Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Twenty Six

The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook

By Liz Gutman & Jen King

Published by Workman Publishing Company, October 2012

I have finally run out of words to describe a cookbook :-)
If you have any interest in or love of sweets/candy/chocolate, this would be a dream gift to receive!  

Living on the wrong side of The Pond, I had never before heard of this talented duo, nor had I seen their appearances on TV shows etc; the first I knew of them was when I saw the book advertised on the NetGalley website and I knew I just had to request a digital review copy.

It did not disappoint, that's for sure. With over 70 recipes for just about everything under the sun and ones you've probably never even thought of, there is something for all tastes and all cooking abilities in this entertaining, instructive and well written book which is profusely illustrated.

I loved the table which lays out all the recipes and allows you to instantly see which contain chocolate, gluten, dairy, fruit, nuts, alcohol, and which would be suitable for vegans  as well as showing which would be ideal for bake sales.

 I also was delighted to see that all the trouble-shooting information is included specifically for each chapter's recipes, so the reader does not have to rummage through the whole book looking for how to salvage a recipe which has not done what was expected of it.  The science behind the recipes is explained clearly, and also what happens when you substitute ingredients, for good or bad. I had no idea that very specific types of salt are recommended for different recipes, and for specific reasons, for instance. 

But what about the recipes?  
  • Peanut Brittle
  • Chai Latte Lollipops
  • Buttermints
  • Nougat
  • Fudge
  • Pralines
  • Maple Candy
  • Saltwater Taffy
  • Coconut Lime Bars
  • Chocolate Toffee Matzo Crunch
are just some of  tempting treats inside.

 Is this title going on my Amazon wishlist for a print copy?  It most certainly is!
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Monday, February 25, 2013


....for the lack of family news recently.
A lot has been happening here, but we are still waiting on the details to be finally sorted.  God willing,  DD1, our intrepid Mrs DoomHamster, is entering the final stages of her Visa application process, so prayers coveted that all proceeds smoothly and quickly from now on. I may be going to London with Mrs DH in the near future, so I will be sure to take my camera with me.

My dear friend K. has elderly family members in failing health and is very anxious about them, particularly as she lives several hours drive away from them. Luckily I kept a great deal of things of Mum's from when she was ill, and I have been able to pass these items to K to help her family. Sometimes it is a blessing to be a hoarder...

We've been having a massive clear-out at home over the half-term break and the children's rooms are looking unnaturally tidy. I'm sure it will not last long, but I am enjoying it while it does :-)

The recent cold snap nearly caused a catastrophe here; Missy Margot (Helen's hamster) was badly affected by a calamitous drop in room temperature one day last week; we found her stretched out in her cage - stiff, icy cold and apparently moribund. Helen was convinced Margot was dead, but I knew I had read somewhere that hamsters can go into very deep hibernation if the temperature changes too rapidly. We rustled up a hot water bottle with a fleecy cover, and I carried Missy Margot everywhere with me for an hour or so, after which she was climbing all over me and demanding to be fed :-) She was tucked up that night with a hot water bottle under the sleeping area of her cage and the cage itself padded round with warm towels.  DD4's hamster -kept in a differently facing upstairs room - was absolutely fine throughout.

The following day we went to the pet shop, took their advice and bought some super-warm  fleecy bedding material for both hamsters and they snuggled into it with every appearance of enjoyment and have suffered no adverse effects from the continuing cold weather, though I have been sorely tempted to go into hibernation myself.

I will post the Dr Who Experience photos as soon as I have finished sorting out the duplicates. DH wrangled the camera from me so he could take some photos himself, as did the children, so we have multiple copies of some shots and some without flash which need to be "lightened" with editing software to show the details. I was hoping to do this on the weekend, but a few unexpected things cropped up which needed immediate attention.

Our quiet and relaxing half-term holiday did not materialize, but we had fun on the whole and the girls have gone back to school with plenty to talk about!

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A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Twenty Five

Allergy-Free Cookbook

By Alice Sherwood

Published by Dorling Kindersley, 2007

Although no-one in the immediate family circle  suffers from any allergies, in our extended family and amongst friends there are some who cannot eat nuts or gluten, and this book is a valuable resource in my culinary collection.

The first part of the book considers food allergies and food intolerances, discussing how to cope when shopping, eating out or travelling, as well as helping children come to terms with the practicalities of being allergic to certain items.

The recipes themselves are delicious and varied, and clearly labelled as being egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free or nut-free, with side-bar variations ; the recipe for pain au chocolate, for instance, is listed as nut-free but can be made to be dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free as well :-)

Whether you are looking for a Spinach and Yoghurt Lamb Curry which is free of all four potential allergens, Smoothies, Chocolate Layer Cake, Vietnamese Dipping Sauce, Lasagne, Chinese Spare Ribs or just a loaf of home made bread, this book has a hundred recipes that will provide plenty of variety in what might sometimes feel like a restricted dietary lifestyle.  

Definitely a keeper!
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Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Twenty Four

 Christmas Cooking With Kids

By Annie Rigg

Ryland, Peters & Small, 2010

Looking for ideas for your children to make during Advent and the twelve days of Christmas? This may well be the book you are looking for.

From Swedish Saffron Buns to celebrate St  Lucia's Day, traditional German Lebkuchen and Advent Number Cookies, right through to traditional Sugar Mice, Marshmallow Snowmen, Meringue Snowflakes, Buche de Noel and even making your own Gingerbread House, there are recipes for sweet dishes, savoury dishes, drinks, snacks and even appropriate snacks for Santa and Rudolph in this delightfully illustrated book.

