Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cookbook Review ~ Bill Granger Easy {And Marinated Steak Rolls with BBQ Sauce}

When I bought this book (over the internet so with only a brief preview) I was a little worried that the recipes might be a little too easy and simplified since Bill Granger's books are generally always filled with fairly straightforward, relaxed recipes, however, I shouldn't have worried. What fills the pages are beautiful recipes that aren't too complicated but still have a bit of oomph to them so that I wasn't bored or had seen the recipes hundreds of times already. It became obvious very quickly that this was a book that I really wanted to cook from and with 100 recipes I had plenty to choose from.

One of the first things that I loved about this book was the fact that the chapters are divided up by specific ingredient such as 'Piece of Chicken', 'Slab of steak', 'Mince & Sausages' and 'Carton of Eggs', (to name a few). I found this approach really helpful cause it means you can go raid your fridge or freezer, decide what you want to cook with and then just jump straight to the chapter for instant inspiration. There were so many recipes that I wanted to try that I literally gave up bookmarking them since it seemed I was putting a sticky note on almost every page! In the end I managed to try 6 recipes but I still have quite a few that I want to try!

The Tested Recipes:

Orange and Oregano Marinated Pork
Marinated Steak Rolls & Barbecue Sauce
Light Butter Chicken
Spanish Fish Stew
Individual Baked Beans with Eggs
Chilli, Sausage and Broccoli Pizza

First up for a quick and super easy mid-week meal was the Orange and Oregano Marinated Pork. The recipe was certainly very straightforward and took no time at all. Hubby helped out by barbecuing the pork when it was time to cook it but it is so easy even the novice barbecuer would have no problems. Failing that though you can cook the pork on a hot griddle pan instead. The finished pork was light, fragrant and aromatic and served with a green salad (as suggested) it was a perfect light meal.

Next up was the Marinated Steak Rolls & Barbecue Sauce. I started by making the Barbecue Sauce which is not your usual BBQ sauce but rather an Asian inspired BBQ sauce with hoisin sauce being the base of it. As with most BBQ sauces it was incredibly easy to make – just a case of putting everything into a small pan then simmering for 5 minutes so it definitely gets a star for the 'easy' test. The only thing to note however is that it does make a lot of sauce so unless you plan to use it for a variety of things I would be tempted to half the quantities next time. It is also pretty sweet so a little goes a long way. The marinade for the steak was also very straightforward and just took a couple of minutes to prepare. As with the Pork recipe above, this was another one for the barbecue but again you could use a griddle pan instead. The finished Roll is served with the Barbecue Sauce and then some long shreds of crispy carrot and daikon and some fresh mint and coriander which finishes it off perfectly with the sweet crunch and fragrant herbs. I like the fact that for this recipe he suggests just serving all the ingredients on a big platter and letting everyone help themselves to whatever they want – definitely my kind of meal. This recipe certainly got the thumbs up and I will make this again although next time I think I would add a touch of chilli for a little heat! (And if you want to give it a go I've included the recipe below.)

Recipe number 3 and I made the Light Butter Chicken for a lovely quick and easy Friday night curry. Now I absolutely love a good curry and can never resist it if there is a recipe in a cookbook, but what I particularly loved about this recipe was that not only was it meant to be easy, it was a lighter, healthier version – win win surely?! Well turns out it was just that..... quick and easy, completely delicious and not a drop of butter in sight. Admittedly despite drooling over many recipes for Butter Chicken I have never actually made it so I can't say how authentic this is (although my guess would be not so much) but it was a deliciously mild family friendly curry that even Wee One loved. All I had to do was slice up a hot chilli to add to mine at the end and we were all happy. For the ease and good taste I will definitely make this again especially since it has a lot less calories than your average Butter Chicken.

So with three successes things were certainly looking very good for this book so I happily marched on to recipe number 4 which was the Spanish Fish Stew. After dinner plans for the weekend were cancelled I quickly scoured the book for a recipe that I had bookmarked that didn't require a trip to the supermarket and the Spanish Fish Stew was perfect. I had fish in the freezer and with the exception of the pepper and some herbs everything else was taken from the pantry. As with the first 3 recipes this proved to be another easy and straightforward recipe that didn't take too long to prepare and cook. Unfortunately though this recipe did not deliver in the taste department. It was pretty bland and it wasn't until we had added a good pinch of chilli, some extra salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice that made it okay. I made some garlic bread to go with it (the recipe doesn't suggest any sides) and to be perfectly honest that was the best part of the meal. Super disappointing for a Saturday night meal, especially as we were so looking forward to it but I guess it happens. It was easy and straightforward but lacked flavour (I think there was just too much liquid that diluted the flavours too much) so I definitely wouldn't make this again without some serious adjustments and extra additions to up the flavour.

Determined not to end the testing on a low note I carried on and made myself the Individual Baked Beans with Eggs for a lazy, late breakfast (although it would be great for lunch or dinner as well). I deviated slightly from the recipe by using a rasher of streaky bacon instead of pancetta, and Navy beans instead of Cannellini since I couldn't find any, but nothing too major. There were definitely some interesting smells as I was cooking it and it was only then that I realised that perhaps the idea of including anchovies and curry powder seemed quite unusual, but I carried on ever the optimist! I had halved the recipe since hubby was out of town but even then there was a lot and I could have split what I had into 3 portions quite happily. That being said I still managed to demolish the portion I made for myself (keeping the remaining beans for the next day) and thoroughly enjoyed it although in my attempts to make sure the egg whites were cooked, I overcooked the yolk – big disappointment (looked lovely and runny from the top but the heat underneath had completely cooked it). Regardless though it was delicious and I can't wait to make it again.

