dipping sauce. Each page also contains a unique code that if you type into their website you can download a recipe to print or have the recipe emailed to you (text only) so you could access it on your phone to buy the ingredients on your way home from work for example.

Crab fried rice (20 minutes)

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Roast figs sugar snow – book review

Originally published in 2005, roast figs and sugar snow is a beautiful collection of winter recipes by Diana Henry. The book is a collection of recipes perfect for the colder months with recipes from Diana’s travels to the chillier parts of the world. There are dishes from Russia, Scandinavia, Northern Italy, France, New England, Quebec, Britain and Ireland.

Each chapter has a beautifully written introduction which can not fail to inspire you to try the recipes or at least get in the kitchen and cook with the featured ingredient. Each chapter is based around a specific ingredient or group of ingredients. For example ‘Gathering in’ is recipes using chestnuts, hazel nuts, walnuts and pecans. There are also chapters on cheese, winter vegetables, game and wild mushrooms, pork, smoked food, groups of winter fruits (apples, pears, damsons, figs etc) and maple syrup (sugar snow).

So far I have cooked Tartiflette and smoked haddock and leek risotto from the book (both recipes were easy to follow and the end dish delicious). There are many more recipes I want to try this winter including Italian Christmas chocolate cake (a pudding using the flavours of panforte), roast squash salad with lentils and goat’s cheese, roast beetroot salad with orange and goat’s cheese, tagliatelle with roast pumpkin, sage, ricotta and smoked cheese, Swedish hash and snow biscuits.The book is full of stunning inspiring photos of the ingredients, the dishes and autumn/winter scenes. This is a cookbook to read snuggled up on a snowy day, to inspire you to get in the kitchen and cook with all the beautiful ingredients winter has to offer.


Serves 6

1.3kg waxy potatoes (no need to peel)
Salt and pepper
75g unsalted butter
2tbsp olive oil
250g chunky bacon lardons
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 reblochon (about 350g)
75g creme fraiche

  • Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain. When they are cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes. Heat half the butter and oil together in a saute pan and cook the potatoes until they are golden. Season with salt and pepper and put them into a shallow ovenproof dish.
  • preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Heat the rest of the butter and oil in the same saute pan and cook the lardons over a fairly high heat to colour them well. Turn the heat down, add the onion and cook it until soft and just beginning to colour. Throw in the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Add this to the ovenproof dish and gently combine with the potatoes.
  • Cut the reblochon into slices and trim the rind. Dot spoonfuls of creme fraiche all over the potatoes and cover with the slices of Reblochon. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. The cheese should be melted and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Thank you to Octopus books for my review copy and allowing me to share this recipe with you.

Pieminister cookbook review & giveaway

I’m a great believer in healthy eating but I also believe that balance diet should include treats and less healthy options. It’s not about what you eat in a day but what you eat in a week. Life would be very boring/difficult if we didn’t indulge in the occasional treat etc. With this concept in mind I took up the offer to review the first cookbook from pieminister. If you are going to indulge then it should be enjoyable. Have you ever ordered a cake  or desert as a treat, only to be disappointed by the lack of flavour? I have (but thankfully not very often). So if I’m going to make a pie who better to trust than Pieminister who have been baking and selling award winning pies since 2003. Their pies are sold at festivals, from their Pieminister cafes and in the best delis, farmers markets and pubs as well as nationwide mail order from their website & in some supermarkets nationwide.

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Fishy fishy cookbook review & a giveaway

This competition is now closed.

I’ll be honest before I was approached to review this cookbook I’d never heard of Fishy Fishy brasserie. I have learnt it is a Brighton based restaurant opened up by Dermot O’Leary, James Ginzler and Paul Shovlin. They share a passion for fish but most importantly for locally source, in season and sustainable fish. In their first cookbook they share their passion for fish and their expertise in sourcing and preparing fish.