Sure to appeal to children of all ages, it makes me grin just flicking through the pages, and I am already planning what we can make for Christmas 2013; there are super recipes which would be ideal to make and then give as gifts, including fudge, chocolate truffles and relishes :-)

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A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Twenty Three

Jamie's 30 Minute Meals
A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast
By Jamie Oliver
Published by Penguin, 2010

This gets an award for being my most disappointing cookbook for several reasons.

 Don't get me wrong, the recipes are generally very tasty indeed, but the sheer cost of eating "simply" using this cookbook puts it right out of the market as far as our family is concerned.

As for the idea of being able to make a complete two course meal from scratch and plated up in 30 minutes - well, it may be possible when cooking from this book if you have triplicates of every cooking utensil (and therefore do not need to wash anything between uses), spend at least 20 minutes before you start cooking, preparing and weighing out each and every ingredient and also have a restaurant sized kitchen with a salamander grill and an industrial strength oven.

And you must not mind spinning from one thing to another like a whirling dervish.......... I cannot get most of the recipes cooked and on the table in less than 60 minutes. The chicken pie in puff pastry is a case in point; when you are chopping then cooking raw chicken breasts from scratch, and only putting the shop-bought raw puff pastry in the oven for 15 minutes, would you be confident that it would taste delicious, be thoroughly cooked and safe to eat ? I'm rather more cautious than that, and the last time we cooked puff pastry in our oven, (only last week as it happens) it took at least 35 minutes to cook the puff pastry properly, not 15 minutes.

Everything I have cooked tastes wonderful, but the timings are seriously unrealistic for an average domestic kitchen, I'm afraid.
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Friday, February 22, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Twenty Two

Welsh Fare: A Selection of Traditional Recipes
By S. Minwel Tibbott
Published by The National Museum Of Wales, 1976

This is a classic text on Welsh cookery, and crams a lot into its 84 hardbacked pages. The author was an Assistant Keeper in the Welsh Folk Museum's Department of  Oral Traditions and Dialects; she collated recipes given by people from all parts of Wales and turned them into book form so that the old traditional foods might not be lost forever during a period of immense societal and farming change.

There are some recipes I am never, ever likely to make as unless I have free access to the blood from a just -killed pig or goose, I am not going to be able to make Pwdin Gwaed - Black Pudding, or the Goose-blood Pudding. The soups, broths (Cawl), savoury dishes and cakes are quite another matter ! The passion for a solid and substantial High Tea is indicated by the volume of recipes in the Bread, Cakes and Griddle Cake chapters, including Shearing Cake, Honey & Ginger Cake and Caraway Bread to mention just a few.

The dishes in the Cereal and Milk Dishes chapter include recipes for dishes I have never seen mentioned outside Thomas Hardy novels - Flummery, Posset and Egg Whey. Small Beer, Nettle Beer, Mead and Nettle Pop recipes are also given, which would date back hundreds of years and be familiar to people in the Middle Ages.  The sense of continuity with the past is truly remarkable when browsing books like this one, and my mother loved it dearly.

Although long out of print, the book is available cheaply on  from £2.80.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Month of Cookbooks - Day Twenty One

Fix-It and Forget-It Series 

Holiday Main Dishes and Sides

By Phyllis Pellman Good

Published by Good Books,  2012

Looking for even more main meal inspiration for your crock-pot?  This is the second of the three volume set I have reviewed, and true to form, I loved this collection of recipes gathered by the author just as much.

From a traditional Beef Burgundy to a very untraditional Raspberry Glazed Ham using apple juice, lemon juice and raspberry jam, I found plenty to peruse and bookmark for later use. There are  forty main meal dishes and almost twenty side dish recipes to provide ideal and relatively stress-free cooking for family get-togethers and holiday cooking. Ever thought of serving Orange Yams or Scalloped Pineapple with your casserole? I hadn't, but they would go well with an Autumn Harvest Pork Loin or a Sunday Roast Chicken.

Garlic with Lime Chicken caught my interest as did the Szechwan Chicken and Broccoli and the Indonesian Peanut Chicken, but there are only two vegetarian main dishes and one seafood pasta, which is a shame and the only thing I have found to criticize about  the book or indeed the series.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Twenty

Mums Know Best: The Hairy Bikers' Family Cookbook

By Si King and Dave Myers

Published by Orion, 2010

My mother discovered the TV series of these two eccentric bikers cooks and quickly adored them, so at her request, we bought her a copy of the cookbook for Christmas even though she was not able to do much cooking due to her health. When she opened it, she was thrilled, and I fell in love with the recipes and ended up buying a copy for myself too.

On their travels around Britain, the Hairy Bikers met many people and collected fabulous recipes from grannies, mums and families who had settled in Britain from *all* parts of the world, who cherished and were happy to share their particular family recipes. 

Cottage Pie, Lemon Drizzle Cake,  Sticky Date Cake,  Tandoori Chicken Samosas, Estonian Kringel Cake, Romanian Pretzels, Portuguese Green Bean Soup, Chicken Curry and real Fish & Chips are just some of the delights. This book taught me how to make shortcrust pastry in my food processor rather than by hand :-)

A firm favourite!
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A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Nineteen

How To Feed Your Family For £4 A Day

By Bernadine Lawrence

Published by Thorsons , 1989

This was one of the first cookbooks I bought rather than was given, and was bought at a time when we were having to live very frugally indeed.

