Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts this meme – Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times.  I am enjoying this meme, looking round my actual bookshelves and re-discovering books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. The idea is to share your bookshelves with other bloggers. Any aspect you like:

1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.

Whatever you fancy as long as you have fun basically.

I’ve been collecting cookery books for years. I have all sorts – Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, French, Vegetarian, Diet, Low Fat, Freezer, and Microwave cookbooks to name but a few. These days I try to be selective and only buy books that look as though there are some new recipes that I haven’t tried.

These are some of my latest additions.


Green & Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes New Collection is such a tempting book for chocoholics. There are recipes for cakes, cookies, cupcakes and cheesecakes, tarts and souffles, puddings and pies, desserts, treats and sweets all using Green & Blacks delicious organic chocolate. It’s a celebration of chocolate.

Choc torte
Green & Black’s

Home Baking Cookbook, 140 recipes for making cakes, biscuits and bread, muffins, meringues, pizzas and pastries. It’s described as ‘an indispensable guide to sweet and savoury baking’ with step by step descriptions of the fundamentals of cake baking, the rules for making pastry and ‘all there is to know about yeast‘. In these days of lockdown I have been baking cakes and and puddings which we don’t normally have!

Fruit cake
Home Baking

Lorraine Pascale’s book, How to be a Better Cook, is a book ‘for complete beginners to more experienced cooks just looking for some new inspiration.’ I’ve watched her TV programmes, awed by her presentation – she is so calm, her food is so perfect and she is such a clean cook – me, the kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it when I’m cooking, all the work surfaces cluttered with ingredients, and mess everywhere.

How to be a Better Cook

Tom Kerridge, a Michelin star chef  is one of my favourite chefs. I love his TV programmes and his food. I’ve eaten in his pub, The Hand & Flowers in Marlow – great food! His book, Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes is inspirational, although I can’t see myself cooking some of them, such as Forty-cloves-of-garlic brined chicken, but he does include a recipe for Ham and Cheese Toastie that I fancy.

Best Ever Dishes

And then there are The Hairy Bikers, Si King and Dave Myers! Perfect Pies is as the title announces about pies! They write that ‘Pies are our passion’ and ‘pastry is our passion’. This is a gorgeous book for pie lovers – from steak pie, fish pie and apple pie to roasted vegetable tart and spicy bean hotpot pie, not forgetting banoffee pie. And they are such fun to watch!

Perfect Pies

Weekend Cooking: Easy Baking

weekend cookingBeth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts.

Easy Baking is a Marks & Spencer book of recipes for Cakes, Slices & Bars, Cookies and Small Bakes, and Desserts.


I thought this little book looked too tempting to resist and one afternoon decided to make the Sticky Toffee Cake, one of my favourite cakes – and I had all the ingredients to hand. It really is an easy recipe. You need:

  • 75g sultanas
  • 150g stoned dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 25g butter
  • 200g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour, sifted


Cover sultanas, dates and bicarb with boiling water and leave to soak. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F and grease a 7 inch/18cm square cake tin. Mix butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour, drain the soaked fruits, add to the bowl and mix. Spoon mixture into the cake tin and then bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

The recipe also includes a sticky toffee sauce, but I didn’t have the ingredients for that – it was still delicious, sweet and moist, without it. I’ll make it next time.

There are lots more recipes I’ll try making – including Jewel-topped Madeira Cake, which is topped with sliced glacé fruits glazed with honey, Chocolate Chip and Walnut Slices, Viennese Chocolate Fingers and Manhatton Cheesecake, which looks amazing with a digestive biscuit base and topped with a blueberry sauce.

Weekend Cooking: Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

Slender Frenchwomen often told the co-founder of Green & Black’s chocolate that ‘they kept a bar of Green & Black’s in their desk drawer, to have a square at 4 pm which would keep them going till dinner …’ Could I be so disciplined and just eat one square?

Well, I can restrict myself to eating just one Ultimate Chocolate Brownie and whilst that can never really be thought to help keep anyone slender, eating one at 4 pm will certainly keep anyone going until dinner time!

Chocolate Brownie

I made a batch recently using the recipe from Green & Black’s Organic Ultimate Chocolate Recipes: the New Collection. This is a book mainly about baking, and it makes my mouth water just looking at it, full of recipes for cakes, cookies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, tarts  soufflés, puddings, pies, and sweets such as truffles and chocolate marshmallows. They are all decadently chocolatey and scrumptious.

To make 24 chocolate brownies you need:

  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 300g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate broken into pieces
  • 5 large free-range eggs
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
  • Melt butter and sugar together in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water
  • Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together until the mixture is thick and creamy and when chocolate and sugar have melted together beat in the egg mixture
  • Add flour and salted (sifted together first) and beat until smooth
  • Bake in a tin 30x24x6cm, lined with greaseproof or baking parchment for about 20-25 minutes until the top has formed a crust just starting to crack.
  • The brownie will not wobble but will be gooey inside
  • Leave in the tin for 20 minutes and then cut into 24 squares and remove from the tin

Eat and enjoy!

