Book Review & GIVEAWAY: Edmonds Best of Baking

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My nana was an atrocious cook but an utterly amazing baker. Her cream sponges and Neenish tarts were phenomenal, and she made the best griddle scones in the history of the world. I can remember her battered, tattered, splattered old copy of the Edmonds Cookbook, and the way she only used it to check that her memory of the recipes was right.

Hokey Pokey Biscuits

When asked if I’d like to review the new Edmonds Best of Baking, it was a no-brainer: I’ve grown up baking with Edmonds, and I knew that it would contain a variety of simple yet delicious, decadent, beautiful recipes that would appeal to my children, and to me. Recipes that wouldn’t need fancy, expensive or hard-to-find ingredients; recipes that would contain copious amounts of those current evils, butter and sugar, and would therefore taste amazing.

Choosing a recipe to try was difficult, purely because I bookmarked at least eleven on my first flick through. Once I’d narrowed it down, I still couldn’t choose between the finalists, so I didn’t: I made them all.

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First up were the Hokey Pokey Biscuits, which I remember my mum making when I was little. There really can’t be an easier or faster biscuit recipe than this – these tasty cookies were ready for eatin’ within half an hour of the decision to bake. My boys (including the adult one) loved them, and they didn’t last long; we like a chewy cookie so I cooked them for the shortest recommended time, and they were perfect. These have now made it to top spot on my “Help! I’m out of baking for the lunchboxes” list, due to the speed with which they’re ready, and the fact that I will always have all the ingredients in my pantry.

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Next I decided to try the lemon version of the Basic Biscuits. Again, these were super-easy and I had everything I needed, and the addition of the lemon zest made these wee cookies something special. They were buttery and a little like shortbread, zingy with lemon but not overpoweringly so. I turned these babies into spider cookies for my babiest one’s fourth birthday party, and unsurprisingly, there were none left! I’m keen to give the spice version a go soon.

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Lastly, on a bit of a whim, I made Chocolate Eclairs (also for the party table). Except I made chocolate puffs (piping the mixture as Cream Puffs, as suggested), filled with a white chocolate custard. I don’t know why people are scared of making eclairs and puffs, as they are incredibly easy; the Edmonds recipe was very straightforward and these puppies turned out brilliantly, despite the fact that I accidentally turned the power to the oven off during the second stage of cooking.

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There are many, many appealing recipes in Edmonds Best of Baking, some of which will be very familiar to those of us who’ve grown up in New Zealand. Each recipe is accompanied by beautiful photography which will have you drooling from page to page. It is said that we feast with our eyes first, and for me, a winning recipe book is one that features pictures of each dish, on which Edmonds Best of Baking definitely delivers. Based on the photos alone, I want to try making the Warm Gingerbread Date Cake (I KNOW!! Sounds amaaaaaazing, right?!), and the Honey Tea Buns next!

And guess what? You might get the chance to try them too, because the kind folks at Hachette New Zealand have given me an extra copy of Edmonds Best of Baking to give away to one lucky reader!

Simply comment below with your favourite item to bake, and you’re in the draw!

Competition closes on Friday 24 June, at 8pm (NZ time). Open worldwide.

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Chelsea & Me: Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious and now her new book, Homemade Happiness, are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.
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I’m not a huge muffin fan, but I do love pumpkin and something about this recipe really caught my eye. I think it was the idea of pumpkin and brown sugar dancing together in the mixture, creating a magical caramel batter with hints of ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

spiced pumpkin muffins

The recipe is very simple and quick, like all good muffin recipes should be. The only lengthy part of the process was chopping and cooking the pumpkin, but once it was simmering away on the stove I was able to get all the other ingredients together and clear up as I went.

spiced pumpkin muffins

But what you really want to know is, “What did they taste like??”, right?

spiced pumpkin muffins

Amazing. Delicious. Sweet. Spicy. Fluffy.

spiced pumpkin muffins

I didn’t tell my kids that they contained pumpkin, and they both scoffed them down; knowing it was the main ingredient, I could taste it, but if I didn’t know….well…I wouldn’t have known. The flavour was subtle, and the cinnamon and Demerara topping was a lovely addition; the soft, fluffy muffin combined with the sweet, crunchy topping was really, really good.

(This recipe can be found in Everyday Delicious.)

Chelsea & Me: Eggplant Parmigiana

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious and now her new book, Homemade Happiness, are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.
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If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love eggplant. When I saw that At My Table featured a recipe for one of my favourite dishes, Eggplant Parmigiana, I might have danced around the kitchen with the book clasped to my chest.

