Sunday, 30 December 2012

Lancashire hotpot - recipe

Hope you are all having a great Christmas? Here is a recipe for new year!

Its a bit of a tradition in these 'northern' parts to make a hotpot on New Years Eve for supper...why I'm not sure but it seems the ideal one pot meal you can bung in the oven, go to the local pub for a few 'cocktails' and return to a house with an appetite and to a supper that smells and tastes just amazing.

Cooked slowly in an oven in a big pot and served traditionally with pickled red cabbage, pickled onions (my own pickled onions turned out really well by the way) or a favourite accompaniment...what's not to like?

Hotpot can be made in various ways, but in Lancashire you MUST use lamb on the bone (and preferably mutton) as your meat base and if you are making a traditional Lancashire hotpot you should really use some lamb kidneys, but on this occasion I am leaving these out and using a local black pudding as well as the lamb. My delicious recipe will serve 4.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Christmas biscuit tin - frosty cherry shortbread recipe

Its becoming a tradition here that at Christmas I make shortbread. They are one of my favourite biscuits, not hard or tricky to make with the right ingredients (you MUST use unsalted butter though) and a little bit of effort. Last year I made heavenly scented ones this year its frosty cherry shortbreads, hubby loves cherries so I had him in mind for these. When I made them and coated them in vanilla caster sugar (warm from the oven) they reminded me of the really hard cold frosty mornings we have had in Lancashire this week, hence the name!

These make a nice change from spicy things at Christmas, lovely with a hot chocolate too.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Tasty olives from Spain and wishing you all Feliz Navidad! - recipes

It's getting closer to Christmas and its time for a) panic to set in, b) time to put the blog to bed for a doze and spend time with loved ones and c) to get thinking about how and what I'm going to feed the hungry throngs of guests coming in a matter of weeks.

When I have the folks round I always try and have a few tasty things on the table to nibble on while they are waiting for the main event. I don't tend to do buffets or buffet foods as such, as those ads on TV before Christmas tend to put me right off, if you come to eat at my table you'll get proper stuff and its all homemade. I'm a blogger and I write about food, its the law!

So to impress your guests here are three different and very simple recipes for marinated olives from Spain, you can make these really quickly and easily at home with just a few ingredients...try them out on your guests at Christmas they'll be impressed you had a hand in making these...even better put some in a jar and top up with Spanish olive oil as a gift and they'll think you really are Santa.
For a fresh take on a classic olive marinade...in a bowl mix Spanish olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, chopped fresh sage, fresh thyme leaves and one minced garlic clove. Simply take any kind of drained olives (green or black) and add to them to the herby mix. Leave to marinade at least overnight if possible. Serve in a bowl with a sage garnish.

For the warming scents and flavours of of Christmas...In a bowl mix Spanish olive oil, the grated zest from one small orange, the juice of half of the orange, 1 tsp cloves, about an inch of fresh ginger grated and about 3 whole star anaise. Add drained olives (green or black) and mix them to the oil mixture coating all the olives. Leave to marinade at least overnight of possible. Serve in a bowl with a couple of slices of orange to garnish.
For olives with a hot zingy kick...In a bowl mix Spanish olive oil, half a red chili de-seeded and sliced finely, the zest of half a lemon (use a potato peeler for slices) cut into strips and the juice of half a lemon. Simply take drained olives (green or black) and add to them to the chilli/lemon/oil mix. Leave to marinade overnight if possible. Serve in a bowl with a slice of lemon as a garnish.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Crunchy, spicy pickled onions - recipe

My sister is to blame for this post as she planted the pickled onion seed a few weeks ago "do you remember when you use to make pickled onions" she mused...oh yes I do, said I...

Haven't made them for years, think I got into the "they are cheap and plentiful in the supermarkets" mentality. Mind you they don't taste as good as home made ones. So I have brushed that thought out of my mind and had a go at making some of my own. Fresh pickling onions are in season now and were readily available loose in my local supermarket too.

