Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cookbook Review ~ Homemade Summer by Yvette van Boven

I love it when you get a new book that perhaps you would have maybe overlooked or missed out on. Whenever I manage to go to my favourite book shop ever – Books for Cooks in Notting Hill – I always find such a book, which is the beauty of that shop (and of course any other good book shops!). Homemade Summer by Yvette van Boven is one of those books and this one came courtesy of my Sister-in-law and Brother which they got for me from Books for Cooks as my Birthday present. Having never heard of the book, the author and her other published books (Homemade and Homemade Winter) I was over the moon to get this book and to be introduced to her.

Yvette van Boven is not only an acclaimed cookbook author, but a freelance food stylist, recipe developer and an illustrator (as well as the recipes she also did all of the illustrations for the book!). On top of that she also runs a restaurant and catering service in Amsterdam and spends her time living between Paris and Amsterdam. Talk about a busy lady!

The book is packed with 250 pages of recipes, photographs, drawings and lovely little personal stories. There are 6 chapters in total devoted to recipes including 'Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch', 'Cakes & Sweet Things for Tea Time' and 'Main Courses'.

The Tested Recipes:

Banana Crumble Muffins
Quinoa Patties with Feta, Zucchini and Corn
Yogurt Dip with Mint
Buttery Corn Risotto
Cake with Raspberries, Blueberries and Coconut
Italian Chicken Stew
Grilled Goat Cheese Polenta

The first recipe to be put to the test was the Banana Crumble Muffins. Only problem is I'm not sure if I can technically classify this one in the “tested recipes” since on the day of baking it turned out hubby had taken 1 of the required 3 bananas!! Since the remaining 2 were large I decided to continue anyway and thankfully it didn't seem to make a difference. I was a little hesitant using my food processor (which she does) and almost wished I had used my stand mixer instead but as it turns out they were great and really easy to make. Mine did take a few minutes longer to bake than the recipe suggested but that could be due to where I live and/or my oven. I will definitely make these muffins again as so super easy and disappeared in no time!

Next up and with a friend coming round for dinner with a hungry appetite I made the Quinoa Patties with Feta, Zucchini and Corn to start the meal. The patties were very straightforward to make but you do have to cook the Quinoa first. Thankfully she gives quick, simple instructions for cooking it so it's not really a problem. We did have a few issues making and cooking the patties as it is a pretty soft mixture but we got there in the end. I think we perhaps just didn't use enough oil in the pan but they turned out fine and tasted amazing. I served them with the suggested Yogurt Dip with Mint which took minutes to make and was also really lovely and refreshing and went very well with the Patties.

For the main course I made Beer Can Roasted Chicken and although she does have a recipe for it in the book I wasn't organised enough as with her method you put the chicken overnight in a brine. What I did make however was her Buttery Corn Risotto which she suggests serving with Roast Chicken. Since corn is perfectly in season just now and our local farm is overflowing with fresh corn I knew I had to try it and I'm glad I did. You start by making a stock using the corn and a few other vegetables and it really is worth it as the risotto tasted so much like sweet buttery corn before I had even added the actual corn! It was a standard risotto recipe – nothing complicated just a lot of stirring but worth it as it was delicious and went perfectly with the Roast Chicken.

To end the meal I made Cake with Raspberries, Blueberries and Coconut. Since the cake batter is made in a food processor it's very straightforward although one thing I did find is that with the recipe she includes the measurements in both cups and grams which I love, however I didn't find them to be accurate. I measured out in cups but then weighed it and it didn't match at all, which is exactly why I struggle to use cups and am thankful for my scales! After that I ditched the cups and stuck to weighing and it all seemed to work out fine. Typically the cake took a lot longer to bake than the recipe suggested but I'm getting used to that variation with using books from home and baking here. The end result was a delicious, lovely and moist cake that everyone loved. Although she does say it keeps for a few days in an airtight container I have to say that due to the crumbly topping this really is a cake best eaten when still slightly warm from the oven. A beautiful cake that I will make again and to be honest might even be tempted to try frozen fruits in the Winter months although you could easily just change the fruits to suit the season and I will definitely try this again soon with blackberries.

The final two dishes that I managed to try was the Italian Chicken Stew with Grilled Goat Cheese Polenta. The accompanying photograph looked so unbelievably delicious and right up my alley so I just had to give it a go. I started by making the Grilled Goats Cheese Polenta which was fairly straightforward although I have to say I did appreciate (and laugh at) her comment regarding the polenta bubbling like “hot lava” but assuring me I would remain unfazed! Thankfully her words of warning prepared me so I was able to stay serenely calm in an otherwise potentially panicked situation! The grilling was also easy enough and I was delighted that it didn't stick. It was tasty although I have to admit I didn't really taste the goats cheese in it and the other issue was it makes LOTS! I had far too much left over and I should have followed my initial thoughts of halving the recipe, however instead I froze the majority of it and now whenever I need a carb-a-licious side all I need to do is delve into my freezer for an instant delicious treat!

