Book Review – Healthy Baking: Nourishing breads, wholesome cakes, ancient grains and bubbling ferments by Jordan Bourke.

Healthy Baking

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Orion Publishing Group for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

If I was allowed to name this book, I would really call it the ‘Great Big Baking book of Everything’ as it covers such a wide range of recipes and dishes.

It starts out as I had expected with sourdoughs, yeast breads and other baked goodies that had me want to own my own paper copy of ‘Healthy Baking’. But there is then just so much more to this cookbook than bread, pastries and pizza! Oh so much more. We get into main meals – I am a sucker for roast whole head of cauliflower recipes and so need to try that one. And then into preserves, fermentations and more. I simply loved this book.

And no, no I didn’t get a chance to try any of the recipes… Yet. But from my 30+ years of cooking, making and baking I know how to read a recipe and I know what I would like to make and what I would avoid. I also know a well-constructed and tasty meal idea when I see one. And yes there were a few too many allium rich dishes within ‘Healthy Baking’ to have me want to try everything. But there was enough other ideas to try and I can see myself opening this book and trying them.

Oh, and for the record – whoever tries a recipe in a cook book at the shops before deciding to buy it and take it home? Anyone? Yes, you can see I am still bemused by a recent accusation I can’t really comment on or review a cookbook if I’ve not tried any of the recipes… but hey, I am giving you my opinion as if I saw this book in the shops. I would go through it (not read it cover to cover like I actually did mind you) and judge whether or not it was something I would want to take home and cook from. So those who tell me I can’t review a book without having tried everything in it first… you’re so funny! I don’t kill people before reviewing cosy crimes either, maybe that’s why the comments were left by ‘anonymous’… so there would be no volunteers to ensure I review murder books appropriately too? 😉

Anyhow, back to ‘Healthy Baking’. Loved it, I did say that though. So here is why I loved it. I can’t eat wheat – I have a medically diagnosed wheat protein intolerance (not coeliacs) that means a lot of wheat, barley or rye makes me sick. So a bread book that relies on spelt, dairy free options and unrefined sugars – all how I live and eat – was just a dream come true to me!

Yes there were all the allium issues, but I am just so used to people never thinking of the allium allergies and intolerances I just let it slide. Especially as ‘Healthy Baking’ never states it is a diet specific cook book. It is just a cook book demonstrating… Healthy Baking. Yeah, its title pretty much explains it all – nailed it.

For the formatting side of things – gorgeous, enticing and clear pictures draw the reader in and make us want to see more. A great deal of helpful information is provided for each section and some of the recipes too – I do like those personalised touches as to why a recipe is important enough to the author to appear in their work. And the recipe layout and other essential information was clear and precise too. Being a cook book made in the UK, no conversion to metric issues either.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. In fact, I already have been. There are a lot of people out there who aren’t just on the kale drinking, raw vegan, “hippy food” bandwagon as it matches our shoes. We have legitimate allergies and intolerances that seem to be overshadowed by foodisms and gimmicks. ‘Healthy Baking’ is NOT one of those foodism gimmicks. It really does come across as one of the open and honest cook books wanting to help everyone eat better and therefore feel better through whole foods and great recipes. So people with or without food allergies and intolerances will all enjoy this book. Maybe not every recipe… but there are enough there to keep us all amused.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. It’s already on my Amazon wish list and I have been shopping around the various online bookstores to find the best deal on where to get it. 😉 Yes, this is really one of those books where I will happily put my money where my mouth is and hope to own my own copy very, very soon.

In summary: This is indeed a great book about Healthy Baking, and then some. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Fearless Food by Katrina Jorgensen.

Fearless Food.jpg

2 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Capstone Young Readers for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Sadly, this cook book wasn’t everything I had hoped it would be. Firstly, it is presented as being a child friendly cookbook and worded in such a way as to suggest that children can cook the recipes. Some of them? Yes. Most of them? No. And I don’t just mean young children, there are some I would be wary of my kitchen savvy 12 year old trying without assistance. So, yes it might be a cook book aimed for feeding children, but not a cookbook teaching children how to cook for themselves – despite its childlike appearance and formatting.

Secondly, I know it says in advance it’s only looking at the “big 8” allergies, but stating there are “no major allergies” is rather misleading as some people may take it to mean “this is a safe thing to make” and then feed it to someone with say salicylate or allium issues… and then wonder why they got sick. These might not be part of the “big 8” but they are big issues in my line of food prep and so this book is rather useless to us because of it. Normally I don’t take offence to recipes that use allium. I’m used to it; I know allium allergies and intolerances are thought to be minor league. But to dismiss them entirely? Just put me off this book in the first recipe and I never really recovered enough to like it a heck of a lot.