If you do decide to make your own don't be led down a path of buying the vinegar ready spiced from a shop or supermarket.  The joy comes from making your own spiced vinegar and you can buy the spices (dried chilis, mace, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and bay leaves) ready mixed as 'pickling spice' and packed in sachets or packets ready to go, you don't have to go to the trouble of buying all the individual spices and blending them.  Its far cheaper this way too.

Can't you just imagine opening a jar of these tangy, sweet, spicy, crunchy beauties over Christmas, with cold meats, cheeses and the like and eating the whole jar? I think they look amazing, even if I say so myself!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Homemade Chocolate truffles - random recipe

I love a nice photo to open a post to try and tempt you all into making a lovely tried and trusted recipe to delight the folks at home. Today is no exception and here we have chocolate truffles...two of them, yes just the two, there were three truffles in the end but we fought over tried one of them in the interests of tasting the recipe.

This recipe is my entry into this months random recipe challenge, it comes round quick! This month Dom from Belleau Kitchen has come up with the notion to pick a recipe book that (by counting on the shelf) reflects your birthday...easy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! My birthday is the 5th, no problem so far.

Now my book shelf as 2 halves so I started from the right hand side and not counting the 6 copies of the Macmilan Cancer Charity 'Little book of treats' baking book I bought (*ahem* I'm in it you know!) I came upon...number 5 which was 'Delia Smith's Christmas'.

Ahhh result indeed! Delia an oldie but goodie (bit like one's good self!), she never goes out of fashion, loses 3 stone, or becomes overwhelmed with her image, she won't let me down will good ol' Delia.
Then I got clever and thought...
"I know, I'll use the chapter for the month of my birthday...10."
"Is there a chapter 10?"
"Yes there is! "
"What is it?"
"Sweets" *sad face*
"Really...its sweets?"
...I NEVER make sweets. I have tried, I made fudge once, it was shocking...grainy grim fudge. Treacle toffee, not so good.
"How about I go for the year instead? That'll be page...."
"Hmmmm not a bad idea but might give the game away about one's tender age".
"Chapter 10 it is then".
*Flicks through chapter 10*... quickly!
Twas a short flick to be fair as there are only 3 recipes in chapter 10, I think Delia's like me in that she does not do sweets.

So here dear readers (if you are still with me) we have chocolate truffles...the messiest sweet in the whole wide world to make at home, IF you can get the recipe to work and I didn't. Mine were a complete failure. On a positive at least its seasonal and it could have been buttered brazils OR creme de menthe jellies (yes they were the other two options, but maybe they'd have turned out better).

Monday, 26 November 2012

Chorley cakes for Lancashire day - recipe

The 27th November is Lancashire day named because it commemorates the day in 1295 when Lancashire sent its first representatives to King Edward 1st's parliament.

So as we all think about the joys of living in such a fine county, here is a recipe from my local Lancashire town of Chorley. Chorley is a small market town in South Lancashire and Chorley cakes are just shortcrust pastry with currants inside. Not to be confused with nearby Eccles cakes, they don't usually have sugar inside. You could make these with leftover pastry and a few currants, I'm sure they probably originated from wanting to use up leftover pie pastry.

This is how Wikipedia describes these cakes, locally known as 'fly pie', this is because when the currants peek through the pastry they do tend to look like squashed flies! This is pie country after all folks.

Chorley cakes are flattened, fruit-filled pastry cakes, traditionally associated with the town of Chorley in Lancashire,England. They are a close relative of the more widely known Eccles cake, but have some significant differences. The Chorley cake is significantly less sweet than its Eccles cousin, and is commonly eaten with a light spread of butter on top, and perhaps a slice of Lancashire cheese on the side. A Chorley cake is made using currants, sandwiched between two layers of unsweetened shortcrust pastry. As with any regional food, every household has its own individual variations, and so it is not uncommon to see some sugar added to the fruit, or sweeter raisins or sultanas used. These sweeter varieties are sometimes referred to as "snap". 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Smoked mackerel, tomato and linguine - supper dish - recipe

A quick and easy supper dish that uses smoked mackerel that is packed full of flavour. You can eat this dish hot or cold, it tastes great either way. Because its great cold too, use any leftovers in your lunchbox for work the next day. This dish is economical too, you can make one smoked mackerel fillet stretch to two adults with the other ingredients.

