A Plethora of Cookery Books and a Great Blackberry Tart!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

I was recently sent a selection of Cookery books to review.  As you know I just love cookbooks and have a vast collection . . . Todd moans whenever a new one comes through the letter box . . . but, alas that is just something he has to live with.  I am of the opinion that one can never have too many cookbooks . . . Marriage is a give and take, besides . . . he reaps the rewards of my fetish every night when he sits down to tea.


The first one is a bit of a novelty book, entitled "Beer, a cookbook."  Recipes by Kimberley Willis.  It's a fun little book, not too large or hefty, but there's a lot packed into it's pages.  There are 40+ recipes in this book, which is roughly about the size of a clutch handbag, each of them accompanied by a tasty looking photo.

There are recipes for starters, mains, sides and amazingly even desserts, each one containing detailed instructions and a tasty looking photo, not to mention some bartenders advice near the bottom and a heads-up rating . . . easy, medium or hard . . . so that you can pick according to your skills or desire.

It's a very sturdy book, each page being composed of heavy card, which has a glossy wipe proof surface.  (I guess that's in case you sample too much of the beer while you are cooking and get sloppy??)

Interspersed between the recipes are fun quotes like this one from Frank Zappa:

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline . . . it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least, you need a beer."

It's a cute little book, and would make the perfect Birthday Gift, or even Christmas Gift, for the beer connoisseur on your gift list.  I haven't actually cooked anything from the book, so can't really say how good the recipes are, but purely from a novelty point of view, this book gets an "7" from me.  It's colourful, sturdy and there were a few things in it that I have bookmarked for a later date to try.

The first one probably being these really delicious looking Chocolate Stout Lava Cakes !  There's also a pot roast that looks really tasty and tender as well.

Beer, a cookbook
Published by Adams Media
ISBN 10: 1-4405-3370-9
ISBN 13:  978-1-4405-3370-9
copyright 2012 by F+W Media, inc.

The second book is also a bit of a Novelty book, based loosely on the popular Hunger Games novels and film.  I was a great fan of the books and loved the movie, so I was quite interested in this book.  From the back cover:

When it comes to the Hunger Games, staying alive means finding food any way possible. Katniss and Gale hunt live game, Peeta's family survives on the bread they make, and the inhabitants of the Seam work twelve-hour days for a few handfuls of grain . . . all while the residents of the Capitol gorge themselves on delicacies and desserts to the heart's desire.

For the first time, you will be able to create delicious recipes from the humble District 12 to the extravagant Capitol, including:
  • French bread from the Mellark Family Bakery
  • Katniss's favourite Lamb Stew with Dried Plums
  • Rue's Roasted Parsnips
  • Gale's Bone-Picking Big Game Soup
  • Capital Grade Dark Chocolate Cake
There are nine tasty chapters . . . Breakfast, Breads, Soups Stews and Salads, Humble Beginnings (starters), Seafood, Poultry Dishes for the Brave, Meat, Wild Game,  and Just Desserts.  There is also an Appendix containing Katniss's Family Book of Herbs, Acknowledgments and a full Index.

Hard covered and 241 pages containing more than 150 recipes inspired by the Hunger Games Trilogy and written by Emily Ansara Baines.  (It is unofficial and unauthorized, approved, liscensed, or endorsed by Susanne Collins, her publishes, or lionsgate entertainment corp.)  Emily Ansara Baines is a writer who has worked as a professional baker and caterer throughout the East Coast of American, most recently New York City.

Each recipe seems to be well written, with great instructions and tips included from your "Sponsor."  The downside is that there are no photographs at all, and I do love my cookbooks to have at least a few scrummy pictures.  But, aside from a few recipes I would probably never cook, like "Fightin' Fried Squirrel . . . there are also a great number of really delicious sounding ones like Mixed Messages Mixed Berry Jam, Apocalyptic Eggs Benedict, Katniss's Craved Cheese Buns, Harvest Heirloom Apple Cake and Thick and Gooey Double Chocolate Banquet Brownies.  Again, I haven't cooked anything from this book . . . but I probably will.  It's been hard these past three weeks getting in any cooking time with all the renovations going on.  I am giving this one an "8".    Pictures would be nice, but most of the recipes sound quite delicious and it has great novelty factor. It would make a perfect gift for the Hunger Games fan!

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, by Emily Ansara Baines
Published by  Adams Media
ISBN-13: 978-1-4405-2658-9
ISBN-10: 1-4405-2658-3
$19.95 (CAN $20.99)

Here in the UK you can get it from Amazon for £14.44

The final book, and my favourite of the three, was Not-So-Humble Pies by Kelly Jaggers, also published by Adams Media.   150 delicious, decadent and savory recipes for one of my favourite foods of all . . . Pie!

The book is split into three parts.