The book starts out by explaining the importance of eating fish when they are in season, explores different fishing methods and explains how to buy and prepare fish. As well as this information, I found the chart at the back of the book particularly useful for knowing which fish are in season when.The main body of the cookbook features over 90 recipes, most of which include a beautiful photograph of the dish to tempt you in to preparing the recipe. There are chapters on starters, barbecue & al fresco eating, everyday fish and shellfish, special occasions and finally a chapter on sauces, side dishes and desserts. The recipes appear simple to prepare and there is a wide variety of fish and seafood used as well as a variety of recipe styles. Everything from pasta & risotto, fish cakes, salads, fish cooked whole and simply cooked fish fillets are included.As a self-confessed fussy fish eater who’s fish cooking skills are somewhat lacking, I have to say I really like this book and look forward to cooking more recipes from it (I know, I’m shocked too). I really think this is a good fish cookbook for novice fish cookers. The recipes are straight forward yet inspiring, there is lots of information on how to buy and prepare different types of fish and the book is full of beautiful photography. In case you missed it, I posted a recipe from the book a few days back – Sticky mackerel, I loved this dish and will be making it again this month before mackerel goes out of season. Other recipes I hope to try include warm mackerel salad with rhubarb chutney, fishburgers, quick crab, chilli and basil linguini, Provencal-style mussels, whole roasted grey gurnard and baked plaice with garlic and thyme new potatoes.

If you’re considering buying this book and want a bit more of a preview why not download their free app from itunes. 10 of the recipes from the book are included as well as a few demonstration videos. The video on preparing crab made it look so straight forward I’m think of buying one to have a go myself!


I have one copy of this cookbook to giveaway to one of my readers. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this great cookbook is leave me a comment telling me your favorite way to cook fish. For a bonus entry please tweet about this giveaway using the button below and come back and leave me a comment to tell me you have done so.

The rules

This competition is only open to readers with a UK mailing address. The winner will be selected using an online randomiser and I will announce the winner in a post on this blog (and notify them by email) as soon as possible after the giveaway closes. Giveaway ends 7th September 2011, 7pm.

Please leave a separate comment for each different type of entry.

Please make sure when you leave a comment you include your email address so I can contact you if you win.

Thank you to New Holland publishers for my review copy and for sending one of my readers a copy too.

Book review: One more slice, Leila Lindholm

This book was my first introduction to Leila Lindholm. She is a Swedish TV chef (I’m not sure that any of her shows have been shown in the UK but I could be wrong), author (this is her fourth book) and has be extensively featured in Delicious, Easy Living and Elle magazine.

This book follows on from her previous book, A piece of cake and includes recipes for breads, pizza’s, fresh pasta, brownies, cheesecakes,  ice creams, pies, pancakes and waffle. I love the photography throughout the book. It’s a wonderful book to pick up and flick through for the photos alone. But if you did you would be missing out as the recipes are really simple, use standard, easy to get hold of ingredients and look and sound delicious. Leila’s enthusiasm for baking is evident throughout.

There is something for everyone in this book. For each section there are basic recipes e.g. for pizza sauces and dough or for brownies and then Leila gives you lots of variations. If you like brownies then you might like after eight brownies or raspberry brownies or how about rocky road brownies or brownie cupcakes (to name just a few of the brownie recipes).

There are many recipes I want to try in this book but I went straight to the bread section “boulangerie” and tried out one on the nine kinds of baguette included in the book. I chose to bake birdie num-num bread, partly because I had all the ingredients in and partly as I just love the name! The recipe was simple to follow and the resulting baguettes delicious. I used my baguette tray to make two of them and had to make the other two on a flat baking sheet. The ones on the flat baking sheet didn’t work so well, they collapsed into a wide flat loaf of bread! The book talks about using a baguette tray or baking sheet I don’t know if anyone has had more sucess than me with using baking sheets but I’ll be halving the recipe next time and using the baguette tray! New Holland Publishers have kindly agreed for me to publish this recipe below. I can’t wait to bake another recipe from this book and I know this will be a well used book in my ever growing cookbook collection.

My birdie num num baguette straight from the oven

One more slice is available to buy now for £19.99. New Holland Publishers, are offering my readers a 25% discount and free post and packaging if you buy it direct from their website and enter the discount code purely. This offer is valid until 30th September 2011 to UK residents only. Discount cannot be used in conjunction with other offers!

