Oat Biscuits, from ‘The Complete Traditional Recipe Book’ by Sarah Edington – Cooking the Books, week 8

I wanted to bake something yesterday to bring with me on a elevenses visit today – it had to be quick and simple, and I didn’t want to go shopping for ingredients.

Now, I’m not that much of a ‘sweet treats’ baker, so my standard store cupboard ingredients collection is a bit basic – plain and self-raising flour, a few different sorts of sugar (but no icing sugar), unsalted butter (but no lard or margarine), golden syrup and treacle, eggs of course, and some baking powder and bicarb of uncertain vintage.  Add to that a few leftover part bags of dried fruits and nuts, some rolled oats and wheat bran, and that, really, is about it. We’re a bit low on fresh fruit, there’s no cream in the fridge, and I haven’t got any cooking chocolate. So, what to make?

This took a good bit of cookbook mining. I had in mind making muffins, but struggled to find an interesting recipe to make with the ingredients to hand. I didn’t really want to make a cake which would require icing, and struggled to find an interesting tea loaf that matched my baking supplies. Finally, I came across this rather lovely simple little recipe for oat biscuits (these are sweet biscuits, very much like cookies, and not to be confused with the savoury oat cakes eaten with cheese!), in this National Trust published book of over 300 traditional British recipes.

Set the oven to 200C before you start measuring your ingredients, as this recipe comes together very quickly.

To make 12 large biscuits –

  • 110g  unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp golden syrup
  • 110g granulated sugar
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 75g plain flour
  • bicarbonate of soda
  • salt (optional)

Melt the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan. Meanwhile, weigh out the dry ingredients and mix these together, adding a pinch of salt if you like. In a small ramekin or cruet, mix 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into a dessertspoon of hot water and dissolve. When the butter and syrup are melted and combined, take the pan off the heat and stir in the dissolved bicarb, and then add dry ingredients and mix fully.

oat biscuits - tile

Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper, and spoon the biscuit mix as evenly as you can onto the baking sheet. Using a heaped dessert spoon gave me 12 even sized measures. Then slide the baking sheet into your pre-heated oven, and don’t be tempted to wander away and forget about it. The recipe called for 10 minutes but mine were done in 7, so it’s worth staying put and watching carefully. If like mine, your oven has hot zones, turn the baking sheet around after about 5 minutes to even things out.

The biscuit mix will spread out a lot during cooking – mine essentially filled the baking sheet edge to edge. If you care about having perfect round biscuits, then spread out your mix over two cookie sheets leaving acres of space between them, but really, does it matter? Take them out of the oven when you see an even warm brown colour around the edges.

They will be very soft when you first remove them from the oven, so leave them on the baking sheet for a few minutes while they start to cool. Once they’re just cool enough to handle, carefully separate them and place on a wire rack to finish cooling. You probably won’t be able to resist tasting one though…

Biscuits on cooling rack

From start to cooling on the wire rack, these took about half an hour – they’re quick and straightforward, and taste as you’d expect – quite flapjacky, with a lovely texture and crunch. They went down well with their recipients this morning, but I did have to guard them quite enthusiastically against Hubby’s attentions to have any left to take with me!

**
The National Trust Complete Traditional Recipe Book, by Sarah Edington
National Trust Books, 2006 (there is a more recent, 2010 edition)
ISBN 978-1-905400423
Hardcover, 336 pages. Single colour printing with coloured plates. RRP £25.

[Full disclosure: This is my book, which I received as a gift a couple of years ago. I have received no payment or sponsorship for this post, nor have I accepted a review copy. I do not have an amazon affiliate account and do not profit from any links provided.]

National Trust Complete Traditional - coverThis is a slightly odd little book, with recipes assembled by the author from National Trust properties and collections, as well as historic recipe books and more recent publications. I’m not sure these oat biscuits are particularly representative, but then again I’m not sure what would be – the recipes run the gamut from historic entertaining dishes to regional stews, cakes and puddings, soups and salads.

Some of these recipes, inevitably, are for well-worn family favourites, and while I may not be about to give up my tried and tested cauliflower cheese for the one in this book, I may just borrow the suggestion of adding a little pinch of cayenne pepper! These are (as it says on the cover) very traditional recipes, but thoughtfully and respectfully presented without excessive re-invention, and I will definitely be coming back to it to try some of the savoury dishes soon – the recipe for Fidget Pie looked particularly tempting.