When making this dish used good smoked mackerel, if the fish is properly smoked using authentic methods (like oak chips and salt in this case) the flavour will be amazing. If synthetic smoking liquid methods and/or dyes are used the flavour will not be anywhere near as good.  We are regular fish eaters here and eat it about twice a week. Mackerel is a really versatile fish, you can use it in so many ways, its got a meaty texture and its one of our absolute favourites here, we do eat a lot of mackerel especially when its in season in the autumn months.
Ingredients:
(to serve 2 adults)
1 smoked mackerel fillet
5 or 6 tomatoes
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
olive oil
fresh chopped parsley
linguine (or any kind of pasta to serve 2 adults)
Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C fan. Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on an oiled baking sheet. In a bowl mix together the sea salt, and black pepper. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and then sprinkle with the dried seasoning/chilli mix. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes.
2. While the tomatoes are roasting in the oven, take the flesh off the mackerel fillet and leave in chunks in a dish. Discard the fish skin; at this time if you are making this recipe for children you can take out any bones, if you come across any.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Almond, pear and blackberry crumble cake - recipe

This cake went down a storm at home last weekend, I have adapted the recipe
from a cake recipe in Nigel Slaters new book Kitchen Diaries II, his recipe uses hazelnuts, mine has almonds. I have a big bag of almonds that I bought in Turkey, purchased purely with baking in mind, although I keep scoffing a few here and there.

I also have enough ground almonds to sink the GBBO show and I am on a mission to "use everything up in store and for us to live on £5 until Christmas". It's not working as last week alone I spent over £150 in a well known supermarket on food. One of these days I'll write about the injustices of the price of food in this country, I do think it is a scandal.

Anyway, that's me off the 'cost of food' soapbox for this week...and here is the recipe for this delicious cake. Moist and packed with fresh fruity and autumnal spiced flavours its great with a cuppa, even if I say so myself.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Home made and well preserved - the round up

The judges decisions are in for the 'Home made and well preserved' challenge, and the two 'best in show' winners. As I'd said at the launch of the challenge some four weeks ago now, this hasn't been the best year for home preserving lovers as fruit and vegetable crops have been badly affected by the weather this year. The word 'glut' is fast becoming obsolete in the English dictionary and yes folks its not been the best of years for entries.

However a few brave soldiers rose to the challenge and submitted some very lovely recipes...here is the round up of entries below, worth a look and the winners are announced at the end of this post...

As ever I am indebted to the entrants for some preserving inspiration for my shelves and cupboards and of course thanks to all for taking the time to enter...here is the round up of the two categories.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Baked rice with aubergine, goats cheese and pomegranate - recipe

When we were staying in south west Turkey at the end of summer I had great pleasure in trying to cook some dishes that were more aligned to the country we were staying in, rather than cook the things we would normally eat at home.

We were staying in a house belonging to friends there, and on the book shelf was this recipe book by Silvena Rowe, she is quite renowned in the UK as a chef and she has Turkish roots, so I cooked a few recipes from this book. Pomegranates feature heavily in Turkish food they grow very easily there in late summer, the trees branches are heavy with the swollen juicy fruits. They produce and sell a lot of pomegranate molasses in Turkey too, its a lovely addition to a lot of dishes.

There were two pomegranate trees in the garden where we stayed, it was a joy to go out pick one from the tree, bring it indoors and bash it with a wooden stick to retrieve the juicy pips. Why does food always taste better when you get to pick it yourself?

