Cookbook Review: Little Bird Goodness

Little Bird Goodness by Megan May, Penguin Random House New Zealand

Little Bird Goodness
For many people, food intolerance is a huge interruption to everyday life.  Product availability has improved with gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, or egg-free items now being available in many mainstream grocery stores.  Larger cities also have the luxury of vegetarian, vegan or raw food café’s such as Megan May’s award-winning Unbakery Café’s.

With the release of her first cookbook The Unbakery, raw food became more accessible to people living outside of the main centres or without access to café’s catering to specialist eating programs.  Little Bird Goodness, Megan’s second cookbook, is aimed at a larger group of people, not just those already eating raw food.  These recipes are all plant-based but some include a cooked portion to help newbies ease into this type of eating.

Thankfully, only one of our family members suffers from a food allergy/intolerance, but the vitality and enthusiasm of Megan for eating a plant-based diet encourages me to try to incorporate more raw components into our diet.  Simple ideas such as Watermelon dipped in citrus spice mix, chocolate-dipped dried fruit or green superfoods popcorn all look delicious, fresh and healthy snack choices.  The spiced pumpkin salad with caramelised shallot dressing would also fit into our diet without too much trouble ie ordering in a raft of new exciting ingredients.

At the back of the book, the Basics section covers sprouting, (sprouts are fundamental to a raw food diet), as well as fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut all of which are easy and very satisfying to make.

Each recipe includes an equipment needed list which is useful to know before beginning a recipe, particularly as some equipment specified is not what an everyday regular kitchen would have, such as a cold brew coffee maker or a cold-press juice extractor.

First up on my list of recipes to try is the Pea Guacamole and the popcorn.  Megan also shares recipes on her website and for Bite Magazine (such as this delicious-looking intriguing-sounding Winter Spice Buttercup Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting.

 

Cookbook Review: Scrumptious

Scrumptious by Chelsea Winter

scrumptious-2

This is the fourth cookbook from Chelsea Winter, following on from the very well received At My Table, Everyday Delicious and Homemade Happiness.  And once again, this book is full of mouth watering recipes that don’t seem too challenging.

Scrumptious has food that is perfect for dinner inspiration whether it is weeknight or weekend.  There is also a chapter on special occasion food such as Christmas family gatherings – yummy stuff like Christmas Truffles and Chelsea Bunny Easter Scrolls.

For us here in NZ, Chelsea probably doesn’t need much introduction as we know her from MasterChef NZ and her recent collaboration with Lewis Road Creamery to produce a double caramel flavoured milk got a lot of press time.  Chelsea also has a strong online presence in social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – as Chelsea says herself on her website – she is everywhere.

Her food is simple without being boring, accessible to most cooks and home kitchens.  We’ve had Savoury Mince on Toast for our Friday night Fake-aways – adding a perfectly poached egg on top of a delicious mix of mince and vegetables is an inspired idea that makes the meal a bit more substantial.  The Sausage, Bacon & Bean Hotpot also gets a big tick from our family, although I can serve them a simple pan-fried sausage and they’re also happy as.  These two recipes are good examples of Chelsea’s recipes – mince, sausages, chicken, lamb shoulder – regular inexpensive food for the everyday eater.  Divided into lunches & dinners, on the side, salads, Christmas and sweets, the recipes range from everyday classics such as the perfect roast chicken or poached eggs on toast through to more exotic Rogan josh or slow lamb puttanesca.  Chelsea’s humour and sunny nature show through in the recipe head notes and often the titles themselves (Chelly con Carne or Spaghetti Chel-fredo).

I had wanted to bake the Caramel Apple Cake before posting this review but time has not been my friend this month.  As the light at the end of the tunnel is still pin-prick size, I’ve decided to box on with the post without the cake.  Stay tuned though as I am sure the cake will turn up at some point – I am quite ambitiously considering making it dairy-free which will be a challenge as it has butter, milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream and more butter to find replacements for.