National Trust Complete Traditional - inner pageIt makes an interesting counterpoint to the Ginette Mathiot book I reviewed a few weeks ago, packed with traditional French dishes –  a useful reminder that we have a wide and diverse traditional food culture in the UK of which we should be justly proud.

This book would make a good primer for cooks from a different food culture who want to get to grips with traditional British food, but there are enough regional and historical goodies here that even if you’re British born and raised, and still have your grandmother’s kitchen notebooks, you’re bound to find something new to try.

‘Cooking the Books’ is my self-imposed blog challenge for 2014 – I’ll be trying to cook a new recipe from one of my (rather extensive!) collection of cookbooks once a week, write it up and review it. Wish me luck!

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Roast Lamb, from ‘The River Cottage Meat Book’ by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – Cooking the Books, week 7

Who doesn’t love a proper traditional Sunday roast? We have some beautiful lamb in the freezer at the moment, sourced from an organic farmer who we know, and this small leg of lamb deserved nothing but the very best treatment.

Meat book - cover viewI have to admit, it’s been a very long time since it occurred to me to consult a cookbook for a recipe for a roast joint of meat – I’ll look up timings occasionally, but essentially, when it comes to roast dinner, whether it’s beef or lamb, pork or poultry, I know what I like and I like what I know. So, for lamb – leg or shoulder – my roasts have been done much the same way for years now – studded with little slivers of garlic, tufted with fresh rosemary, drizzled with oil, salt and pepper, and simply roasted until just pink in the middle.

You could say, then, that this recipe for roast lamb from The River Cottage Meat Book didn’t take me far out of my comfort zone! Then again, sometimes it’s the little variations on a theme, those small additions and tweaks, that take a good meal and turn it into something simply sensational.

My small leg of lamb was about 1.5kg in weight and served four with no leftovers. In addition to the lamb, you will require –

  • Roast lamb ingredientsA tin of anchovies
  • Two decent sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Two or three nice juicy cloves of garlic
  • A couple of glasses of dry white wine
  • A spoonful of crab apple and chilli jelly (or other fruit jelly – redcurrant would be a great alternative)
  • Your choice of accompaniments – I served this with roast potatoes, mixed roast vegetables (sweet potato, parsnip and carrot – other great options include swede, pumpkin or squash, and beetroot, if you have them), and steamed winter greens
  • Salt and pepper

Garlic rosemary and anchoviesUsing a sharp paring knife, open up a pocket around the bone, as deeply as you can. In a pestle and mortar mash up a couple of the anchovies with a clove of garlic and some of your rosemary, chopped roughly, and stuff this into the pocket you have made, to help infuse flavour from the inside of the joint.

Lamb prepared for ovenTake four or five anchovies and cut them into quarters. Slice the garlic cloves into quite thick slices, and break up the rosemary into individual ‘tufts’ of leaves. Using the sharp paring knife, make stab incisions into the lamb and stuff a piece of anchovy, a slice of garlic and a tuft of rosemary into each one. Drizzle over some of the oil from the anchovy can and sprinkle over a little salt and pepper.

That’s the lamb all prepared. Slide it into a very hot oven (about 230C) for an initial half hour.

While the lamb is starting to sizzle, prepare your roast potatoes & roast vegetables.  These can go in when you turn the oven down to 160C after half an hour – or wait a while before putting them in, if it’s a big joint. When you turn the oven down, pour a glass of white wine over your lamb. Your timings will depend on the size of your joint and how pink you like your lamb – my small joint needed about another hour. I’m a big fan of my meat thermometer, just remember the centre of the joint will keep heating up while you rest your joint, which you should do, and allow at least 20 minutes resting before you even think about carving it.

Take the lamb out to restAbout 10 minutes before the joint is ready, pour a glass of water into the roasting tin. This will start to loosen the baked on meat juices from the bottom of the tray. When the meat comes out to rest, check how your roast potatoes and vegetables are coming along and adjust the oven temperature accordingly.

