Cookbook Journeys

Some people simply love to devour cookbooks from cover to cover. A friend who is an avid cookbook collector has bookshelves and boxes full of cookbooks but doesn't actually cook from them.  With a keen interest in tracking down out of print and classic cookbooks, she gets more pleasure from perusing the pages – from author notes and tips to glossy enticing photographs, interesting lists of ingredients or unusual cooking methodology. 

Others might spend hours reading them from cover to cover to mark which recipes to make. Then later making notes on recipes they tweaked when cooking.  But one thing that all cookbook lovers enjoy is reading the author's story, understanding their philosophy, motivation and inspiration behind the book.

For a recent assignment for my Le Cordon Bleu, Masters of Gastronomic Tourism I reviewed the first cookbooks of four contemporary New Zealand authors.  Click Cookbook Journeys to read their stories.

Hope everyone has a great week.


My Food Magazine Resolution

The trunk groans under the growing pile of magazines and cookbooks – waiting patiently for recipes to be cooked, appetites to be satisfied and my resolution to be fulfilled.

piles of magazines

An avid fan of food magazines, every time I renew a subscription I make two commitments:

  1. To have family and friends over for lunch or dinner every month
  2. To cook from each and every issue.

Magazines are devoured within days, sometimes hours of landing in the letterbox.  Favourite recipes are quickly identified and marked, then one of two things happen: mid-week meals suddenly get interesting or the magazines pile up on the trunk as distractions get in the way.

The first few months of 2015 went swimmingly, the long summer evenings conducive to bringing family and friends together. Winter arrived with a jolt.  The pile of waiting magazines suddenly grew taller.  A new cookbook and magazines from a recent overseas trip added too – heavy books, kitchen utensils and fragile homewares might not make the most practical souvenirs but they do provide fabulous stories from my foodie travel adventures.

Yes, the books and magazines could easily be relocated to a permanent abode but first those carefully selected and marked recipes need to be made.  And the decision made to share my ongoing challenge – each month I'll share a showcase of dishes made from the latest food magazines.  What recipes were loved.  Which recipes were tweaked based on ingredients on hand.  What ones will be made again and again.

So please help keep my resolution on track.  June review out Friday 3 July – feel free to remind me.

Have a fantastic weekend.


Cookbook Review: Love & Food At Gran’s Table

Bright lattice picnic chairs surround a wobbly afternoon tea table beautifully decorated with real china cups, saucers and plates.  Squealing children play football underneath trees laden with late summer fruit. 

The fluorescent orange plastic ball is suddenly airborne.  It skims the top of Nana’s sponge taking with it the cream which lands squarely in Grandad’s lap. Aghast, his head tips backwards.  His mouth slowly broadens into a huge grin and raucous laughter escapes.  As tears start to roll down his unshaven face, the children release loud gasps of relief.

Laurel Aulick’s sponge recipe entitled, ‘Nana’s Foam Cake’ took me back nearly 40 years to a late summer afternoon under the plum trees in my grandparent’s garden, and kicking that ball. My Nana was the queen of sponges. Sandwiched together with raspberry jam, sometimes simply dusted with icing sugar, other times topped with a thick layer of freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit slices.  Although I must admit despite being a passionate cook, creating the perfect sponge still continues to elude me.

Nana's Foam Cake -  Laurel Alick (photo by Todd Eyre)

Nana's Foam Cake - Laurel Alick (photo by Todd Eyre)

Love & Food At Gran’s Table captures wonderful memories and treasured recipes of 60 grandmothers from New Zealand and around the world. Generations of grandmothers who have influenced children growing up, encouraging time spent with family and friends. They have instilled in their offspring the importance of giving, receiving and sharing food as the perfect way to bring neighbourhoods and communities together.

This collection of 120 recipes covers both savoury and sweet, along with stories told straight from the heart and peppered with framed portraits that bring real characters to life. Recipes from: smoked ribs, chop suey, mussel fritters and bacon and egg pie to sherry trifle (a Christmas favourite), coconut slice, puftaloons and rhubarb crumble have been collated.  Homemade preserves and chutneys are injected; and one for mustard pickle, perfect for non-ripening green tomatoes.