It does presuppose that the cook using it would be on benefits (we were not, but we were broke!) and therefore have plenty of time to prepare and cook all foodstuffs from scratch, including bread and yoghurt. The recipes are wholemeal wherever possible, nutritionally balanced and use items which are easy to make.

Filled jacket potatoes, filled omelettes, salads, quiches, cornmeal breakfast cereals,  homemade popcorn,  soups, blackeye beanburgers, pasties, flans, spicy mackerel, liver and bacon, wholemeal scones and lots more are in the book.

The book has recently been re-issued as  "How to Feed Your Family for £5 a Day" by Harper Collins, with fifty additional recipes, so I may well  indulge in a new copy :-)
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Eighteen

Brilliant Burgers
Part of the "Confident Cooking" series
Published by Murdoch Books, Australia, 1995
First published by Konemann, Germany.

This little book is only 64 pages long, but it is used regularly and survives every cookbook cull I perform! I bought it from an upmarket cook-shop in Bath on a visit many years ago, and it cost me the princely sum of 99p.

Every double page spread has at least one colour photograph to illustrate the recipe, and there are some great recipes hidden in this book:

  • Lamb burger with minted yoghurt sauce
  • Mediterranean vegetable and goat's cheese burger
  • Egg and bacon breakfast burger
  • Fresh salmon burger
  • Mushroom and pine nut burger
  • Chick pea and vegetable burger with hummus
  • Mexican burger with guacamole
  • Turkey burger with spiced cranberry sauce
And our family's all-time favourite:
  • Mustard Burger with garlic butter
Recipes for some relishes are included too. It's the only burger book I have seen with vegetarian and almost fasting-friendly recipes :-)

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Monday, February 18, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Seventeen

Jane Asher's Eats For Treats

Over 40 Delicious Recipes To Cook With Your Child

By Jane Asher

Published by BBC Books, 1990.

I bought this large format hardback book shortly after Dear Daughter 2 was born and Mrs DoomHamster was  just starting school; the TV series which accompanied it was de rigeur for Mrs D when she came home from school and we loved replicating the recipes. When the book was released, it was a no-brainer that we simply had to have a copy, and as you can see from the state of the book, it has been very much used and loved by all four girls as they have grown. It is currently held together by sellotape :-)

Needless to say, we still use it for some classic family recipes, and it has stood the test of time. The recipes fall into four categories:

  • Baking and Treats
  • Picnics and Barbecues
  • Food For Friends
  • Special Family Celebrations
- and each recipe is clearly labelled as easy, medium easy or advanced.

Baked Fish, Tacos, Beef Teryiaki, Filo Chicken Pie, Pasta with Cream and Cheese and Pan Bagna are some of the quite exotic (for 1990!) recipes, but the glory of the book has to be Jane Asher's baking recipes....

You can imagine the delight when I found a virtually pristine copy of this book for Mrs DoomHamster for a ridiculous bargain price in a charity shop a few years ago!

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Sixteen

Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes

Recipes by Josie Fison &  Felicity Dahl

Published by Jonathan Cape,
London, 1994
(Reissued subsequently)

I have a 1994 hardback copy of this book, which is going strong and has been much loved by all four of my children. The colour  illustrations by Quentin Blake are charming and totally in keeping with his illustrations for Dahl's story books.

All of the recipes are directly inspired by the famous stories, from "Strawberry Flavoured Chocolate Coated Fudge" from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, "Hansel and Gretel Spare Ribs" from Rhyme Stew, "Boggis's Chicken" from Fantastic Mr Fox to "Crispy Wasp Stings on Buttered Toast" from James and the Giant Peach.

There are 31 recipes in all, from drinks to starters, snacks to main meals and desserts to confectionery, and also a companion volume, Even More Revolting Recipes.  Entertaining, charming, very good at inspiring children to make things they have previously only imagined from reading the books and an excellent way to combat the "Mum, I'm bored!" scenario :-)
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Friday, February 15, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Fifteen

The Lavender Cookbook

By Sharon Shipley

Published by Running Press (USA) 2004

Just in case you all thought my cookbooks were too run of the mill, I thought you might be interested in this one!

I first became interested in the idea of using lavender when I was given some home-made shortbread cookies at a friend's house and challenged to guess the ingredient. I had one taste, and knew that I "knew" the flavour, but I simply could not identify it accurately.

Turns out the secret ingredient was indeed a hint of lavender, and the effect was sublime. The very next time I went to The Big City, I visited the herbal medicine shop and bought some organic lavender to use for culinary purposes until my own lavender was ready to harvest.  ( I would stress that unless you can be absolutely certain that your lavender - or the lavender you purchase or are given - has been grown without the use of pesticides, that you do not eat or drink it. )

Drinks, dipping sauces, breads, desserts, soups, salads, main courses - unusual recipes for all these categories are included. I could not eat lavender flavoured food regularly, but as an occasional treat, it is wonderful !
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Heart In Hand

Heart In Hand

by Barbara Cameron

Book 3 of the "Stitches in Time" series

Published by Abingdon Press, February  2013

This title tells the continuing story of three Amish sisters and their romances; much of this story revolves around Anna, who was tragically widowed at a young age and has no children.

Although she is gifted at handicrafts and enjoys working with her sisters in their craft shop, "Stitches in Time", she begins to think that her life is effectively over and that she will never find love again.

