Food

Friday Favourites: Cookbooks

Regular readers of The Amazing Blog will know that when it comes to cooking, we’re almost a perfect split. Half of us are foodies, while the rest would rather exhaust a basic recipe, than slave away in the kitchen. That said, it is universally agreed that a good cookbook can make all the difference, encouraging even the most unenthusiastic amongst us to don an apron and wooden spoon. Luckily for you, we’ve taken one for the team, correlating four new recipe books worth a try. We’re sure you’ll find one just for you!

50570752_2089930744399068_2395897641503293440_n.jpg

Firstly, many of us are trying to introduce meat-free meals into our weekly diets, meaning a good cookbook can prevent the need to exist solely on a nut roast or vegetable curry. Our cookbook of choice is The Modern Vegetarian, designed to inspire even the most uninspired, encouraging delicious vegetable-based meals packed full of exotic flavours and textures.

Written by world-renowned chef, Maria Elia, this cookbook aims to prove that cutting meat out of a meal doesn’t cut out the flavour; instead, it is a gateway to try new flavour combinations and techniques. Elia’s experience is reputable; she has a Michelin recommendation and has earned 2 AA rosettes. Viewers of Sunday Brunch and Saturday Kitchen may also recognise her, having appeared as a guest chef on both. We don’t know about you, but we feel at ease knowing that recipes have been tried and tested by an expert – because whether an avid chef or not, few have the patience for a disastrous result! The book itself covers everything from ‘Sophisticated Starters’ to ‘Sofa Suppers’, but we were most pleased by the ‘Stylish Sides’ section. All too often, we’re faced with plain boiled rice or pasta to accompany dishes – something Elia has challenged and avoided. Instead, you can transport yourself to India with a Red Lentil Dhal (page 114) or try your hand at an Aubergine Houmous (page 113). Whichever recipe takes your fancy most, you’ll be sure to enjoy the conversational element of the book, with personal notes written by Elia, substantiating the authenticity of the dishes and making for an enjoyable evening read.

To explore innovative vegetable based dishes for yourself, then The Modern Vegetarian can be purchased here for £16.99.

50863635_802052970142095_4507164226887876608_n.jpg

There's no doubt that the smell of food entices you into the kitchen, but what about our other senses? This is something we hadn't contemplated, so we were intrigued by Sybil Kapoor's Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound cookbook. This book recognises the combined importance of all five senses, dedicating a chapter to each, filled with delicious recipes, and reliable advice, from layering flavours, to using temperature and sound.

Kapoor has a wealth of knowledge in the realms of cooking; as the author of eight books, she is one of the most respected food writers in Britain and continues to propel her knowledge through a variety of publications. Each chapter is based around one of the five senses: Taste, Flavour (smell), Texture (touch and sound), Temperature (touch) and Appearance; however, our favourie part of the book, is the integrated feel. Each chapter is intertwined, with theory and advice allowing the reader to establish the links between senses. Kapoor aims to prove that by using a little theory and practical testing, you will be able to produce simple, yet delicious dishes. Now this all may sound a little complex to a less than enthusiastic chef, however, even ready meal lovers in the office were taken by the carefully designed recipes, especially the Stir-fried Squid with Chilli and Black Bean Sauce (page 144) and the Sticky Asian Beef Kebab with Cucumber Dip (page 92). For those with a sweet tooth, the Sticky Spiced Lemon Gin Cake (page 75) also proved to be a big hit - so whether you're interested in the links between the senses or not, you'll be sure to learn new tips and tricks to create delicious dinner party worthy meals.

To tempt your own senses, Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound is available here for £24.00.

If you're looking to be transported to more exotic lands this Friday, then Baladi Palestine - A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea by Joudie Kalla is just the cookbook for you! Taking equal inspiration from her historical background and personal experience of Palestine, we were struck by how little we knew about this exotic and varying landscapes. These conditions create diverse and new flavours, all of which are included in Kalla's recipes. With twists on traditional dishes, this book has an authentic yet innovative feel to it. Better still, it is jam-packed with stunning photography, from food images to landscapes and the people of Palestine. We were sold before even trying the recipes - quite an accolade!

With over 250 pages, this visually interesting book is equally colourful in terms of culinary delights. Flicking through the pages, you're met with everything from spiced lamb, to filled speciality pastries and watermelon juice. One of our favourite elements of this book is the splitting of chapters, not merely by dish, but by the areas in which the ingredients are sourced. Varying from Markets and Village Life to The Bakery and The Farm, a quick flick through this cookbook tempts the senses, but equally gives a quick snapshot of the Palestine lifestyle. We recommend the chapter: From The River To The Sea, in particular, the Saffron Monkfish and Vegetable Skewers (page 177), delicious as the weather picks up.

To inject a little bit of culture into your cooking, you can purchase Baladi Palestine - A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea here for £26.

Last but by no means least, we discovered The RAF 100 Cookbook. Created to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Air Force, this cookbook contains 100 recipes from 100 countries, split by chapter, into monumental moments of RAF history. We love the concept behind this cookbook, drawing inspiration from the saying that "an army marches on its stomach" and taking the research from acting and former servicemen and servicewomen to create authentic and delicious recipes from around the world. Additionally, this cookbook contains the recipes of top household chefs such as James Martin, Tom Kerridge and Cyprus Todiwala, emerging a plethora of knowledge to inspire your weekly menu.