Here is the recipe, the name of which escapes me but its easy to make and delicious, this one will taste fab whatever country you are in, and just now pomegranates are in season here and are readily available.

This beats picking the seeds out with a cocktail stick (or a pin as we did when I was young)...that was in the days before Nigella and Jamie taught us how to bash a halved pomegranate with the back of a wooden spoon. I'm also entering this for the one ingredient challenge for this month, hosted by Laura over at 'How to cook good food' and Franglais kitchen where the ingredient is pomegranate.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Steak and ale pies - recipe

One of the things people don't know about me is that I spent a lot of my younger years growing up in Wigan...it was in Lancashire then for the most part. A lot of my family and friends still live there or nearby, its a town renowned for a lot of things but has become famous for its pies. I'm not sure how that started but they do make a mean pie there and if you are a home baker its in your genes (sort of).

All thats changed now but as the saying goes...'you can take the girl out of Wigan but you can't....'

Here is my recipe for individual steak and ale pies and (unusually for me) I'm dedicating this recipe to my aunty and uncle (Irene and Eddie), now living in Northamptonshire but they did once live in Wigan for a spell. When I was a young student (not in Wigan I might add) living away from home they were very kind to me...and I know they are my family and it sort of goes with the territory, but I remember very fondly the times I spent with them and their daughters, occasionally cooking some meals in their flat at the time...
The ale I have used in this recipe is called 'Big John' after the 1960's song ("Big John...big bad John") about a coal miner who saved other miners after a roof collapse...this is a local darker beer brewed about 3 miles from me by Prospect Brewery, on the outskirts of Wigan in Standish. The brewery owner is also known as big John too (he's not a miner, he's a brewer!).

Beef skirt is best for this recipe as it makes a fabulous gravy...you might need to get this from your local butcher as its not a cut of meat you see in a lot of supermarkets. Its not an expensive cut of beef but probably snaffled for other uses.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Pumpkin patch cake - recipe

Here is my recipe for a pumpkin patch cake I made for this weeks spooky South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club, you can read about that here.

If you children are still on half term its a great way to keep them amused, trust me! They will love getting the kitchen messed up making the chocolate 'soil' for this cake and the little pumpkins to go on top of the cake, both are very easy. The 'soil' is crumbled chocolate cake or crushed chocolate biscuits; for the pumpkins you just roll balls of orange sugar paste and put a green stork on top!
You can use any cake as your base, I made a vanilla sponge cake as I had the ingredients to hand in my kitchen. A chocolate cake and chocolate butter cream would work just as well for this.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Black pudding, pork and chutney sausage rolls - random recipe

Its a strange life being a food blogger at times...you find yourself pondering all sorts of things...last week it was...'how to make a black pudding sausage roll look 'sexy' '...in the blogging sense of course. I haven't fallen for a black pudding sausage roll as a bedmate, with all those flaky crumbs in the bed *tuts*. BUT I must be honest I have fallen for Nigel...yes readers Nigel and I have drifted off together on many a night recently; entwined in each others mutual passion for all things good and wholesome (food wise).

I'm not daft enough to think I'm the only one I'm pretty sure that I'm one of a few that are currently sharing a bed with Nigel (Slater) , he talks about this in his new book. My lovely sister bought me Nigel's new book 'The kitchen diaries' for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.  It's an interesting read and full of inspiration, if you love to cook good food. Its a big book and there is lots in it, taking you through most of a year of what's been created in Nigel's kitchen. AND when  you read it, its like Nigel reading you a cooks bedtime story, you know he has that sort of soothing voice on the TV? Well you can hear him when you read the book (well not really, but I can).

I like the premise behind the book that a kitchen shouldn't have too much stored food (buy fresh and create meals from fresh foods notion) and I love the way he advocates the using up of bits and pieces to make new and interesting meals. In fact, thats just how I like to cook at home, I love a good rummage in the fridge and the cupboards, and I really enjoy making meals out of what might appear to be very little.