Part 1 - Not so Humble beginnings
Chapter 1 Pastry and cookie crusts
The first chapter, pie crusts, offers tons of options. Pastry type crusts like the perfect flaky crust, butter crusts and options like a buttery, spicy cheese crust. Cookie type crusts include gingersnaps, pretzels. There are also shortbread type crusts which fall right between the two using a cookie type recipe to make a crust for a pie.

Chapter 2 - Toppings
The second chapter covers toppings, classic crumb toppings, meringue, stabilized whipped cream, and sauces.

Part 2 - Sweet as Can Be
Chapter 3 Creams, Custards, and Chiffons
Creams, Custards and Chiffons.-Nothing as simple as a chocolate cream pie, these are things like cantaloupe cream, vanilla rum meringue and for people who prefer a more traditional flavor profile, white chocolate chiffon.

Chapter 4  Fruits, Nuts and Berries
 Based on classic recipes, these up the gourmet and wow factor, an apple pie gets a savory cheddar crust to contrast the sweetness of the apples, peach and ginger combine in a hand pie perfect for picnics.

Chapter 5  Tarts, Tartlets, and Rustic Pies
 These are the "dressed up for guests" dessert pies. Fine ingredients, flavors and textures like apple rose, white chocolate ganache and praline cream.

Part 3 - Savory Situations
Chapter 6  Dinner Pies
 The savory flavors that make a main course. There are lots of tarts in this chapter as well that would work well as a side dish like the spinach and artichoke tart. Lots of cheese based tarts and pies as well.

Chapter 7  Spicy, Salty, and Exotic Pies
All of the recipes in this book put some pretty unusual twists on the family classics, but this chapter really pulls out all the stops  by adding chilis, spice and salt to classics.

Each part is beautifully photographed as are a lot of the recipes . . .


Lavender Infused Lemon Pie

The recipes all appear to be very well written, although having said that, the crust recipe that I chose to bake did have an inconsistency in it.  It called for 1 egg, not specifying the size, or the fact that you only need the yolk, at least I could not find anyplace where the white was called for.  I used a large egg and had thrown in the whole egg before I realized that in the directions it said the yolk.  It turned out fine though, so no worries.


I chose to bake the Fresh Blackberry Tart with Spiked Creme Anglaise recipe from chapter 5, Tarts, Tartlets and Rustic Pies.  This is blackberry season here in the UK at the moment and they are something that I have a lot of and that I love to use in the autumn.


The crust was quite forgiving . . . and not all that different from a short bread cookie.  Nom! Nom!  It was very rustic and not too frou frou . . . this was a plus for me last week with all of the construction work going on.

The filling was very easy to throw together, although I did find that the cornflour didn't dissolve in the alloted standing time so if I make it again, I will add a touch of lemon juice.  It will not only help to preserve the colour, but also add a nice little hint of sharpness that I think will go well with both the berries, the sweet crust and that scrummy Creme Anglaise.


*Fresh Blackberry Tart with Spiked Creme Anglaise*
makes 8 servings

Creme Anglaise is a slightly thickened custard sauce that is used as a garnish on all sorts of desserts.  Here the sauce is spiked with a touch of bourbon and drizzled over slices of warm blackberry tart.  If you don't care for bourbon, you can use rum or creme de cassis, or omit altogether.

2 cups fresh blackberries
2 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS sugar
1 short crust for tarts, rolled into a 12 inch circle
1 TBS butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 TBS bourbon
2 egg yolks
3 TBS sugar

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the berries, cornstarch and sugar until well combined.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Place the pastry onto the prepared baking sheet.  Spread with the blackberry mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Fold the pastry just over the edge of the berries, then dot the top with butter.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add the cream and vanilla.  Bring just to a simmer.  In a large bowl, whisk together the bourbon, egg yolks, and sugar until smooth.  Whisking constantly, gradually add 1/2 cup of the cream into the egg yolks.  Immediately add the egg yolk mixture back into the pot and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes. 

Serve the tart slightly warm with the creme anglaise drizzled over the top.

We quite enjoyed this lovely tart and I have no less than 15 other recipes flagged to try out over the next few weeks/months.  If they are all as nice as this one . . . well, we have a real winner here!

Not-So-Humble Pies, by Kelly Jaggers
Published by Adams Media
ISBN 10: 1-440503291-5
ISBN 13L 978-1-4405-3291-7
$17.95 (Can $18.99)
Available here in the UK from Amazon for £12.74

I give this book a "9."  It lost a point for the inconsistency I found in the crust recipe.

Disclaimer - Please note that although I am given these books free of charge for review, I am under no obligation to give positive reviews.  My opinions are honest and  my own.


  1. What a great post. I enjoy reading about new cookbooks. The Blackberry Tart looks delicious....

  2. A great selection of books there, I especially like the last two. I must read the Hunger Games as I have only seen the movie so far.


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