We often find that cookbooks are very niche in their flavour combinations, and while this is certainly no bad thing, we like the variety of this cookbook. Each of the 100 countries are covered in a sensitive and informative manner, with a detailed explanation of the RAF's involvement alongside each recipe. It is clear just how much time and effort has gone into this book, spreading as far as to include eye-catching photographs of the dishes, alongside black and white images of the RAF in past years. The way in which the chapters are segregated stays true to the inspiration behind the book, from The Early Years to The Modern Age, conflicts are addressed through the medium of cultural dishes. Additionally, a percentage of each sale is donated to one of five RAF charities, directly supporting the inspiration of the cookbook. It is very difficult to pinpoint certain dishes here; however, the likes of the Ascension Island's Saint Helenian Fishcakes (page 300) and Maldivian Fish Curry (page 288) stand out for their exotic nature. The point here though, is that this is a cookbook for all occasions - whether you're looking for a local dish or one from further afield, you need only flick through to the country of your choice for an authentic and delicious recipe.

To inject 100 new recipes into your repertoire, you can purchase The RAF 100 Cookbook here for £25.

The Bakedin Baking Club - Lemon Drizzle Loaf

Bakedin Final Photo 3.jpg

Hands up if you like to indulge in a sweet treat…or two! We certainly do at The Amazing Blog. However, it has to be said, when it comes to baking, some of us are less Mary Berry, and more inclined to visit the local supermarket instead! We were therefore pleased to re-visit the goodies from Bakedin, having tried their Mug Mixes in December (see here). This time, they presented us with their Lemon Drizzle Loaf, part of their monthly Baking Club, and we were more than happy to oblige!

The premise of Bakedin’s Baking Club is a simple (but delicious) one, to provide new recipes and ingredients each month, allowing you to create both easy and tasty sweet treats. Those of us less inclined to bake from scratch are often found in the ready-mix baking section in the local shop, and are sadly more than not, disappointed by our results which are - ahem - less than satisfactory. This is where Bakedin is different, their ingredients are top notch with recipes that are reviewed and approved by Michel Roux, himself. A chef with no less than 3 Michelin stars and a wealth of experience – you can be safe in the knowledge that the result will be a scrumptious one.

Upon opening our box, we were pleased to see each ingredient is individually weighed and packaged in numbered sachets. To follow the recipe, you need only follow the step by step (numbered) guide, with visual images for reference, and tips and tricks from Roux himself. Nutritional information, skill level and timings are all covered in a handy card, alongside written measurements and methods for future baking. We tried the Lemon Drizzle Loaf and were thrilled to find a recipe mix that doesn’t merely help with the cake mixture, but also with the buttercream and icing recipes too. Although the box only contains dry ingredients, the instructions are written detailing everything, including a list of additional wet and refrigerated ingredients you will need. The best part? The finished product tastes like a professional cake.

Pricing wise, each box works out to being £7.50. This is for a 12 month subscription which is prepaid at £90 per annum with the bonus of free delivery, and a box easily posted through a letterbox. Your box will be delivered around the middle of the month you signed up in. To see for yourself, visit the Bakedin website here. You’ll be a baking pro in no time!

Dadima's Panjiri

Panjiri Dadima Final Blog.jpg

We might be enticed by a good beauty product (or two) at The Amazing Blog , but we’re also equally interesting in discovering new (and delicious) foods. One thing we’ve concluded through our foodie research is that there is often a focus on new crazes and fads – and while there is no problem with this, the focus on tried, tested and traditional recipes can often be forgotten. We were therefore thrilled to discover Dadima’s, a brand sharing our desire to celebrate the wisdom of generations, providing us with their traditional and high energy Panjiri – a recipe that has well and truly stood the test of time.

Panjiri or Panjeri is a recipe and staple that originates from the Punjab and Hyderbad regions in India. It is treated as a nutritional supplement and has been used for thousands of years, by the ancient Hindus and Sikhs. It is usually eaten in the winter to ward off cold and also given to nursing mothers as it’s considered very nutritional. The story behind this brand is a lovely one. Founder, Anneeka, has taken inspiration from the wisdom and knowledge of her grandmother, creating a version of the Panjiri recipe which is full of tradition and flavour. This inspiration even draws as far as the brand name itself, taken directly from the name she uses to address her grandmother. We don’t mind admitting that we were novices in relation to Panjiri, however we are now huge lovers of this high energy snacking food. With a recipe deep rooted in Ayurvedic medicine. It boasts a plethora of health benefits, boosting energy and fibre levels simultaneously, and thanks to the handmade recipe, both artificial preservatives and added sugars are avoided.

For those wondering what this snack tastes like – we concluded that it is a cardamom and sultana infusion with a kick of almond, fennel, ginger and carom seeds. The texture is soft, making it easy to sprinkle over porridge, fruit or yoghurt. The texture comes from the use of semolina and ghee, while melon seeds, dessicated coconut and Arabic gum are all used to add flavour. We tried the no added sugar version, but for those with a sweeter tooth, the traditional version contains a little extra sweetness. Alternatively, we have added a sprinkling of Panjiri to a traditional British crumble, for a flavour kick, but also to add a little bit of goodness to a perhaps not to good pudding!