N.B. I wrote about Green & Black’s first cookbook in an earlier Weekend Cooking post where I described making chocolate mousse – Dark with Coffee.

weekend cookingWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish ReadsIt’s open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.  For more information, see the welcome post.

Weekend Cooking: Cakes Please!

Yesterday was CatsPlease on my blog and today it’s CakesPlease! I used to bake cakes every week, but haven’t done so for years.

Mary Berry's Baking Bible P1080218Earlier this year I got the baking bug after watching The Great British Bake Off, and I was so taken with Mary Berry that I bought one of her books – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. For the first time I bought a cookery book to read on my new Kindle Fire, partly because I have lots of cookery books and there’s no room for any more and also because the Kindle Fire has colour and the cover has a built-in stand so I can stand it up on the kitchen table to refer to it easily whilst cooking.

This contains a huge range of cakes, biscuits, traybakes, breads, buns, scones, hot puddings and pies, souffles and meringues and cheesecakes! Over 250 classic recipes.

Mary Berry writes:

Cakes are made to be shared so, once you have mastered a recipe, invite your friends and family to enjoy the fruits of your labour with a good pot of tea – happy baking!

So, I’m sharing the recipe for the Banana Loaf, which I made earlier this week and as I can’t physically share it here are my photos. First the ingredients:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 900g loaf tine then line sides and base with baking parchment.
  2. Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes until well blended. Spoon mixture into the loaf tine and level the surface.
  3. Bake for about 1 hour, until well risen and golden brown. Leave in the tin to cool for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

This is what mine looked like:

It tasted delicious!

For more Weekend Cooking posts see Beth Fish Reads.

Weekend Cooking – Forever Summer

Although it’s not yet summer here, it’s been feeling like it this last two weeks. We’ve had some gloriously sunny days, which made me think of cooking something from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer. This is a book full of recipes to give you that summery feeling all year round. There are recipes from around the world and I decided to make Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake.

Nigella writes that this is an Oz-emanating recipe that she scribbled down from a friend after a gardenside Sunday’s summer lunch.

It’s a combination of Pavlova and Victoria Sponge: make the sponge mixture by creaming 100g very soft butter with 100g caster sugar, beat in 2 egg yolks, fold in 12g plain flour, 25g cornflour and 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and stir in 2 tablespoons of milk to thin the batter. Divide this mixture between 2 x 22cm Springform tins.

Then add the pavlova mixture – whisk the 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually add 200g caster sugar and spread a layer of the meringue on top of the sponge batter in each tin and sprinkle over 50g flaked almonds.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes in a preheated oven – 200°C/gas mark 6 until the almond scattered meringues are a dark gold. Let the cakes cool in the tins until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

Whip 375ml double cream and hull and slice 250g strawberries and sandwich the cream and berries between the two cakes – meringue on the base layer and on the top.

I made this last weekend when we had the family round,  As Nigella suggested I placed more strawberries in a separate dish to eat alongside the cake and it was half gone by the time I remembered to take a photo of it. It’s definitely a recipe I’ll be making again – it’s scrumptious.

Strawberry meringue layer cake

Weekend Cooking is host at Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

Weekend Cooking

Two Greedy Italians

I love Italian food, so Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo looks like a book that I would love to have!

This book  accompanies a new series on BBC2 which starts on Wednesday 27 April 2011 at 8 pm.

Carluccio and Contaldo are old friends. They return to Italy to reconnect with their culinary heritage, explore past and current traditions and reveal the very soul of Italian gastronomy. Containing over 100 mouthwatering recipes, this  book goes beyond the clichés to reveal real Italian food, as cooked by real Italians. It includes an intriguing combination of classic dishes and ingredients as well as others showcasing the changes in style and influences that have become a part of the Italy of today.  (Description adapted from the Product Description on Amazon.)

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Quadrille Publishing Ltd (18 April 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 9781844009428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844009428

We do have one of Antonio Carluccio’s books – Passion for Pasta, which is a beautiful book, full of recipes for making your own pasta and sauces. He writes:

… I would like you to forget about bottled sauces, ready-made pasta dishes, and pre-packed Parmesan cheese. Instead indulge yourself by trying the amazing soft texture of your own hand-made pasta, the bite of fresh Italian cheeses, the flavour of cured meats such as Parma ham, and anchovies and fresh basil. (page 7)

There are also lots photos of mouth-watering food, such as this which shows Pasta Per Tutte Stagioni – Pasta For All Seasons, made with fresh shitake mushrooms, fresh oyster mushrooms, chanterelles and small dried fusilli. It includes double cream, smoked ham, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley and truffle oil, which Carluccio says is very expensive and very sophisticated – a dish for special occasions!

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (24 July 2003)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 9780563487616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563487616
  • ASIN: 0563487615
  • Product Dimensions: 25.8 x 18.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Source: I bought it

This is my contribution to this week’s Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

“Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.”