Life changes dramatically when she ends up helping a widower and his young daughter to learn to knit in fulfillment of his promise to his late wife that their daughter would be taught all the things an Amish girl needs to know. Gideon is open, honest and transparent; his daughter Sarah Rose is anything but!

Anna's own experiences with grief and bereavement  encourage her to try to understand what motivates Sarah Rose's sometimes manipulative behaviour and to help her come to terms with the loss of her beloved mother.

This is a tender and gentle tale, thoughtful, insightful and underpinned with trust and faith in God.
A pleasure to read!
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A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Fourteen

Short Cut Rhodes
Lots of fast and easy recipes
By BBC Books 1997

This is a slim volume, but well-liked in our family.

 The spiky-haired Gary Rhodes is a remarkable, self-effacing chef of immense talent who has not forgotten what it is to be keen to serve simple yet tasty food.  This book may only be 128 pages long, but the recipes are fun, quick to make and  utilising easily available store cupboard and fresh ingredients, with a few ready prepared ingredients added in some recipes.

Tuna and almond cream toasts, chicken liver pate, curried scrambled eggs, parmesan risotto, smoked haddock with a parsley crust, toffee cream pots and jaffa cake pudding are among the delights of this book, not to mention the dead-simple microwaved "steamed" pudding :-)
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A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Thirteen

Nanny Ogg's Cookbook: A Useful and Improving Almanack of Information including Astonishing Recipes from Terry Pratchett's Discworld

By Terry Pratchett et al

Published by Corgi Books, 2001

I have to admit that I don't use this as a cookbook, I just read it and giggle. The recipes included are perfectly good ones, but the humour is in the names that quite ordinary foods are given to tie them in with the recipes mentioned in the Discworld books and in the quite extensive anecdotes and snippets of information which accompany all the recipes.

The Librarian (being an orang-utan) has an interesting take on bananas, and there is even a recipe for a Knuckle Sandwich - involving the purchase of pigs' trotters and not a miscreant's well-earned lesson at the hands of Sam Vimes. 

Half the book is devoted to Discworld etiquette, which is fascinating and this book is an essential adjunct to any serious student of Discworld. It certainly enhanced my education, that's for sure......
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Twelve

Eating For Victory: 

Healthy Home Front Cooking on War Rations 

Published by Michael O'Mara Books Ltd, 2007

We've always been a fan of historical re-enactment books and TV series, and we particularly enjoyed the one dealing with life in the Second World War years. When I saw that the the official dietary and recipe information leaflets disseminated by British Government agencies during the War had been republished in a facsimile book form, I simply had to have a copy !
If you want a peak inside, search for the book on and you can look inside......

Even the new book looks old; the pages are printed on cream tinted paper with the original typefaces preserved as well as the original illustrations.  It looks dated, but the recipes are simple, nourishing, easy to prepare and designed to avoid any waste of food at at time when rations were rigidly enforced and supplies were meagre.  Many of the recipes are calorie-dense, which was necessary indeed for those who were performing many hours of hard manual labour per day, yet it would certainly be possible to tweak them to make them more appropriate for our very much more sedentary lifestyle now, and the portion sizes simply serve to illustrate that it is all too easy to overeat nowadays when there is no real need to do so. It is interesting that the British populace were in better physical health and fitness during the austerity of rationing than they are now in a time of comparative plenty.

Dried egg was a staple then, and it is still  widely available in supermarkets now, but I have never been tempted to buy any to try out the recipes, preferring to use fresh eggs instead. There is a fascinating chapter of recipes for cakes, biscuits and scones without using eggs at all  :-)   Preserving fruits and vegetables by bottling is covered in detail, and most families would have turned over their lawns to  growing foodstuffs or keeping livestock, particularly hens and rabbits.

My husband and I would be quite happy living a WWII diet, as much of it is what would nowadays be termed  hearty food, despite the rationing. The two youngest daughters have both found this book incredibly useful when studying the Second World War in school and the book has been "borrowed" by the staff teaching the topic for reference on several occasions. 

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A Month of Cookbooks - Day Eleven

Forgotten Skills of Cooking
By Darina Allen


Published by Kyle Cathie
November 2009

This is a mammoth book, both in size, scope and importance in my collection of cookery books.

 Darina Allen is the matriarch of an Irish cooking family who run a famous cookery school which is held in the middle of the family's 100 acre organic farm which provides them with their traditional and wholesome ingredients. She is the author of many books, but this is my favourite.

Growing up in rural Ireland, she has vivid memories of a way of life which is still "hanging on" in the more rural parts of the country, but which is in danger of being forgotten by so many, along with the traditional knowledge of gathering wild foods and preparing them.

So, what is in this book ? 
Household tips, simple home remedies, how to keep your own chickens, frugal cookery - especially harvesting wild foods and using them in unusual recipes, particularly shellfish and seaweeds gathered from the coast,  cooking wild game as well as the far  more traditional recipes , 
The Dairy recipes chapter in particular includes  a wealth of information about how to create your own buttermilk, skimming cream from milk, making soured cream, yoghurt, soft cheese, butter and clotted cream. Yum!

