Around the world in 3 amazing cookbooks


‘dAround the world in 3 amazing cookbooks


I’m feeling a bit guilty, because I’ve been sent 3 fabulous cookbooks to review. They’ve made my mouth water at pretty much every page, and I’ve not got round to cooking from any of them.

And it’s not because they are not appealing, as all three are, particularly as they cover three different styles of cooking. I think I could have an amazing, although possibly slightly confused, global dinner cooking a course from each one.

So, first destination: Turkey

Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking*


Tree of Life Turkish Home Cooking

I think this is probably the most beautiful cookbook cover I’ve seen in the while, but it’s not style over substance. Whilst I’ve always loved Turkish food,  I really love that this focuses on home cooking.

I could make a whole meal just from the first couple of recipes: yogurt dip with cucumber & mint (çaçik in Turkish), with baked hummus with pine nuts and grilled halloumi with lemon caper sauce. My idea of heaven.

That said, for something a bit different then I want to make The Imam Fainted, which would definitely prove to be a talking point at any dinner.

Next stop: India

Saffron Soul: Healthy vegetarian heritage recipes from India*


Saffron Soul: healthy vegetarian heritage recipes from India

I like Indian food, it is definitely one of my comfort food tastes (chicken tikka masala in Tokyo made me cry one night). That said, it’s reputation is not for being the healthiest, so this book sets out to change some of that perception.

It does help that this is vegetarian food, but it doesn’t just mean vegetables hidden in a curry sauce. I mean, lentil dumplings in yoghurt and tamarind is a step above my local takeaway for sure.

I’ve never seen an Indian recipe book with breakfast recipes before but this one does. I’d want to try saffron porridge with jaggery at least once, and there’s a recipe for proper chai as well. This book just makes me want to cook, and I almost don’t know where to start. I might just let it fall randomly open at a page and start there.

Final stop: Pakistan

Mountain Berries & Desert Spice*


Mountain Berries & Desert Spice


I have to admit to knowing nothing about Pakistani cuisine, so maybe starting with the sweet stuff is good for me and my sweet tooth. I really wanted to cook from this before a member of my team left, as his family heritage is Pakistani, so wanted to see how authentic a taste I could produce.

This book would be a challenge, in a good way. I mean, I’ve never made a porridge with buckwheat, or cooked with pink salt. Equally, I think mango, cardamom, saffron and red chilli murraba would challenge my perceptions of what I like to eat.

But I’d give it a go.

Beautiful photography (as with the other two books as well) and dishes that just make you want to cook and eat new things every day.


All three cookbooks are just something a little different, and I definitely want to find time to cook from each one. They’d make great gifts for a cook who loves to experiment with different flavours and dishes, or just enjoys a selection of beautiful cookbooks to read in bed! That’s a gift in its own right.

As and when I get round to cooking, then I will share some of the outcomes. Although if they are too delicious, I am terrible at eating first then remembering I’ve forgotten to photograph the dish!


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The Friday Five – in praise of toast


In praise of toast


Ok, I’m a day late, National Toast Day was yesterday. But who doesn’t love a delicious slice of toast?

So, whilst I am sure these are not the first cookbooks you’d rush out to buy, given their single inspiration, if you love your toast, then these could take that love to the next level.

Toast: The Cookbook


Toast the Cookbook

Well, it’s not the most imaginative title, but it’s a good place to start. Fifty recipes, sweet and savoury, for each season, it also includes some celebrity chef contributions including people like Fergus Henderson. Guessing that might be the bone marrow on toast, but maybe not. Beautiful looking, and actually the recipes look interesting and tasty. Spicy pepperoni butter sounds like a good topping to toast any day.


Posh Toast


Posh Toast


These are apparently recipes for glorious things on toast, not just any old thing. Whipped gorgonzola, rocket and honey drizzle on toast definitely sounds a step up from my usual Cheddar on toast. According to the blurb though, the trend for posh toppings begin in San Francisco…I’m not convinced. I mean, surely good pate on toast counts as posh? Well, it does in this house!


