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

Cookbook Cookalong No. 8 – Fast, Fresh and Easy Food

Lorraine Pascale appeared on the food scene about 10 years ago as a change to her modelling career. I loved her TV programs and the accompanying books. Her paella recipe is my go to and her lamb shanks slow cooked in Rioja are firm favourite with the Chief Taster. I have tried other recipes from her books and none have disappointed.

I thought one of her books ( of which I have 5 in my library ) would be perfect for my Friday Facebook Cookalong – so I picked Fast, Fresh and Easy Food as I realised I hadn’t actually tried any of the recipes in it.

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my Facebook poll was Baked jerk chicken with pineapple salsa, coconut rice and beans (p. 98) . Jerk chicken has been on my to try list for a while so this choice suited me plus I wanted to pretend I was relaxing in the Caribbean sun 😎

The book says that the dish takes 40 minutes from start to finish – I talk too much during the cookalong to test this timing but still we did it in an hour!

plated meal - chicken, rice and beans
Dinner is served


To be honest I started to worry about the way the dish was going not long after we started but hey, that’s the gamble I take with the cookbook cookalong 🙄

plate of chicken drumsticks
Jerk Chicken

The chicken turned out okay but I found that the overriding taste was that of allspice. Now I know this is a main constituent of the dish but next time I’ll add scotch bonnet chili rather than the tabasco used in this recipe and I’ll marinate the chicken in advance.

pineapple salsa
Pineapple salsa

I was very sceptical about the cherry tomatoes in the pineapple salsa and I’m still not convinced 😉
Instead may I recommend the pineapple salsa I’ve been using for years :

  • What you need:
  • 1 fresh pineapple, cored & finely diced
  • 1 red chili, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped coriander or mint
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt, Tabasco
  • What you do:
  • Mix pineapple, chili, red onion, herbs, lime zest & juice. Add salt & Tabasco to taste.
  • Allow to stand for about 30 mins to allow flavours to develop.
rice and beans
Coconut Rice and Beans

Now it comes to my most disappointing part of the dish – the rice and beans. I ended up adding a lot more liquid than in the recipe to cook the stated amount of rice. I added the lime to try and improve it and as a personal preference I added black beans instead of kidney beans.

My verdict:

Overall I found this dish very disappointing – espevailly as I said, I’ve never had any issues with her other recipes. Hopefully it was just a one off – if I try any more from this book I’ll report back . Thanks to those of you who tried the dish and confirmed my suspicion that the dish would benefit from marinating.

In the book’s favour, it is well laid out a with timings and a picture for every recipe, but if you want to buy one of Lorraine Pascale’s books I would recommend ‘Home Cooking Made Easy‘ over this one.

If you missed my Fast, Fresh and Cookbook Cookalong you can catch up here

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. 
📷Special thanks as always to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography 📷

PS I found padron peppers in my local Polish shop last and I cooked this as part of the cookalong – they saved the day ☺

pardron pepperes
Padron Peppers

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

Cookbook Cookalong No. 7 – Chinese Takeaway Cookbook

Let me start by saying that I’m not the world’s greatest fan of Chinese takeaways – gloopy sauces and MSG just don’t do it for me! But a few weeks ago this book seemed to all over social media so of course I had to order it (easily lead, me, never! 🤣) and I thought it would be perfect for my Friday Facebook Cookalong

Cover - Chinese Takeaway Cookbook

The first recipe I tried (pre the cookalong) was Drunken King Prawns with Mixed Vegetables (p. 76) . I had to make a few substitutions with the vegetables but all the other ingredients were pantry staples. The finished dish looked great and tasted ok but I just felt it lacked a certain wow factor.

I couldn’t judge a book on one recipe so I decided to wait til after the cookalong to give my verdict.

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my facebook poll was Shredded Crispy Chilli Beef (p.91) – a dish I have to admit I had neither ordered or made. It’s not a cheap dish to make as you need fillet steak – I used Island Farm Foods steaks from my freezer.
Earlier in the day I watched Kowlyn making this dish online- thankfully because he alters the method from the printed recipe – but even still coating and frying the beef got very messy . And from feedback from those of you that cooked along , I know I wasn’t alone in this mess.