Carved lamb returned to gravyMake the gravy directly in the roasting tin on the hob (assuming your roasting tray will survive this treatment!). Pour off any excess fat, then mix in a little bit of flour if you like your gravy thickened, releasing all the lovely tasty ‘bits’ from the bottom of the pan as you go. Pour in a splash more wine, and stir in a spoonful of fruit jelly – I used the crab apple and chilli jelly I had in the fridge – and season with salt and pepper to taste. Carve the lamb thickly and return it to the roasting tray, mixing with all the lovely juices before serving with all the trimmings. I just adore a dollop of vinegary sweet apple and mint jelly with roast lamb.

Perfect roast lamb?

This is a great *great* roast lamb recipe. It’s the addition of the anchovies, and the lovely rich winey gravy, which set it head and shoulders above my previous efforts. As it happens, I’ve just rediscovered anchovies, and a couple of tins have taken up residence in my store cupboard for the first time in years. Used here, they add a luscious salty-savouriness to the lamb without any noticeable fishiness, so don’t be afraid of them! The gravy is simply fabulous, with the addition of the fruit jelly really balancing and melding the flavours.

I can only recommend that next time you’re roasting a leg or shoulder of lamb, you do it this way. I know I will!

**
Meat book - inner page viewThe River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Hodder and Stoughton, 2004.
ISBN 978-0-340-826355.
Hardcover, 544 pages. RRP £25.

[Full disclosure: This is my book, which I bought. I have received no payment or sponsorship for this post, nor have I accepted a review copy. I do not have an amazon affiliate account and do not profit from any links provided.]

I bought this book in hardback, when it first came out almost a decade ago, and it has not disappointed, becoming one of the old-faithfuls of my cookbook collection. Not simply a recipe collection, this book contains lots of information about different meats and livestock, cuts, and preparation techniques, and deserves a place on the shelf of every committed carnivore!

Fearnley-Whittingstall is a particular champion of cheaper and less fashionable cuts of meat, and a great advocate for ethical meat-eating. The Meat book, then, is a great source of information on animal welfare and farming – and in these respects, inevitably, doesn’t always make easy reading – but also a very useful resource if you’re trying to eat well on a budget without compromising on flavour or on your principles. Unless you’re a committed vegetarian, I recommend you add this book to your wish-list if you don’t own it already!

‘Cooking the Books’ is my self-imposed blog challenge for 2014 – I’ll be trying to cook a new recipe from one of my (rather extensive!) collection of cookbooks once a week, write it up and review it. Wish me luck!

Read more from the Country Skills blog >>

Taming the Tomato Glut – Part 7: finally, putting it on ice!

Now that's what you call a glut!

In the end, there’s always the freezer…

At the end of October, I had the last few bowls of tomatoes I hadn’t managed to preserve, eat, or give away, and we were on our way to Cornwall for a week. They weren’t going to survive until our return, so it was time for desperate measures.

Freezing is a great food preservation technique – maintaining all the freshness and nutritional value of your home-grown fruit and vegetables. This comes at some cost to texture, undoubtedly, but usually in ways that are irrelevant if you’re going to cook the veggies anyway. Preparation is generally quick and straightforward – certainly compared to preserving, bottling or pickling. Of course the limiting factor is always the space available in the freezer, which for me, despite the obvious advantages, tends to make freezing my preserving technique of last resort.

Wash & trim tomatoesI needed to get these tomatoes stored with as little faff as possible – I had a holiday to get started! – so I chose the simplest of all solutions.

Wash your tomatoes and discard any which are spoiled, trimming any minor damage. Remove their little green hats. Then, a batch at a time, just pulse them very quickly in a food processor enough to break them up.

Chop in food processorYou’re not trying to reduce them to pulp, just roughly chop to release enough juice that they will freeze as a solid ‘brick’ of tomato flesh and juice.

This leaves the skins and seeds in, which I know some will disapprove of. Personally I struggle to be offended by tomato skins – really, life’s too short to be peeling tomatoes! You will hear that chopping tomatoes in a food processor will break up the seeds and release a bitter flavour – while this may be the case if you’re trying to blend to a smooth texture, I’m pretty sure hardly any of seeds are damaged with such a short chop.

Pint measureDecide on your freezing volume – I chose to freeze these a pint at a time, in retrospect that was too much for us, since I’m usually just cooking for me and Hubby, and when I do this again in future I will probably freeze at least some in half-pint volumes for greater convenience.

Bag up your tomatoes, excluding all the air when you seal the bag, label the bags and tuck away in the deep freeze until you need them.