Things on Toast


Things on Toast


Things on toast are my favourite standby meal, but this would help get you a bit beyond the staples of cheese, beans or scrambled eggs. This covers you from breakfast to supper, savoury to sweet, with everything from poached eggs with chilli and chorizo through to griddled steak with anchovy butter. A bit more cooking involved with this, but that’s definitely no bad thing.


Toast: Homage to a Super Food


Toast: Homage to a superfood


That title will have the clean eating brigade choking on their quinoa and kale smoothie! We eat more toast than any other food in the UK apparently, and Nick Parker the author wanted us to stop undervaluing its role in our daily diet. Part love story, part recipe book, this is a great gift for someone who really, really loves their toast.






Shortest main title, but longest sub title, which is “Tartines, open sandwiches, bruschetta, canapés, artisanal toasts and more”. Which should pretty much cover it! Beautiful photography and layout, quite minimalistic in approach, but very tasty sounding recipes. Some great ingredients make their way into this one, like burrata and fresh figs. Lots of inspiration.

So whether you go posh toast, or just the comfort of a toasted square of cheap white bread (which is my food vice) then go ahead, get toasting and celebrate the toasted carb in all its glory. What’s your favourite thing to toast?


The Friday Five – Healthy eating, no fads allowed


Healthy eating, no fads allowed


I don’t have a great record on healthy eating books, or certainly those of a certain mindset around “healthy” eating. Deliciously Ella lasted about 2 days in my house, and a book with a recipe for unicorn fuel is my worst cookbook of the year.

But, it’s January, and many of us are thinking about how we could eat a bit more healthily, whether for health or vanity. These ones are ones that tick the boxes in that they do have proper recipes in (although one may have avocado on toast as a recipe, close call) and are quite clearly geared up to people who like to eat and like to cook.

Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics


Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics


I’m not the biggest Jamie Oliver fan, I’ve had a number of his books over the years but none have stayed in the house too long. I was given this one though, and MGG and I have cooked from it a lot. It’s an interesting read, as well as good recipes, and is definitely geared to busy family life. We loved the pesto and curry paste recipes, these are all in the freezer. The only nay from us was the Butternut Squash Mac’n’Cheese. In MGG’s view, some things are not meant to be healthy.


Fitness Food/Fitness Gourmet


Fitness Food


Took me a few moments to work out this is exactly the same book, just in hardback and paperback. I liked this when I reviewed the original version, other than the incident with the coconut pancakes. Still avoid that one, the recipe looks to be exactly the same between the editions. It’s easy to follow, you can work out how to dial up dishes if it’s just you on reduced calories and you’ve got growing teens to cater for too.


Cook Nourish Glow


Cook Nourish Glow


Amelia Freer’s second book, and I thought that with my history I was straying into dangerous territory here. But I managed to get all the way through without one FFS, so pretty good going. There is quite a bit of raw kale, which is a no go with us, but there are plenty of tasty things like chicken breast with ginger and apricot stuffing, or halibut ceviche. I like her writing style, she talks as a fellow adult, and there are plenty of well known people who will testify to the success of her approach.


Ready Steady Glow


Ready Steady Glow


I’m going to get these two confused. Both second books, this one by Madeleine Shaw is about wheat and sugar free, and well written. Although I can live without a yoga routine in my cookbooks if I’m honest, but it’s right at the back so you can skip it. Apricots and chicken feature again, but also something different like slow roast beef cheeks with celeriac mash. Sounds like perfect winter cooking to me, just with healthy overtones.


Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet


Tom Kerridge's Dopamine Diet


Okay, this one isn’t out for a few more days, and I haven’t seen anything of it other than what is on Amazon. Well, that and the change in Tom’s appearance. Let’s face it, he’s about a third of the man he was, but you can’t imagine he’s been living on rice cakes and almond butter. I’m know he’s been putting in the hours at the gym as well (I have a great story about him and a friend of mine in the sauna at the gym…nothing remotely mucky, all about getting a table at the Hand & Flowers), but I reckon if this worked for Tom then it must be good, and very tasty. I mean, you won’t think you’re on a diet if you’re eating braised beef with horseradish or Chinese pork hot pot. I may well have to order this one and give it a go.