My husband agrees that some of the best meals we have had have been created from 'bits and pieces'; and when we were watching Nigel on TV last week (there is a series on TV currently that supports this book) I was paid one of the best compliments ever when my husband said 'this reminds me of the way you cook and some of the meals we have', I welled up I was so proud to be compared to Nigel Slater!

Nigel has a recipe in 'The kitchen diaries' for a black pudding sausage roll; here is my version where I am trying to use up some of the many thousand jars of chutneys/relishes we have at home and an abundance (and don't ask me why) of poppy seeds! Dom's random recipe challenge this month at Belleau Kitchen is all about using up 'store cupboard finds" and this recipe inspired by Nigel's new book fits the bill perfectly, sexy or not its delicious.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A postcard from south west Turkey - in pictures

A postcard from south west Turkey...we've been back from holiday for a week now and thought I'd share some of the photographs we took of the things we saw and what I cooked and ate while we were there...not many words but plenty to see...

Breakfast of roasted plums from the garden, local honey, bread, turkish eggs with sumac
The view into the valley
Sea bream cooked with local tomatoes, garlic, and onions
Limes growing in the garden

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Home made and well preserved challenge with Steenbergs Organics and Vivien Lloyd


Well-preserved adj.
1. kept in good condition. 2. continuing to appear youthful.
Jam n. 1. a preserve containing fruit, which has been boiled with sugar until the mixture sets. 
Chutney n. a pickle of Indian origin, made from fruit, vinegar, spices, sugar, etc.: mango chutney. 
Pickle n. 1. (often pl.) vegetables, such as onions, etc:, preserved in vinegar, brine etc. 2. any food preserved in this way. 3. a liquid or marinade, such as spiced vinegar, for preserving vegetables, meat, fish, etc. 4. to preserve in a pickling liquid. 
Piccalilli n. a pickle of mixed vegetables in a mustard sauce. 
Marmalade n. a clear sweetened jelly in which pieces of fruit and fruit rind are suspended. 
Curd n. a custard like mixture made from fruit juice, sugar, butter and egg yolks and used as a filling or spread (Definitions quoted from Well Preserved)

You might remember last year when I held my preserving challenge called 'Homemade and well preserved'? If you don't, you missed an absolute belter of a challenge and some great preserving recipes came out of the challenge too!  You can read about it and see the links to last years recipes here.

I'm very pleased to announce that 'Home made and well preserved' is back again this year... think of it as...'the return of 'Home made and well preserved'...'Home made and well preserved' - the sequel'...and this time its serious!
This year there are TWO lovely prizes to be won...and there are two categories to enter, these are...drum roll please...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Pear and ginger bundt - recipe

Yesterday was about seasonal British apples from Sainsburys and today is about British pears...over 10 varieties of pears are sold in their stores.  I'm quite fussy about pears, there are some I like much more than others and I don't generally like to eat fresh pears until they have ripened/softened in the fruit bowl for a few days. Once they soften some of the varieties we have tried from Sainsburys, like Comice and William, have a flavour and taste of sweet honey, they are so sweet and juicy. I like my pears just like my apples, with a rosy blush to the skin, so some varieties appeal more to me than others.

This is a very autumnal looking pear and ginger bundt cake, it has a flavour along the lines of a parkin cake as its rich in treacly ginger flavours, its a dense cake that lends itself to lashings of cream or custard and it fares very well as a pudding and if served warm. I made a similar cake recently for a South Lancashire cake club but have altered the recipe and made it again since. The original recipe this cake is adapted from is from a recipe in Australian Gourmet magazine.

You need a bundt cake tin to make a cake in this shape, but its not vital as any baking tin would do. This is a big cake, so think 10 or 12 inch square or round tin. Half the recipe to make a smaller version if you are not feeding the 5,000, except for the pears...the more juicy caramelised pears you use on top the better this cake will benefit.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Spiced apple sponge pudding - recipe

We like apples here, but we do like British grown apples best of all, and I love this time of year in the autumn as our apples come into their own Two of my faves Bramley's and especially Cox's apples are particularly good. I love the sharp, clean, tartness of a Bramley and the sweet juicy flavour and colours of Cox's with the dark rosy autumnal glow on the skin. 

