Reading Maze For Book Reviews

Reading for the Young & Old


I was on holiday for a long weekend in Britain’s finest city (in my humble opinion at least), Edinburgh.

I love the place and happily wander around it in a dream like state.

I spend hours looking at things I have no intention of buying in the shops, just because of the state of mind the clam of Edinburgh induces in me.

It was in that state that I wandered into a shop I’d not seen before, called Anthropology.

It’s like a grown up version of Urban outfitters, which itself would be my favourite if I were in my teens, or early twenties. The fact that I’m way past its target age doesn’t stop me from popping in whenever I see a good one even now.

And in Anthropology I discovered Kinfolk.

Kinfolk is a magazine.

Kinfolk vol 8

Of sorts.

It’s that slightly bigger than A4 size of many mags.

It’s published regularly, albeit only four times a year.

But above every other point.

Kinfolk is beautiful.

It was with Kinfolk in mind that I started writing the last post about whether or not the book is dead.

And in fact I could just about cope without my regular and expensive deliveries of fine volumes, if I could just secure the flow of great magazines like this.

It’s simple.

It’s not a weighty and informative tome such as my also much loved Monocle.

But it’s about real life, with a sprinkling of fairy dust and the adept avoidance of the mundane.

I am going to write more about it in a few days as I can’t do it justice in a short post like this.


Plan…then party….

A Hollywood celebrity who was a teen star and daughter of one of the industry’s most powerful moguls might seem an unlikely author for a party planning book.

But Tori Spelling’s book “celebraTORI” [pun intended] is surprisingly readable and full of useful stuff. Covering everything from the theme, the food, to decorations and etiquette, and what to do when things go awry and guests behave unexpectedly, the book is a handy blueprint to all things related to parties or entertaining on any level.  With her glamorous background, at least the reader can trust Spelling’s advice on the subject, as one can assume she’s attended a party or two in her time and knows enough to tell it like it is.

Spelling guides the enthusiastic potential host or hostess through the initial stages of planning, and delivers plenty of inspiration on probably the most important aspect of any do – the theme. She has a plethora of suggestions up her sleeve and seems especially keen on upscale ‘Hollywood’ black-tie bashes and murder mystery weekends.

Indeed, there is much detail about a rather retro ‘Cluedo’ theme – based on the popular board game – where guests have to take part in the twisted plot in order to unravel the mystery of the pretend dead body found behind the blinds in the conservatory!

Other occasions are not neglected and there is content relating to events tailored to the time of year, such as Christmas, New Year and Easter. Children’s parties are briefly described and the author’s experience as a mother gives rise to a chapter about getting your children involved in the process and also throwing a successful children’s party.

This practical guide full of arty photos and personal touches from Spelling is recommended reading for a keen event organiser and should inspire absolutely anyone to hold an original and successful party.

Tender Volume 1 – A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

The peculiarly titled “Tender: Volume I – A Cook and His Vegetable Patch” is not the name of an overly elaborate novel, but is in fact a cookery book filled with tasty recipes, all of which come straight from the vegetables in the garden. Often overlooked on the dinner plate, vegetables are usually less important than meat, but with this book, it becomes apparent that there is so much that can be done to make them far more in-demand on the family dinner table.

Anyone who has browsed through the cookery section of their local bookshop will know that the author of this book, Nigel Slater, is one of the most popular names out there. As well as being a writer for The Observer newspaper, he has an almost countless number of titles to his name, such as “The Kitchen Diaries: Over 300 New Recipes from Britain’s Best-loved Food Writer” and, something of a sequel to this book, “Tender: v. 2: A Cook’s Guide to the Fruit Garden”.

Here Slater has compiled an impressive 400 recipes all based around vegetables, and there are as many green-only meals as there are accompaniments to meat dishes. Of course, with 400 different recipes, there are going to be some pretty original ones included, and among the highlights would have to be his chocolate beetroot cake. Whether you are a vegetarian looking for inspiration or simply want something to complement your fish or poultry, this is a highly recommended read.

The Hairy Bikers Food Tour of Britain

If you’re a fan of their popular TV Series, this latest offering from Si King and Dave Myers won’t disappoint. Packed with 90 regional recipes and loads of foodie facts from all over the UK, they show us where to get the best pies and the freshest duck eggs to how to cook trout with rhubarb and what the strange ingredient in a Welsh breakfast is (it’s cockles… I might give that one a miss thanks guys).

Once again, the duo mounted their beloved Harleys and, during the winter of 2008/2009, they travelled over 10,000 miles covering 30 counties to work with farmers, suppliers and producers in every area. They’ve brought us an array of weird and wonderful recipes (faggots cooked in cider anyone?) some of which, to be honest, will either delight or repulse you. If nothing else it will encourage you to try new ideas and combinations that you’d never previously considered, with the help of the professional chefs in each county giving us the benefit of their expertise. The photography is brilliant and illustrates each recipe and its origin really well.

