Sunday, May 30, 2010

Coffee in Como, Vino in Varese

A few weeks ago an Aussie friend came to Europe for a holiday. Despite spending most of his time in London, the North-South divide made it easier to meet up with him in Italy(!!!). After landing at Milan Malpensa, we drove to Como and spent the day looking for George Clooneys house. When we came across a house with people literally hanging off the iron gates we assumed we had found it! We caught a ferry tour of the lower part of the lake, ate all the standard Italian delights... (Pizza, Pasta, Gelato) and a couple of non-standard ones... (Blueberry and mushroom risotto ….. which was delicious!)

We drank wine and ate pizza in Varese and then crossed the Swiss border to drink beer and eat cheese.

It was a fleeting trip that made me wish I could spend a few months in Northern Italy researching local cooking techniques and tasting wines. But I guess I'll have to make do with the Silver Spoon Cookbook and a bottle of Italian Red! 

Volcanic Ash issues caused the cancellation of our flight back to the UK, but it all got sorted and we got home without too much stress and grief. Besides, I can think of much worse places to be stranded!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Challenge is over ...

March has (well and truly) come and gone and that means that the challenge is over! I haven’t always managed to hit my target of 1 recipe a week – probably more like 1 recipe a fortnight, but never the less I did learn a few things and thought I'd share them with you

Practice – I’d say my cooking has vastly improved purely due to committing to cook different things more regularly. I feel more confident with experimenting with flavours and ingredients as my knowledge of flavour combinations has increased a lot.

The importance of being precise – I’ve seen a vast improvement in my baking as I now stick to exact measures! (As opposed to my previous habit of winging it!)

Food to be eaten cannot be styled – I’ve tried to improve my food photography but it’s quite difficult to take a photo of something you really want to eat or that might go cold. I find that if I’ve been preparing and cooking, once it comes time to take the photo I get too impatient to ‘style’ because I just want to eat …. Not yet sure how to fix that problem!

My recommendations for a 'start up' cookbook collection ... (This list contains a good mix of inspirational and practical books)

Falling Cloudberries and anything else by Tessa Kiros
Where the heart is by Karen Martini
MoVida Rustica by Frank Camorra
Turquoise and Moorish both by Greg and Lucy Malouf
Snowflakes and Schnapps by Jane Lawson (Get this book more for the beautiful photography rather than frequency of use, as the recipes are great - but quite involved/complicated. Makes a beautiful coffee table book)
Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen
The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann
Mexican Food Made Simple by Tomasina Miers
Jamie Does by Jamie Oliver. (With this book Jamie has got his Mojo back! It’s a fun, enthusiastic book and the recipes are diverse, exciting and totally mouth watering!!)

The perfect 'Mid-week Go-To’ books/sites

Two resources stand out in this category and they are the resources I cannot do without and use at least once a week. I can’t help but be evangelical about both of the following!!

The first, which I have written about a lot is, Leon: Ingredients and Recipes, I wont go on about it too much – However I would encourage everyone to buy this book. Its exceptional: Nutritious, tasty, informative, easy, entertaining … the list goes on and on – a bit like me!

101 Cookbooks is my ‘Find of 2009’. This site offers fantastically healthy, tasty menu options that are relatively easy to put together and inject a well balanced aspect to a weekly eating plan. Its a vegetarian site and the author generally sticks to cooking with whole foods and natural ingredients. The author of the site, Heidi Swanson, is a photographer and her photos are as inspirational as her recipes! My Favourite recipes so far are Heidi's Veggie Burgers, Simple Butternut Squash Tart and a healthy alternative to a breakfast bar or biscuit, Nikki's Healthy Cookies.

Check them out and if you've got any other recommendations leave me a comment and let me know.