To be honest I’m not sure it was worth the effort and it definitely didn’t do justice to a beautiful piece of meat.
If I was to repeat this dish I would make the delicious sauce and simply stir fry the beef in it .

Crispy shredded chilli beef
Crispy Shredded Chili Beef

Next up was Chinese Broccoli in Garlic Sauce (p.115) – now this was a gamechanger ! I’m not a big fan of cooked broccoli but this was crunchy and full of flavour and I’ll definitely be making it again 😉

I used tender-stem broccoli and added in a few lonely green beans from my vegetable drawer.
If you want try this dish for yourself here’s what to do : fry 2 garlic cloves in oil for 15 mins, add the broccoli steams and a sliced onion , cook for 2 mins, then add in broccoli leaves for another minute. Then you add 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1/2 tbsp each of dark and light soy sauces, 120 ml vegetable stock (I forgot to add this but I didn’t miss it),1/4 tsp each of salt and white pepper and 1/2 tsp sugar. Bring this to the boil and then thicken the sauce with 1 tbsp cornflour. Drizzle with sesame oil to serve. Enjoy😉

Broccoli in Garlic Sauce

The Egg Fried Rice (p. 129) was also worth doing – I would never have thought of adding oyster sauce to fried rice

Egg Fried Rice

My verdict:

Overall I like this book and there are a few more dishes I want to try. The book is well laid out and I loved all the information about techniques and customs in the introduction. There are timings with every recipe and almost all have pictures.

Do you need to buy it? I’d check out Kwoklyn’s website first as a lot of the dishes are included there – and there’s a free ebook at the moment 😉

All dishes

If you missed my Chinese Takeaway Cookbook Cookalong you can catch up here

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. 
Special thanks as always to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography

book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Healthy Eating

Cookbook Cookalong No. 5 – Persiana

My good friend Derick or @ChefyD as he’s better known is responsible for introducing me to this book . He invited me to a party (anyone remember parties?) way back in 2015 but forgot to mention I’d be working for my supper! He had found this new cookbook he wanted to try so we set to picking out dishes . We had great fun ( he didn’t shout at me that much 🤣) making Cacik ( a delicious cucumber dip) , marinated feta, tomato and pepper dip and lots more – I think we did about 10 recipes in total and they were all delicious. A favourite was born.

Persiana book cover

Since then I have used this book on a regular basis in my kitchen – adapting some of the recipes to suit buffet lunches etc.

I have bought Sabrina’s subsequent books but I have to admit I don’t love them as much and I always go back to Persiana.

So what did I cook for the cookalong ? Firstly it was tough to find dishes I hadn’t tried and then I was delighted that the Bandari Monkfish Tails (p 147) topped the poll (and so was Jason my fishmonger😉) . Despite the list of ingredients this is very simple to make – I blitzed all the marinade ingredients together and then marinated the monkfish for 40 mins.

I started the dish in the pan as per instructions but I finished mine off in the oven.

Monkfish tails
Brandari Monkfish Tails
Cutting the fish
The colours were so vibrant and inviting, I couldn’t wait to taste it

The book recommends serving the monkfish with a Shirazi Salad (p 178) and I would too!
Again the colours and the flavours were so vibrant – perfect for a miserable February evening

shirazi salad bowl
Shirazi Salad

I wanted to serve freekeh with the fish but couldn’t find a suitable recipe for it in the book so I made a pilaf with red pepper and pomegranate. Have to say I was very pleased with how it worked out 😊

freekeh pilaf with pomegranate in blue bowl
Freekeh Pilaf

My verdict : Do you have to ask ?? Everyone should have this book in their library !

And I have to thank @ChefyD for both introducing me to the book and for gifting me his original copy xx

You can catch up on the Cookbook Cookalong here

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. 
📷Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography
book review, cookalong, Cookbooks

Cookbook Cookalong No. 3 – Cook Now Eat Later

What can you say about the institution that is Mary Berry ? She always reminds me of my late grandmother – I think it’s the white hair and the aga – but whatever it is you just know that you can trust her and that she’ll hep you in the kitchen. I mean look what happened when she left the bake-off , we were all devastated!

