Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cookbook Spotlight: Kitchen Sense

Cookbook Spotlight is a collaboration between Sara and Ali from Weekend Cookbook Challenge and Cath from A Blithe Palate and it's focus is on a new cookbook by Mitchell Davis called "Kitchen Sense".

When Sara asked if I was interested in taking part, let's say, I was pretty chuffed. 25 bloggers and 1 cookbook, what would catch their eye - what would they cook?

First off, how would I relate this book to my fellow Antipodeans? I would say it's closer in style to Margaret Fulton's "Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery" rather than Stephanie Alexander's "The Cook's Companion." All three are weighty tomes that distil the author's lifetime of cooking knowledge into practice.

The book is divided into 13 chapters covering everything from finger foods to grains, vegetables, brunch, sauces and condiments. With each recipe you are given notes on advanced prep work and what to do with leftovers - I think these two elements are most useful and should probably be a part of all recipes.

The book's subtitle is interesting - 600 recipes to make you a great home cook - having gone through the book, with it's variety of styles, it's influences from many cultures, I think it's an aim that's extremely realistic and probably tells you exactly the type of food and recipes you'll find in here.

One final thing worth mentioning is that there are absolutely no photographs in this book - personally, this isn't an issue for me, but I'm aware that for some people it is.That may sound odd since I do take a lot of photos, but the emphasis these days seems to be on food styling rather than the substance of the dish. There's nothing more frustrating to find that the photo bears no relation to the recipe. Without photos, the final look is really up to you and I think this book should give you the confidence to be able to produce the dish the way you want it to be.

Anyway, it's time to turn to the most important part of this whole exercise - the recipes! I've worked my way through the book, picking out recipes that I'd not done before and those in styles that I have - in this way, it enabled me to compare with the recipes I'm familiar with and also give myself a bit of challenge and do something new.

The first two dishes are ones that would sit perfectly in a tapas style menu. Both can be completed in under 10 minutes - they then sit and marinate until ready to serve.

olives garlic

Spicy Moroccan Olive Salad
(pg. 6)


The recipe calls for a mix of green and black olives - I've used local Mount Zero Wild Olives - similar in appearance to Ligurian they naturally come multi-coloured. The olives are flavoured in a mixture of preserved lemon, shallot, garlic, cumin seed and crushed red pepper flakes before being bathed in lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil.

White Anchovies with Garlic and Parsley (pg. 30)


I really do love the simplicity of this dish and it's presentation - Spanish white Anchovies are laid out and then topped with a mix of fresh parsley, garlic, lemon zest, extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. The flavours are wonderfully clean and I'd serve these with grilled Turkish bread fingers.



Fresh Corn Chowder (pg. 49)

It's stressed that it's not worth doing this soup unless it's corn season. I was particularly interested in the methodology of this soup. After removing the kernels, the corn cobs themselves are cooked for a half hour in milk - that's the other unusual aspect, there's no stock at all, just milk. The end result is an incredibly creamy soup - you would swear that there's cream in it.


The next two dishes are similar to things I've done in the past. They both rely of sparklingly fresh produce of which, here in Australia we are fortunate to have. These dishes are also fairly quick and can be prepared in around 15 minutes.

3spoons 3rounds

Tuna Tartare with Toasted Sesame (pg. 292)


An Asian influenced tartare - presented in a manner a little differently than that suggested in the book. Fresh tuna is mixed with toasted sesame seeds (a real key to the dish), sesame oil, spring onions, crystallised ginger, sesame oil, soy and pepper (I've used sansho instead of black pepper). I've used a small square mould to shape the tartare and placed them on Asian spoons to serve as a tasty morsel - this is perfect cocktail food for summer.


Salmon Tartare with Preserved Lemon and Olives (pg. 293)


With a Mediterranean feel, fresh salmon is mixed with olives, capers, chives, shallot and preserved lemon. I've placed the mix on pumpernickel rounds - the book suggests Crostini or Toast points. There's a lot of flavour here - it's clean but with a refreshing tang.


The next dish was actually the first dish attempted. I'm quite fond of Duck so I was particularly drawn to the recipe for Duck Prosciutto.

Duck breasts are packed in a mix of brown sugar, salt, coriander seeds, peppercorns, allspice berries and bay leaf.


It's then sealed and left in the fridge for 5-8 days or until cured. It then can be kept for up to a month.

Duck Prosciutto (pg. 337)

cured duck

The last recipe is fittingly something sweet. I was really interested in making this due to the use of Cream Cheese Pastry - a type of pastry I've not ever used before. Cream cheese pastry basically consists of cream cheese, butter and flour! Having now made and tasted it, I think I'll be making this pastry again.


Rugelach (pg.466)

The book's method of shaping involves rolling the pastry to a circle then cutting that into triangles. The triangles are then rolled and turned to form crescents. The first batch was done this way and although the cookies themselves were scrumptious, they weren't the most attractive looking and the process a little fiddly. I decided on forming them in a simpler manner - rolling the pastry into to a rectangle that was then rolled into a spiral, which was cut into small pillows.


That's the end of my current adventures through "Kitchen Sense" - stay tuned for the round-up which should be fantastic and once again, many thanks to all involved in putting this together - it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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  1. Wow...Haalo!

    How in the world did you find time to make all those recipes??? I barely mangaed to get one made?!

    Everything looks fabulous, and I'm so happy you took part in this, too!

    (and how did you get those gorgeous colors in your photos, anyway?)

  2. Thanks Stephanie - we had a few weeks to get this together and four of those recipes can be done in less than 15 minutes. Doing the write up took longer!

    For the photos - it's just a combination of natural light and longer exposures, with the light being the major factor.

  3. Haalo, that duck looks so amazing!

  4. Thanks Sara - I like the duck too - looks really nice sliced wafer thin

  5. I had plenty of time, as well...and I still (barely) managed to make just one dish!!!

    Ah, light. Light is lacking in my house, I'm afraid. Despite huge windows, all over the house, this places sucks for lighting!!

  6. Oh my word.

    Haalo, this is an amazingly illustrated post! Everything looks so beautiful.


  7. Hi Jasmine and Thank you - all the recipes turned out really well and more importantly they all tasted pretty good especially the Rugelach - the pastry is to die for.


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