Thank you to New Holland Publishers for my review copy of this book and for allowing me to share the recipe for birdie num num with my readers.

Delicious with cheese and tomatoes

basic recipe
makes 4 baguettes
dough one ( starter)
5 g (1/4 oz) fresh yeast
300 ml (10 fl oz) cold water
325 g (11 oz) strong bread flour

1. For the starter: crumble the yeast in a mixing bowl and dissolve it in the water.
2. Add the flour and mix it until the loose dough is smooth.
3. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise for at least
4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

dough two
15 g (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
300 ml (10 fl oz) cold water
1 portion dough one (starter)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
450–550 g (1 lb–1 lb 4 oz) strong bread
oil for the trays
sea salt

1. For dough two: crumble the yeast in a mixing bowl, add the water and mix.
2. Add dough one, salt, sugar and then the flour until the dough holds together. Work the dough in a mixer at low speed for around 15 minutes.
3. Let the dough rise under a cloth for around 11/2 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F/gas 9).
5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, divide it into four pieces and carefully press each piece into a rectangle with your fingers.
6. Fold in a long side of each rectangle, roll it up and shape the ends into points.
7. Twist the baguettes once and place them on a well-oiled baguette tray (or a regular baking tray).
8. Let them rise under a cloth for about an hour.
9. Brush the baguettes with water and sprinkle with sea salt. Make a few incisions diagonally across each baguette with a sharp knife and immediately put the tray in the middle of the hot oven.

10. When the baguettes have coloured a little, lower the temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas 6).
11. Bake until the breads have been in the oven for a total of around 30 minutes, then let them cool on a rack.

birdie num-num baguette

makes 4 baguet tes
1 portion baguette dough (see basic recipe below)
50 g (2 oz) mixed seeds – poppy, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin
oil for greasing
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F/gas 9).
2. Make the baguettes according to the basic recipe and let them rise on a greased tray.
3. Brush with water, sprinkle with seeds and sea salt.
4. Immediately place the tray in the middle of the oven.
5. When the baguettes have gained a little colour, lower the temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas 6).
6. Bake until the breads have been in the oven for a total of around 30 minutes, then let them cool on a rack.

Courgette, feta and thyme frittata

 Today I have a very simple and quick summer dish that is as delicious as it is simple to prepare. This recipe came about because we bought courgettes at our local market at the weekend and had too many for our go to courgette recipe of balsamic courgettes. This made a delicious, light after work supper but I can imagine it would be even better for lunch in the garden or on a picnic.

Courgette, feta and thyme frittata

Serves 2
1tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
2 courgettes, grated
100g feta, crumbled
4 eggs, beaten
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
Salt and pepper

  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Pre-heat your grill to high.
  • Fry the garlic and courgette for a few minutes until softened.
  • Season the beaten eggs with salt and pepper. Pour over the courgette mixture in the frying pan.
  • Add the thyme leaves and feta to the pan. Stir to mix everything together before the eggs start to cook.
  • Once mixed, allow to cook until the base of the frittata starts to set.
  • Place the frying pan under the grill and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the top is set and golden.

First catch your pig – Book review

You might remember The Milestone as winning the British round of Gordon Ramsay’s best restaurant 2010. The Milestone is a gastropub based in Sheffield who last year won Yorkshire pub of the year (White Rose Awards 2010) and were runners-up in The Observer food monthly 2010 awards in the best sunday lunch category. They are passionate about food and in sourcing good quality food locally where ever possible and if they can make it themselves instead of buying it they will. They even rear their own rare breed of pigs and accept local produce from local allotment keepers in exchange for bar tabs. When I was contacted and offered the chance to review their first cookbook I jumped at the chance. Firstly because I’m originally from Yorkshire and secondly because of their passion for using local ingredients and making everything they can themselves (bread, pasta, ice cream, chutney etc).

