Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Recommended Reads

Essence & Dessert by David Everitt-Matthias

Essence and Dessert are proper chef’s books filled with recipes from David Everitt-Matthias’ Cheltenham restaurant Le Champignon Sauvage. What makes them such a refreshing change to the horde of books brought out by the TV personality chefs is that there is no dumbing down. The recipes are exactly as you will find at the restaurant. In Everitt-Matthias’ case, this is particularly exciting since the recipes in question are just about as dynamic as they come. Though a look through the index did initially make me think that recipes may have been created with the specific intention of being unnecessarily quirky and different, the excitement soon regained control. The array of ingredients, many of them wildfoods such as silverweed and woodruff, which are used is enthralling – and Essence’s glossary of these less common ingredients and the accompanying suppliers list makes a useful reference tool as well as an aide to the recipes. The dishes themselves are equally intriguing. Ingredients are used in ways you would not imagine – and surely that is what a cookbook should do, inspire you to think of things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Everitt-Matthais plays with taste, texture and presentation, as well as our preconceived ideas of sweet and savoury. Dessert in particular does this with puddings including Jerusalem artichoke cheesecake, beetroot parfait and a swiss chard tart – all of which are high up on my list of must-try recipes. Though perhaps not ideal for beginner cooks, the recipes themselves are less complex than you might imagine. Split into their constituent sections, they are time consuming and protruded but very doable. The way they are broken down also means that they can be adapted easily to suit what you’re cooking. Accompaniments such as jellies, sorbets & sauces can be mixed and matched as desired or even made as stand-alones. If you’re as interested in different ingredients and flavour combinations as I am, then these books are must haves.

buy Essence online at Amazon

buy Dessert online at Amazon

Monday, 23 March 2009

Recommended Reads

Arabesque by Greg & Lucy Malouf
I always think middle eastern food has something magical and precious about it. Scattered pomegranate seeds, the bold contrasts of savoury and sweet and the warm fragrance of spices such as cumin and cardamom evoke an intriguing sense of enchantment that no other cuisine can. In many ways, I find this book has similar properties. The beautiful photography, high quality paper, and rich content makes it one of those occasional books which you’ll treasure, but rarer still, one you will both treasure and regularly use. Divided into ingredient-specific chapters, authors Greg and Lucy Malouf take a heartfelt approach in guiding readers through modern middle-eastern food. As well as covering basics such as ingredients’ flavours and uses, they address the mythologies which surround them and the feelings and memories they evoke for them. This isn’t limited to the ingredients, either. Recipes are given life by introductions which explain their origins and the reasons for their inclusion in the book and their repportoirs. These descriptions are so vivid that they almost make up for the distinct lack of photographs of many of the recipes – though this could still be seen as the book’s one real downside. The recipes take a clever approach to middle-eastern cooking. Although classics such as hummus, tabbouleh and falafel are all present, it is the modern adaptations which are of the most interest. Preserved lemon guacamole, goat’s cheese dolmades, saffron scrambled eggs and rose water infused berry fool all show how the cuisine’s staple ingredients can be played around with and used to bring new life to classics from completely separate cuisines. A genuinely inspiring book which, despite the array of exciting recipes, encourages experimentation and the creation of your own recipes from the list of ingredients provided. I can’t tell you the number of banquets this book has been responsible for in my house….

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Office Snacks

From time to time at FoodLovers Britain, we hear about and get samples from businesses which we really love but just can't put onto the site because they're not British. The latest case in point is Conscious Food. Based in India, they make an intriguing range of sweet and savoury 'Power Snacks'.
These pure, unrefined snacks are all wheat, dairy and gluten free, using less common ingredients such as millet, rice, sorghum, nuts and seeds. Their philosophy is to source pure, unrefined and often local ingredients from small organic farms and communities in India. The snacks are then handmade in small 'factories' before being packaged and sold.
The range includes such delicious oddities as walnuts coated in palm mollasses and cocoa powder; coconut nuggets; millet crackers and chewy peanut and mollasses bites and - my personal favourite - sesame chews which are made with black and white ssame seeds and more palm mollasses.
After Kristina Locke discovered these snacks on a trip to India in 2006, they've now been brought to the UK and can be bought from the Conscious Food Website which is great. Apparently there's more to come - and organic flours too....
Try them for yourself and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

ITV1's Taste the Nation

So last night saw Henrietta's debut on Taste the Nation as one of the fearsome panel of judges, along with William Sitwell of Waitrose Food Illustrated and Food Writer Richard Johnson. Here at the office we're waiting for Nick Hancock to get into his stride and be funnier and for John Burton-Race to hit his stride and blow his top at someone - anyone...please.... But what did you think? Will you be watching the rest of the series - did it entice you in for more. Will you be looking for another glimpse of Henrietta's incredible cherry lips top? Did you think the scoring complicated - or did it add interest? And most importantly - do you think the judges made the right decision? Tell us what you think. We're dying to hear your feedback and it's got to be more interesting than blogging about minimum prices on booze or chocolate taxes...