Category Archives: Book Reviews

But I Could Never Go Vegan | Review

But I Could Never Go Vegan! – Kristy Turner – Experiment LLC – 320 pages, RRP $25-$35

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Content | This vegan cookbook aims to address all of the excuses Kristy Turner has heard people make in relation for not adopting a vegan lifestyle. The chapters of the book are set out  in 20 chapters, ranging from chapters about ‘meat-substitute foods’ and another chapter solely on pizzas. It should be noted that this book, although has some bonus gluten-free dishes, are not all gluten-free. Early on in the book there are handy recipes for making your own nut-butter, cooking legumes and grains as well as an essential pantry list for going vegan.

Photography/Layout/Design | This book gets a massive plus for photographs, because every recipe has one (which is important for a book like this, aiming to convert people to veganism). There are also many collaged photographs on recipe pages showing step-by-step things like: how to roll a dough for a certain recipe or how the tofu should look when cut. The text used is very clean, but there is a lot of text on the recipe pages (some unnecessarily so).

Recipes/Functionality | For non-vegans making vegan food, the recipes need to be read with a little more vigilance. This is not because they are difficult, but because, say for example, making the ‘Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Sunflower Cheddar’ (pg 42) you need to adhere to the cheese recipe ingredients and instructions to ensure you get the same flavor and texture. Or like the ‘Chickpea Fries’ (pg 56) I would change the spices used to flavor, but wouldn’t be substituting some of the chickpea flour with other flours, unless instructed to do so, otherwise you may end up with a very soggy chip. The meat chapter is good such as the ‘Sunflower Sausage’ (pg26), because it does have a meaty flavor. The seafood chapter is a little bit of a stretch though, like the ‘Orange-Miso Mushroom Scallops with Oranges, Fennel & Forbidden Rice’ (pg 200) yes it is creative (the mushrooms cook and have a similar texture to scallops), but obviously taste nothing like a scallop. The ‘Sweet & Sour Cauliflower’ (pg243) is good and worth a go, it definitely doesn’t appear to taste like something it doesn’t. The ‘Butterscotch Bread Pudding’ (pg 267) is good, sauce is a little thin though.
What I found with But I Could Never Go Vegan, is the flavors of the dishes stand out but in some instances the recipes needed a little tweaking where they probably shouldn’t have.  But rest assured, in the recipes where texture and food-form is critical – the book is bang on.

 

Thug Kitchen | Review

Thug Kitchen (eat like you give a f*ck) – Thug Kitchen LLC – Little, Brown Book Group – 209 pages, RRP $30

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Content | Thug Kitchen is a vegan, street-food-home-food-everyday-food cookbook created from the Thugkitchen.com team to (and quote) “inspire motherf*ckers to eat some goddamn vegetables and adopt a healthier lifestyle”. Thug Kitchen’s cookbook uses a crazy multitude of swear words and this makes their introduction story kind of hilarious, although the story itself does have a very real and logical message. The chapters or so-called ‘Track List’ are as follows: Carpe F*cking Diem – Breakfast, Short Order Sh*t – Salads, Sammies & Mini Meals, Big-Ass Cup of Cozy – Soups & Stews, The Munchies – Salads, Sips & the Snack Life, The Main Event – Burritos, Bowls & other Bomb-Ass Meals, Sweet Talk – Baked Goods & Motherf*cking Dessert.

Photography/Layout/Design | This book is pretty hipster. Black and white strong typography recipe pages with elements of graphic design (including watercolour & graffiti splodges) are throughout the pages. Barcoded/typewriter typography used over some of the adjacent recipe page images. Insert photo pages contain market stalls and eat-out joints. The photographs of Thug Kitchen’s food are very laid back and not too glammed up, illustrating a ‘food at home’ vibe, with decks of cards surrounding food, a family dinner table with a ready-to-tuck-in feel and even a photo of someone drawing whilst having cookies near them.

Recipes/Functionality | Can the vegan recipes live up to the professed swag of the book. Yes, yes they can. There are notes on a few recipe pages such as ‘Making your own pancake mix’ (pg 12) and Dropping Knowledge areas throughout the book like how ‘Miso Paste’ is made (pg 88) and how to ‘Use Acids, Not Salt’ (pg 125). The recipe pages are as informative and flexible as they can be and little sub-notes are provided on every page to assist the cook which is very helpful. There is also some really funny words on the recipe photos like “try not to lick the f*cking page” featured on the mouthwatering ‘Tortilla Soup’ (pg 98). The ‘Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad’ (pg 50), ‘Potato Leek Soup’ (pg 96), ‘Peach-Mint Sun Tea’ (pg 131) are all super-easy to make, taste delicious and I recommend them. The mains in this book are pretty awesome and they can easily stand up on their own. The sweets are not as boss compared to the other chapters in this book and they let me down a little, but that said, they are still great refined-sugar-free and dairy-free recipes which fit nicely in with the books nutritious, healthy-eating emphasis.

