Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cookbook Review ~ Clodagh's Kitchen Diaries by Clodagh McKenna

I've been so busy lately that I have completely fallen behind with my book reviews! This one I actually tested in April and May so it's a little late on being posted but with it being a year-round book it really doesn't matter.

For those of you unfamiliar with Clodagh McKenna she is an Irish chef that has her own restaurants, television shows, cookbooks and writes regular columns for a variety of magazines and newspapers. Clodagh's Kitchen Diaries is her fourth cookbook and was published in 2012 and then later released in the US in 2013.

The first thing I love about this book is that it's a year-round book with each chapter being a different month of the year, so not only are the recipes relevant to what is in the season at that particular time of year but she also intertwines different occasions that may happen such as Valentines Day and St. Patrick's Day. As well as occasions there are additional themes including trips to New York, her Birthday (May if you are interested!), Summer Picnics and Movie Nights. If I ever get round to writing my own cookbook this is exactly how I always dreamed of doing it so it gets big plus points from me!

So the layout is good but what about the recipes? Well after reading this book several times I knew I was going to have trouble choosing just a few to try as really so many appealed to me. As it turned out I ended up sticking to recipes primarily from April and May.

Tested Recipes:

Mini Cupcakes in an Egg Box
Zippy Fresh Mint Sauce
Lemon Meringue Pie
Oat & Cinnamon Health Muffins

The first recipe that I put to the test was the Mini Cupcakes in an Egg Box for my niece and nephews for Easter as I just couldn't resist the idea! The cupcakes were straightforward to make but I did have a bit of a panic after adding the milk as it caused the creamed butter to go lumpy once mixed....(assuming the temp difference). Thankfully after adding the flour it sorted itself and all seemed ok. Since the cupcakes themselves are so small they don't take long to cook but I was surprised how pale they were – definitely what I would call white cakes. Still they tasted good so I couldn't complain. The icing was again straightforward and I finished them off with mini eggs and other appropriate Easter decorations. I did like the finished result, however I did find that the cakes dried out quickly which was disappointing. I love the idea of this but next time I would stick to my own cupcake recipe.

Next up and continuing with the Easter theme I couldn't resist trying the Zippy Fresh Mint Sauce. Since her recipe for Roast Lamb was very similar to mine (other than I had a boneless leg of lamb) I stuck to my own recipe but I have never made mint sauce before which I absolutely love. It was super easy to make and tasted amazing – even Wee One loved it! From now on there will be no more bought Mint Sauce just this quick and easy version which is fabulous.

Still on the Easter theme I decided to put the Lemon Meringue Pie to the test which was a real test as I have never made Lemon Meringue Pie before! Honestly I am not a huge fan of dealing with pastry – probably because I generally don't(!) so this was a big undertaking still I was determined not to be defeated. Since the pastry was blitzed together in a food processor I was a lot happier (I have hot hands which are definitely not ideal when dealing with pastry) however I still ran into problems when lining the dish....Thankfully I got there in the end and I have to admit I did marvel a little at my handy work once it was out of the oven!! The lemon curd worked perfectly although definitely took longer to cook than I was expecting but it was worth it – a thick, glorious deeply yellow curd that was rich but tart and perfect when paired with the sweet meringue. Scott absolutely loved this and has said he would be quite happy for me to make whenever I feel like it!!

After the indulgence of Easter Weekend I decided I needed something slightly healthier and since we had a busy week planned with early mornings the Oat & Cinnamon Health Muffins seemed like a great breakfast to grab on the go. The recipe was very easy and quick to make although I was a little dubious as to exactly how 'healthy' they were! The recipes says they make 8 however I ended up making 10 as I thought they were going to end up as giant big American style muffins which I find too big. The recipe also says to fill the mixture to the brim (which again I didn't quite do). Turns out I could of as they don't really rise that much – at least my ones didn't. I had to resist trying one when they were still warm as it was late at night but I did have one for breakfast the following morning. My initial worries of how healthy they were were put aside as they certainly tasted pretty healthy! They aren't at all sweet and to be honest I almost found them a touch salty from the Bicarb of Soda (Baking Soda) but all-in-all they weren't bad. This batch was a little on the dry side but I'm putting that down to me baking them for a couple of minutes too long. At this point I am undecided if I will make them again – I might have to sample a few more before I decide! That being said I'm glad I tried them and they certainly won't be wasted.

As well as the above tested recipes I also made a version of the Creamy Tomato & Spinach Pasta which was lovely; the Good Friday Fish which we really enjoyed and was a lovely way to cook a nice piece of fish so I'll definitely do that again and her Creamy Basil and Grilled Chicken Tagliatelle, another hit. I've also bookmarked the following recipes that I really want to try......

Bookmarked Recipes: (those marked with a * are top of my list!)

Power Me Salad
Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup*
Pan-Roasted Lemon & Basil Salmon with Avocado & Beetroot Salsa
Blood Orange Mimosas
Rosewater Macaroons*
Rhubarb & Vanilla Upside Down Cake
Cabbage & Bacon Soup
Cheddar Cheese Soup Scones
Our Famed Buttermilk Scones
Our Famed Carrot Cake
Bucatini All'Amatriciana*
Lemon Roasted Chicken with Olive, Basil & Tomato Sauce and Pan-Fried Gnocchi*
Key Lime Pie
Rose Sangria
Moroccan Orange Cake
Three Cheese Ravioli
Mini Victoria Sponges
Summer Grilled Shrimp, Avocado & Mango Salad
Camembert & Tomato Tart
Lemon Drizzle Cake
Our House Chutney
Chicken, Avocado & Sun-Blushed Tomato Salad with a Lime Dressing
Spiced Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup
Butternut Squash & Parmesan Risotto

The recipes in this book and the style of cooking are very similar to my own so naturally I loved this book! I really like how it is divided up into months as it makes it easy to just jump to a specific month or two and get instant inspiration with ingredients that I know I can easily get as they are in season. I only have a couple of criticisms, the first being that there aren't that many photographs so it would definitely benefit from a few more especially the recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies. After reading and re-reading the recipe many times it was clear that despite the title there wasn't a drop of chocolate in these cookies! Also her recipe for Summer Grilled Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Salad not only sounded delicious but it also looked delicious in the photograph although this time it was the photograph that was inconsistent as there was no mango in sight but rather grapefruit! So a few errors to note but hopefully nothing too major.

Specialty Ingredients?
Nope – everything in this book is easy to source from a supermarket and local shops.

Learn anything new?
Yes – mint sauce is super easy to make and is delicious! There will be no more bought mint sauce in our house! Also her recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie looked so delicious it inspired to make it for the first time which I will also be repeating!

Since I tested the majority of recipes in April and May I can't wait to try out some June, July and August recipes soon although every month has something that really appeals. This book is really lovely and definitely won't be getting put away for a while. It's a year-round treasure of recipes that are easy to follow, uncomplicated and ones that you are bound to make over and over again.

Clodagh's Kitchen Diaries gets the Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops Stamp of Approval!

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