Cookbook Review: 4 Ingredients Christmas by Kim McCosker

Rating: ★★★★½

Prepare to be tempted by the latest in the 4 ingredients series, 4 Ingredients Christmas by Kim McCosker.  Packed with delights for the holidays and treats for family and friends all year round.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, 4 ingredients recipe books are designed to be accessible no matter how handy you are in the kitchen or how much time you have in your schedule.  Each recipe can be made with 4 ingredients or less making them simple and quick to prepare with delicious and tantalizing results.  Even if you are a great cook or an experienced gourmet you will find new ideas with practical and creative fast tracks to that exquisite dish.

4 Ingredients Christmas features new twists for old favourites as well as new creations for you to discover.  Throughout the book are stunning photos giving you even more inspiration to create your own culinary master pieces.  Because the recipes are so easy to follow the whole family can join in and enjoy the fun and fulfillment of forging memories in the kitchen with loved ones.

This book is perfect for people hosting christmas feasts, parties and get-togethers.  Astound your guests with a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds with lots of tips for presentation.  We eat with our eyes first so make your treats and meals with style and even win over the aspiring food critic of the family.

The book can be purchased in bundles allowing you to spread the holiday cheer with friends and family and still keep a copy to brighten your own book shelf or kitchen drawer.  A thoughtful gift this christmas for anyone from the culinary artist to the humble toast blackener.  Everyone can appreciate a meal made sweeter by the infusion of love and savoured with pride.

Enjoy your delicious and beautiful meals and treats this holiday season.  Remember you can always redeem your holiday excesses in January perhaps with the help of 4 ingredients fast, fresh & healthy.

Happy Holidays

Cookbook Review: The Cook's Garden by Sheridan Rogers

Rating: ★★★★★

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and can truly appreciate those little underrated treasures in life, but there’s not much more satisfying than plucking home-grown produce from your very own garden. Even better – serving it up to appreciative friends and family with flavours that hark back to a 1970s childhood (or earlier) when tomatoes tasted like warm sunshine and raspberries couldn’t be eaten without one’s eyes rolling into the back of the head.

Sheridan Rogers certainly understands the value of the home garden – the cook’s garden. With over thirty years’ experience in the food industry, Rogers is an award-winning food and travel writer, journalist, broadcaster and food stylist, and has written a number of books including Mini Chefs: Cooking with Kids.

In The Cook’s Garden, the author’s childhood passion for gardening and cooking, instilled by her mother who could be most often found in the garden, is heartily apparent. The book’s content is as bountiful as the most beloved veggie patch and home orchard, abundant with a farmer’s market of beautiful edibles. [Read more…]

Cookbook Review: Sicilian Seafood Cooking by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

Rating: ★★★★☆

The wonderful thing about modern day cookbooks is their reliance on more than fabulous recipes. It’s their reliance on travel, on culture, on a way of living . . . a reliance on heart, emotion, experience, as well as flavour texture and culinary fulfillment.

Sicilian Seafood Cooking is one such book.

Food writer and first-time author Marisa Raniolo Wilkins was born in Trieste before moving to Australia with her Sicilian parents. A passionate home cook who is well-known for her Sicilian food blog – All Things Sicilian and More – Marisa has a lifetime of experience in the traditions and techniques of Italian and Sicilian cuisine.

In her first book, Marisa’s focus on fresh, local produce is as clear as the bountiful crystal waters off the Sicilian coast. Her selection of recipes is divided into sections designed to provide a full feast-like food experience.

Begining with comu primu (first course), we are taken through comu sacunnu (second course), festa (feast), ‘u cuntuonnu (vegetable dishes) and una caponata per ogni stagione (a caponata for every season). What is a caponata, you ask? Seafood salad, of course – and Marisa goes on to explain the various versions of this dish, its cultural history and significance, and its meaning in her life.

These extra elements – the history, the vibrant local knowledge, the personal connection to every dish – are what sets Sicilian Seafood Cooking apart from other tomes packed with little more than an introduction and soldier line-up of recipes. [Read more…]

Book Review: Popsicle by Alison Thompson

Rating: ★★★★☆

Summer is busting out all over and this icy book is just the sweet ticket to an oasis of cool (even if only for the tongue). Best be careful where you shelve this brand new tome of freezer-bound pleasure, lest the kids see and you’re forced to spend the next fortnight whipping up batch after endless batch of frozen delight. Then again – when you see the recipes in store, you may not need much convincing.