The recipes in this comprehensive book are eminently suitable for home cooking as well as entertaining guests, but the main point of the book is to allow cooks to reclaim long-ago knowledge and skills which many have never known or had the good fortune to be exposed to.  Although there are many things in this book I would probably never cook, there are still  many, many recipes that I  do and would use.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Ten

Apologies - I have been unable to access my computer very much as Dear Husband has been working on it for two days. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, but in the meantime, one of my newest and most-loved cookbooks, as reviewed last year...........
The Amish Family Cookbook
by Jerry and Tina Eicher

Published by Harvest House Publishers
October 2012

I requested the digital edition of this book from NetGalley and received it in June.  I enjoyed it so much that as soon as it was released in the UK, I headed straight over to and bought a "real" copy of my own :-)

 I have pored over this book, chuckled over this book and enjoyed every single page. It is more than just  a cookbook; humorous stories about the Amish are scattered throughout the book and on every double page spread there is an Amish proverb.  On the pages which tell us how to make Chicken Fajitas, Spanish Rice and Chicken and Ham-Stuffed Manicotti, is this gem:

"To admit I was wrong is but saying I am wiser today than I was yesterday."

Many Amish cookbooks are collections of Amish recipes which have been collated by "Englisha" writers. This book consists of Amish recipes handed down from their families to Jerry and Tina Eicher, both of whom were themselves born and raised in Amish families.

We learn which recipes are special favourites of their own family, and the particularly hearty breakfast recipes are a special delight, though I think they will need to be reserved as very occasional treats for those of us who have a more sedentary lifestyle.

Many recipes can be prepared ahead and served later in the day or the next day, and have obviously been developed over the years to fit in with the particular constraints of a traditional Amish lifestyle.  Some convenience foods are included; this is not a "You will prepare every dish the hardest way possible" type of cookbook and the shortcuts are generally highly practical and sensible, The determined cook can easily do things the hard way if so desired......... with the possible exception of marshmallow fluff, which is an essential ingredient in making Jerry Eicher's favourite peanut butter spread !

So, what is in this cookbook? The chapters include:
  • Appetizers and Beverages
  • Breakfast
  • Cakes
  • Candies
  • Cookies and Bars
  • Desserts
  • Grilling
  • Main Dishes
  • Pies
  • Quick Breads
  • Salads and Gelatin Salads
  • Soups and Sandwiches
  • Vegetables and Side Dishes
  • and last but certainly not least, Yeast Breads.
There are recipes for venison as well as more commonly used meat, and I can think of at least one of my friends who might well be interested in trying some of those out soon.

Several recipes mention Velveeta cheese, which I have not been able to source here in the UK, but am assured by expat American friends that British Red Leicester cheese is a good alternative. Marshmallow fluff is fairly widely available here, but I have not been able to find an alternative for Miracle Whip yet, nor  refrigerated packs of buttermilk biscuits. If anyone can suggest one, or a UK source for cartons of frozen juice concentrate, I would be truly grateful!

I really do love the fact this is a spiral bound (comb-bound) cookbook, so it will happily stay open and flat when I am busy cooking. It doesn't have glossy photographs, but it does not need them - the book speaks for itself.

If you visit the publishers, and click on the Google preview at the bottom of the cover photo,  you can browse through the book and even download a chapter !
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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Cold-Case Christianity

Cold-Case Christianity

A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

 By J. Warner Wallace

Published by David C. Cook, January 2013

The author, J. Warner Wallace, is a Los Angeles homicide detective who specialises in solving "cold cases" and providing Forensic Statement  analysis for courts. 

A life-long atheist, he decided to use the techniques and methods which he used every day as a detective in attempting to solve these cold cases to see if it was possible to do the same with the Gospels and to ascertain whether or not the claims of Christianity that Christ was and is the Son of God could possibly be true.

To his surprise - and indeed shock - he found that by using the methods he placed his trust in as a police officer, there was no room for doubt in his mind that the claims of Christianity were overwhelmingly and demonstrably true.  Now a committed Christian and involved in mission-planting, he is a Christian apologist to those who place their reliance on "science" to provide answers for everything. The book gives much insight into his work as a detective - things cannot and should not ever be taken at face value, and he examines the evidence for Christianity in the same rigorous and testing way.

 An interesting book for sceptics and believers alike, and helps Christians to defend their biblical beliefs when challenged by non-believers.
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A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Nine

The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day

By Claudia Roden

Published by Penguin, 1999

This is a hefty, almost encyclopaedic 592 page book which covers the history of Jewish food across both Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions, though the Sephardi tradition is given much greater space in the book. 

The Ashkenazi traditional dishes are well-known in the UK and throughout Northern Europe, but the Sephardi recipes are rather ore of a mystery, not least because intermarriage between the two traditional was not encouraged and they very much tended to keep themselves to themselves; the recipes are indeed a revelation.

 Included are many of Claudia's traditional family recipes from Egypt, but there are recipes from almost everywhere the Jewish people have settled, including Iran, Algeria, Iraq, Bukhara, Syria, Turkey,Italy, Morocco, Andalusia, the Balkans, Greece, America and many more.

Claudia Roden delights in giving glorious recipes, photographs, historical snippets and insights into Jewish religion, food and culture in amongst the recipes.  I was particularly interested in the fact that Sephardi families do not have a traditional Shabbat bread (such as the Ashkenazi families do with Challah);  I am now in frantic search of anise seed so I can try making the wonderful Algerian Anise Bread................

A glorious book to browse, savour and thoroughly enjoy!

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Friday, February 08, 2013

A Month of Cookbooks - Day Eight

Fast Cakes

by Mary Berry

Published by Warner Books in 1981, reprinted 1985.

This is a classic book by Mary Berry, who has shot to fame again with another generation of cooks due to her recent involvement in The Great British Bake-Off TV series/competition.