I mean, yes, there are some good recipes in there, but they are few and far between. Any recipe that calls for a “packet of this” or a “tin of that” while proclaiming it is a healthy whole food cook book also will get the squinty eye from me. This book got the squinty eye.

Okay, I want to say something nice so… The formatting was good – childish, but good. Clear and precise and basic instructions easy to follow (but when you say use a packet of so and so, instructions will be easy). I did find some of the pictures confusing and misleading as they showed images of foods that were for recipes later on in the book… as if they had to advertise things to come to keep you interested. It might work better in paper format, but when reading an electronic copy, it just added a dimension of clutter and confusion.

This book is also marketed for an American audience. No biggie, I am used to that when working with Netgalley and accept it as part of the deal. But it did narrow the field down even more for those who can read, use and enjoy this book. Yes it starts with a great little conversion table at the front, big thumbs up there, but it then uses those pre-mades I’ve mentioned and without knowing the ingredients and being unable to buy those items outside of the USA… those recipes therefore become useless to try. So if pre-mades must be used, add a glossary explaining them maybe?

Please note that I personally feel cook books that try and tackle multiple food allergies as a thing tend to fail miserably. They up sell themselves and then can’t follow through on being THE food friendly cook book. It would have worked much better as a whole food, real food (besides the pre-mades) cook book that offered suggestions on how to make things say dairy free, nut free or gluten free. Trying to cover all those bases just let it down and meant it didn’t really help many of those with food intolerances and allergies. I mean, saying “if you have a wheat/gluten intolerance, use a GF flour” as a tip. Uh, yeah, thanks! I figured that out in all the other books I use containing wheat. How about just cooking without it?

Would I recommend this book to others?

No I wouldn’t, sorry. In this day and age of online recipe databases, there are far better (free) options out there teaching people how to cook foods for those with food allergies, intolerances and similar issues. This book is too sporadic and the wording just too misleading to be something I would recommend.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I’m pretty sure we all know that answer, right? No, I can’t say I would as, again, there are a lot of much better resources available to me that are far more flexible at meeting our dietary needs.

In summary: Yes this book might be helpful to some with food allergies, but not that fearless as I’d hoped.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen.

Pho cookbook

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Ten Speed Press for provided me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

You know, I thought I knew a bit about Pho… I did not. I now doubt if I even know how to say or eat it correctly. 😉

Pho to me has always been a really yummy HOT broth with noodles, bits of meat and maybe some greens. And a meal you have when you missed breakfast and just can’t wait for lunch.

So I feel the ‘Pho Cook book’ has filled in a lot of the gaps missing in my education when it comes to this amazing nourishing food source!

I grew up in Darwin, Australia where – back then – Asian cuisine was one of the most common foods available when out and about. So I have been exposed to them from a young age. And I admit now that Pho in a Styrofoam cup with a fork as you walk around the markets is not the traditional way to eat it, but that’s what we did.

This book made me hungry too! How terrible. 😉 We got past the initial recipes, which I felt were at a level I could do (being a bone broth lover today) and the rest of the book became almost like a menu for me than a cook book. I wanted to order almost one of everything.

And, being a book produced by Ten Speed Press, the gloriously colourful pictures were to blame! They always seem to capture the spirit of a book in their tantalising images.

As for the formatting? Well, I will say here and now the recipes clearly show it was written for a North American audience (no surprise as they were!) as all the measurements are in imperial.

Also, the formatting used for the recipes was very typical of what I am used to in the older style Asian cook books. Very similar to authors like Charmaine Solomon where the ingredients and methods and blocked out page for page. Tightly squashed together, not a lot of white space.

Now, I am okay with this sort of formatting, as I am used to it. But I feel it sets the level of who the cook book is aimed for – middle to experts cooks. As your modern newbie cook – who is into a lot of white space, basic step by step instructions and hand holding – isn’t going to like the ‘Pho Cook book’. Sorry, but formatting will put people off. They pick up the book, the flick through it, see it looks so compact and will assume it is therefore too complicated and so put it down and buy a different book.

But what would I know? Just my opinion as part of my open and honest feedback. I loved the book, loved the recipes… would be challenged by some of them, but that just makes all the more fun and enjoyment of trying.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. But only to those I feel could handle it. I now admin in a Facebook group where we are helping to teach the unexperienced how to cook real food on a budget. This isn’t a book I would suggest to the newbies. Though it is something I would suggest to the members who had had more experience and were willing to try something outside their comfort zone.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I think I would… but I would prefer it in paper format – as I do most of my cook books – and it would have to wait until I have more shelf space. 😉

In summary: Not for the beginner, but a fantastic cookery book showing you how to make and enjoy Pho… and then some.

Until next time,

Janis.