Blow the diet, you’re far more active during the summer months anyway, non? From the eye-candy cover to the retro-inspired typesetting and design, you’ll be licking the pages well before you even reach for the ice cream maker. And never fear – if you’re too frightened to invest in an ice cream maker (I know I am; there’s enough hip padding in this house already), there are instructions on how to create similarly luscious treats without one.

Popsicle begins with a short intro convincing us that popsicles are back, big time – but not as we know them. Author Alison Thompson says these luscious creations are easier than they look, and that a crisp chocolate coating and dollops of fudge, nuts and caramel are simple additions, once you’ve mastered the basic techniques of popsicle creation. Notes and recommendations on ingredients is followed by the equipment needed to create your best scrumptious treats, and the author also provides tips for making the best popsicles possible.

If you’re eyeballing those stick-bound, gravity-defying delicacies on the front cover with some trepidation, you’ll be heartened to know the first chapter in Popsicle features sorbet and ice cream recipes that can be scooped straight from a completely non-threatening punnet. Recipes include classic fruity sorbets, followed by basic ice creams (vanilla, chocolate and banana) – then those with a little more creative zing, such as gingerbread, meringue and liquorice. Salted caramel is definitely one creamy recipe I have my thighs – I mean, eyes – on.

The popsicle recipes follow on from ‘ice cream and sorbets’ by including their recipes in the creation of some pretty slick-looking collection of bliss-on-a-stick. In the mood for peanut caramel? Honey and pine nut? Gingerbread fellows, complete with smartie buttons? What about rainbow popsicles, doused in hundreds and thousands, or vanilla and lemon, squiggled with white chocolate? I have a serious eye on the raspberry swirl and the rum-raisin and almond – but the cookie sandwiches on a stick may just win the race.

Most popsicles are coated in chocolate, making this a decadently rich line-up of recipes that would perfectly suit the festive season in Australia – offering as much satisfaction to the adult consumer, as the child. Gorgeously photographed and compact, this is a book you’ll be flicking through until it’s sticky. And yes, it may even finally convince me I need an ice cream maker.

Cookbook Review: Planet Cake Celebrate by Paris Cutler

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Having a long-time obsession with fondant, sprinkles, cupcake liners and ganache, it was with much anticipation that I carefully inked in the Lifestyle Food Channel-arrival of the television version of Planet Cake, taking 3D to a whole new level. Propped up on the couch with my similarly-obsessed 11-year-old daughter, we pressed our hands together in pink glee at the glamorous, be-sugared creations pouring forth from the tele.

Wowzers – Paris Cutler and her multi-national, multi-talented team are a clever bunch . . . carving, daubing, slathering and dusting 3-dimensional creations into edible works of art so beautiful, they should be encased in glass, not divvied-up and shovelled down the gullet.

It was also with much glee that I slid Cutler’s most recent book from its coverings – in heightened anticipation of the glory within. Planet Cake’s latest book is a celebration of celebrations . . . basically, any excuse to whip up a cake, from baby showers to kids’ parties and fund raising drives.

This is a much simpler collection for avid cake-makers – probably too much so. Most of the creations – all cupcake – are bordering basic, and while I realise the content is probably aimed at beginners, I’m not so sure anyone keen for a Planet Cake-making challenge wouldn’t at least have some pre-existing knowledge on how to roll and cut fondant. Honestly, I wanted these creations to challenge, surprise and inspire me to rush out and whip up a cupcake batch, post-haste – but instead, I just went and made a cup of tea. [Read more…]

Cookbook Review: Around the World with Little Kitchen by Sabrina Parrini

Rating: ★★★★☆

Since the advent of Junior Masterchef, cookbooks for children have never been hotter – and indeed, they’ve been popping off the hotplate and onto the bookstore serving shelves like those notoriously quick hot cakes, of late.

This latest tome by Sabrina Parrini, cookbook author and Kitchen Wiz presenter, follows on from her first book – Little Kitchen – and takes readers on a culinary journey around the world.