I had high expectations, and was prepared for disappointment, but Chelsea’s recipe is a definite winner. The first time I made it, Tall was out for a schmoozy work dinner, and I think I ate the portion that would have been his, as well as my own. The next day, friends came for a play date, and I cringe a little now as I recall that I actually forced them to try it (sorry ladies!).

Eggplant Parmigiana

The chunky, crunchy breadcrumbs on top were in delicious textural contrast to the soft eggplant, and the pinch of chilli flakes lifted an otherwise-ordinary tomato sauce to a soul-soaringly high level. The combination of flavours and textures all works so well to make a really tasty dish that is quite delightful to eat.

The recipe serves four, but as my kids don’t like eggplant (“It’s too mushy!” they cry), I serve this with a big green salad and some crusty bread, and there are enough leftovers for Tall’s lunch the next day, and dinner the next night.

Chelsea & Me: Pasta

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe. And of course, her new book, Homemade Happiness, is on my Christmas wish-list!
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Prawn, Lemon, Pea and Chilli Spaghetti
This is a really light, fresh pasta dish, perfect for those summer nights when you can’t be bothered firing up the barbecue. It’s super-quick too.

Creamy Spinach and Salmon Pasta
Another quick, light and delicate pasta offering, one that we all enjoyed. It definitely needs the fresh herbs to lift the sauce.

Seafood Fettucine
For a while, I was making this dish every week – we all LOVE it. It’s so easy, can be made with any variety of seafood, and is full of flavour. My little ones clamour for thirds, while my husband desperately tries to ensure there are leftovers for lunch the next day. This is definite Chelsea Winter favourite.

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Best-Ever Spaghetti and Meatballs
I make a pretty good spaghetti and meatballs myself, but wanted to try Chelsea’s version in case it was better…it’s okay, nothing outstanding, and my husband reckons my usual concoction is better. The meatballs were a bit bland; the sauce was good, but that wasn’t quite enough to carry this dish over the line for us, sadly.

A Beautiful Bolognese
As above, I make a mean spag bol, but this was definitely worth a try. The addition of anchovies and brown sugar to the ragu is delightful, and adds a real depth of flavour.

Beautiful Bolognese

The Boss Lasagna
Ha, at the risk of repeating myself….well, I’m a bit of a lasagna pro, and my husband will tell you that when I try to mess with my original version, it’s just not quite as good. Chelsea’s version was really tasty though; the addition of Dijon mustard to the white sauce was magical. It takes a while, but any lasagna does. As per usual, this was better the day after it had been made.

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Lemony Chicken and Bacon Carbonara
I enjoyed this carbonara, but my boys were all a bit “meh” about it. The combination of chicken, bacon and lemon was fresh and zingy, but they just didn’t like it. Huh.

Lemony Chicken ans Bacon Carbonara

Hapuku on Italian Tomato Linguine
Yum. This was a great dish. The tomatoey pasta was delicious but subtle enough not to overpower the fish (I used monk, due to lack of hapuku), and it was a tasty combination.

Good Green Spaghetti
When I first made this, my boys would have told you they don’t like spinach, but that they looooooooove pesto. So it will come as no surprise that I didn’t tell them that the sauce for this dish was made using 400g of the good green stuff, until after they’d each had second helpings. This recipe is an ingenious way of getting a whole lot of goodness into your kids without them knowing.

Good Green Spaghetti

The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese
I shouldn’t have made this dish…butter, cream, milk, cheddar, creme fraiche, mozzarella, parmesan…not the best list of ingredients for someone who shouldn’t eat dairy! However, I did because my family loves mac cheese, and this was a nice version. There was almost too much going on though, and the flavour was a bit subdued for our liking.

Chelsea & Me: Pies

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe. And of course, her new book, Homemade Happiness, is on my Christmas wish-list!

If you offer me a mince pie from the local bakery, I’ll wrinkle my nose and politely decline the offer. If you offer me a Chelsea Winter pie, I’ll launch myself at you and cover you in kisses.

Ms Winter knows her pies, that’s for sure.

Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Pie
Chelsea promotes this pie as being the one to make someone fall in love with you, and having made it a few times, I think she might be onto something. The combination of chicken, mushroom and spinach is delicious on its own, but when you add that wholegrain mustard…wow. The great thing about this pie is that you can use any vegetables you like, and it’ll still be awesome.

chicken pie

Smoked Fish Pie
I like a bit of fish pie, me – it’s a bit retro, and reminds me of my mum. Chelsea’s version is nice (I like the addition of capers and gherkins), but it takes a while to make, and I’m not convinced that it was worth the effort. It’s tasty, but I’ve tried quicker versions which are just as good.