British grown apples are readily available in all markets locally and the main supermarkets, Sainsburys stock a mind blowing 52 varieties. I haven't tried all 52 (yet!) but I reckon I could blind taste and pick out a Cox's easily as I like them that much. My husband, on the other hand, is a Braeburn apple fan and always asks for this variety (each to their own!). Award winning Bramley's from Sainsburys are descended from the original British Bramley (going back to 1809) in this country, this variety are pleasantly sweeter Bramley than others I've tried. 

This recipe is for a lovely autumnal spicy sponge topped pudding, full of good seasonal things, Cox's apples make the topping of light fluffy spiced sponge sitting atop of Bramleys.  Its a great combination of seasonal fruit flavours from the cooking and eating apples together.

Its just the sort of pudding where you want to put both hands round the dish breathe in the flavours and dive in with a spoon. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Raising money for Macmillan Cancer - Thank you!

I have been away on holiday so am catching up with posts on my blog...but I wanted to update everyone on the Macmillan Cancer Coffee morning I ran with colleagues on 28th September.

This event had been months in the planning (and if you follow me on this blog or on Twitter you might be fed up of hearing about it) but I think this is a really good cause to support and I have always wanted to run an event for Macmillan, so I was fulfilling an ambition of mine, by helping raise money for this charity.
Our event included a number of things, a pop up tearoom, a raffle, a tombola, a bake/food sale, guess the sweets in the jar, name the teddy, a recipe book sale, a very successful auction and a book swap. We were also supported by our local Body Shop whose staff came along on the day to do make-up demos and hand massages. It was a great event with lots going on.
But rather than write about the event itself, mostly I wanted to use this post to say a few thank you's ...and these go out to people I'd call friends and other 'acquaintances' on Twitter, who sent me items for the event. Some of these items were used in an auction and others used for raffle prizes or to sell on the day. Because of everyone's amazing efforts and generosity...
We raised a total of £1,300. for Macmillan Cancer

Monday, 24 September 2012

Tomato and Lancashire Cheese risotto - recipe for British Cheese week

A lovely supper recipe for you to try, and now that the seasons are changing so rapidly comfort food is in order and its on our supper menu...in case you are not aware this week is British Cheese Week. Although I love lots of different cheeses I do love British ones and in Lancashire, where I live, we have some 'belters' (that's Lancashire speak meaning 'jolly good').

Slowly does it when making this risotto, but its so worth a bit of patience and care...this is an inexpensive recipe you can mostly make from what you have in your cupboards and fridge.

Take care to use tomatoes packed with flavour and the creamiest Lancashire cheese you can find and this dish will smother you in tasty comfort on a cold wet night.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Traditional Damson Preserves - with Vivien Lloyd

No dear readers I haven't taken up gardening, or taken up with Monty Don either, but I have been lucky enough to spend some of last weekend in Somerset as the guest of Vivien Lloyd and her husband in their lovely farmhouse just outside Bath in Somerset. These are photographs (above) of their wonderful gardens, vegetables and fruit trees.

You might have been lucky enough to see Vivien Lloyd last night on the One Show teaching Mike Dilger how to make jam for an upcoming competition? The results of this challenge, which is to get a few of the shows presenters entering different competitions, will be revealed on Friday evenings show. You can watch last nights show where Vivien teaches Mike Dilger how to make a raspberry and apple jam in her kitchen here on BBC iplayer.

Vivien is an experienced WI (Women's Institute) judge and regularly judges at shows and events all over the country, she has over 25 years experience of making preserves and really has exceptional knowledge about traditional preserving techniques and recipes. She is an author of books and e books on preserving, has won the national marmalade awards in 2008 and has even had a jar of her marmalade given to the queen this year.