Cookbook Review: Chop Chop

Chop Chop – Brett McGregor

Chop Chop
Asian food is my nemesis so I am glad for all the help I can get when it comes to preparing delicious meals with an oriental flair.  Curries and Thai food I have a handle on but anything else bewilders me.  I can’t tell if the recipe is Malaysian, Vietnamese, Chinese or otherwise.  Not so for Brett McGregor, New Zealand’s first MasterChef winner.  This is his third cookbook, and as with his first (Taste of a traveller) and second (A Taste of home), Brett shares a whole heap of tasty recipes suitable for family cooking. Continue reading

Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-Free)

Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
Homemade cookies or biscuits as we call them here in New Zealand (not to be confused with American biscuits which we call scones) are a welcome sight in our baking “tins”.  I say “tins” as baking containers doesn’t conjure up the same image but, although I have three or four actual tins, I store baking in airtight plastic (yes, BPA-free) containers.  I prefer clear transparent containers so the kids don’t lift a corner of each to see what is inside.  Invariably they don’t reseal the container leaving the contents to soften unless I come along behind them pushing down the corners and clasps.  I think that is my life long task along with closing kitchen drawers (and The Anster’s is to turn off the lights in all the empty rooms).
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
So back to the biscuits – many biscuit (cookie) recipes begin with cream the butter & sugar which is absolutely fine if you don’t have an aversion to dairy products.  I like baking with butter but I don’t like the reaction I get from Miss M and she doesn’t like to reaction she gets from consuming butter.  I could substitute the butter with margarine but margarine is a swear word in our house.  I do buy dairy-free spread made with olive oil for Miss M so she can enjoy toast with “butter” and jam but I try not to use that too much in baking unless I absolutely cannot get around it.
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
The next best thing is to find recipes that require the butter to be melted so I can swap out the butter for oil & non-dairy milk.  I have found I get the best results when I use 75% neutral-tasting oil (I use rice bran oil) and 25% non-dairy milk (which is what ever milk is in the fridge at the time: almond, coconut, rice, oat or soy).
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
When deciding to bake biscuits the first thing I look at is, if there is butter, what method is required: creaming (discard that recipe) or melting (worth a second look).  I have been experimenting with using my 75/25 butter substitute in recipes traditionally requiring the creaming method but that is another post for another day.
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
On one of my second-hand/charity shop scouring trips I came across Cookie Magic: Cholesterol Free & High Fibre Recipes by Diana Linfoot for the huge price of $1.00.  A quick look through the book and I found a number of recipes requiring the sugar and margarine (the author says never use butter and margarine gives a better result than oil but I am ignoring that little piece of advice as this book was produced 26 years ago and butter had an undeserved bad reputation way back then).  I have never used margarine in baking and always substitute it with butter – such a rebel!  But back to the blending of sugar and fats – this method will work perfectly well with sugar and my 75/25 butter substitute mix which opens up a whole lot of interesting recipes to play around with.  Just over half the recipes are either blend or melt or completely dairy-free however some of the recipes have five or six variations so that leaves plenty of scope for some delicious cookie creations/adaptations.  The only one I have discarded completely is the Savoury Cheese Nibbles.  They do sound and look very good but cheese is kind of tricky to substitute.  Maybe I’ll make them anyway and put my sunglasses on to shield me from the black looks Miss M sends my way.
Cookie Magic
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
Here is the first cookie recipe I converted to dairy-free and is a resounding success with all four of the bottomless-pits commonly known as teenagers that reside in our house. My changes were to swap out the margarine for oil & non-dairy milk, substitute the dates for chocolate chips, substitute self-raising flour for standard flour & baking powder (I have nothing against self-raising flour but I already have large containers of high-grade, standard and wholemeal flour as well as numerous smaller jars of coconut, oat, sorghum, quinoa, and rice flours etc etc and my-bursting-at-the-seems-pantry has the draw the line somewhere) and I used Weetbix crumbs as I have a large jar that I top up each time a box of Weetbix is consumed (which sometimes seems like every second day).  None of the BLP (bottom-less pits) like Weetbix crumbs (dust) for breakfast but are quite happy to eat it when incorporated into cookies & cake which is great for the zero waste movement.  On that note how do they measure how much food each household throws away each year?  Do they dig through our rubbish?  And what about the food I discard from our fridge to donate to our chickens – is that considered “thrown away”?
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)

Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-Free)

Yield: 20-25 cookies

Ingredients

  • 95 g oil
  • 30 g non-dairy milk
  • 200 g raw sugar
  • 1 (53-62 g) egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 15 ml (1 T) water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 170 g (1 cup) dark chocolate chips (dairy-free)
  • 150 g (1 cup) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 90 g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 30 g (1 cup) Weetbix crumbs (approximately 2 Weetbix biscuits)
  • 45 g (½ cup) desiccated coconut