 When I was first married, I found this book an absolute boon as it contains a section on which cake tins/pans/utensils are absolutely essential and even more useful, how much cake mixture each size cake tin can hold and how much cooking time is needed at a specific temperature, which is something I have never seen in any other cookbook.

The recipes are reliable and delicious, quick to prepare and all fairly traditional but extremely welcome in our house. The Boiled Fruit Cake is great, as is the All-Bran Loaf. My daughters loved the section devoted to easy "Things Children Can Make Themselves" :

  • Chocolate Chip Bars
  • Coconut Pyramids
  • Flapjacks
  • Jammy Buns
The title is perhaps a little misleading as it does contain a number of lovely biscuit recipes too. The biscuit section has the best recipe for Chocolate  Caramel Shortbread ever !

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Seven

 Slow Cooking: Easy Slow Cooker Recipes 

By Katie Bishop

Published by Collins, 2008

Many years ago, I had a slow-cooker and a large hardback  book of recipes.  The problem was that many of the recipes seemed to taste the same, with similar ingredients being used in each dish. My poor old slow-cooker soon fell out of favour, and both it and the original cookbook were passed on to someone else who wanted it.

It took nearly a decade before I felt interested enough to give slow-cooking another try, and this time I found there was a huge  variety of books crammed with exciting and innovative recipes.

This is the book I use most often, and a quick flip through the recipe index produces:
  • Cherry & almond oatmeal
  • Savoury baked ricotta
  • Oat & blackberry loaf
  • Overnight bacon & eggs
  • Creamy beetroot soup
  • Caramelized sweet and sour shallots with noodles
  • Cauliflower & parsnip royal korma
  • Hot smoked salmon & potato bake
  • Mexican chicken mole with chocolate
  • Baileys bread and butter pudding
  • Cardamon creme brulee
  • Hot winter Pimms
All of these are a far cry from the dated recipes I soon tired of. Beef with beer and dumplings was cooked and enjoyed this week!

Slow-cooking is now international, with books specifically aimed at Indian recipes, Mexican recipes, Jewish recipes, Weight watchers, Soups, Paleo diet, Vegetarian, Vegan and French being just some of the titles I found at Amazon.

Katie Bishop has also written a second book, which I hope to get in due course :-)
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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Six


By Christine Ingram & Jennie Shapter

Published by Lorenz Books, 2006

This 512 page book is my Bread bible!

This beautiful, fully illustrated book is divided equally between traditional hand bread-making and bread machine bread-making. The first section is devoted to  handmade breads from different countries around the world, the second section gives amazing and unusual recipes for bread-making machines.

If you are looking for a recipe for Panini all'Olio, Tandoori Rotis, Moroccan Ksra, Fresh Tomato & Basil Loaf, Pikelets or Cranberry & Orange Bread, the odds are high that you will find it here in this book of over 250 recipes.

Every step of the bread-making process is explained clearly  and every recipe is fully illustrated in colour photographs - from baking tins to ingredients and  history to techniques.

This book is available in a number of different covers/formats; mine is a hardback with a dust wrapper, and I bought it in a sale for only a third of the original cover price, but it would be well worth the advertised price, if you want to make unusual bread.
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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Five

The Dinner Lady

by Jeanette Orrey

Published by  Bantam Press, 2005

This is a fascinating book. The first 116 pages are devoted to nutritional basics, how and what you could feed your baby as weaning foods, and how to prepare these foods from scratch, as well as involving children in the kitchen as a way of piquing their interest in food and cooking.

Then the fun starts, with all sorts of recipes from this school dinner lady/cook/catering manager, who is passionate about feeding school children high quality, nutritionally sound - and above all tasty - food.  The book is aimed at a wide audience: head teachers, catering managers, school cooks and parents; indeed to anyone who is involved in caring for or working with children and wants to improve nutritional standards.

The children in her school are encouraged to try a wide variety of foods: Chicken Curry, Deli Wraps, Real Chicken Nuggets,Lemon Chicken & Pea Risotto, Moussaka,  Lamb Casserole with Dumplings, Fish Pie, Vegetable Crumble,  Tagliatelle with Summer Vegetables - the list of recipes is impressive.  She includes an interesting variety of salads and desserts, and all the recipes are given in quantities to serve either 4 or 96, in order to be of use both to average size families and those cooking for much larger numbers.

Puddings are regarded as an opportunity for slight indulgence after a substantial and healthy main course.....Carrot Cake, Banana Loaf, Date Slice, Bakewell Tart, Gingerbread, Chocolate Pudding and Flapjacks.

It is no-frills cooking, but hearty, healthy and appealing to adults and children alike. We have made many recipes from the first book, and without exception, all have turned out well and been enjoyed. I did have sympathy for the kitchen staff, as apparently one recipe for Gooey Chocolate Pudding is greeted with rapture by the children and teaching staff but dismay from those who have to wash up the serving dishes afterwards because of the frequent changes of water needed......... We had exactly the same problem at home  :-)

When I have my periodic cookery book culls, this is one which *never* makes the doubtful heap as we all love it!

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Monday, February 04, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Four

 The Good Book Cookbook

 by Naomi Goodman, Robert Marcus, Susan Woolhandler

Published by Candle Books 1995 (3rd edition)

NB There is a brand new revised 4th edition, details here and also their recipe for honey cheesecake!