Ready for freezing

You can use these for more or less anything, to be honest. Allow them to thaw out, and use them in place of fresh tomatoes, for example in the recipe for roasted tomatoes with chicken and pasta. Passed through a mouli, you have a batch of fresh passata ready to go straight away – and thus remove the skins and seeds, if they offend your delicate sensibilities! You can also use them directly as a substitute for chopped tinned tomatoes in chillies and pasta sauces – I used some in the puttanesca sauce I made recently, and they were excellent. I can’t however recommend trying to eat them raw – the texture is altered by freezing and while the flavour is lovely and fresh, it would be a bit like putting tinned tomatoes in your salad!

Serve!

Well, folks, that’s it for last year’s tomato glut (I know, I know…)! It’s taken me a while to finish writing these posts up – hopefully they’ll be of use to my Southern hemisphere readers pretty soon, at least! But I still have jars and bottles of passata, tomato and chilli chutney, and green tomato chutney in the larder, ‘sun dried’ tomatoes in a jar in the kitchen, and a couple more bags of frozen tomatoes in the freezer. Even in the depths of winter, I can enjoy my summer’s produce, a genuine taste of bottled sunshine, and that makes it all utterly worthwhile!

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Baked Eggs with Smoked Haddock and Grain Mustard, from ‘Eggs’ by Michel Roux – Cooking the Books, week 6

Our hens have got laying early and enthusiastically this year, despite the quite horrible weather, and we have more eggs than we know what to do with. I bought this little book fairly soon after we got our girls, anticipating the inevitable hen-keeper’s egg glut, but despite that it’s seen very little use.

This is a lovely little recipe for baked eggs (‘en cocotte’ as I’m sure M. Roux would actually have it), which makes a gorgeous starter or, serving two per person, a really decent supper dish. Now, I have to admit I have made this recipe, and variations on it, a couple of times already, so my version does vary a little bit from the original.

To make four (serves four for a starter, or two for a main course) –

  • Baked eggs - ingredientsSmall fillet of un-dyed smoked haddock (or other cold-smoked fish), about 120g
  • Half a pint of milk (approximately)
  • 6 tbsp of double cream
  • 1 tbsp grain mustard
  • 4 eggs
  • Butter, to grease the ramekins
  • A little sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper

Start preparing this dish about an hour before you intend to eat it, as there’s a certain amount of standing time involved. But this is a dish that you can prepare plenty of time in advance, and then just put in the oven when needed, which makes it a great choice for entertaining!

If you store your eggs in the fridge, get them out and let them come to room temperature.

Poach fish in milkPlace the fish in a small saucepan and just cover the fillet with milk (you might need a little more or a little less than half a pint, depending on the size of the pan and the thickness of the fillet). It’s fine to cut the fillet up into two or three pieces if this makes life easier. Bring the milk gently to the boil, and then take the pan off the heat and set to one side, and allow to cool. After 20 minutes to half an hour, it will have cooled to nearly room temperature, and the fish will have cooked through in the residual heat of the poaching liquid.

Flake your fishDrain the fish, discarding the milk. If your fish has skin on, this should now peel away really easily. Now break the cooked smoked fish up into flakes. Those observant souls amongst you may have noticed that there’s something unusual about my ‘haddock’. This is actually a home-smoked whole fillet of arctic char, made following the same technique as my home-smoked trout. I’ve made this dish with smoked trout in the past, and that’s quite lovely. To be honest, I think any cold-smoked fish would work here, so why not experiment?

Combine cream with fish and mustardIf you’re cooking your eggs straight away, pre-heat the oven to 170C. Give your pan a quick wash and dry, and heat the cream to nearly-boiling. Take it off the heat and incorporate the flaked fish, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste (I never feel the need to add extra salt, there’s plenty from the fish!). Allow to cool to room temperature – you can speed this process up by immersing the pan in cold water.

Ready to go in the ovenButter your ramekins. Now spoon the fish, cream and mustard mixture evenly between them. As you do, make a dip in the centre, this will encourage the egg yolks to settle in the centre, which makes it easier to cook them to a lovely soft texture later! Crack an egg into each ramekin. Finally sprinkle over a little bit of freshly ground pepper and a little bit of parmesan cheese.

If you’re not cooking these straight away, pop them in the fridge, but remember to get them out long enough before cooking that they come back up to room temperature before going in the oven.