Finally I made the Chilli, Sausage and Broccoli Pizza for a midweek meal. I'm a huge lover of pizza and have my own pizza recipe which we all love and never fails so this was going to be a big test to see if it was as good as my own recipe.....or better! Since the accompanying photograph looked so good I had high hopes. The dough recipe was easy enough to make although it was a little ambiguous since it said to pour in 250-300ml of water. I'm not sure why it wasn't specific but in the end I went for 275ml and I guess it was too much as the dough was far too wet so I did have to add some extra flour, but after that it was fine and it did end up being a wonderful, soft and pliable dough to work with and the most fantastic pizza base once cooked. It bubbled up and was crispy at the edges but soft and chewy in the middle – my perfect pizza. Unfortunately though despite the base being so good I did find it to be a little bland. This pizza has no tomato sauce on it – just the toppings of mozzarella, broccoli, sausage and chilli and it needed something else – perhaps just a little tomato sauce on the base. I think I would give it a go again but try it with some sauce to see how it tastes. For the the base alone though I am so glad I tried this and will definitely make it fact it might just become my new go-to for pizza bases!

As mentioned above there are a lot of recipes that I want to make but haven't had a chance to. I had really hoped to make the Chorizo, Cumin and Tomato Rice to test as part of the review however the night I was due to make it I was so full I couldn't eat a thing! It's on the menu for this week though so I'll let you know after how it turns out! As for the remaining bookmarked recipe I've managed to narrow it down a bit and so here are a few of the recipes that I plan to make in the future....

Bookmarked Recipes:

Spiced Chicken Wraps & Mango Chutney
Hoisin Marinated Salmon & Chilli Soy Tenderstem Broccoli
Vietnamese Beef Curry
Spiced Steak Fajitas with Pineapple Salsa
Manchego Crusted Pork & Romesco Sauce
Lamb Kofta Meatballs in Curry Sauce
Quinoa Fritters
Chorizo, Cumin & Tomato Rice
Indian Spiced Potatoes with Fried Egg
Potato, Courgette and Mozzarella Fritters
Baked Aubergine, Chickpeas and Green Chilli
Feta and Gruyere Pastries & Spicy Tomato Relish
Blackberry and Plum Streusel Cake
Chocolate and Cherry Tart
Hot Marshmallow Fudge Sundaes

After testing so many recipes and getting a proper feel for this book I think it's a cookbook that would appeal to quite a wide audience as the recipes are straightforward and easy enough for the beginner cook, but equally not too boring or simplified for those that are more experienced. To me it is a book that is for cooking easy meals that you can enjoy any night of the week without getting into a flap. Some recipes might be pretty simple and certainly not gastronomic delights perhaps, but they are all tasty enough and with the exception of the Spanish Fish Stew I enjoyed all of the other recipes, certainly some more than others though. Interestingly enough however, after the disappointment of the Fish Stew my husband admitted that although he had also enjoyed the recipes he didn't think they were anything especially wonderful and in his opinion seemed to be lacking 'something', so it's worth baring that in mind. That being said there is a great variety of recipes within this book, taking inspiration from all over the world so I think you are guaranteed to find something that will appeal and you will enjoy, and although my husband didn't love the recipes I certainly enjoyed them enough (both in cooking and eating!) to give this book my stamp of approval!


Marinated Steak Rolls & Barbecue Sauce

Juicy barbecued steak topped with an Asian inspired BBQ Sauce and finished with crisp, sweet vegetables and fragrant herbs all on a chewy baguette, this is a total winner and perfect for enjoying while watching your favourite sporting game on TV.

(Serves 6)

BBQ Sauce:
100ml hoisin sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
¼ tsp five spice powder
110g granulated sugar

4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
3 sirloin steaks, 2.5cm thick (about 350g each)
handful fine strips carrot & daikon, cut on a mandolin
handful coriander and mint leaves
3 baguettes, cut into 10cm lengths

To make the BBQ Sauce place all of the ingredients into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved simmer the sauce for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

To make the marinade combine the soy sauce, 1 tbsp water, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, ginger and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper into a shallow dish (big enough for all of the steaks) and stir well to combine. Put the steaks into the dish and rub the marinade all over and set aside for 15 minutes (or longer if you can). {At this point the recipe suggests putting the steaks in the fridge to marinate however, I let it marinade on my counter instead. I'm not sure if there are benefits to putting it into the fridge that I'm unaware of, but I normally work on the principal to have your meat at room temperature and not fridge cold before cooking. Anyway only a slight deviation and not anything that changes the recipe! You do as you normally would but obviously if you are leaving the steaks to marinate for a long time I would pop them in the fridge.}

Slice up your carrots and daikon using either a julienne peeler or mandolin and set aside in a bowl along with the herbs.

Preheat a barbecue or griddle/chargrill pan to high heat the sear the steaks for 3 minutes on each side (for medium-rare). Once cooked to your liking remove from the BBQ then cover and set aside to rest in a warm place for 5 minutes.

To serve, slice the steak and serve on a platter with the barbecue sauce, a bowl of the mixed carrot and daikon with the herbs and the baguettes, so that everyone can make their own steak rolls. Alternatively you could make up the rolls and serve on a large platter. 

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