I loooove this book, not least because it was a gift to me from a very dear friend and her familywhich sustained me through a very difficult period of my life in more ways than one. It is a nicely illustrated and easy to use book, great for browsing and enjoying as well as using in the kitchen.

The recipes are all for foods which would have been freely available in the Holy Land, and many are traditional recipes in Israel and the surrounding regions as well as recipes inspired by traditional Roman foods brought in by the invaders.

They are generally  incredibly healthy recipes, hearty, nutritious and as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate.  How to make your own flavoured soft cheeses and yoghurts are described in detail.

 Bread as a staple is given an honoured place, with recipes for  natural sourdough bread, Matzoh, barley cakes, date nut bread, sourdough fig roll, Challah, apricot raisin sourdough bread, carob spicery seed bread, onion board and more. There are recipes for casseroles, roasts, stews, fish, drinks and desserts galore, with lots of vegetable recipes too.

What cracks me up is the recipe  page devoted to preparing a fatted calf, goat or lamb: it starts with "Dig a pit slightly wider and longer than the animal" - what a  book !
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Cypriot Lentil Soup - Fakes Soupa

As requested !

5 oz green lentils
5 glasses of water (approximately 1 litre)
4 chopped spring onions
2 tablespoons leaf coriander (Cilantro in the US!) or parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon plain flour, mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
1-2 tablespoons of wine vinegar
Salt and vinegar


Wash lentils in several changes of water.

Put in a pan with water to cover.  Boil for 3 minutes, strain and discard the water.  Place lentils in a large saucepan with a litre of cold water, spring onions, coriander, garlic and olive oil.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft, but not mushy.

Stir in the flour and water mixture, whisking all the time, and continue cooking the soup until it thickens.

Add vinegar to taste and seasonings.  Don't be afraid of the vinegar, rather like adding half a glass of wine, it will just strengthen the flavour of the lentils.
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Elioti - Cypriot Olive Bread

As requested !

1lb strong white bread flour
8 oz stone-ground wholewheat flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
approx 2 glasses water or 3/4 UK pint, at blood heat

For filling:

1 medium onion, chopped and sauteed lightly in olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
 7 oz  stoned, chopped black olives

Using an electric mixer or food processor, tip all the flour into a bowl, stir in the yeast and salt.

Switch on and pour in the oil and enough water to make a soft, but not sticky, dough.  Adjust water and a little more flour if needed.

Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a polythene bag and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead it for one minute before adding the filling ingredients.

Shape the dough into a round loaf, place on an oiled baking tray, and cover again with a large polythene bag.  Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to Gas 4 (350 F, 180 C) and bake for about 45 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when tapped.

Brush the top lightly with oil and return to the oven for a minute to make the top shiny.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

by Rachel Joyce

Published in paperback by  Black Swan

3rd January 2013

There are only a small number of novels which have utterly, utterly captivated me from the very beginning, and this is one of the very best of them.  Harold Fry has recently retired from his job and is not finding it easy to adapt to life at home with his long-suffering wife Maureen in their South Coast home. Their long  marriage is no longer a happy one and they are more or less estranged from their son David.

Their everyday humdrum life changes dramatically when Harold receives a letter from Queenie Hennessey, an old colleague of his, letting him know that she is terminally ill with cancer.  The reserved and rather taciturn Harold is nonplussed and agonises over how to write a suitable reply to her. He settles for writing a short, rather bald note expressing sadness and tells his wife he is just walking to the end of the road to post the letter and won't be long.

When he gets to the post box at the end of the road, he finds he cannot post the letter he has written, and walks to the next post box, to buy himself time to think and maybe compose a better reply. He ends up spending weeks walking all the way from his home to Queenie's Hospice in Berwick upon Tweed instead, willing her to live long enough so he can see her one last time and say goodbye in person.

 It really is a pilgrimage of sorts, in which Harold has chance to dig deep and think hard about his life, his marriage, his work and his relationship with his son. Where did everything go wrong, and is there any hope at all of salvaging anything worthwhile from his marriage?  Just who is he anyway?  What happened to the Harold who had such dreams for the future?

And what about Maureen, left behind with no initial warning or explanation? How does she cope with her abandonment ? She too has time and space to think and ask questions, to re-assess her life without Harold and what she wants to do next.

This is in turns a desperately sad yet life-affirming and hopeful book, with remarkable insights into faith, the human condition,  people's secret lives and hopes. Harold meets people he would never normally talk to, let alone spend time with and grow to trust, and at the end of his pilgrimage, he is a man changed for the better.

To say more would be to spoil the pleasure of reading this immensely moving, heartbreaking yet joyous book,  but if you get a chance, consider reading it. It is memorable and will become a well-deserved classic.

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Copha Cake

Specially for Margaret:

Loads of Copha cake recipes at this website

......... and this one looks fun too !

Chocolate Biscuit Cake
This is a novel cake which is much appreciated at tennis or bridge teas or at supper parties. It is made with pure Copha* instead of butter, and requires no cooking. It cannot be successfully made with butter. The method is as follows:-
5 ounces copha, melted but not allowed to boil, mix in to this ½ lb. sifted icing sugar, 1 heaped dessertspoon cocoa, 1 egg, essence of vanilla to flavour. Have ready ½ lb. of coffee biscuits, which should have been softened by leaving them out of the packet. Line a square or oblong tin with greaseproof paper, place alternate layers of the mixture and the biscuits until the tin Is filled, beginning and finishing with the mixture. Stand in a cool place till set, and when firm cut in slices.
The striped appearance adds to the attractiveness of this cake. 