Promising international recipes kids ‘can really make’, Sabrina was inspired by her belief that being a great cook calls for experimentation with new flavours, and different ways of preparing food.

Beginning with notes on safety, equipment, ingredients and handy kitchen hints, kids are first treated to Lunch. Figuratively, of course. Dishes include frijole nachos (Mexico), udon noodle salad (Japan) and mushroom quiche (France), whilst the Dinner chapter covers such delights as Pad Thai (Thailand), Prawn and Tomato Paella (Spain) and Chicken Cacciatore (Italy).

A serving of delicious Sides (Australia’s contribution is herb and cheese damper) is followed by Biscuits and Cakes – covering a diverse range from devil’s food cake (USA), lamingtons (oi oi oi!) to chai tea cupcakes (India).

In Desserts, treats include bread and butter pudding (UK), apple enchiladas (Mexico) and of course – our home-grown, ubiquitous mini pavs.

What I like about this book is the relative sophistication in the recipes, clearly indicating it’s a book for slightly older kids who will actually cook something, rather than two-year-olds whose culinary interest rarely extends beyond cleaning off a batter-smeared wooden spoon. [Read more…]

Cookbook Review: Blood Sugar by Michael Moore

Rating: ★★★★½

Hello. My name is Tania and I’m a sugarholic. So are you (more than likely). In fact, sugar-addiction is so rife, we’re in danger of crystallising. Sure, we’re cottoning onto the fact that even our most savoury foods – those that tingle the tongue with that salty edge – are also packed with sugar, but do we really realise just how very much? In fact, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find any partly processed foods without a sizable dose of both salt AND sugar.

Is it any wonder diabetes is on the increase, obesity is out of control and behavioural conditions are now considered normal?

Chef Michael Moore knows sugar well. At 35, he was diagnosed with diabetes. His doctor said he was a most unusual person to become diabetic – he was fit, active, healthy, never smoked, was not a big drinker. Struggling to accept his diagnosis and sort of hoping the condition would just ‘go away’, Michael self-treated – exercised even more, watched his sugar intake yet eventually became insulin-dependent. He truly thought his healthful ways were enough, so he continued on this path, all the while remaining dangerously unaware of the serious health risks associated with his condition.

It wasn’t until collapsing from a stroke, in front of his family, that Michael knew he had to change his whole way of life. His beatiful new book Blood Sugar – inspiring recipes for anyone facing the challenge of diabetes and maintain good health – is not a diet book. Michael developed these recipes over time to keep his health on track, yes, but also feed his desire for sensational food. And his passion for both really shows.

You do not need to be diabetic to enjoy and thoroughly appreciate this book. From the blood red beets on the cover (bursting with healthful, natural sugars and nutrients that fuel the body to perfection), this is a book that typifies the ideal way every modern consumer should feed their body. [Read more…]

Cookbook: CWA Classics by the Country Women’s Associations of Australia

The Country Women’s Association of Australia has been in existence for more than 60 years and the cooking skills of its members are legendary. CWA Classics combines the very best recipes from five previously published books into one easily accessible volume.

Each and every recipe in CWA Classics reflects the way in which pioneer women used simple ingredients to make good, honest, wholesome meals and to ensure the household had a year-round supply of jams, jellies and relishes. Asparagus chicken casserole, vegetable quiche, all-in-one spaghetti, apple delight, crème caramel and never-fail pavlova are just some of the timeless recipes to be found in CWA Classics.

While many cookbooks contain recipes that are as hard to pronounce as they are to cook, CWA Classics brings together hearty, down to earth recipes that are sure to become staples in today’s modern kitchen. Inside you’ll find soups and stews, casseroles and pies, cakes and preserves, biscuits and slices. From pizza dough to chocolate self-saucing pudding, this is no muss, no fuss, everyday cooking at its best.

Each recipe in CWA Classics has the indelible stamp of CWA sense and sensibility.

Over the years the Country Women’s Association, through their cooking and catering efforts, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars which has been used to support families and communities, particularly in rural areas. CWA Classics continues the tradition with all of the royalties being used to fund a postgraduate nursing scholarship. Awarded to a nurse in a rural area, the scholarship will allow them to learn new skills and thus continue to provide essential support for their community.