The Italian Chicken Stew again was a very straightforward recipe although there were a few changes made on my behalf. I was unable to get any Chanterelle Mushrooms (couldn't find any to buy) and since I don't quite trust my foraging skills just yet I opted for Chestnut Mushrooms instead. Although not as luxurious as a Chanterelle my bank account did at least thank me and hubby and Wee One were none the wiser! I also had to adapt the quantities of spinach as the recipe called for 1kg! Since I had a bag of tender spinach leaves with stalks already detached (therefore weighing less) I opted for half a bag (not even close to the recommended amount) but to be honest it would have taken a considerable amount of time to add and wilt the spinach so that I could fit it all in the pan! The end result was a tasty meal – quite light actually but that comes down to the tomatoes you use and with the polenta it was really lovely. It's an ideal family meal that is guaranteed to keep everyone happy or to serve to friends popping round during the week for a casual supper.

Although I managed to test 7 recipes from this book there were so many more that I wanted to try that although I'm posting this review I am going to continue cooking from it for the rest of this month before Summer is well and truly over. Tonight I'm make the Artichokes “en Cocotte” (will let you know how it turns out!) and I already have all of the ingredients for the Wonton Ravioli with Ricotta which we are going to enjoy on Friday. I'm desperate to make the Fragrant Summery Cake with Lemongrass Syrup and of course I have to try the Super Macarons with Raspberries and Pink Mascarpone to prove (if only to myself!) that I can make Macarons!! As well as those 4 recipes here are some other recipes that I originally bookmarked for testing:

Bookmarked Recipes:

Cherry, Blueberry, and/or Blackberry Jam with Orange & Basil
Fougasse with Bacon and olives
Feta & Olive Cake
Red Iced Tea
Raspberry Lemonade
Clear Virgin Mary
Cava Sangria
Raspberry Vinegar
Crispy Chickpeas
Chanterelle Pate
Preserved Lemons
Maria's Fritters
White Gazpacho
Infused Oils
Lamb Roast Stuffed with Oregano, Mint, Garlic & Pine Nuts
Brined Pork Chops with Sweet Mustard Barbecue Sauce
Crab Cakes with Fresh Citrus-Tomato Mayonnaise
Cedar-Smoked Apple Salmon
Rolled-up Feta & Garlic Bread with Radicchio and Mint
Lemon Tart with Meringue
Pomegranate & Pear-Lime Rockets
Honeycomb Candy
“Mousse au chocolat” with cherry-pink peppercorn sauce & lemon thins

I really enjoyed cooking from this book as the recipes were a little different from what I would normally make (for the most part) and so I'm really looking forward to trying some more. I like the fact that the measurements are in cups and grams which is an unusual feature from a book hailing from the UK but certainly a bonus (although as mentioned I did have issues with the Cake and the accuracy of the measurements so I will look more into that). The book is bright and summery and I love all the little quirky features to it and the stories that are included. The majority of the recipes are accompanied by mouthwatering photographs (beautifully captured by her husband) but the ones that don't have illustrations instead, which were done by the author.

There are only a couple of downsides to the book which weren't to do with the recipes but more the aesthetics. I found some of the recipes hard to read because of the font used and the background photographs and although I like the 'quirky' aesthetics to the book (the multiple types of font and little illustrations) it can make the recipes really hard to read. Also for some of the recipes there isn't an ingredients list but rather everything is just listed in the instructions which I'm not a big fan of, but at least I guess it makes sure you read the recipe a couple of times!!

Specialty Ingredients?

For the particular recipes that I tried there were no specialty ingredients needed, however I wouldn't rule it out for all of the recipes. Interestingly she uses a lot of North American ingredients and terms such as All-Purpose flour, Heavy Cream, Zucchini and Arugula (to name a few) but I've concluded that's possibly due (along with the cup measurements) to the fact the book was published by an American publisher (please correct me if you know otherwise!).

Learn anything new?

While I didn't learn any new techniques, the book did open my eyes to different flavour combinations and at times made me feel like I was actually on holiday in France.

I really enjoyed this book – both to read and to cook from – and I love the new variations and twists it introduced me to. There are more than enough recipes to get your through the Summer months whether you are looking for a quick supper to enjoy after a long day, a meal for family or friends or just perhaps a new idea for a Summer cocktail to enjoy in the garden on a Friday night! This book has it all and although it is definitely best suited for the warmer, sunny months, if you take this off your bookshelf in the midst of Winter I'm sure the bright pages and delicious recipes will revive you from dreary days! Failing that she thankfully has another book entitled 'Homemade Winter' which I can't wait to read.

Homemade Summer by Yvette van Boven gets the Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops stamp of approval.

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