book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, Recipes

Cookbook Cookalong No 2 – Half Baked Harvest

I’ve been following the Half Baked Harvest account on Instagram for a number of years – Tieghan’s food photography makes me hungry and her breakfast quesadilla has become a firm favourite here.

Half Baked Harvest Book

I bought the book about 2 years ago but until last week had only tried one recipe from it. I keep taking the book out to look through it and marking recipes to try so last week I put it to the test in my Friday Cookalong .

The book is subtitled ‘Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains’ and it’s bursting with dishes that Tieghan cooks for her family in Colorado and I wouldn’t mind being invited to join them. I love the story that she took over the cooking because she couldn’t cope with the chaos in the family kitchen!

selection of dishes prepped
Selection of Dishes

So what did I cook ? I started with the Gyros with Roasted Garlic Tzatziki and Feta Fries (p. 134) This is a Greek dish with lots of garlic and fresh oregano and I think that’s where I missed out – the oregano in my garden was frostbitten and I couldn’t get any fresh in the supermarket. The dried version just didn’t seem to cut it. The tzatziki was delicious – roasting the garlic certainly added extra flavour.

chicken gyros with roast garlic tzatziki
Gyros with Roasted Garlic Tzatziki

I was so looking forward to the feta fries – I mean what’s not to like about chips and cheese – but I have to admit being slightly disappointed with them 😆. Thankfully one of the ‘cook-a-longers’ tried them and loved them so I will definitely give them another try.

feta fries
Feta Fries

The second dish I tried was Seafood Bánh Mí (p.175) and I fell in love . The Bánh Mí is Vietnamese street food – a layered sandwich in a baguette – a legacy of French colonialism. The recipe includes Chimichurri and if I was to be pedantic I would say that this is an Argentinian rather than Vietnamese dressing. The traditional accompaniment would be something like sriracha sauce (a paste of chili peppers) .

I’m not complaining though – I’m all for fusion food!

banh mi side view
Prawn Bánh Mí

I used prawns instead of white fish and marinated them for a shorter time, then fried them off for a few minutes. I also added jalapenos and pickled radishes to my layered sandwich. The biggest game changer was the curry butter (traditionally the base layer is pate) – the hot prawns made it melt into absolute deliciousness (ok I’ll stop now😋)

banh mi front view
Prawn Bánh Mí

I made another version over the weekend with griddled chicken – and curry butter
Then I used the curry butter to cook chicken, salmon….. It’s become a kitchen staple and it’s so simple – you mix a few tablespoons of curry paste into softened butter and store it in your fridge . Trust me you need this in your life !

My verdict – I will use this book occasionally but it won’t make the favourites shelf 🤔

Instead of buying the book I recommend that you follow the Half Baked Harvest blog for lots of inspiration and recipes from Tieghan’s Barn in the Mountains.

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 
book review, Cookbooks

New Year New Theme

Featured Book : Mowgli Street Food

book cover Mowgli Street Food

Little did I think when I started to live cookalongs last April that I’d still be doing them 8 months on ! Last year I cooked some of my favourites every Friday evening and that, together with the wonderful people that I’ve met through my facebook group, Hey Pesto Cookalong kept me going through the strange days of 2020.
This year I decided to change it around a bit – I have a rather large library of cookbooks ( some might call it an addiction!) but I seem to keep using the same books over and over. So for the sake of my books (and my sanity) I’m going to pick a different one and try some new recipes . I’ll also let you know whether I think the book is worth adding to your collection.

Week 1 was a recent addition to the library – Mowgli Street Food by Nisha Katona. I’d never heard of this restaurant chain until my good friend and fellow home economist , Sinead, recommended it at Christmas. She raved about it so much I had to buy it!

The premise of the book is Indian Street Food and the dishes served in the Mowgli restaurants – it’s well laid out with different sections with interesting introductions. I learned such things that ‘chat’ means lick , the surprise of the tiffin box, that onion and garlic is sometimes forbidden to HIndus and perhaps most worrying , that street food vendors use aromatic spices to keep meat smelling fresh !

So what did I cook? The first dish I tried was the Masala Omelette Wrap (p. 22) – I didn’t have all the ingredients but even with my substitutions this was a great lunchtime dish, especially served with the Mowgli ‘slaw (p. 140)

masala omelette wrap


For last week’s cookalong I went a bit mad and did five dishes, including the Mowgli ‘slaw :

Mowgli slaw

The Fenugreek Kissed Fries ( p. 28) – very tasty but if I was doing them again I would oven roast rather than fry them

Fenugreek potatos

Onion Bhajis (p.39) & Fish Pakoras (p. 60) – I’m not a big fan of fried food but I’ll make an exception for these bad boys anyday.

Onion bhajis and fish pakoras

Mowgli Chutney (p.147) – I loved how easy this was to make (no vinegar smell😉) and the flavours are amazing

Mowgli chutney

My verdict – this is a book that will make it to the Favourites shelf (despite there not being a picture for every recipe , my pet hate about cookbooks) . I still have a list of want to try dishes, including the yogurt chat bombs which look very challenging and the Mowgli Rocky Road.

If you like Indian food then I recommend you add this book to your library!