The book is first catch your pig, a phrase borrowed from Mrs Beeston. First impressions of the book were good and their passion food, locally sourced, seasonal and of good quality is evident throughout. They believe in nose to tail eating so not ever recipe will appeal to everyone (there are recipes using pigs trotters, sweetbreads, pigs head and ox tongue). Perhaps not the cookbook for vegetarians but even for those meat eaters that don’t want to cook pigs head etc there are still lots of delicious sounding dishes to try. Double eggs Benedict (with a recipe for homemade muffins),  mackerel cooked in a bag with aromatics, The Milestones ploughman and Yorkshire pudding, braised shin beef and root vegetable to name just a few. The deserts section is full of stunning looking and delicious sounding desserts which I can’t imagine would fail to impress.

The book is full of stunning photos of not only all the recipes but also the pub/kitchen and their herd of pigs. The recipes are well laid out each over two pages, with clear, detailed directions and mouth watering images of the final dish. The dishes are presented on the plate impressively through out, as you would expect them to look in a gastropub. My first thought was that this cookbook was perhaps not the book for everyday cooking, perhaps more suited for cooking to impress such as dinner parties or special occasions. However once I read the recipes it was clear that many of the recipes are very straight forward to cook. In addition, the chef’s enthusiasm and passion for food is infectious and can’t fail to inspire you. After reading the book, I would certainly like to visit the pub if I’m ever near Sheffield and the website talks of a cookery school which I imagine would be very inspiring.

First catch your pig is out now. You can see sample pages from the book and order your copy on their website.

Thank you to The Milestone for sending me a copy for this review.

Nigella’s maple pecan bundt cake

After months of very little baking, October seems to be the month of baking in our house. So far I have baked chocolate chip cookies and brownies (for my boyfriend to take to work to celebrate his birthday) and a maple pecan bundt cake for his 30th birthday. All 3 recipes are from Nigella’s new book Kitchen and all 3 turned out beautifully. I’ve still got to bake something for our late Macmillan coffee morning at work on friday and something to take in to work for my birthday next week. Just as well then that Tate and Lyle sent me a range of their fair trade sugars to tell you about. They are committed to making their range 100% fair trade and have a new design to their packaging too. Why not have a look at their fantastic baking facebook page here.

I loved the maple pecan bundt cake. The cake itself was delicious and moist but the best thing about this cake is the surprise that comes when you cut in to it. The maple syrup and pecan filling is to die for! The cookies worked really well too. I’ve made quiet a few cookie recipes before but these were by far the best texture wise, crunchy outside and chewy in the middle. The only negative was, for me, they were perhaps a little too sweet. The everyday brownie recipe was easy to make and the results were gooey and delicious.

I bought Nigella’s book on a bit whim whilst I was taking a break from revision last month. It was a bargain at just £13 and almost 500 pages. It is however my first Nigella cookbook! I know, I know I’m a bit late finding Nigella but I never watched her shows until this summer when that seemed to be all that was showing on the Good food channel. I’ve always thought of her cooking as being too “unhealthy” but with the bargain price, delicious looking pictures and me desperate to get back in to the kitchen trying out new recipes, I decided to give it a go.

The book doesn’t disappoint, I instantly loved her style of writing and only 20 pages in I found I’d read nearly every word and learnt quiet a few hints and tips. As for the recipes, first impressions are that they don’t seem as unhealthy as I thought. Yes there are a lot of baking recipes but I don’t bake that often, for just the two of us, but when I do  have an occasion to bake for, it’s nice to have a selection of recipes you can trust to turn out well. There are some savory recipes I’ll never cook or that I would experiment with replacing or reducing the butter etc but not as many as I expected and anyway it’s all about moderation and using your own judgment. Now a days I tend to look at the balance of the types of food we eat over a week rather than in one day, we all need the occasional treat. All in all a great book that I can see myself going back to regularly. I may even have to take a look at some of her earlier books.