To try this family classic for yourself, then both the original and no added sugar Panjiri products can be purchased from the Dadima’s website here for £6.99. Enjoy!

Necta & Hive - Red Gum Unpasteurised Honey

How about a bit of Latin to kickstart the brain cells today? Eucalyptus Camaldulensis to be exact, for that is the Red River Gum Tree which gives us - with the help of an amazing colony of hard-working busy bees, the truly delicious Red Gum Unpasteurised Honey from Necta & Hive. In a world where some of our favourite things are being added to, or having bits taken away, it is so refreshing to open a pot of this wonderfully lusciously thick liquid that is unadulteratedly pure. The temptation for us at The Amazing Blog is to simply stick a finger in and devour the whole pot! This is a danger that has to be resisted as this is a honey from the serious shelf in the larder, primarily because it is considered quite rare owing to the unpredictable nature of it’s production. The flowering intensity of the Red River Gum Tree varies, and therefore the amount of pollen the bees can collect from the delicate creamy leaves is changeable from year to year.

However, the resulting nectar is well worth waiting for, as it contains naturally occurring powerful antioxidants, flavonoids, known for their anti-inflammatory health benefits. The numerical TA rating of active honey indicates the strength of the antimicrobial potency of the honey. This 10+ TA Red Gum Unpasteurised Honey has medium antimicrobial activity and healing properties to maintain good health. The fact it also tastes delicious is the molten icing on the cake.

We tried out three recipes using this jar of sweet wonder from the suggestions on Necta & Hives website here - waffles doused in the golden potion with blueberries sprinkled on top clinging to the viscous liquid; and a pear mocktail which of course proved a very popular choice here. Clearly this honey is a versatile addition to any well-stocked cupboard.

Necta & Hive pride themselves, quite rightly on sourcing the very best honeys to bring to the market place, it isn’t simply a matter of tickling the taste buds favourably, but also ensuring the provenance of each product. The purity of their honeys is paramount, with attention paid to the exact location of the apiaries, often in remote and protected places, making sure that they are located away from pests, chemicals and other contaminants. Each batch is regularly tested by an accredited laboratory to measure Total Activity levels (this one has a TA of +10), ensuring the integrity of the honey. For further details of the whole Necta & Hive range, visit here, where there are countless more recipe ideas too. To purchase you own pot of yummy Australian Red Gum Unpasteurised Honey see here it is £30 for a 250g pot, and a little really does goes a long way.

Elements For Life - Hot Chocolate

Elements for Life Final Blog.jpg

Are we all still desperately trying to cling to our New Year’s resolutions to go dry/ give up meat/ drag out the spandex and work each of our muscle groups, and supposedly therefore be a better person? Well, here at The Amazing Blog we may be able to offer you a glimmer of indulgence to ease up some of those more draconian ways to detox, all in the form of a chocolate … We know, chocolate is the root of many a slip up in the new regime schedule. However, there is a tin of gloriously burnished powder which should have a polished halo perched above its silver lid to signify its credentials. We are talking about one of our #amazingfinds Elements For Life – see our recent posts on their other products here.

Yes, we may be talking hot chocolate, but Elements For Life have created one is richly smooth, and sweet. This hot chocolate doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners, GMOs or soya, the sweetness is derived from the sugar from coconut blossom, the evaporated nectar of the coconut tree, adding sustainability and diabetically friendly to the worthiness (because of its very low average glycemic index) As if that wasn’t enough, the Elements For Life team have made it suitable for those who may be lactose intolerant, and vegan by keeping this wonder-drink completely dairy-free and containing no milk solids.

We tried the Original and Spiced versions. The Spiced is warmed up by the addition of the winter spices cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. All we need now is the toasty log cabin with open fire and we have nirvana. However, we aren’t tied to the usual hot chocolate with this blend, as there is also the option of adding some ice and blitzing away to produce a very refreshing tipple. The benefits of raw chocolate, in both health and taste have been known for a while - it stands to reason that a natural product which hasn’t been put through the usual manufacturing processes will inevitably retain more of it’s core nutrients, and therefore with many of us now having to take a serious look at the minutiae of what we eat, a raw chocolate such as this makes clear sense.

And to keep that halo gleaming brightly, the whole team behind the Raw Hot Chocolate brand are keen to show they believe the sustainability of a product in this day and age has to address the issues beyond the contents of our mug. All ingredients used in their range are sourced for their high ecological standards and are agro-chemical/pesticide free from small-scale growers and farming co-operatives to ensure fair trading. The packaging is also made from recycled material or re-used from other sources, including their boxes and printed material. Small wonder then that with such highly prized credentials, Elements For Life have walked away with award upon award for what they offer us in this market place - and most specifically these two tins of delicious warmth! Priced at £6.99 for 175g all available from their online shop here they also offer refills priced at £4.99. And now, back to that log cabin and open fire to keep warm!