Category Archives: Book Reviews

The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs – A Review

The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs

Leslie Conron Carola (Compiler)
Date of Publication: February 7, 2017


I received a time-limited electronic copy of this cookbook for evaluation and review. This review contains affiliate links.

A time limited electronic copy of this book was provided free by the publisher.

There are 10 chefs featured in this cookbook:
Kevin Dundon, Ultan Cooke, Derry Clarke, Darrina Allen, Martin Bealin, Catherine Fulvio, Neven Maguire, Noel McMeel, Ian Orr, and Tim O’Sullivan.

It’s a beautifully laid out book that is a pleasure just to look at and read. It features gorgeous photography, of the Irish countryside and areas of interest as well as the dishes. I liked the market pictures. This book is a celebration of the featured chefs as well as being a cookbook. Biographies and pictures of each chef are included. The recipes have standard measurements that US cooks will be familiar with. In many cases both cup measurements and weights of ingredients are listed. For instance, a recipe might read “3 cups/300 g plain flour.”

The recipes are elegant and sophisticated, but often are simple. They are not always practical or frugal, but some surprised me and were both. If there is a term that might be unfamiliar to readers, it is usually defined. The photography showcases amazing food presentation creations as well. I don’t even want to KNOW what some of these meals would cost if enjoyed at the chef’s restaurants; some of these creations are served at castles! Overall, they are very impressive. If you like to see creative food presentation, you should enjoy this.

The tea scones are great, and I’ve also made the Guinness Chocolate cupcakes. The bit of stout really takes that chocolate up a notch. I look forward to trying the salted caramel ice cream later in the summer.

There are some quite simple recipes in the book as well, such as Roux, that compliment the recipes, and that’s exactly the way I make my own.

The downside, at least for me, is that some of these ingredients are about impossible for me to find here in my small town in the US – I’d have to drive a couple of hours to the city to find some of the ingredients if I wanted to cook them. Also, not all the recipes really appeal to my Southern US palate. It’s a much more gourmet selection that I normally would prepare. At times though, I like part of a recipe or a component that can stand alone, so there’s still value there for me. I also found a lot of value in the photo essays on various ingredient production.

This is as much coffee table book as it is a cookbook. It’s really a beautiful production.

5 out of 5 stars

Sweetness by Christy Jordan – A Sweet Southern Dessert Cookbook

Sweetness

by Christy Jordan
Date of Publication: November 7, 2016
  I received a time-limited electronic copy of this cookbook for evaluation and review. This review contains affiliate links.

I enjoyed reading this cookbook as much as the recipes. It was full of inspirational tidbits, stories, and reminiscing. I loved the story of how “Old Scrap Iron” got her name. There are lots of recounted memories from times go by of older generations that I just really loved reading. There was lots of true wisdom there and a lot of times I found myself laughing, and it brought back fond memories of my own. It’s definitely Southern, and I think Southern born and raised readers will especially enjoy the way this book often evokes memories of a time when families and people were closer.

The recipes are all about sweets, with some punches, fruit drinks, and Southern Sweet tea added. The Southern Sweet tea recipe was the only one I didn’t care for. We just make ours differently, never letting the tea actually boil keeps the bitterness down and we DO pour ours over sugar when it is still warm, so the sugar dissolves well. Plus we use 2-3 times the amount of tea. We like our Southern Sweet Tea so it can about get up and walk by itself.

I love that she included very traditionally Southern recipes like Hummingbird Cake, Coca-Cola cake, Divinity, and various chess pies. There are icing recipes galore, and they are good, and many I recognized as being recipes that I learned from my own mother. My favorite new recipes though involved some of the cake mix recipes that were included. I always stock up on cake mixes during sales, and making cookies with them will give me another way to use them up before they expire, so I really appreciated those- and they are excellent; I’d never have known they were made from a cake mix.

The recipes are all centered around common pantry items and are very affordable. Almost all are very simple and make very little mess. They are practical, and good, and pleasing to the Southern palate. They are NOT gourmet, or fussy, and they are full-calorie.

I will pick a hard copy of this book up when it comes out. The pictures are nice, but this is a cookbook I’d like to keep a copy of in my ‘sweets’ cabinet. The icings are great- really with the collection in this cookbook, there’s no reason anyone should ever buy another can of icing again.

 

5 out of 5 stars


Taste of Beirut: 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes … A Cookbook Review

Taste of Beirut: 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More

by Joumana Accad

I chose this book because I have often heard that Lebanese food is some of the best in the world. It’s an area which has had contact with multiple cultures for thousands of years, and that influence has honed the spices and cooking techniques a great deal.