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to attend one of my cookery classes online then please click here  for details. 

book review, Catering, Cookbooks, Cooking, Uncategorized

Cooking the books …. and some fish!

I have a confession to make – my name is Yvonne and I am a Cookbook Addict.

I was brought up in a houseful of books and book lovers so I’m not quite sure when my obsession with cookery books started . I know I used to leaf through my Mum’s Good Housekeeping book and wish we had exotic ingredients like glucose and peppermint essence!

Fast forward to college and I was given a present of ‘Monica’s Kitchen’ – an absolute gem of a book even for someone like me who could barely boil an egg at the time.

Monica and good housekeeping sepia
How it started

Continue reading “Cooking the books …. and some fish!”

book review, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian

Books For Cooks & Corn Soup

Thursday night is date night here. I cook, he brings the wine and we both relax. It started as an excuse for me to try out new dishes using the Chief Taster as the guinea pig but with all that’s being going on this summer we went a little off track, The night we resorted to shop bought pizza I knew it was time for a rethink.

Continue reading “Books For Cooks & Corn Soup”

book review, Chef, Cookbooks, Food, Recipes

Rosemary Shrager’s ‘Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family and Friends’

A few years ago my friend Siobhan and I headed to Swinton Park in Yorkshire for a residential cookery course with Rosemary Shrager.  the location is beautiful and Rosemary herself gives the course and while she can be a tad scary she was great fun. We had an absolute ball and learned lots.

I use the recipes from the course regularly and also have a few of her booksthat are well-thumbed so I was delighted to receive a copy of her new book ‘ Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family & Friends’ from Octopus Books.

When I saw the title I assumed the book would be full of quick and easy recipes for everyday meals which is not like the Rosemary I love. My assumption was wrong – this is a book for dinner party dishes that you can impress with such as  Venison Carpaccio of Sea Bass with a Pickled Carrot Salad and Roast Crown of Pheasant , dishes for larger celebrations such as Salmon en Croute and even detailed instructions on curing pork and salmon.

There  is a lovely introductory section detailing all the kitchen equipment you may need (the only thing I’m missing is a potato ricer!), what knives to use and how to use them.  The recipe sections are divided by main ingredient such as vegetables, poultry, game and pasta. Each section begins with a very detailed technique complete with step by step pictures and complete with tips and ideas and possible variations on the main recipe.

My pet peeve as you know is cookbooks without finished photos of each dish – this book unfortunately falls into this category. This surprises me as I learned so much about presentation when I was at the Cookery School but the detailed technique pictures are good. The other thing that I found strange is that there is no dessert section in the book.

So what did I cook? Well for a change I gave my main taster  the book and asked him what would he like for dinner. The choice : Scallops en Papilotte with Curried Coconut Milk and Pak Choi and Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce and Braised Chicory. 

I was unable to find either pak choi or chicory so I decided that as a starter the pak choi could be omitted and I picked up some curly kale to use with the venison. Rosemary uses loin of venison in her recipe but as I had two venison steaks (farmed I will admit)  in the freezer I used those.  I spent a very pleasant afternoon prepping the dishes – the recipes are well laid out and easy to follow.  The sauce for both dishes can be made ahead of time making them ideal for entertaining.

I julienned the vegetables for the scallop dish so when it came to dinner I just had to cook the scallops, assemble the parcels and put them in the oven for 10 minutes.

There was a lot going on this dish flavour wise but it all worked and the pak choi wasn’t even missed!

I decided to try the recipe for Fondant Potatoes and this was the only one I had any problem with – and I think it was my own fault for not adding enough stock. However I finished them in the oven and they were so tasty – they may even replace roast potatoes as my favourite!

The chocolate sauce took  time – and a lot of ingredients – but it was so worth the effort and it complimented the venison perfectly.

I would have preferred to serve the dish with chicory but he loved the kale (I stir-fried it with orange zest and juice).

Was it good? Well the Chief Taster certainly thought so …

This book has already earned a place on the ‘favourites’ shelf and if anyone can tell me where I can get partridge then Roast Partridge with Cabbage, Bacon and Apple is the next recipe I want to try  and Stuffed Yellow and Red Pepper Rolls has also been requested……

My verdict – if you want to impress your family and friends with your cooking then you need this book.

Pssst – if you want to try the Chocolate Sauce here’s the recipe:

What you need: 

  • 100g butter ( I don’t think I used quite this much!)
  • 150g leeks, finely chopped ( I used 2 leeks)
  • 1 rasher smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 250ml red wine
  • 2 tsp redcurrant jelly
  • 300ml game or venison stock  (I had to resort to beef stock)
  • 120 ml port
  • 15g 70% chocolate, finely chopped

What you do:

  • Melt 30g butter in pan, add the leeks and bacon and cook gently for 15 minutes.
  • Add the wine and the redcurrant jelly and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
  • Add the stock and simmer until reduced by half.
  • Finally add the port and simmer to coating consistency.
  • Season then strain through a sieve into a clean pan (I prepared ahead to this point)
  • Reheat gently and stir in the chocolate until it melts
  • Cut remaining butter into cubes and whisk into the sauce a few at a time.
  • Check for seasoning and serve.

Happy Cooking !