I also feel a certain affinity with her as she once travelled around demonstrating electric ovens . Wonder when I’ll ever get back to doing that ?

Book cover

This book is no exception and it lays out very clearly all you need to prepare and cook ahead. Each recipe has a side bar detailing what you can prep ahead, how to freeze ( if applicable) and how to cook in the aga ( which could be adapted to a slow cooker).
The recipes are comforting – just what we expect Mary to cook for us 🤗
What did I cook ? The Italian Chicken with Olives and Tomato topped the facebook group poll so that was what I cooked , And I have to say I was much more impressed with the finished dish than I thought I would be !
I was unable to get olives stuffed with anchovies so I used pimiento stuffed olives (I left them whole) and added in some chopped anchovies. These definitely added to the flavour and I’ll be adding them to more dishes in future.

Chicken with olives and tomato
Italian Chicken
Roast green beans
roast green beans with Parmesan crust

I served the chicken with green beans and potato wedges. Rather than boiling or steaming the beans I roasted them with lemony Parmesan breadcrumbs and they were delicious. I used a mix of white and purple potatoes both for taste and colour .

purple and white potatoes
purple & white potatoes

Altogether it was a great meal 😍

The one dish that I had hoped would top the poll was the stir-fried vegetable lasagne – I’m going to have to satisfy my curiosity and make it for myself!
I love Mary Berry’s desserts and my favourites from this book are the Raspberry Frangipane Tarts (p. 208) and Divine Lemon Pots (p 219) . I’ve been using the lemon pots on my catering menu for years and they always go down well.

You can find lots of the recipes on her website

My verdict : There are some lovely recipes in this book – most of them comforting and familiar but I don’t think it’s an essential for your library .

If you missed the cookalong you can catch up here

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. 

📷Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography

book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Healthy Eating

Cookbook Cookalong No. 4 – A Change of Appetite

There used to be an ad with the tagline ‘there’s both eating and drinking in it’ ( I think it was for soup) . That’s how I feel about Diana Henry’s books – they’re a collection of food stories rather than just recipes.
I have four of her books in my library – and another on my wishlist. It was hard to choose just one but I felt the subtitle of ‘where healthy meets delicious’ suited where we all are at the moment.

In the introduction, Diana outlines her attitude to healthy eating and I felt like I had found a kindred spirit – The phrase ‘deprivation is not on the menu’ is my new mantra . She also says that the main thing you can do for good health is to eat proper home cooked food, limit anything processed, keep an eye on refined carbs, switch to wholegrain for at least some meals and up your vegetable intake. You won’t get any arguments from me.

So what did I cook? I’m very interested to learn more about Japanese cooking so I picked two dishes from her Spring section ( the book is divided into 4 seasons) – teriyaki salmon (p.60) and Japanese ginger and garlic chicken (p.63) both with interesting sides .

My store cupboard didn’t stretch to all the ingredients and shopping outside my local area isn’t on the cards so I made a few substitutions – red miso instead of brown , ordinary pickled ginger instead of pink and ponzu instead of mirin . I’m also intrigued to try shisho leaves and will be keeping an eye out for them – but on the day I used mint leaves as recommended. The recipe uses chicken thighs but I used chicken fillets as I had some in the fridge .

Japanese chicken
Japanese ginger and garlic chicken with smashed cucumber

I loved everything about the two dishes, even with the substitutions. The recommended sides – smashed cucumber with the chicken and pickled vegetables with the salmon – were also delicious. Clean eating at it’s best!

teriyaki salmon with pickled vegetables

Diana Henry is the food writer for the Telegraph – and the chicken recipe is here but it is now a subscription website. You’ll find the recipe for the salmon is here .

I recommend following her on instagram @dianahenryfood where she posts delicious daily recipes.

My verdict : I’ll be trying lots more from this book and I think you should have it on your bookshelf – even if there aren’t pictures for every recipe 😊

If you missed the cookalong you can catch up here

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. 

📷Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography

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.

If you missed the cookalong you can watch it back here

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.