Instructions

  • Preheat oven 140ºC and grease & line 2-3 baking trays.
  • Place the oil, milk and sugar together in a large bowl and beat until combined. Add egg, essence, water and baking soda, and beat again until combined.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients.
  • Roll into balls and flatten onto baking tray (I scoop out a teaspoonful of mixture then push it off the spoon with another spoon, then shape them slightly with the second spoon, saves getting my hands all biscuity and works just as well as rolling out the mixture).
  • Bake until crisp on the edges and golden in colour (about 18-20 minutes).
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Cookie Magic | Bushwalker Cookies

Cookbook Review: Melie’s Kitchen

Melie’s Kitchen by Amelia Ferrier (Penguin Random House New Zealand)

Melie's Kitchen

I have a fair collection of cook books both new and old.  My favourite cook books are anything with baking or preserving (jams and jellies and such like).  Some books I have never made anything from, although I want to try three or four of the recipes.  Other books I have get me extremely inspired to get into the kitchen and try stuff out.  Melie’s Kitchen falls into the second group – there is so much in there that is just ‘wow’ and ‘oh-my-goodness’ and ‘I’d never have thought of that’.  It’s so exciting (and no, it is not sad that I find a cookbook exciting). Continue reading

Cookbook Review: Pipi at home

Pipi at HomePipi, a vibrant pink café in Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, has locals bowled over and visitors listing it as one of the attractions not to miss when visiting the region. That being said, I haven’t yet managed to find my way there despite being in and through Havelock North many times. The main reason (excuse) is that we are usually on our way to somewhere or we are visiting friends so time to sit and have a leisurely meal hasn’t presented itself as yet. It doesn’t help that Havelock North is stuffed full of fabulous places to visit – from Bellatino’s Foodlovers Market and Poppies bookshop which, as I’ve mentioned before, is packed with a huge variety of cookbooks to the Adam & Eva café & food store and Jacksons Bakery & Café.  It is also worth a mention that Pipi, while described as a café, is open 4pm – 10pm so it is an evening meal destination (or very late afternoon tea/lunch).

Continue reading

Cookbook Review: A Fresh Start

Nadia Lim's Fresh Start Cookbook
I have a lot of cookbooks; more than I care to count.  I use a lot of them for research and some contain favourite family recipes.  Occasionally, I get one out and I’ll try a couple of recipes to try to find a superb dinner to add to our repertoire of awesome recipes.

As part of my writing gig for the local newspaper, I request cookbooks to review (I also receive some that I haven’t requested which is interesting as it causes me to try recipes out of a cookbook I might not have otherwise picked up and in turn, broadens our food experience even more – as was the case with Rick Stein’s ‘from Venice to Istanbul’). Continue reading

This cookbook is a keeper: One-dish Dinners – Easy all-in-one meals

One-dish dinners – Penny Oliver

Published by Penguin Random House (NZ)
One-dish dinners
I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of One-dish Dinners by Penny Oliver.  A long-time NZ food writer, Penny has written six cookbooks including Beach Bach Boat Barbecue and Single Serve.  The easy all-in-one meals theme of her latest book, One-dish Dinners, appealed to the busy-week-night-mother-with-hungry-chickens in me.  I work from home, so I have more freedom than most working mothers in that I can put tea on at any point during the day.  However, with after school trips to guitar lessons, choir practice and such-like, dinner prep time can be a harried affair.  On these nights, I don’t want to create a delicious healthy macaroni and cheese that uses every pot I have in the kitchen and most of the bowls as well.  I do want to create delicious healthy meals with minimum fuss and bother. Continue reading

Cookbook Review: Recipes from my French Kitchen

Recipes from my French Kitchen – Allyson Gofton
Published by Penguin NZ
Recipes from My French Kitchen

NZ food writer Allyson Gofton and her husband Warwick relocate their children Jean-Luc & Olive-Rose to rural South-West France for a year.  The idea behind the move was to experience a different culture and help the children learn a second language.  Allyson has written an honest account of their year and shared the experience in Recipes from my French Kitchen.  The resulting book is more than a recipe book – it allows the reader to learn about the lifestyle of rural French villagers from Caixon – a small village nestled beneath the Pyrenees. Continue reading

Cookbook Review: Everyday Delicious

Everyday Delicious
Everyday Delicious is the second cookbook from Chelsea Winter, winner of NZ MasterChef season three.  At My Table, Chelsea’s bestselling first cookbook, is marketed as ‘hearty, delicious, no-fuss mainstream New Zealand recipes’ and Everyday Delicious continues this theme with recipes specifically created for home cooks. Continue reading