Whilst I’m definitely gearing up to eat more healthily this year, I’m also not going to eat joyless food. Finding healthy food with taste is the goal, along with an awful lot more movement. Don’t wish to be a bore but loving my FitBit, really is making me think about how long I’m sat still for. Talking of which, time to move!



My worst cookbook of 2017


Ok, I know what you’re thinking.

It’s only the 4th, there’s a lot cookbooks to go at this year.

Nope, this is going to top them all. This is my worst cookbook of the year, hands down. It probably will be up there in my all time worst cookbooks ever. It’s probably vying for top spot with Deliciously Ella.


Eat With Intention - my worst cookbook of 2017


Eat With Intention is just not for me, and here’s why:

  1. Any cookbook that has me saying FFS several times by page 29 is probably not boding well. Although obviously I feel sympathy for the problems her brother faced.
  2. I don’t need my cookbooks to offer up a daily visualisation or meditation.
  3. I don’t need my cookbooks to give me a daily mantra.
  4. I don’t need a recipe for Unicorn Fuel. FFS, I’m not a 9 year old. Although that’s probably because I’m not attuned to my magic, the mantra for that day.
  5. I don’t need a recipe for AB&J rice cakes. I can manage to get almond butter onto a rice cake without a recipe. If you can call spread a tablespoon of almond butter on a rice cake a recipe. But then again I’m already comfortable with the ease and flow of life, so could skip that recipe and mantra.

So look, some people will love this book. Cassandra Bodzak is probably an incredibly nice person and, let’s face it, she’s having the last laugh here. She has a book deal, a TV channel, a post as a healthy living guru…and I’m just an overweight, middle aged wage monkey with a little blog and an unmagical approach to cook books.

But then, as the mantra on page 195 says, I appreciate both the sweet and sour in my life. I look forward to the sweetness of good food writing ahead. The bar’s not exactly been set high!


The Friday Five – the best cookbooks of 2016 around the world


Your own library of cookbooks


It’s no secret that I love cookbooks, and I love to give cookbooks as gifts. With so much choice though, it can be completely overwhelming, which is why those best of lists are so helpful. My only challenge is that they can be a little bit samey, from the same voices. So, I’ve looked a bit further afield to see what publications around the web have offered their readers, and taken my choices from there.


Better Baking: wholesome ingredients, delicious desserts


Better Baking by Genevieve Ko – from the Washington Post’s list, starting off with a baking book, but one that focuses on different flours, fats and sweeteners. A Melting Walnut Snowball sounds like perfect Christmas baking to me. Good to see some UK talent makes the list, including Chetna Makan and Diana Henry. Was also a close run thing to make this entry Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, as I do love these two. Maybe order both?


Food52: a new way to dinner


Food52 A New Way to Dinner – up to Canada now for this list from the Ottawa Citizen. Again, good to see Diana Henry on the list, but I’ve chosen this one from the team at Food52. This is to tackle weekday dinners, the just feed us all now kind of dinners. Each of the sections gives you the recipes and the shopping lists, and gives you weekday choices, many that riff one off the next so you can always work out what to do with leftover ingredients. Great for busy working people who like to cook for themselves.


Meathead: The Science of Great Grilling


Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling – this one comes from Wired’s list of cookbooks of 2016, not a publication I would have expected to have this feature but a really interesting list if you’re looking for books that do the science of cooking as well as tasty dishes. If you’ve got a really keen grillmaster or mistress to buy for, this book would up their game to a whole new level, not to mention giving them some new recipes to go at. Expect a lot of conversations about the benefits of reverse searing.


All Under Heaven


All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China – as you might expect from the Bay area, this is a fabulous book of Chinese recipes from across this huge country, written by a San Francisco based food blogger and writer. From the San Francisco Times list, this is described as detailed and academic, hefty but a pleasure to read. Definitely one for those who love their Chinese food authentic and varied.


An: To Eat


An: To Eat – finally, from Gear Patrol’s list, comes this exploration of Vietnamese cooking from Helene An. Exploring her family’s story through cooking, this gives over 100 recipes including things like oven-roasted lemongrass chicken and slow roasted pork shoulder. In fact all the books on the Gear Patrol list were a bit different and, with the exception of Tim Anderson’s book, not ones that I’d come across before.

