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Blissful bites and decadent dinners

Published Feb 9, 2011

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Whether your taste be for simple summer meals or decadent dinners, there is a range of cookbooks to inspire you. Olga Accolla samples some new offerings

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Blissful Bites

by Peter Veldsman (Human & Rousseau, R235)

Peter Veldsman has put together an outstanding collection of recipes for snacks suitable for any time of day or night at home, corporate functions, weddings and other celebrations. An authority on entertaining and food, Veldsman also runs Emily’s, his restaurant at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

The book offers an unbelievable 300 recipes for hot and cold snacks ranging from the very simple, such as spiced nuts and meatballs, to the more sophisticated, such as chickpea chips, duck liver and rooibos parfait and sushi snacks.

The recipes are detailed and easy to follow and cater for all palates and ages, for meat lovers as well as vegetarians.

I found the chapter on menu ideas useful as it looks at various functions, such as cocktail party, cheese and wine, wedding reception and office party, among others, and then lists which snacks are suitable for each function.

This book takes the headache out of catering. It’s a matter of deciding what type of function you are planning and Veldsman does the rest.

Decadent Dinners

by Marlene van der Westhuizen (MacMillan, R140)

Most of the recipes in this book, and there are some 60 of them, have a distinctly French flavour. Wine is used in several of the recipes and the other ingredient that pops up in many of the dishes is fresh cream. So decadent is the operative word and apt for the title.

It therefore goes without saying that most of the recipes would be suitable on a day when weight loss diets are not a concern.

The book covers everything from side vegetables, chicken, duck, tripe, venison, pork, fish, lamb, veal and beef, all of which get the French treatment of wine, herb combinations, orange zest and juice and, of course, lots of fresh cream.

If the above gets your saliva flowing, choose a recipe, pour yourself some wine before you add it to your dish, get cooking and enjoy your meal.

Lazy Lunches

by Marlene van der Westhuizen (MacMillan, R140)

As with the Decadent Dinners, Van Der Westhuizen offers a selection of dishes suitable for both summer or winter, all prepared with a French touch.

The winter recipes comprise several soups such as mushroom, oyster, tomato, an unusual spinach and sorrel soup and of course the mandatory French onion soup.

For summer lunches, the recipes cover the classic quiche Lorraine, terrines, various salads including Caprese salad, refreshing avocado soup, chilled tomato soup and a watermelon salad with feta and black olives. There is also a selection of tarts such as Provençal vegetable tart, Fromage de chevre tartlets (goat’s milk) and tomato tarts.

The French touch shows in all the recipes, from the potato and paprika bake to the French onion tart starter.

What I found attractive is the compact size of this book and of Decadent Dinners; they are ideal to take with if you’re going on a self-catering holiday. Just select the dishes before you leave home and take the necessary ingredients with you. That should ease the catering pain when away from home, as well as give you the illusion of being on holiday in France.

Cooking For The Freezer

by Julia Orbe

(Struik Lifestyle, R170)

This book may have come about to help homemakers cook in bulk for the purpose of freezing enough to cater for a cooked meal at a later stage, but the merit I saw in it is that it offers a collection of recipes which one can use not only to feed a family, but also when one needs to cook for a crowd.

The recipes cater for four to eight, but guidelines for increasing quantities are given so it takes the guesswork out of making big quantities when entertaining. Orbe mentions with each recipe whether the ingredients can be doubled or what adjustments need to be made. She explains at what point of the cooking process to freeze the dish and how best to thaw and reheat it.

The book covers beef, chicken, pork, lamb and vegetarian dishes, giving between 10 and 20 recipes in each category. There is also a table listing the recipes with symbols alongside indicating which are suitable for diabetics and for people who are wheat, yeast and gluten intolerant.

If you’re looking for nutritious, wholesome dishes for your family or for a crowd, you won’t be disappointed.

