Cookbooks make ideal gifts. Angela Day asked colleagues to review some recent releases
Author: Nigella Lawson
Publisher: Random House Struik
Reviewed by: Georgina Crouth
Nigella, the ultimate comfort eater, seems to be happiest with a fridge full of fattening treats, although judging by her recent trim figure, she’s not eating much of her food in Nigellissima.
She’s gorgeous, but can she cook? This being my first exploration into the Nigella phenomenon, I hadn’t held out much hope.
Recipes that I could never serve would be the meatzza – a breadless pizza crafted from meatball mixture that resembles boiled flattened mince topped with tomatoes, cheese and basil. She claims this is “numero uno” at home but she admits her sample demographic are teenagers, who arguably do not qualify as reliable critics.
Then there’s her instruction to use 200g of squid ink in spaghetti – saying there ’s “nothing wrong” with intensifying this desirable darkness. For anyone who has ever cooked pasta negro, this is serious overkill.
Nevertheless, there are numerous recipes that I could recommend.
Her Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds is deliciously simple and rustic, as are the lamb cutlets with chilli, mint and golden potatoes, which went down a treat.
A sizeable segment of the book is devoted to dessert, so if you’re a sweets person, her sambuca kisses, double Amaretto semifreddo with a golden sauce, as well as the Italian Christmas pudding cake will be up your alley.
Nigellissima would be the perfect Christmas stocking filler for her fans. It’s beautifully photographed, her instructions are easy to follow and, on the whole, the recipes are not bad.
5ml baking powder
10ml sambuca liqueur
5ml grated orange rind
oil for frying
icing sugar for dusting
Put the egg and ricotta in a bowl and mix well. Add the flour, baking powder, liqueur, sugar and orange rind. Mix to form a smooth batter.
Pour about 2cm of oil into a pot or pan and heat.
Oil a teaspoon and drop spoonfuls of the batter into the pot and fry until light golden on both sides.
Drain on paper towel and dust with icing sugar.
MAKE GIVE SELL
Authors: Callie Maritz & Mari-Louis Guy
Publisher: Human & Rousseau
Reviewed by: Amy Kay
This book has lots of fabulous ideas for food and items to make, sell or give as presents. With money being tight this time of year, it is a good idea to make some of your gifts.
The book is divided into sections for different kinds of markets and what products suit those markets.
There are also a few lovely things to make for kids.
This book is for anyone who enjoys making home-made gifts and easy, delicious recipes.
Pondering my shortage of cash for Christmas gifts this year, I decided to try making the body scrubs. They were easy to make and your skin feels great after using them. I prepared a large batch in pretty bottles and now I have my gifts sorted at a fraction of the price of bought varieties.
I also made the baked sweet potato purses, which tasted extremely moreish.
BAKED SWEET POTATO PURSES
6 large sweet potatoes
30ml chopped fresh sage leaves
30ml brown sugar
125ml fresh cream or coconut milk
65ml softened butter or olive oil
salt and pepper
brown sugar for sprinkling
250ml plain yoghurt
zest and juice of 2 small lemons
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
30ml pickled ginger
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Scrub the sweet potatoes and bake in the oven until soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut a slit lengthwise in each sweet potato. Be careful not to cut too deep; you want to form a purse.
Scoop out the flesh and mash it with the sage, sugar, cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop the flavoured mash back into the sweet potato skins. Sprinkle with some brown sugar and bake for a further 10 minutes.
DRIZZLE: Blitz together all the ingredients. Drizzle the purses with the lemon sauce and serve with a disposable spoon.
Author: Hilary Biller
In her latest foray, Hilary Biller develops recipes that rescue us from braai day drudgery, whether your preference is cooking over gas, in a Weber, or on a traditional coal or wood braai. Biller’s recipes are well-described, even for those among us who burn water.
This is not fussy food – it’s all about easy weekends, where we like to relax and not worry about running around looking for ingredients or creating masterpieces. And still Biller delivers, with dishes that look good and taste delicious.
There are recipes ranging from smoky cola T-bone steaks and Mexican beef fajitas, to African lamb, a chicken flattie and seafood kebabs. There are great ideas for fresh salads and her vegetarian dishes, while limited, are inspired.
Some desserts are prepared on the braai, namely praline bananas served with fresh cream and Bar One cups.
I tried the Mexican fajita recipe, which turned out superbly.
The Greek fish was another hit.
Fuss-Free Braais is a good guide by a renowned food writer who has an acute understanding of not only local tastes, but also of what works. I enjoyed it.
1kg piece of rump steak, cut 2-3cm thick
juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
85ml olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
4 spring onions, finely sliced
10ml ground cumin
salt and black pepper
small bunch of coriander, finely chopped
In a non-metallic dish, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Mix well.
Add the meat and allow to marinate for an hour or two.
Remove meat from the marinade and dry with a paper towel.
Cook the steak over hot coals for 5-10 minutes for each side or until desired doneness. Remove the meat from the heat and slice into strips 1-2cm wide.