I was lucky enough to spend a day with Vivien last week at her home in Somerset, along with Karen and Charlotte, we were guests and had been invited along to improve our preserving knowledge and get an insight into Vivien's passion for traditional preserving. We spent a lovely day making damson, ginger and cardamom chutney, damson and apple jelly and damson cheese; the fresh produce we used was grown in Vivien's wonderful orchards garden by her husband (a very keen and knowledgeable chilli grower too).

It was a really informative day for me, I learned such a lot on how to make preserves the right way (I'm self taught otherwise) and it taught me an enormous amount about how to improve the preserves I make at home. I'm generally a marmalade and chutney person and have never made jam at home before ever! I had picked up a few tips from Viv's First Preserves book as I have a copy, but seeing her make these preserves for real added so much more to my knowledge.

Lunch (made by Vivien)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Choosing recipe books - views and reviews

For this post I'm going to do something a bit different in that I am going to review three recipe books from one publisher to show the range of books that are out there to buy, and to give a few clues about why you might want to think more carefully when choosing a recipe book to buy for yourself or as a gift.

I often see people buying recipe or what they call 'cookery books' in supermarkets or at work sometimes (from one of those book suppliers that leave books in offices, you know the type of thing), and quite often they are buying books for themselves or as gifts for friends or family. I have often wanted to stop people to ask them...
Why are you buying that particular book?
Who is it for?
Can you/they cook?
What is your/there level of skill in the kitchen?
Can you/they bake? How well?
What kind of cooking or baking do you/they like to do?
Do you/they like fish? (if its a fish related book)
Are you/they meat eaters? (if its a vegetarian inspired book)
Fair enough, you/they may watch that particular baking/cooking/foraging/make it in 3 minutes from 2 ingredients/green fingered inspired cookery programme on TV, but is that the extent of their interest in that cook or particular programme?

At this stage I must admit I can see peoples eyes glazing over...its not the questions that are stumping them its the fact a) they don't know the answers and b) they had never thought to think of the significance of those questions to choosing a recipe book.

So here is my top tip...and its a very simple one...think before you buy...think about the person you are buying the book for (even if that person happens to be you) and give some consideration to the things you or they might usually cook or bake...and the things you or they would like to learn to cook or bake...Think about what your or they like to eat and the level of skill in the kitchen.

When choosing a book, don't just skim the pictures and think wow! Don't get me wrong I love a nicely illustrated recipe book and it really pulls me in and can entice me to try a recipe. But one of the best (selling) and much coveted baking books of last year, had just a handful of pictures in it and it was an amazing book, that adorns the shelves of most if not all 'esteemed and well respected' food bloggers and home cooks. Pictures don't always make a good recipe book, though granted they do draw you in, and capture your imagination.

Here are three short reviews of books I have been kindly sent (over a period of several months I might add) to review by one particular publisher...Quadrille Publishing and MY views on what they contain, what I like about them and who I think they may suit...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Great British Bake Off - Stationery Range review

Do you love stationery? Love the Great British Bake Off? Then you will fall in love with this...a range of paper products with a twee floral, British country show style in florals and pinks and pale greens...a joint project by Love Productions (who make the Great British Bake Off show for TV) and Quadrille Publishing.

The stationery range is available to buy online here. Prices are quoted to start from £5 for the pretty cupcake cases in pink florals and moss green and go up to £12.99 for the recipe folder. PLEASE NOTE the Quadrille site links to Amazon where the range is cheaper than the prices stated in this post.

Its a lovely range and would make a lovely gift for fans of the programme. This is not a very cheap range but the quality is very good, I liked everything in the range and the colours and styling appealed to my tastes, my absolute favourites are the recipe folder (which is so much more than a recipe folder) and the cupcake stand, (comes flat and is assembled in 30 seconds, ideal for suing and then storing).

Here is the range...photographs taken by yours truly, and please note that prices quoted are from Quadrilles site as of the date of this post...