So, some different choices, some different lists and possible extra brownie points on Christmas Day. Or some extra books on your own bookshelves. I consider that a win either way.


My fail safe cookbooks to gift to anyone


I love cookbooks, as many areas of my house would testify. And my favourites are well thumbed, and probably covered in cooking stains, which to me is the badge of a successful book. I’ve also given quite a number of cookbooks to other people over the years, and I know which ones people come back to tell me they’ve used, even if they were reluctant cooks and bakers.

So these may not be the newest, flashiest or cheapest books on the shelves this Christmas, but these cookbooks are ones that I think earn their keep year after year, and every home should have some if not all of them.


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard - my favourite baking book ever


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard

I’ve given quite a number of copies of this over the years, because it’s my favourite baking book. It’s also crammed full of incredible recipes, brilliant technique and great photos, written in a way that just makes you want to get into the kitchen straightaway! I love Dan’s writing, and his recipes, and I love to share this book.


River Cottage Family Cookbook - great gift for learner cooks


The River Cottage Family Cookbook

This is a great book for people with kids who want to cook, as it’s written in a way that’s really accessible for kids to read and follow, but not in a patronising way. It’s also great building blocks of cooking so allowing them to move beyond the basics and produce “proper” meals. It’s also a great book for those who say they don’t know how to cook.


The Social Bite Cookbook


The Social Bite Cookbook

I give this one because it’s a good cookbook that does good too. I love Social Bite, think it’s the most fantastic busienss, and I am so pleased to see them going from strength to strength, allowing them to do more good work. Look, if George Clooney thinks it’s a good thing, who am I to argue? If your Secret Santa budget is £10, spend it on this.


The New English Kitchen


The New English Kitchen by Rose Prince

The subtitle to this is how to make your food go further, and I think that the year ahead could be a tough one, and that we might all be tightening our belts just a bit further again. I fell in love with this book whilst on holiday this year, and just think it’s one that you’d end up dipping into time and time again, particularly when trying to work out what to do with leftovers, or stretch a piece of meat to cover more than one meal, or more people. Not short on taste or interesting recipes, I think it’s a keeper.


Star Wars Cookbook - for great food in this galaxy and beyond


The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookies Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes

Ok, this one is a bit of stuff and nonsense, but it is Christmas after all, and I know that this book is always a winner with anyone with even a passing love of Star Wars. I’ve bought more niche cookbooks over time, but none more loved or laughed over than this one. Love seeing people’s faces when they open this one.


So, these are my fail safes, that I think you can gift to just about anyone and be sure of a winner for them, and also for when they start cooking and baking from them. I’d love to know what your go to books to gift to someone else are, and why. And what’s the best one that you’ve ever received and would not now be without?


How to liven up lunchtime in the office


Made In the Office - tasty meals in the office kitchen


I really liked the premise of this book, Made in the Office, as there are many days when a sandwich at lunch in the office is really not very inspiring. This is all about how to step it up a gear with just a kettle, a toaster and a microwave, which I think most offices can run to.

Now, the breakfasts are lots of versions of porridge, but most of these sound better than the sachet stuff that goes in the microwaves at our office. The thought of trying eggs florentine at work is interesting, but I might give it a go at home first.


Easy eggs florentine in the office

I like the sound of the lunches, although some of them sound like they’d have people tutting in the microwave queue as they take a little while. I mean, 6 minutes for quinoa and then another 1 minute, and there’s going to be a bit of eye rolling going on. And cooking salmon in the microwave in the office is a little unsociable I think, but other than that things like a burrito bowl with chicken, feta and sweetcorn sound amazing.


Salmon on Asian Slaw


Covering breakfast, light and more substantial lunches as well as some snacks to keep you going, this is a lovely little book. I think it makes a great gift because it’s just a bit different as a theme for a cookbook, but a situation that many of us can relate to. Written by Rachel Maylor and published by Frances Lincoln, this is currently £12.08 on Amazon.


The Friday Five – Back to school and learning new cooking skills


Back to school time: what new cooking skill will you learn?


It’s that time of year, pretty much every school is now back, and you might even be considering night school. If you’re not up for evening classes, but want to learn a new school then here are five books for learning new cooking, brewing and possibly eating and drinking skills.