With stand-out, recipes that everyone will enjoy such as the ‘Roasted Beer & Lime Cauliflower Tacos with Cilantro Coleslaw’ (pg 166) and ‘Chocolate Fudge Pops’ (pg 182) it’s hard not to get completely and totally addicted to veggie loaded, sugar-free, vegan cooking at home.

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The Forest Feast | Review

The Forest Feast – Erin Gleeson – Pan Macmillian Aust – 197 pages, RRP $30-$40

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Content | New York photographer and artist Erin Gleeson creates food art with recipes from her forest produce similar to what is featured on her blog. The food showcased in this box is all vegetarian and features a very resourceful use of seasonal produce available. The book is broken 5 chapters appetizers, cocktails, salads, vegetable dishes and sweets.

Photography/Layout/Design | This book showcases Erin’s artistic talents – the front cover is a well designed, bright and features Erin’s eye for food styling. On the inset of the book and on nearly every page are watercolour painted fruit and vegetable illustrations. The recipe pages, are different from anything I’ve seen. The ingredients are pictorially represented, with arrows and fancy typography enhancing the recipe layout.

Recipes/Functionality | The recipes are very simple. The appetizers were hit and miss for me personally recipes like ‘Beer-battered Artichoke Hearts’ (pg 19), sound nice, but ‘Sage Chips’ (pg 53)…no thanks. There are a few fruit and cheese combinations, good for any vegetarian entrée platter.

Most of the food is super healthy and the final recipes are bright and colorful showcasing the beauty of home-grown fruits and vegetables. Some salad recipes that combine fruit and vegetables together leave a bit to be desired for me, but the vegetable mains are cheap,  simple and delicious, particularly the ‘Corn and Cauliflower Tacos’ (no page number but it is pg 157) and the ‘Polenta Portabellos’ (pg 177). The sweets chapter mainly uses fruit to sweeten in the recipes so if you’re after healthy quick desserts you will like this chapter.

The Forest Feast has simple, resourceful and relatively in-expensive vegetarian dishes.

Ample Hills Creamery | Review

Ample Hills Creamery – Brian Smith & Jackie Cuscuna – Stewart, Tabori & Chang – 222 pages, RRP $25

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Content | This book covers some of the most popular recipes from the “…hundreds of flavors made…” at Brooklyns finest creamery (including a look at Ample Hills commercial manufacturing process). The book is broken into introduction and 8 flavor chapters ranging from basic, to boozy to experimental.

At the beginning of each recipe chapter, there is a short kids story featuring 3 characters. Which ties in with the ‘kids + family-run business theme’ throughout the book.

There are some recipes like the ‘Nanatella’ (pg 58) which is the banana icecream recipe on the previous page with Nutella added it to it basically doesn’t warrant its own page, it is simply a minor variation. Duplicate recipes like this happen only a few times in the book.

Photography/Layout/Design |
Ample Hills is a family-run business and as such, this book has cartoon illustrations and games popped into pages for an added element. The colours are bright, the photography simple and the writing style easy to understand. Not all recipes have photos (about 70%) and there are a some recipes with multiple elements that did not have photos of the final product attached – which is kind of the motivation behind making a recipe with a long slew of ingredients and instructions.

Aside from that, the book is awesome. I don’t quite get the games within the book, but if it will encourage kids to  read at cookbooks – I’m all for it.

Recipes/Functionality | the recipe flavours and combinations are stock-standard but sound delicious. There are a few different icecream flavours, (‘Breakfast Trash’ pg 69, ‘Pb Fluff n’ Stuff pg 109 and ‘Daddy’s Sundae’ – a bourbon salted caramel fudge sundae) that are outside the norm, but are not too far outside you’re not game to try them. I personally love the Ooey, Goey Buttercake icecream – I made it, freaking delicious.

The concept, matches the layout, stories and recipes in the Ample Hills Creamery. Loads of recipes, just the right amount of chit-chat.


The Blue Ducks | Review

The Blue Ducks – Mark Labrooy & Darren Robertson – Pan Macmillian Aust – 197 pages, RRP $30-$40

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Content | Mark and Darren gives us a book with recipes (possibly that  which is featured at their famous Three Blue Ducks restaurant in Byron Bay), additional knowledge on sustainability practices in growing a vegetable garden, keeping chooks and useful information for those into beekeeping.

The books introduction is short, which is good for a book like this, centered on the authors plans to own a café-like place run like a restaurant with very little money. With each chapter/area of this book there are a few pages dedicated to relevant topics (i.e: with seafood there are some pages on selecting seafood and seafood sustainability). The book is broken into Water > Land > Garden sections, classifying food groups into the environments they come from rather than what course they fall under.

