29 December 2015

Christmas Haul

Reviews to come. Hope your holidays were happy...and you too, got cookbooks.

21 December 2015

The Groundnut Cookbook

When Duval Timothy, Jacob Fodio Todd, and Folayemi Brown found themselves in London and homesick for the foods of their native Africa they did the logical thing -- they got together and cooked. Then they invited friends over, and the friends wanted to invite their friends. In 2012, they acquiesced and began a bi-monthly supper club to bring the African foods their mothers cooked to a wider audience.  Needless to say, it was a hit.

The Groundnut supper club continues to sell out and offer up authentic African food. The project not only brings new converts to the foods of Africa, but for the authors, it has also brought them back to family and tradition.

The Groundnut has a waiting list, so the next best thing to actually being there is to grab a copy of The Groundnut Cookbook.

One of our favorite recipes is a sweet potato cake. We have several recipes in our baking bag. Recently we made a cake from ube sweet potatoes from the Philippines. Now we are on the hunt for Puna yams!

Puna Yam Cake

450g fresh puna yam (peeled weight)
2 small eggs
50g golden caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
100ml condensed milk
150ml coconut milk
50g coconut oil (plus extra for oiling)
50g unsweetened desiccated coconut (to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Peel the fresh yam, then finely grate it. Whisk the eggs, then set aside. Melt the coconut oil (if solid). Add the sugar and whisk well together. Combine all the ingredients (except for the desiccated coconut) and mix well.

Thoroughly oil a 450g loaf tin, or a circular tin with 23cm diameter. Add the mixture and then bake on the central shelf for one hour.

Leave the cake to cool, then garnish it with the desiccated coconut. 

Yes,we love French cookbooks, but sometimes one needs to expand their geography.  The Groundnut Cookbook is a great place to start.

09 December 2015

Honey & Co. The Baking Book

Every time someone posts a photo of Honey & Co. in London, we just drool. Even crappy photographers can't diminish the warmth and charm of Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich's eatery/shop. Their first book, Honey & Co. has become a classic. They followed it up with Honey & Co. The Baking Book, named the Sunday Times Food Book of the Year and the Fortnum & Mason Cookery Book of the Year.  Yes, it is that good.

Drawing on their Israeli backgrounds, the couple offers up cakes and bread full of color and spice. there is plenty of honey and nuts and more than a few cereals. Sweet pastries are just a fraction of the story.

There is a large chapter on jams and preserves that could be expanded into a whole other book. Many of the photos at Honey & Co. feature shelves of preserves, so the sampling in the book is clearly the tip of a sweet and runny iceberg.

The stand outs are the many savory pastries that grace the pages of this book. It is not often that one finds a baking book with so many wonderful pastries that are not sweet.  Case in point. Cauliflower is our favorite vegetable. We have done almost everything one could possibly imagine with this cruciferous bundle of joy.  But this was a new one.

Spiced Cauliflower Muffins

1 small head of cauliflower
700g/ml water
1 tsp table salt

For the muffin batter

175g plain flour
40g caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
150g unsalted butter, melted

for topping (if you like)

3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Break the cauliflower into florets, making sure there are at least six large "trees". (You will most likely have more than six; cook them all and save the unused flowerets to eat another time.)  Put the water and salt into a large pan and boil the cauliflower until soft (this will take  5-10 minutes). Check to see whether it is done by inserting a knife tip into the stem; it should penetrate without resistance. Drain well and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 190C/ 170C fan/gas mark 5 and butter six muffin moulds. Mix all the dry ingredients for the batter together.  Add the eggs and use a spoon or spatula to mix until combined, then slowly mix in the melted butter and fold in until it has all been incorporated.

Place a spoonful of batter in the center of each mould and then stand a whole floret stem down in each.  Cover with batter to fill the moulds to the top. Mix the pumpkin seeds and cheese, if using, sprinkle on top of the muffins and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from tin and eat while still warm --they are the best this way.
We will never look at cauliflower in the same way. Honey & Co. The Baking Book is a real eye opener.

07 December 2015

Brown Sugar

Way back when, we wrote about a guy named Nick Fauchald who decided to do a series of small, single topic cookbooks. The idea was a big hit and we wrote about their very first book, Eggs by Ian Knauer.  Like many good ideas, the daily grind of such endeavors often get the better of the creator (hey, we used to post EVERY day!) but lucky for us Fauchald's Short Stack Series is still growing strong.