Learn to cook wheat, gluten and dairy free


Learn to Cook Wheat, Gluten and Dairy Free by Antoinette Savill

If free from is about to be a thing for you, through need or want, then a good cookbook is probably a great start, as there will be some some new things to know when you start cooking without things you might have been cooking with all your life to date. This gives you 100 recipes step by step, and includes my favourite thing in a cookbook: a photo of every finished dish.




Bakeclass: Learn to bake brilliantly step by step by Anneka Manning

Bake Off is back, so baking is high on the conversation agenda, and everyone wondering how to bake half the stuff on there. For a more down to earth starting point, then I like this book from Anneka Manning. I like that this gives you the building blocks of the ten most common mixing methods, as that gives you the knowledge and skill to take your baking in any direction. Even to the Bake Off tent.


Brew Better Beer


Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen

Home brewing is definitely back, and I love that this book is about learning the rules, and how to break them for a huge variety of beer styles. A bit like Bakeclass, this would be a great leaping off point once you’ve got some good basic knowledge. You’ll probably have something ready in time for Christmas if you start now.


How to Smoke Meat


How to Smoke Meat by Martha Stephenson

You might be thinking end of the summer, BBQ’s back in the garage and the smoky flavours are over. Well, this book might help you think differently. I think it would be a pretty impressive thing to serve up to friends a platter of smoked meats that you’ve made yourself. It would also give you something else to do with the turkey leftovers at Christmas!


Learn to Spice Up Your Food


Learn to Spice Up Your Food by Gordon Rock

This is not about spicy food, but certainly food with flavours, and lots of them. It’s one of those things I often think about when watching Bake Off, as there’s normally one person at least who really pushes the flavour combinations. With knowledge to share, and recipes to work through, then it’s a practical guide that you’ll want to get stuck into.


So, if you could learn a new cooking skill, what would it be? Or what have you learned recently? I’d love to know.


More to food at uni than PopTarts and Pot Noodles




So, the results are out, places have been accepted, courses have been changed and plans are really taking shape. Which means planning for life without the parental kitchen.

How do you make sure your kids are set up for success, and at least given the skills to consider some sort of cooking and healthier eating?

It depends where they’re starting from of course. If they’ve been your kitchen helper from being small, then probably your only worry is frisking them on the way out the door to discover what kitchen equipment they’re trying to take with them.

If they’ve never, ever cooked, not even toast, then you have two approaches: one, ignore it. If you haven’t taught them anything so far, unlikely to get much to take in the weeks left. Or two, crash course, work through Delia’s Complete How to Cook Book at some pace. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. Maybe skip Christmas dinner if that’s in the book.

And if they’re somewhere in between, then send them off with some decent knives, some decent saucepans and possibly a casserole dish or slow cooker. A slow cooker is one of my favourite bits of kit for turning cheap cuts into delicious dinners, and with not a big impact on the electric bill.

If you want some more detailed ideas sorted by what level their current cooking ability and interest is then check out my post “You’re going to uni. Now what?” Or if you want to send them off with a cookbook or two, then I’ve written about alternative student cookbooks, and a personal perspective on the five books I’d dispatch MGG with.


Keeping the kids entertained with jars


How to keep bored kids entertained in the kitchen


It’s that stage in the holidays where the kids start moping around, complaining that they’re bored, and parents are running short of ideas.

Well, this book might help. Mason Jar Nation, whilst not purely food or drink idea based, could provide a few hours entertainment for the kids. It could end up producing something for dinner, or something to carry to a picnic, or some other craft projects, although these are probably more suitable for older kids.

And much older if it’s the Pineapple Vodka!


Mason Jar Nation - great cookbook gift for a food lover with kids to entertain


Of course it’s all been about the Mason jar, which you may or may not have hanging around the house. Personally I think the trend has probably reached a peak, and you could do many of these with any fairly robust glass jar you have hanging around the house.

I mean, if you’re going to try making homemade butter with them (which would be great fun) then then the butter isn’t going to know it’s being churned in a Mason jar or a leftover jam jar, just as long as the lid is tight fitting.

A nice little book, not worth the full price though but there are options on Amazon from £4.73.