Finished eggsPlace your ramekins in a flat-bottomed roasting dish, boil the kettle, and then carefully pour boiling water into the roasting dish to come about half way up the pots. Slide into your pre-heated oven. I find these take about 12 minutes to cook – you can judge how they’re getting along by the amount of ‘wobble’ on the contents of the pots when you move them gently. I try to cook mine so the yolks are still runny and silky-textured, but the white is fully set – your preferences may vary! – but it’s much easier to achieve this if you can get your yolks bedded neatly in the centre of the mixture.

When they’re ready, serve immediately and simply with the very best buttered bread – this is my sourdough – and enjoy!

Serve and enjoy!

**
Eggs - cover shot‘Eggs’ by Michel Roux
Quadrille Publishing Ltd, 2005. Paperback edition 2007. ISBN 978-1-84400-311-2.
304 pages, paperback, full colour. RRP £9.99.

[Full disclosure: This is my book, which I bought. I have received no payment or sponsorship for this post, nor have I accepted a review copy. I do not have an amazon affiliate account and do not profit from any links provided.]

This book is a little treasure trove of (unsurprisingly, given the author) predominantly French-influenced dishes, all featuring eggs, though not necessarily in a starring role.

All the stalwarts are here, of course – eggs scrambled and poached, fried, baked, and constructed into soufflés, omelettes, and so on. There are some less obvious choices too – some great traditional French deserts and sweet treats, ice creams, and even fresh pasta.

Inside page viewIf I had a criticism, it would be that this is actually a rather unhelpful book to pick up if, like me, you’re often in the position of having a lot of eggs that need eating and are in need of inspiration for what to do with them. These are, for the most part, quite sophisticated recipes and as a result tend to include ingredients which aren’t routinely in my fridge and store cupboards. That said, there a lot of wonderful-looking food here and I definitely need to make an effort to experiment further!

The book itself is a pretty medium-format paperback, the food photography (credited to Martin Brigdale) is mouthwatering, but bucks the recent trend to illustrate every dish, with some – like this little baked egg dish – not illustrated at all.

Each section of the book starts with a well illustrated guide to the essential techniques, and this is very helpful, particularly as some aspects of egg cookery – poaching, making custards, or emulsions like mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce – can sometimes seem a bit like dark culinary magic, even to the more experienced cook. This is a little book, then, which not only provides some great recipe inspiration, but could help sharpen up a few kitchen skills into the bargain!

‘Cooking the Books’ is my self-imposed blog challenge for 2014 – I’ll be trying to cook a new recipe from one of my (rather extensive!) collection of cookbooks once a week, write it up and review it. Wish me luck!

Read more from the Country Skills blog >>

Mac and Cheese, from Nadia G’s ‘Bitchin Kitchen Cookbook’ – Cooking the Books, week 5

Belatedly – since this post should have been written and posted last Thursday. By the time we got to supper time, I was equally short of energy and inspiration, and really didn’t fancy a trip to the shops or a complicated culinary endeavour. Comfort food was definitely the order of the day… So my thoughts turned to pasta bakes, and what could be more traditional than the absolute classic of the genre, the much-loved macaroni and cheese.

Bitchin Kitchen cover shotThis is one of those dishes which tends a bit towards ‘throw in what you’ve got’ rather than coming from a cookbook, but that would go against the spirit of this blog challenge, so I had a flick though a few of the more likely candidates and found a promising version in the ‘Bitchin Kitchen’ cookbook – of which, more later. It was particularly promising because with a few minor substitutions, I could avoid a trip out in the nasty weather to the Co-op.

To serve two (very generous portions) I used –

  • Ingredients220g of good quality pasta – I used penne, the original recipe calls for fusilli, but any bite-sized shapes will do just fine
  • One small onion, finely chopped
  • Two particularly small dried bay leaves (one decent bay leaf would be perfect)
  • 80ml single cream
  • Half a pint of milk
  • Grated cheeseAbout a cup of grated cheese. I used two handfuls of mature Cheddar and a handful each of Caerphilly and Lincolnshire Poacher. The original recipe calls for Cheddar, Fontina, and ‘Swiss cheese’ (whatever that is). This is definitely a recipe where using a combination of cheeses adds significantly, so use whatever mixture tickles your fancy!
  • Home-made breadcrumbs
  • Butter, salt and pepper

Get some well salted water up to a good rolling boil in a saucepan before adding the pasta and parboil it (about five or six minutes ought to do it). Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180C. Drain the pasta in a colander, and toss with a splash of oil to prevent sticking.