Maple pecan bundt cake

for the maple pecan filling:

75g plain flour
30g soft unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g pecans (or walnuts), roughly chopped
125ml maple syrup

for the cake:

300g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
250ml creme fraiche or sour cream
1-2 tsp icing sugar, for decoration
flavourless oil, for greasing

1x23cm bundt tin

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Using flavourless oil grease your bundt tin, and leave upside down on newspaper for the excess oil to drain out.
  • Make the filling for the cake by mixing together the 75g flour and 30g butter with a fork, till you end up with the sort of mixture you’d expect when making crumble topping. Then, still using the fork, mix in the cinnamon, chopped nuts and maple syrup, to form a sticky, bumpy paste. set a side for a moment.
  • For the cake, measure 300g flour, the baking powder and bicarb into a bowl.
  • Now, cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in 1tbsp of the flour mixture, then 1 egg, then another tbsp of flour mixture followed by the second egg.
  • Add the rest of the flour mixture beating as you go, and then finally the creme fraiche or sour cream. You should expect to end up with a fairly firm cake batter.
  • Spoon just more than half the cake batter into the oiled bundt tin. Spread the mixture up the sides a little and around the funnel of the tin to create a rim. You don’t want the sticky filling to leak out the sides of the tin.
  • Dollop the maple filling carefully in to the dent in the cake batter, then cover the filling with the remaining batter. Smooth the top and put the tin in the oven for 40 minutes, though it’s best to check with a cake tester after 30 minutes.
  • Once cooked, and the cake tester comes out clean where it hits the sponge (obviously, any gooey filling will stick to the tester), let the cake cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes in its tin, then loosen the edges with a small spatula, including around the middle funnel bit, and turn the cake out onto the rack.
  • When the cake is cold, dust with icing sugar by pushing a teaspoon or so through a tea strainer.

Bill’s basics review

I must confess to being a big fan of Bill Granger. I love his simple, laid back way of cooking and presenting. In this cookbook he presents over 100 recipes that are his favorite, classics (think coq au vin, spaghetti carbonara, fish and chips and ‘fried’ chicken) which he has worked his magic on, not only simplifying but also putting his spin on them to modernise them. Examples include fish and chips, where the fish is coated in bread crumbs and shallow fried (instead of battered and deep-fried), coq au vin which can be made in less than one hour and ‘fried’ chicken which is oven baked yet he says still has all the flavour of southern fried chicken (this recipe is next on my list to try, so I can not confirm this).

Of course there is a chapter on his trademark breakfasts as well as baking, soups, meat, seafood, chicken, vegetables, rice, pasta and bread, salads and desserts. The recipes all appear simple and straight forward, the photographs are stunning and Bill’s passion for food and good home cooking is evident throughout.

So far I have tried Bills coq au vin, which he cooked on Saturday kitchen (and is also in this months Sainsbury’s magazine) and the recipe can be found here.  The recipe was straight forward to cook and tasted delicious (it reminded me of this dish from his last book feed me now). I also cooked his fish and chips with tartare sauce recipe. The fish had a subtle hint of paprika which I really enjoyed and the chips were deliciously crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Fish and chips
Serves 4

75g plain flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1tsp ground cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
80g fresh breadcrumbs
500g firm white fish fillets, cut into fat strips
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra just in case
25g butter, plus extra just in case

    To serve

    Oven-baked chips
    Tartare sauce
    Lemon wedges
    Chopped flat leaf parsley

        • Mix the flour, paprika and cumin with sea salt and ground black pepper in a bowl. Season the breadcrumbs well with sea salt and black pepper and put in another bowl. Put the eggs in a third bowl.
        • Dip each piece of fish in the flour, then the egg, then in the breadcrumbs.
        • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the fish strips, in batches, for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly golden, adding a little more butter and oil to the pan if needed.
        • Serve with oven-baked chips, tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a scattering of parsley.

          Oven-baked chips

          1.25kg potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
          3 tsp olive oil

              • Preheat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8 and put a couple of baking trays in the oven for 20 minutes to heat up. Cut the potatoes into chips, dry with a clean tea towel, toss with the oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
              • Put the chips on baking paper on top of the hot baking trays and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, or until golden.

                Tartare sauce
                serves 4

                4tbsp mayonnaise
                2 gherkins, finely chopped
                2tsp tiny salted capers, rinsed and chopped
                1tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
                1tsp snipped chives
                Lemon juice to taste

                    • Stir together all the ingredients.

                      Thank you to Quadrille publishing for sending me a review copy of Bills basics.