Cookbooks for Christmas! Donna Hay’s “The New Easy” & Sophie Zalokar’s “Food of the Southern Forests”
Lets face it – when all inspiration fails, cookbooks are the perfect fall-back gift to give any food lover in your life. There’s plenty of them on the book store shelves at this time of year and a few fabulous cookbooks have appeared in my letter box too, so I thought I’d share my humble opinion on a couple that I particularly liked.
If you’ve spent any time at all looking at my recipes then it will come as no surprise that the title of this book is enough to grab my attention. I’m all for maximum impact with minimal effort and that is just what Donna delivers in her newest offering. This is a great, big, hard-backed book full of glorious images and new ways to make everyday cooking easier. Cookbooks that recognise most of us are time-poor, but still keen to serve weekday meals that are both nutritious and appealing are special, and those that recognise that on weekends we might want to go the extra yard and spend a little more time in the kitchen are simply gold.
Donna shares some new flavour combinations and fresh short-cuts, as well as ways to put a novel spin on some old favourites. The book also includes a clever section called “Re-style” so, once you’ve confidently got a dish under your belt (pardon the pun) you can tweak it up for a fancy dinner party or down for a more casual meal. For example, a basic chocolate pound cake becomes a decadent, rich layer cake or, alternatively, quick and easy cupcakes. The recipes are accompanied by the kind of mouth-watering photos that had me checking out my pantry shelves and re-planning the family dinner.
Donna Hay is no novice with food and her unique style has turned her into an international food-publishing sensation with 23 cookbooks to her name, plus the Donna Hay Magazine, various television shows, a food range and online store. She didn’t get where she is by dumb luck – this lady truly knows her onions. And her salads, cakes, meats dishes etc …
Chef Sophie Zalokar may not be as well known as Donna Hay, but that in no way diminishes her extraordinary talent as she takes us on a journey into the food and people of this unique region of south-western Western Australia. Originally from South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Sophie qualified as a chef under the eye of Maggie Beer at the renowned Pheasant Farm Restaurant. She followed that up with a visual arts degree and honed her writing skills, being short-listed for several media awards with her first book, PicNic – Outdoor Feasts in the Australian Landscape. She now runs the popular Foragers Field Kitchen and Cooking School in Pemberton, Western Australia.
Sophie sources the seasonal produce from this diverse region to create a gorgeous range of dishes featuring local farmed, foraged and wild food. The book is indexed in the front alphabetically by featured ingredient and a quick glimpse of this is all you need to see the enormous variety of foods available in this abundant region. Most generously, the plentiful images in the book feature not only the finished dishes and ingredients, but many photos of the producers and foragers.
The recipes cover every angle from simple, fresh Cauliflower Four Ways, to the sophisticated Marron & Avocado Ceviche with Fingerlime or the plain indulgent Latin American Tres Leches Cake with Strawberry and Rose. There really is something here to tempt everyone. Sophie has generously allowed me to share one that particularly caught my eye and which would, I think, be a perfect addition to the Australian Christmas table. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – this Ginger Poached Chicken, Peanut & Sesame Salad with Spiced Nectarines is simple to make and appropriately spicy and seasonal for an Aussie Christmas.
Foods of the Southern Forests is available postage free here.
GINGER-POACHED SHREDDED CHICKEN, PEANUT & SESAME SALAD WITH SPICED NECTARINES
- Spiced Nectarines
- 10 small nectarines halved & stones removed
- 450 ml apple cider vinegar
- 375 ml water
- cup honey
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp whole allspice
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- Ginger-Poached Shredded Chicken
- 1.6 kg free-range chicken
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 10 cloves garlic peeled
- 180 g sliced fresh ginger
- ½ cup salt
- ½ sml Savoy cabbage finely shredded
- ½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts roughly chopped
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp fresh dill roughly chopped
- 8 spiced nectarine halves skins discarded & flesh thickly sliced
- ½ cup spiced nectarine syrup
- 2 tbsp hulled tahini
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- sea salt flakes & freshly cracked black pepper
- SPICED NECTARINES
- Place the nectarine halves in a bowl.
- Bring the vinegar, water, honey, sugar, salt and spices to the boil, stirring until the sugar, honey and salt have dissolved.
- Pour over the nectarines and cover with a piece of baking paper directly on top. Leave to cool before refrigerating until ready to serve. Best for 2 weeks.
- GINGER-POACHED SHREDDED CHICKEN
- Place the chicken in a medium-sized stockpot.
- Cover with the rice wine vinegar, garlic, fresh ginger, salt and enough water to only just cover the chicken. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the chicken sit in the pot until it’s cool enough to handle.
- Take the meat off the bones, discarding the skin and bones and shred into bite-sized pieces. Cover and reserve to the side.
- Make the dressing by simmering the spiced nectarine syrup in a small saucepan until the volume is reduced by half.
- Leave to cool before whisking in the tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning. If needed, adjust with a little water until the consistency of pouring cream.
- Toss the shredded chicken with the cabbage, peanuts, half the sesame seeds, half the dill and half the dressing together with a little seasoning.
- Serve with the remaining dressing drizzled on the top and garnished with the spiced nectarine slices, remaining peanuts, sesame seeds and dill.
Both of these books were review copies kindly provided to Lambs’ Ears and Honey by the publishers.