Photography/Layout/Design | Not every recipe has an image (which is kind of a pet hate of mine), but I would say 70% of the recipes do have photographs and the food styling is indicative of a beach-like atmosphere, bright colour’s, stressed-wooden textures lots of aqua blue hues.

I understand food styling. I understand elements added to an image to make it look more appealing. For example ‘Our Green Chicken’ (page 67) you rub the chicken with a green marinade and as it cooks it will char and darken becoming a dark brown/black (just like chargrilling anything), they have then smeared extra un-cooked green marinade on the chicken to make the chicken have a fresh green colour. This is somewhat acceptable. However…

I’ll give you two examples of recipes that feature ingredients in the photo integral to the dish,  which add to the aesthetics of the image and  are not actually in the recipe. ‘Toasted Muesli, The Way We Like It’ (pg 93) asks for goji berries, but it looks like there are dried cranberries in the image, there are dried figs and dried apple in the image but not in the recipe. ‘Roasted Vegetable Salad’ (pg 132) has roasted zucchini in the image but not the recipe. Seems like no biggie, but if the green of the zucchini adds an appealing element, influencing you to make the salad, you may be disappointed with the visual outcome.

Recipes/functionality | The recipes are hit and miss. The meat recipes are pretty good, the ‘Kick-Arse Steak Sandwich’ (pg 41) is pretty kick-arse and has become my go-to staple for a steak sandwich. The ‘Muffins’ (pg 96), which looked amazing in the photos were a massive let down, they tasted dry and bland (as the basic batter is unsweetened and heavy) and I had to double the sweet topping for the next batch in order to get more flavor in every bite. The Bronte Fish Cakes (pg 33) are alright, a little dry, but it’s okay if you have sauce to go with them which is mentioned in the serving suggestion.

The photos and styling in this book serve the books beach atmosphere, look delicious but some reciepes have not translated to these mouth-watering images. The meat section recipes are generic but have resulted in good flavors. I would by weary some recipes in the sweet grains section.

Check out The Blue Ducks restaurant here

Sepia | Review

Sepia – Martin Benn & Vicki Wild, Murdoch Books, 2014, 292 pages, RRP $60

The long-awaited book of Martin Benn’s (chef of the year 2011) three-hat Sydney restaurant Sepia is a knock-out.

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Content | Sepia is a tell-tale book about the Sydney restaurant; its food inspiration and wine philosophy with a very concise telling of Benn’s training and chef experiences through the ranks in various fine-dining restaurants in his birth country (the UK) and here in Sydney.

The book is consists of an Introduction (which is just about long enough) and 5 menus, which are a representation of Sepia’s degustation throughout the years since its 2009 opening. This book has the perfect mix of informational restaurant history and philosophy.

The only let-down (which is not a let-down at all) is that the recipes, particularly the mains with a strong Tetsuya influence, are so beautifully photographed and the intriguing, you feel as though you wan

t to skip the content pages between the menus to get to the next lot of recipes. The book is an interesting read, although the story highs and lows are not out of the ordinary, but the recipes for me, are an absolute stand-out.

Photography/Layout/Design | The design of this book is smart. Sepia-toned hues, gold-foiled accents, modern-patterned material bound cover. Photographs cover entire pages and are positioned adjacent to the page which has the largest bulk of recipe instructional material.

The photography is cleverly done; classic motion-blurred B&W stills slotted in between the pages give off an almost jazz-bar feel, which is affluent but at the same time very low-key – Sepia’s intended restaurant atmosphere.

There are 67 recipes; a fair good effort for a book that’s main focus is explaining the backstory of Benn, Wild and the restaurant itself. For this reason, the recipe to content ratio is evenly balanced.

The food styling of the recipes is almost flawless, the only flaw is that some elements, in one or two of the recipes are unable to be seen in the photographs (i.e: custard covered by other ingredients in top-down shots). Although for aesthetic purposes I understand and as Benn and Wild styled these photos, that is them, a very-refined, modern essence on the plate.

Recipes/functionality | In every recipe, there will be at least 2 ingredients you will not be able to buy from an everyday supermarket. In some recipes you will be required to have scales that go below 1g. The recipe instructions are straight forward and easy to follow, although the technique required for certain elements (i.e: creating mannitol egg shells or slow-poached butter egg yolk) are going to require some practice, knife skills and delicate fingers.

As Benn’s latter cooking career had been heavily influenced by his time at Tetsuya’s, this has clearly transferred to Sepia and thus the primary proteins featured in this book are of seafood.

The dessert recipes look insane. One thing that sets this book apart from other restaurant books is that the dessert recipes go beyond the ‘deconstructed’, featuring new and exciting creations from “Japanese Stones”(pg 264) to “Chocolate Forest Floor” (pg 258) with 12 constructable elements.

Creation and new-unfounded flavors produced from any three-hat restaurant should be the main overarching criteria for pastry critique. This certainly delivers on creativity.