All four of Natalie Oldfield’s best-selling international cookbooks encapsulate her Gran, Dulcie May Booker’s mantra.

“It is not what you do, but how much love you put into the doing.”

Photographer Todd Eyre captures the essence of each dish and its creator.  From the montage on the unusual half cover-slip to the muted background tones of the recipe images you can imagine yourself sitting in their kitchens.

Natalie Oldfield’s fifth book will touch the hearts and bellies of those with fond memories of precious time spent with their nanas, grandmas and grans. Avid readers of cookbooks will enjoy the contributors’ stories and anecdotes as much as the recipes themselves. With Mother’s Day only a month away, this really is an ideal gift.

Published by PQ Blackwell, Love & Food At Gran’s Table is now available from book shops or can be purchased direct from Natalie Oldfield - Love and Food. RRP $49.95.

Food and Plates Go Together

An obstacle course ran from the front door to the kitchen. The lounge a giant-sized, walk-in storage box with stuff piled everywhere. Cupboards and drawers were thrown into chaos as a pile of plates, a different shape platter, coloured linen, extra forks or spoons were to be found. The kitchen, our food preparation space doubled as our studio.  It’s hard to believe a year ago this month; we were in the midst of photographing Churchill Park School’s 50th Jubilee cookbook. 

Cookbooks are so much more than the recipes. Some people have shelves and boxes crammed with them and never cook a single thing. Many rainy afternoons of escapism can be spent immersed in a new cookbook, reading and looking at photographs, pondering what to make if only there was time, and if you had the necessary ingredients. Images provide inspiration and enticement - great visual cues of what the finished dish should look like.  You’ll concur, there is nothing more frustrating to discover your interpretation of a dish and its carefully followed instructions look nothing like the picture in the book.

the foodie inc cupboards.png

Don’t be disheartened. Those cookbook photos take lots of time and hours of practice to perfect.  Tomorrow’s another day so take time to create something that smells delicious, is nutritious and tastes good too. A weeknight dinner, a special occasion or even a BBQ for a crowd, but don’t simply throw it on any old plate. White dinner plates, Nana’s china or those coloured bowls you brought back from a fabulous overseas - eating should be one of life’s simple pleasures, so make it a visually appetising one too.

Now, what’s for dinner!


Eat Your Books

How often do you think to yourself, now where did I see that recipe?  Or, someone asks “Do you remember that dish you made for the BBQ at Susan’s two years ago?  Can I have the recipe?”

Where do I look first?

Where do I look first?

Sometimes, I know exactly which cookbook or magazine to reach for.  Other times, I stand staring at the bookshelves, looking at those dog-eared post-it notes, waiting for the book to sense I’m waiting for it to fall on the floor - wishful thinking I know! And because I love experimenting with new recipes and creating my own, quite often I have absolutely no idea where to look.  So where do I go for help?

Eat Your Books, created by sisters Jane Kelly and Fiona Nugent, and launched in 2010 is a website where my entire recipe library is now catalogued.  It’s more than cookbooks.  Food magazines, including the New Zealand ones I subscribe to are automatically added to my library each month.  I can search the blogs and websites I follow, even add recipes I’ve developed myself. Search by ingredient, recipe type, ethnicity and more. Eat Your Books has indexed more than 1 million recipes, some are even online and the website allows me to quickly find the recipe(s) I’m looking for. Tag favourite recipes, create menus for events, make a shopping list and be part of a food and cookbook lovers community, sharing ideas, opinions and reviews.

Recipe post-it notes

Recipe post-it notes

So while I still label the recipes I want to make with post-it notes when I get a new magazine or book, Eat Your Books allows me to quickly pinpoint recipes, share ideas and stoke my creative foodie mind. And while I love trawling recipes books and deciding what to cook, when time is precious or someone asks for recipe ideas help, Eat Your Books is my “go to” tool.

Check Eat Your Books out for yourself… you won’t be disappointed.