Sauce at a simmerAfter giving your pan a quick clean, fry the onion in a little butter until soft and translucent. Add the milk and cream, and the bay leaves, and bring to a gentle simmer. I couldn’t resist adding a little freshly grated nutmeg. Give the mixture a couple of minutes to infuse and then add the grated cheese and stir gently while this melts into the sauce. Give a quick taste and add a good pinch of pepper and a little salt if you think it needs it – with the cheese, it probably won’t.

Incorporate pasta wellNow remove the bay leaves from the sauce, add back in the pasta, and mix fully ensuring all the pasta is fully coated. Butter a pie dish or other small baking dish (my trusty enamel pie dish was pressed into service once more) large enough to contain all the pasta.

Ready to go in the ovenTip in the pasta and sauce and sprinkle over a generous coating of breadcrumbs. Incidentally, if you’re buying breadcrumbs, for goodness sake stop it, they’re the simplest things ever to make at home and keep incredibly well, and if you’re baking your own bread and ever throwing any away, that’s a tragedy easily avoided!

I couldn’t resist adding a little sprinkle of parmesan to the breadcrumb topping. Dot with a couple of small pieces of butter, and throw it in the pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes.

Baked!

It should come out looking a little like this!

And serve...This is really decent warm comforting winter food, very little effort to make, store cupboard ingredients, but the little additions (the bay leaves, the nutmeg and the nice variety of cheeses) make it that little bit more special. I do like the onion, which I wouldn’t instinctively have added. The top layer of pasta comes out wonderfully crunchy with the breadcrumb topping and the texture of the dish avoids stodginess.

If I had one criticism it would be that the end result is a bit dry – there’s no really indulgent silky sauce to mop up, or extravagant strings of melted cheese.  I suspect incorporating a stringier cheese like a good mozzarella, cut into cubes and sprinkled into the pasta and sauce mixture, and increasing the sauce to pasta ratio, might just upgrade this from a really decent cold weather dish into comfort food heaven!

**
Nadia G’s Bitchin Kitchen Cookbook by Nadia Giosia
Publised by skirt!, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59921-441-2.
210 pages, paperback, full colour. RRP US $19.95.

[Full disclosure: This isn’t my book, it belongs to my husband, but I did buy it for him! I have received no payment or sponsorship for this post, nor have I accepted a review copy. I do not have an amazon affiliate account and do not profit from any links provided.]

Inside-page viewBitchin’ Kitchen came to TV screens in the UK about a year ago, after starting life as an internet comedy cooking show, and it certainly divides opinions! Personally I love it – it’s totally mad, no question, the sort of batshit-insane TV that only the Canadians seem to be able to make. Is it a serious cookery show? Who the heck knows. But at the end of the evening after a couple of glasses of wine, there’s nothing better on telly.

Now, this isn’t a TV review, really, so let’s turn our attention to the cookbook, which in its way is just as mad. The art design is quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen – I can put my hand on my heart and say that none of my other cookbooks feature images of decapitated dolls, bondage gear, animal prints or stilettos – but the recipes are *good*, and for the most part quite a bit more sophisticated than the mac and cheese featured here. As you would expect there are quite a few modern, Canadian-Italian dishes, but these complimented by a good variety of other influences from around the world. Be aware, this is a US-published book, and while there are weight / volume conversion tables in the back, a set of US cup measures and a willingness to creatively substitute ingredients will serve you well.

I bought this book as a bit of a joke for Hubby’s last birthday, truth be told, but it will definitely be coming out to be used again in the future. If you’ve seen the TV show and hated it, then probably give the book a miss – however good the food, the things that have annoyed you on telly will probably annoy you here too – but if that’s not the case, don’t dismiss this book as merely a novelty item – there’s plenty here to get your teeth into!

Ahem. I’ll get my coat.

‘Cooking the Books’ is my self-imposed blog challenge for 2014 – I’ll be trying to cook a new recipe from one of my (rather extensive!) collection of cookbooks once a week, write it up and review it. Wish me luck!

Read more from the Country Skills blog >>