* Copha is an Aussie variation on the Crisco theme, made from fully hydrogenated coconut oil. Indispensible for making (also uncooked) Chocolate Crackles, which are indispensible for children’s parties, and for which I must give you the recipe one day.

From the Courier Mail of February 1, 1934, the lure of a “perfect” recipe:

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Three

Cakes and Slices Cook Book (part of "The Australian Women's Weekly" Home Library)

ACP Publishing Pty Ltd

Australia Jan 1990

The awesomeness of this faithful old  book of mine defies belief :-)

The recipes are reliable, almost fool-proof and amazingly tasty, catering for all tastes, budgets and occasions.

A large variety of chocolate cake recipes constitutes one section, including chocolate zucchini loaf, apricot chocolate chip cake and chocolate peppermint cream cake. Another chapter gives recipes for food processor cakes, which work brilliantly, and yet another for moist syrup drenched cakes.

There are separate sections for quick-mix cakes, vegetable cakes, whole sections devoted to carrot cakes, banana cakes, ginger cakes, fruit cakes, and many more, not to mention the chapters devoted to bars and slices, ideal for pot-luck and church functions. There are also cakes designed for the health-conscious, which are tasty, full of fibre and tend to avoid wheat flour.

Over the years, my daughters and I have made many of the recipes and every single one has turned out really well. It was an inexpensive book when first purchased and is still available cheaply second-hand from  

If you like baking and ever see a copy of this book, buy it -you are very unlikely to be disappointed .
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Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day Two

The Taste Of  Cyprus
By Gilli Davies

Interworld Publications, England, 1990

As you can see by the publication date, this an "oldie" amongst my cookery books. Gilli Davies is a quite well-known Welsh TV cook form the 1990s, who spent a lot of time in Cyprus when her husband was stationed there with the British Army.

Her love of cooking inspired her to seek out traditional Cypriot recipes, and she divides the book into four seasons, giving each season recipes from foods traditionally associated or most generally available.  There are quite a few recipes obviously church-related in this arrangement, particularly in Spring for Lent and Pascha.  The Holy Week Lentil soup is particularly tasty and was an especial favourite of Daughter no 2. This is the book from which I *always* cook our family Vasilopitta, and is one of the cookbooks I would not willingly part with.

This is one of the few author-signed cookbooks which  I have had, and it was a pleasure to meet her in person at a book-signing in the Big City; it was totally by chance that I turned on the radio to a local station that morning and heard about the event. I bundled up  a very young Mrs DoomHamster and DD2 and off we went by train to go and get  a copy. A happy memory !

She gives lots of incidental information about food, history, culture and customs as well as the recipes, and I have cooked lots of the dishes over the years.  I have never mustered the courage to cook the Lenten Elioti - Olive  Bread, as I am not actually a fan of olives though I adore olive oil. I've not cooked the octopus recipes either as I really cannot bear the thought of shellfish/seafood.

  Please do let  me know if you would like me to write out any particular recipes and I will be happy to do so; she gives  information about making pastries, bread, fruit liqueurs, wedding foods as well as lots of fasting recipes and celebratory dishes :-)

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Friday, February 01, 2013

A Month Of Cookbooks - Day One

For a change, I thought it might be fun to take a cyber-stroll through some of my favourite cookbooks during the month of February.

4 Ingredients
by Kim McCosker & Rachael Bermingham
Published by 4 Ingredients, 2008

Distributed in:

  • UK by Turnaround Publisher Services
  • NZ by Random House 
  • Australia by Gary Allen

Today's book is called, very simply, "4 Ingredients" and has been a resounding bestseller both in the UK and in its home country of Australia. Written by two mothers who saw the need for a cookbook which focuses primarily on easy, fun and mostly nutritious food which is quick to prepare, appeals to children and tastes great, the book is a  basic, no-frills presentation of some of the nicest recipes I've seen.

This is not a glossy cookbook with full page arty photographs of finished dishes, but a simply printed cookbook crammed full of unexpected delights. Any book which has a chapter dedicated to Morning & Afternoon Tea is *always*  going to capture my interest, and a book which also has chapters devoted to  "specially for children", salad dressings, beverages, sandwich ideas, lunch box recipes as well as the more usual categories definitely caught my interest :-)

Most of the meals are simple, using four major ingredients (excluding salt and pepper, etc) and although some shortcuts and use of processed foods  are used, this is done for simplicity's sake and purists could of course substitute their own home-made from scratch items where appropriate. Just to give you an idea of the recipes, a frequently requested meal n our house is for these two dishes:

Sauteed Lemon Potatoes (Serves  2-4, depending on appetites)

4 medium potatoes peeled and cut into eighths. Parboil for 3 mins. Preheat oven to to a high heat (I use 220 C)  and put the juice of one lemon, 3 tablespoonfuls olive oil, 1 tablespoonful of butter and the juice of one lemon in a roasting dish in the oven for a few minutes to heat. Drain the potatoes well and add to the roasting dish, baste them and cook for 15 -20 minutes till golden

Too Easy Chicken Nuggets (serves 2 -3)
Preheat oven to 180 C

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs (I use my food processor for this)
1/2 cup of organic mayonnaise
1 tablespoon melted butter

Coat the chicken pieces with mayonnaise, roll them in breadcrumbs and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with the melted butter and bake for 20 minutes.

We love them :-)

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