My personal favourite is the Boxty (page 90). A traditional Irish dish, it’s easy to make and is simply delicious with the maple syrup and crispy bacon.  I’m yet to get around to the Smoke Roasted Pigs Cheeks but you never know – the next time I’m in Monmouthshire I’ll be sure to pick some up.

There’s a nice description of each county and their observations are clever – these two really do know their food and although some of it is a little pretentious I’ll let them off. If you’re confident with your culinary skills and fancy something a little different, buy this book; if you haven’t progressed further than beans on toast, then stick to Delia.

Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey is exactly as the name would suggest; an epic journey through the cities, barren landscape and thick overgrown jungles of Eastern Asia. He has gone to many far-flung destinations in his travels and has visited rural families, street vendors and local farmers in his quest to uncover the secrets of Far Eastern cuisine.

Of course the author will need no introduction to anyone who is a fan of TV cookery programmes. Stein is easily one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs and was named the BBC Food Personality of the Year in 2004. He also received an OBE in 2003. He has many cookery titles to his name, including “Rick Stein’s Seafood”, which won the highly acclaimed James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year Award for 2005.

From the best pho soup in Vietnam to the finest jhol fish stew in Bangladesh, Stein has gone to great lengths to compile the 150 recipes in this book. For anyone who has been following the TV series of the same name, they will know how much the chef has gone through just to find the best-tasting recipes, and here he shares the finer secrets of each one.

It is easy to see that this will be a must for any lover of Eastern cuisine, but the dishes are so vast and varied that there is sure to be something that will satisfy any taste bud.  What’s more is that it is a joy to read, and the recipes are a joy to cook.

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

The latest tempting title from the world-famous TV chef Mary Berry is full of mouth-watering and tasty recipes for cakes, desserts and puddings. As well as her role in cookery programmes on television, Berry is considered one of the top authorities on all things baking. She has over 40 books to her credit, including “Simple Cakes” and “Cook Now, Eat Later: Be One Step Ahead with Over 130 Delicious Recipes to Prepare in Advance”.  The UK newspapers have often been in praise of her recipes and The Times once referred to here as a “cookery writing pioneer”.

Across the 400 pages of this book there is an astonishing 250 recipes that are explained in Berry’s easy to follow writing style, and are laid out in such a way that any beginner baker will be able to tackle any recipe. Of course, there is a vast variety of different recipes in the book, from the classics such as Victorian sponge and chocolate cake to more challenging desserts like hazelnut meringue and bread and butter pudding.

“Mary Berry’s Baking Bible” is also filled with stunning glossy photographs of all the delicious recipes, which are a sure-fire way to tempt you into the kitchen. However, if you already have some of Berry’s previous titles on your book shelf, it will be worth knowing that the Bible does repeat some earlier recipes. But if what you are after is the ultimate compendium of her creations, this will be the right book for you.

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

Jamie’s America

In his latest book, TV chef Jamie Oliver sets out to uncover the hidden secrets of famous American cuisine. Feeling that there was more to the country then diners and fast-food, he travelled coast to coast finding inspiration in places such as New York, New Orleans, Wyoming and Los Angeles.

Of course the author is known to many and is currently one of the most famous cooking personalities in the UK. His career to date has been filled with success. After beginning cooking in his parents’ pub at the age of eight, he went on to study with the world’s top chefs, started his own restaurant chain and has also given plenty back to society via the Feed Me Better Movement, which revolutionised school dinners for kids across the country, as well as a host of other charitable causes.

In “Jamie’s America” there are 120 recipes that are sure to add a special twist to dinners. There aren’t many mainstream books covering the diverse subject of American cuisine, and here Oliver has managed to include an example of cuisine from every culture that has made the United States so unique. As always, his recipes are never hard to follow and will be a joy to cook for both beginner and intermediate chefs. If you are trying to please fussy eaters, this could well be the book for you. From New York noodles to Georgia venison and creamy beans and Seven Seas Soup from Los Angeles, there will be something here to appeal to any palette.

Jamie's America

Delia’s Happy Christmas

If you are looking for some inspiration for this years’ Christmas-day feast, “Delia’s Happy Christmas” is packed full of interesting ways to take the predictable Christmas fare to new and exciting places. Anyone who has been in charge of Christmas dinner in the past will know how much preparation and timing is involved in getting things right. This book has every aspect of the challenge covered and is full of handy tips on how to organise your cooking plans, so the turkey or black pudding need never be burned again.

Of course the author, Delia Smith, will need no introduction to anyone who is familiar with the cookery world. As well as being a popular television cook, she has sold over 21 million books and has been creating recipes for over 40 years. But not only does she present some truly innovative ways of cooking the usual turkey and ham, but here she provides useful tips on how to prepare a vegetarian Christmas dinner, as well as some tasty ways to make the best of the leftovers.

Although many of the recipes from her 1990 Christmas book have been included here, there is still a list of new creations that have been added – there are 100 new and 50 old recipes to be exact. The author’s writing style is easily understood and the text is laid out in such a way that no recipe will be hard to follow. Glossy mouth-watering pictures add a real touch of class to the book. It is certain to be a hit with this year’s Christmas chef.

Delia’s Happy Christmas