Recipes from an Italian Summer

by the Silver Spoon kitchen team (Phaidon Press, about R280)

In Italy summer is a time to make the most of the sunshine, so Italian families come together around long tables for outdoor meals cooked on coals that are easy to prepare, making full use of summer salads, vegetables and fruits. This book is a celebration of summer fare, offering regional recipes from Tuscany in the north to Sicily to the south of the peninsula.

Some of the salad recipes are suitable both as a meal or as an accompaniment to the recipes in the braai/barbecue section. Unlike our traditional braais, Italians focus on vegetables and fish as well as meat in small quantities. The recipes in the braai section can also be cooked under a conventional oven grill.

There is a picnic section with recipes for wonderful pasta salads and frittatas (open omelettes) which would be ideal for a light meal. The summer entertaining section has everything from bruschetta, carpaccio and other light antipasti to various risottos, herb veal roast, duck, quail, rabbit, pheasant and pork.

Next is the section on desserts which all make use of seasonal fruit - from a simple cut fig served with fresh cream to a mouthwatering Fruits of the Forest Tart and Crown of Red Fruits Aspic.

However, the section I drooled over was that on ice creams and drinks. Italians are renowned for their delicious ice cream, granita and sorbets and these recipes are easy to follow and can be achieved without a machine. So if ice cream and frozen desserts are your weakness, this cookbook offers more than 20 pages of recipes as well as a dozen recipes for smoothies and cocktails.

A minor drawback is that a few recipes use ingredients not easily available locally, like pheasant, quail and veal, but these are only a handful.

All in all this cookbook encapsulates the essence and simplicity of Italian cooking. - Olga Accolla

Pasta & Pizza, edited by Becky Davis (Eaglemoss Publications, R59.95)

Pizza & Pasta is book five in a series of 24 cookery books collectively known as My Favourite Recipes, produced in the UK, but with universal appeal. Each book, consisting of 96 pages, offers an average of 40 easy-to-prepare dishes with clear instructions and each recipe is beautifully illustrated.

Other titles in this fortnightly series include Delicious Chicken, Simple Curries, Heavenly Desserts, Speedy Suppers, Low-fat and Delicious, Fresh & Fruity and Little Cakes & Cookies, to mention just a few.

The recipes have been carefully chosen by an experienced cookery team and come with calorie guides and fat contents. A few recipes do use ingredients which are foreign to South African cooks, but these are easily recognisable and can be substituted with a local equivalent.

Judging from the contents of Pasta & Pizza, I can confidently say that this series would be an inspirational collection in any home which enjoys home-cooked, nutritious meals.

Sugar & Spice – Cooking the Cape Malay Way

by Zainab Lagardien (Random House Struik, R190)

This book should come with a warning – no paging through unless armed with a slice of cake and a cup of coffee.

Seriously though, if you have a sweet tooth, this book, with its 166 recipes, is a must have. The pictures of scrumptious cakes, cheesecakes, baked puddings, teatime treats, biscuits and various breads will have you drooling. The chapter on cakes has many of the popular recipes such as carrot and pecan nut loaf, marble cake, banana and carrot loaf, ginger loaf, orange and coconut cake, chocolate carrot cake and bee-sting cake. The chapter on cheesecakes has every conceivable variation you could want.

The Cape Malay influence is most noticeable in the pudding section, starting with Malva through to spice and ginger pudding, steamed date pudding and mixed fruit pudding. Most other recipes are not drawn strictly from the Malay community.

The teatime treats chapter covers recipes such as muffins, scones, brownies, cupcakes, flapjacks, yo-yos, vetkoek and twisties (koeksisters).The biscuit chapter covers a wide variety of biscuits as well as Hertzoggies, saboeratjies and health rusks.

The chapter on breads has breads to satisfy everyone’s palate from quick baking powder bread to grape bread (Mosbrood), potato bread and pumpernickel bread, to mention but a few.

This is one cookbook that won’t gather dust on your kitchen shelf.

* Visit www.my-favourite-recipes.com for information on other titles. - The Mercury

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