Here is one of our favorites, Brown Sugar by Libbie Summers.  We love Summers' books.  Sweet & Vicious is a go to baking book and we don't know why we never wrote about The Whole Hog Cookbook.  (It is a common problem here, we become convinced that we have written about cookbooks that we haven't.  We are working to rectify that oversight.)

Short Stack Editions are small, hand sewn cook booklets printed on electric-colored paper. Brown Sugar has internal pages of shocking pink! It is well balanced in terms of recipes, as most people think of brown sugar as a cookie ingredient, Summers offers up appetizers, vegetables, salads, main dishes and a dessert or two featuring that muddy sugar stuck in the back of the pantry.

Drag that bag out front! Better still, by a new bag if it was tucked way, way back in the corner. Yes, there are caramelized potatoes, brined salmon, and even cookies, but there is also a really cool drink or two.  Our favorite has a bit of alcohol in it.

The James Brown Sugar

1 1/4 ounce bourbon
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Juice of 1 orange (about 2 ounces)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 ounce)
Dash Angostura bitters
Dash blood orange bitters
1 orange twist

Fill a pint-sized canning jar with ice and add all the ingredients except the orange twist. Screw on the lid and shake well. Remove the lid and twist the orange peel over a glass and drop into the drink. Add a straw and serve.

Rumor has it, the drink was christened by another name, but after a party-goer had a few and a few more, he began working the event as a business venture. The cocktail was renamed for the hardest working man in show biz!  Actually, a fitting cocktail for the hardest working Libbie Summers.

Looking for a quick gift, look no further that a Short Stack Edition.

04 December 2015

The Jemima Code

I love Toni Tipton-Martin. She is a kindred soul, a cookbook collector.  I read that she keeps many of her cookbooks in a gun safe! A true collector would appreciate such care. Frankly, more gun safes should be stuffed with cookbooks...but I digress.

If you are a cookbook collector, and if you collect a lot of old Southern cookbooks, there is one thing that often stands out in older books. The "author" of said cookbook would thank her own cook. Why? Well generally, because the recipes came from the cook, not the author. News flash...if you watch someone make cornbread, ask questions, then write down the recipe, it is not your recipe, it is your transcription.

Toni Tipton-Martin has amassed a huge collection of cookbooks by African American authors. She has made it a calling to highlight the accomplishments of theses often overlooked culinary pioneers.  In The Jemima Code, she highlights many of the books from her collection. While there are several recipes, the book is more of a history than an actual cookbook. Her cookbook is forthcoming! To understand the hypothesis of this book, the best description comes from the author, herself:

"Black codes once defined legal place for former slaves. Historically, the Jemima code was an arrangement of words and images synchronized to classify the character and life’s work of our nation’s black cooks as insignificant. The encoded message assumes that black chefs, cooks and cookbook authors — by virtue of their race and gender — are simply born with good kitchen instincts. It diminishes the knowledge, skills and abilities involved in their work and portrays them as passive and ignorant laborers incapable of creative culinary artistry.

Throughout the 20th century, the Aunt Jemima advertising trademark and the mythical mammy figure in Southern literature provided a shorthand translation for a subtle message: “If slaves can cook, you can, too,” or “Buy this flour and you’ll cook with the same black magic that Jemima put into her pancakes.” In short: a sham."
Here is a simple recipe from Katharin Bell's Mammy.  In the self-published text from 1927, Bell fully credits her cook, Sallie Miller. Bell can see that there is great genius in Miller's recipes and approaches them in a reverent manner.  As one often sees in early Twentieth century cookbooks, the instructions are a bit sketchy.

Shrimp and Tomato Salad

Chop shrimps and tomatoes together with a little celery and mayonnaise and serve on lettuce leaves.

Basically, this is exactly how I make shrimp salad, with the addition of scallions!  Does one need more.

If you care about food, Southern food, history, or cookbooks, Toni Tipton-Martin's The Jemima Code is a must have.


I know we all love online shopping and it has its advantages. When I ordered The Jemima Code, I rather expected a regular, lackluster, university press book.  I was surprised!  It is big, beautiful, and wonderful.  Now, I would have purchased this book no matter what.  But coming across this book in an actual store, seeing it, picking it up, flipping through it...this act holds the potential to sell more books that simply seeing its flat image on a cell phone screen. Bookstores DO matter.

The second thing is purely personal.  Screw you Toni Tipton-Martin!  It is hard enough to locate these books as it is.  Now you just made everyone want to find these old gems and the prices are going to out of control, and I am never going to find reasonable copies of books I have been looking for forever. But I forgive you....

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