Slow-cooked Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie
This is a real pie, according to my husband. Meaty and heavily-flavoured, it ticks all the boxes for a great winter’s meal, especially because the oven keeps the kitchen nice and warm for over three hours! I like that it takes a cheaper cut of meat and turns it into something quite special, however I would suggest using less meat than the recipe says.

Beef and Guinness Pie

Little Chicken Pies
This recipe is very similar to the chicken pie above, but takes much less time to prepare. It’s not as tasty, in our opinion, but my boys loved having little pies instead of a wedge of a bigger one. I did find I needed more than 400g pastry, but maybe I didn’t roll it out thinly enough.

Beef and Red Wine Potato-Top Bake
This was another slow-cooked ugly cut of meat pie, but didn’t hit the mark the same as the above steak pie. It was okay, but nothing special.

Moroccan Lamb Pie
This one is a goody! Great flavours, and although the ingredient list is long, most of the items are spices so it’s not as daunting as you think. However, there is a bit of planning ahead required, so it might not be a mid-week pie.

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Chelsea & Me: Burgers

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe. And of course, her new book, Homemade Happiness, is on my Christmas wish-list!
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When I was growing up, hamburgers were a treat meal that dad cooked on the barbecue, while mum filled dish after dish with every possible topping imaginable. The burger was always a pattie made from mince, and there was never any deviation from this.

Fast-forward to burgers in our house, and so much has changed. The pattie might be made of any minced meat, or it might not be a pattie – or meat – at all. It might be a piece of pan-fried blue cod, or a mixture of chicken mince and Thai-style flavours, or a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside falafel. The extras are just as varied, although I must say that a beef burger without beetroot just isn’t worth the effort.

Chelsea has a number of burger recipes that will take you out of any burger rut you might be in – and with the barbecue season upon us here in the southern hemisphere, what better time to get you inspired??

Cajun Chicken Burgers with Avocado and Mayo
Made with boneless chicken thighs, these burgers are slightly spicy and highly delicious, especially if they are charred a little on the barbecue. The homemade Cajun seasoning is so easy, made with ingredients you’re likely to have in your pantry already, and while it was spicy, the avocado and mayonnaise helped to cool the palate down. My children don’t like mayonnaise (whaaaaaaaaat??), but they still gobbled down the chicken and didn’t complain about the heat at all.

Barbecued Chicken Burgers
These burgers were very Greek in flavour, and the herby feta mayonnaise was delicious. To avoid over-dosing on dairy, I left out the cheese that Chelsea melts onto the buns, and to be honest, I don’t think it was missed. The rest of the ingredients were simple and full of flavour and crunch.

Fresh Salmon Burgers
The first time I made these, my patties fell apart because I hadn’t diced the salmon finely enough. The second time, I was much more vicious, and the patties held together beautifully. The flavour of these burgers is divine, and keeping the extras to a minimum ensures that the salmon is the (excuse the Masterchef-esque speak) hero of the dish. All three of my males loved these and fought over the extra patties.

Fresh Salmon Burgers

Steak and Bacon Sandwiches with Smoky Mayo and Crispy Onion Rings
These burgers are not for the faint-hearted…they are what an old work colleague would have called a “heart-attack sandwich”. Despite the heaviness and manliness of the recipe, the combination of flavours was delicious. The smoky mayo (mayo + smoked paprika) was genius, and cut through a bit of the fattiness. The onion rings were a bit moreish, and I had to stop myself from sampling too many; they were super-easy (if a bit messy) to make.

Tandoori-Style Chicken Burgers
Yum. Another interesting option for a chicken burger, but one that my entire family loved. I have noted in the margin of the recipe to use less chilli powder next time, which probably means they were a bit spicy for my bublettes.

Chelsea’s Cheeseburgers with Secret Sauce
Apparently this is one of the public’s favourite Chelsea recipes, but I’m afraid I’m going to buck the trend and say we found them just okay. The burger patties were okay, and the secret sauce was okay, but I’m not rushing to make them again. I don’t know what it was, but none of us were big fans…you’ll have to try them for yourselves and see!

Chelsea's Cheeseburgers with Secret Sauce

Lamb Burgers with Fresh Beetroot Relish
These delicious burgers got the big thumbs up from my beetroot-hating husband – he even took aaaaall the leftovers for his lunch the following day. The patties were full of flavour and really tender without being sloppy, and the beetroot relish…I could have eaten it by the spoonful!