Cookbook Review: Mangia! Mangia! by Teresa Oates and Angela Villella

Rating: ★★★★★

“When we told Nonna Villella that sun-dried tomatoes were selling for $40 a kilo at the local supermarket, she thought we were joking. She had quietly gone about making her filled sun-dried tomatoes for as long as we could remember. The thought of spending hard-earned money on a food that relies on the sun, which is free, and tomatoes, that grow in the garden, baffled her. Plus the fact that the commercial variety was vuote (empty) – well, that was simply madness.”

New cookbooks appear every week, many are written by celebrity chefs; others are spin-offs from popular television series. It’s refreshing to find one that is grounded in a different ethos, one that comes from the desire of two women to simply share the food rituals and family recipes from their own families. This is southern Italian food at its very best, it’s what you’ll find on the dining table of Calabrian migrants and it’s food made and served with love.

Mangia! Mangia! (Eat! Eat!) begins with a manifesto of 10 principles to live and eat by – and it’s a list few would quibble with:

1.      No One Eats Alone
2.      Plates are served full
3.      No adults-only rule
4.      Plan for leftovers
5.      Have plenty of good bread on the table
6.      Two courses and a salad constitute a meal
7.      Always offer a second serve
8.      Stay loyal to tradition – no fusion
9.      Meals celebrate the seasons
10.  Always present a small token of appreciation to your host…

The first three chapters cover the year’s main rituals – tomato season, autumn preserves and ‘making’ the pig (although a word of warning, this chapter is not for the squeamish). If you’ve ever wanted to produce enough passata for an entire year, this tells you how. Or maybe you want to preserve the goodness of the autumn harvest in a range of pickles to liven up your meals throughout the long winter months? Or make your own salami or pancetta? It’s all here. The rest of the book is devoted to ‘everybody loves pasta’, ‘mangia! mangia!’ (a substantial section devoted to main courses) and dolci (sweets).

The recipes are well set out and there is an abundance of atmospheric illustrations. It’s easy to follow and its philosophy sits within the growing local and international slow food movement. It’s all about using what’s in season to the best advantage and wasting nothing; this is sustainability in its original and most engaging form. You can find versions of many of the sauces and preserves in your supermarket, or in a more gourmet form in delis and speciality shops. However they will rarely be as good as those made with ingredients you’ve either grown or selected yourself.

Teresa Oates and Angela Villella began writing Mangia! Mangia! when they realised that a wealth of food knowledge was dying along with the elder generation of their families. They committed themselves to recording recipes and traditions before they were lost forever and in doing so have produced a volume that is likely to become a ‘must have’ for all who love Italian food.

Reading Mangia! Mangia! is like borrowing your own personal nonna, full of wisdom and warmth, and to top it off she’ll help you make the best pasta e fagioli you’ve ever tasted. I have only one problem with this book – I’m going to need to move house to accommodate all the preserves I want to make!

Angela Villella is a former school teacher turned union official and Teresa Oates has worked as a personal chef and caterer. They were both brought up in Italian-migrant families, surrounded by a vibrant passionate food culture and they have been friends for over thirty years. For more information please visit

Title: Mangia Mangia
Author: Teresa Oates & Angela Villella
Category: Cooking
Publisher: Penguin
Imprint: Lantern
ISBN: 9781921382468
RRP: $39.95
Publication Date: 28 March 2011

Cookbook Review: Two Asian Kitchens by Adam Liaw

Two Asian Kitchens Recipes from Australia's MasterchefI was absolutely thrilled when Adam Liaw won Australia’s second MasterChef – I became personally enamoured with this cooking style (Japanese food and I have a thing going) and warm demeanor, and I remember the very first thing I thought of as the winning sparkles came tumbling down was – “oooh, goodie! a cookbook!”.

And here it is.

Two Asian Kitchens is the work of a virtual lifetime of culinary influences that stretches from Malaysia to China, through Japan, India and Australia. Born to a Hainanese Chinese father and a Singaporean mother of English, French and Indonesian heritage, Adam experienced an eclectic upbringing, having lived 20 homes over four countries.

It’s no surprise, then, that Two Asian Kitchens is a dedication to a lifetime of culinary influence, from his grandmother’s classic Malay and Chinese dishes to the English roasts of his stepfather.

[Read more…]