Serve with tortillas, tomato salsa, charred peppers and guacamole.
LIMONCELLO AND LINEN WATER
Author: Tessa Kiros
Publisher: Murdoch Books
Reviewed by: Georgina Crouth
Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek father. She moved to South Africa, but left after school and eventually settled in Tuscany with her Italian husband and two daughters.
She has cooked in London, Mexico, Sydney and Athens, so her food is inspired by her upbringing and her travels. This, her seventh book, draws on these experiences.
It’s a tribute to the matriarchs in her life – her mother-in-law, mother, grandmother and aunts.
Kiros’s recipes continue along this traditionalist vein – there are recipes for home-made limoncello, liqueurs, jams, vinegars and oils.
I tried her recipe for chicken with salsiccia and fennel. It was easy to prepare as a quick mid-week dinner. It’s certain to become a go-to dish in colder weather.
Recipes are gorgeously photographed, and accessible. I love Kiros’s attention to detail – from the styling to the pretty pink velvet ribbon that comes with the book.
This is the sort of treasure a mother may want to pass on to her daughter (or son) and something that will retain pride of place in my bookshelf.
CHICKEN WITH SALSICCIA AND FENNEL
1.2kg chicken portions, skin removed
2 fennel bulbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
3 Italian pork sausages, skinned
125ml white wine
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
about 500ml hot water
Rinse the chicken and pat dry.
Rinse and trim the fennel, keeping the fronds. Cut the fennel lengthwise into quarters keeping the quarters joined at the bottom.
Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion and celery until golden.
Add the garlic and cook until it smells good then crumble the sausages into the pan. Cook until they have taken on a good colour.
Add the chicken and sauté until it is golden in parts.
Add the wine and let it evaporate, then add the fennel quarters, fennel seeds, salt and pepper.
Pour in the water, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Take the lid off for the last10 minutes to reduce the sauce. Serve scattered with fennel fronds, and with bread.
Author: Donna Hay
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books UK
Reviewed by: Choice Maseko
This author writes her book with great style and class. Once you have her book, you will have all the tips and tricks at your fingertips for cooking simple supper dishes.
The recipes are really easy and accessible as most of the ingredients used are most likely already in your pantry.
The book covers a wide range of topics, from salads to desserts, tips, measurements and metric conversion. It is quite large and the photographs are so beautiful your mouth waters just paging through the recipes. Hay’s easy chocolate mousse recipe was amazing. This is a book I would put very high on my Christmas wish list.
EASY CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
400g dark chocolate
25ml icing sugar
Place the chocolate, milk and icing sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until smooth.
Pour the chocolate mixture into a glass bowl and place over a larger bowl of ice.
Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat for about six minutes or until light and fluffy. Do not overbeat or the mousse will be grainy.
Spoon into glasses and serve immediately.
COOK WITH JOSH
Author: Josh Thirion
Reviewed by: Sasha Zambetti
In his first cookbook – at the age of nine! – Josh has chosen 48 of his favourite dishes and you’d be surprised how healthy they are.
Josh, who was inspired by MasterChef, is so passionate about cooking he inspires me.
I have a young son who would absolutely love to try these recipes, each of which is accompanied by a beautiful photograh as well as a self-drawn illustrations and a game.
A wonderful present for any child to spark their interest in cooking.
COLOURFUL EGG NESTS
12 slices of bread
12 large eggs
plenty of grated cheese
halved cocktail tomatoes, thinly sliced baby spinach leaves, diced red or yellow peppers, sliced mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan.
Carefully cut the crusts off the bread and mould the slices into the muffin tin, one piece to each hole, flattening gently with your hands. Crack one egg into each hole. Bake for about 10 minutes.
Take nests out of the oven and shake the tin to see if the egg is cooked. When done to your liking, carefully remove the nests from the tin, put on individual plates and sprinkle over some grated cheese.
Top with your choice of toppings and serve immediately while still hot.
YOU CAN WITH FISH
Author: Tamsin Snyman
Publisher: Lannice Snyman Publishers
I really love this cookbook because I am a huge fan of fish and sustainable fishing. Tinned fish is truly nutritious and, best of all, it’s a high quality protein for a very economical price.
The book is divided into three main sections – meal preparation times of under 10, 20 and 30 minutes, to suit you and your family’s busy schedule.
My two favourite recipes are the sardine pancake bake and the tuna and mushroom casserole.
TUNA AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE
170g can of shredded tuna, drained
350g cooked brown rice
250g button mushrooms, roughly chopped
125ml low-fat or fat-free milk
5ml chopped fresh thyme
1 onion, finely chopped
10ml wholegrain mustard
2.5ml milled black pepper
80g reduced-fat cheddar cheese, grated
250ml whole-wheat breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Mix together the tuna, rice, mushrooms, milk, thyme, onion, mustard, pepper and half the cheese. Spoon into an ovenproof dish.
Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and scatter over the top of the tuna mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes until bubbling hot and crispy on top.
Serve with a side salad. - The Star