Pulled Pork Burgers
From the moment I discovered pulled pork, I was hooked, and these wee beauties appealed from the moment I received Everyday Delicious. When I finally made them, I was not disappointed – they were awesome. They take a lot more effort than your average burger, but the effort is worth it. The tender pork combined with the zesty dressing was a mixture made in heaven; the crackling was a great textural element too.

Chelsea & Me: Afghans

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeI’m usually an Edmonds afghan purist, so it was with a little trepidation that I decided to try making Chelsea’s coconut version.

Afghans Aside from the raw mixture being slightly crumblier than usual, the end result was a deliciously fudgy, nutty cookie that still tasted and looked just like an afghan. My boys “apparently” don’t like coconut (so they tell me), but they loved these treats, and they went down well with adults too.

AfghansThe recipe features in At My Table.

Chelsea & Me: Quick Honey Mustard & Herb Roast Chicken

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeThe mention of roast chicken usually elicits a polite smile from my husband, followed by a subtle hint towards a different, “tastier” meat to roast. The fact that he had two helpings of this Quick Honey Mustard & Herb Roast Chicken speaks volumes about how tasty it was.

Quick Honey Mustard & Herb Roast ChickenButterflying the whole chicken myself was oddly satisfying…although the handle of my kitchen scissors snapped partway through, which meant it took a little longer than it probably should have.

The marinade was really tasty – garlic, honey, mustard and herbs – and permeated throughout the chicken to really flavour the meat. I left the chicken to marinate all day on the bench (it was a cold day, and my kitchen stayed fridge-like for most of it!).

As for the onion and lemon mixture the chicken was roasted on….oh my goodness. The lemon was sticky and sweet, and we fought for the last slices, while the onion was alternately soft, sweet, crispy and caramelised. Yum.

This recipe features in Everyday Delicious.

Chelsea & Me: Sticky Date Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeWe don’t eat a lot of desserts or puddings; my boys have always been more than happy with fruit and sometimes yoghurt as their afters. Sometimes, however, the mood strikes me and I decide it’s time we finished our meal with something sweetly delicious.

To be honest, I didn’t think my boys were going to like these wee puds. To be even more honest, I didn’t think I was going to like them either.

Four virtually empty bowls proved me wrong.

These sticky date puds were incredibly simple to make, and took hardly any time to cook – I had them in the oven while we ate our dinner, then whisked up the caramel sauce while my boys were having a quick play. The hint of cinnamon in the pudding is perfect, and the dates were little hits of melty, gooey goodness.

sticky date puddingI think my husband was the only one who finished his pudding (the boys went halves) as it is a very sweet combination; a cool scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side provided a nice balance and cut through the sweetness.

If you are a Sticky Date Pudding fan, or have never given it a go, this is definitely a recipe you should try.

Book Review: Digby Law’s Vegetables

Digby Law's VegetablesDigby Law’s Vegetables
Published by Hachette NZ – 11 August 2015

If you asked me to choose between eating vegetables or fruit for the rest of my life, vegetables would win by a landslide. I love to grow them, cook them and eat them. My boys are less fond of veges but their tastes are slowly evolving as they get older, and we get more insistent that they at least try everything.

Digby Law’s Vegetables is a collection of over 400 recipes, arranged alphabetically, making it incredibly easy to flick through to find suggestions for using that huge head of cauliflower you picked up from the market. I’m not a huge cauliflower fan, but Law has inspired me to add a little finely grated orange rind to white serve:

“The suspicion of orange in the sauce is absolutely gorgeous with cauliflower.”

VegetablesThe recipes include fresh side dishes, hot mains and deliciously-sweet desserts. There are sauces and dips, and dressings and garnishes, and in keeping with Digby Law’s Soup, lovely introductions and quotes at the beginning of each chapter:

“Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of greensleeves!”

VegetablesIf you’re stuck in a bit of a vegetable rut (which seems to happen more over the winter, when we seem to eat our body weight in starchy root vegetables), this book will inspire and encourage you to try new flavours and cooking methods to makeover your favourite (or perhaps least favourite?) vegetable.

Me? I’m looking forward to trying Tomato Ice Cream (“…splendid if used with cooked prawns, crayfish or raw oysters.”), Radish, Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Salad (“…a dinner course all by itself.”) and Cucumber Pâté (“Excellent at elevenses or with the pre-lunch beer.”)

Thank you, Hachette New Zealand, for providing this review copy.