I was delighted that I learned something useful in the first few pages! I often find myself cooking or sweating onions at the start of each meal, but the author recommended doing many in advance, and storing them in the oil. This is already saving me time on a weekly basis. Indeed, the food storage and preservation tips were all quite new to me, and quite useful. There’s also a detailed explanation of ingredients that are unique to this cuisine such as sumac, bulgur types, fava beans, and other staples.

The book builds on itself, so that the first chapters introduce basic spice mixtures and condiments that later are used in other dishes. For instance, there’s a delightful recipe for yogurt cheese early on, that is later used in sandwich recipes as a spread. Delicious falafel is also covered in detail, with tips on getting just the perfect texture.

The book also contains a lot of full color, gorgeous photos. I’m going to pick up a hard copy of this cookbook soon; I like enough to want to own a hard copy for my cookbook collection. It’s one of the better, more interesting cookbooks I’ve read lately, with several recipes and techniques that I’ve already adopted. I do highly recommend this one. Most of the ingredients are quite easy to find, and many of the recipes are quite inexpensive to make, but full of taste and freshness.


5 out of 5 stars


Disclosure: I was provided an unfinished electronic galley copy for purposes of review via the publisher. This post does contain an affiliate link, however, Amazon has helped me arrange my account so that my payout can never be reached. I like the affiliate tools for the convenience only, it is never my intention to profit from my reviews of any item.

The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins by James Angelos- A book review

The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins

by James Angelos


This was a hard read only because there are so many facts and explanations in the text. They are needed, but slow down reading a bit. I found the best way to read this book was one chapter at a time. The chapters are relatively long, but this strategy works well as because each chapter really illustrates a key contributing factor to the political, social, and economic problems in Greece.

There are a lot of visits and interviews with people from all levels of Greek society – from old grandmothers that collected blindness disability when she wasn’t blind, to the doctor and prefect that signed for her to be able to. It covers them a lot of ground with people, from immigrant Muslims to immigration officers and people who can’t stand them, to politicians and civil servants.

This book covers all that I heard in the news- the corruption in Greek society and government, tax evasion, nationalistic and anti-German feelings that led to the rise of Syriza, racial and ethnic tensions that led to the rise of the Golden Dawn. It is all covered and well. The chapter on German relations was extraordinarily well written, I felt. It really brought the human element to life, and I really felt like I’d gained a more comprehensive understanding. Some of the personal histories about made me want to cry – the mass executions, 300,000 starving. Part of this chapter is the story about Manolis Glezos as a young man, daring to remove the German flag of the occupation. I think the author used these stories so well- I felt a gained a much deeper understanding of how the politics of anti-German sentiment gained so much traction and power. Later, discussing immigration issues the Greeks have, I could see The Golden Dawn became almost an inevitability.

The book is highly quotable in many places. It’s funny in others- imagine a country using aerial surveillance to root out people’s swimming pools, while defense spending for NOTHING that ever materializes is a black hole in politician’s pockets, or in a civil service system that considers working behind a computer such a hardship that workers need 6 extra paid days off a year for having to do it.

It is often as much an examination of the broader issues of democracy and capitalism, and political corruption as it is of the Greek situation specifically. I learned a lot from this book. What is so scary is that I see some of these same problems creeping up in America. I know I’d always thought of ‘political corruption’ as being a problem mainly with politicians. This book really illustrates how the participation in rampant corruption, the kind that bankrupts a country, actually can span from the poor and powerless to the highest social classes.

 



5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: Disclosure: I was provided an unfinished product- an advanced reading copy, for purposes of review. This post does contain an affiliate link(s), however, Amazon has helped me arrange my account so that my payout can never be reached. I like the affiliate tools for the convenience only, it is never my intention to profit from my reviews of any item.

Handbag Workshop by Anna M. Mazur – A Book Review

Handbag Workshop

Design and Sew the Perfect Bag
by Anna M. Mazur
Release Date: October 14, 2014

This book instructs the reader on several very varied and pretty purse styles. I learned a lot from the first time I got this book and merely flipped through it. When it comes to sewing, one of my main interest is purses and organizers. This book covers some very fashionable styles that when made with quality materials, look very stylish and fashionable.
Each style is pictured, with step by step instructions on how to construct the purse and get that look. Along the way, instructions on hardware, preparing and applying trim, grommets, snaps, zippers, and anything else that one might need to know in order to make a beautiful, stylish purse.

I don’t recall ever learning so much from a sewing book. The instructions are clear, simple, and easy to understand. I highly recommend this one, not only for those of us interested in making purses and organizers, but also for anyone looking to work with leather- a lot of these skills will translate to leather work and trim skills for costuming and Cos-play.

5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I was provided an unfinished electronic galley copy for purposes of review via the publisher. This post does contain an affiliate link, however, Amazon has helped me arrange my account so that my payout can never be reached. I like the affiliate tools for the convenience only, it is never my intention to profit from my reviews of any item.

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