Category Archives: Book Reviews

October Favourites + a Review of Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery

Just two more months to bid goodbye to this year!!!

Where has time flown? But then that’s how I start every monthly favourite post of mine, isn’t it?

But sometimes it’s scary right when time rushes by so fast that you wish you had the power to hold it in your hands and keep it still…..shhh, just stay still till I have caught my breath.

Alas that never happens, and the only option seems to be to flow along with its tide….

At the same time, there is also the excitement and joy of the approaching festive season. While there is so much work to do during this time, both personal and professional, I love the energy, the joyous and festive spirit that’s in the air.

On the professional front, I am planning recipes more suited for the season so if any of you have special requests, do comment below and I will try my best to take that into consideration.

Reading is a very passionate hobby of mine, especially hard copies. I do not like digital books or tools for reading as I think it destroys the very joy of holding a book in your hands. While I do read a lot of books, I do not talk much about it on the blog except when it’s a book related to food.

This month, I got the opportunity to read Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery – a Guide to the truly good restaurants and food experiences of Australia, Edited by Jill Dupleix.

Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery - a Book Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The book is part of a series of the world’s first guides to restaurants and establishments serving truly exceptional, sustainable, organic and ethical food.

Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery has a simple yet elegant design and layout; the photographs are outstanding yet simple and real focusing on the food and nothing else. Published by Blackwell &Ruth, 5% of the publisher’s revenue from the sales of the book goes towards the National Indigenous Culinary Institute (NICI) which is absolutely fantastic.

Food guides like these have always been a part of my library and I actively seek out restaurants suggested – local, regional and international. The restaurants suggested in this book are not just about delicious food; that’s definitely a criteria but it’s more about the care and passion that goes into the sourcing of the ingredients, giving back to the farming community, the attention to detail while each ingredient is prepped and prepared to create the final harmony on a plate.

One of the first things I did on getting the book was going through the ‘Victoria’ section; a curiosity to know the recommendations and how many places I had dined at. To my surprise, there were just 2 restaurants that I had been to from the list – Higher Ground and IDES. Both of these serve exemplary food; while the former is a casual café style setting, the latter is a high end fine dining affair. But yes, the food was exceptional.

Barramundi with garlic and red wine - at IDES, Melbourne - thespiceadventuress.com

One of the spectacular dishes I had at IDES, Melbourne – Barramundi, red wine and garlic

I know for a fact that I will use Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery as a guide, ticking off restaurants and food experiences as I travel along through this country. And I would love to get my hands on the rest of the series that showcases establishments in other countries too. But if you are only interested in knowing about the place you live in, do grab a copy for your country from the series.

Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery is not a book that I will read back to back in a few sittings; it’s a guide that I will keep returning to whenever I want suggestions of an exemplary restaurant, a place where I want to dine at not just for delicious food but where I will be served a dish created out of passion, joy and purity.

There is an exciting giveaway happening on my FB and Insta page. You can win 1 x double pass (valued at $160) to Wine & Symphony 2018, Saturday 3rd November, held at Mount Langi Ghiran.

Spend a beautiful spring afternoon in the spectacular grounds of Mt Langi Ghiran winery in the Grampians. Also treat yourself to wine tastings, a cheese feast, vineyard promenade and sun basking followed by 40 minutes of classical music performance by 4 ace musicians, with a glass of the renowned Langi Shiraz in your hand.

So why are you waiting….head over now to my FB or Insta page to enter. Good Luck!

Wine & Symphony 2018, Saturday 3rd November, held at Mount Langi Ghiran. - thespiceadventuress.com

Now it’s time for all the other favourites for the month;

I had the worst attack of flu and sinusitis this month; this tea was an absolute miracle.

One of my favourite vegetarian snacks using spinach.

I wouldn’t be able to stop at just one bowl of this soup

Absolutely love pumpkin soup; and this one is fantastic.

Another exciting vegetarian recipe; absolutely fingerlickin good!

Lentil and Egg Stew; I have never had anything like this before.

Absolutely stunning food photography!

She inspired me to start a monthly favourites column

How beautiful are these candle holders? Would be perfect for my Christmas table set up.

Need to upgrade my summer wedges

 

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Season of Salt & Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe – a Review + a Giveaway

If there’s one hobby or passion of mine that has stayed constant over the years, it’s my love for books and reading.

I am happiest when curled up on my couch with a good book in hand. And no matter how tired or harried the day might have been, sleep would never come if I haven’t read a few pages. And ever since my love affair with food started, I have added cookbooks also to my list of must reads.

So very naturally, I got excited when Pan Macmillan Australia approached me to review ‘Season of Salt & Honey’ by Hannah Tunnicliffe.

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A novel of love, grief and antipasti; penned by a food blogger and writer…..do I need to say more??

Season of Salt & Honey is a heartwarming tale of young Francesca Caputo and her gut-wrenching yet beautiful journey through life, love and loss. After the death of the man she loved, Frankie feels an irresistible need to escape from her over bearing Italian American family. She takes refuge in an old wooden cabin set in the idyllic Washington forests, where she slowly begins to recover from her personal grief, where her past relationships take on new meanings and her path crosses with her forest neighbours, quirky and interesting fellow beings.

I connected with Francesca (Frankie) on so many levels (especially the relationship she has with her sister) which made the book even more delightful to read. Peppered throughout the book are Sicilian-American recipes which the foodie in me is just waiting to try out especially the ‘Roasted almond cookies’ and the ‘Spring risotto’. You ought to get this book just for these recipes.

Season of Salt & Honey is a light read but one that stays with you a long time after you have finished reading it. Hannah has a way with words that brings the characters alive as if you have known them all along.

I experienced a strange sense of sadness and joy at the same time after finishing this book. All of us have known grief at some point, especially the grief that comes with the passing away of a loved one. And no matter how difficult it might seem, we all move on too. And sometimes, it can be an eye-opener too as it was for Frankie when half buried truths came to life challenging her emotions once again. Does she give up or does she fight?

Season of Salt & Honey releases today (April 1st) and is available at all leading bookstores across Australia. Make sure to grab a copy!

This is Hannah’s second book, the first being ‘The Colour of Tea’. Love the titles of her books!

I had the opportunity to have a chat with Hannah and here’s what we spoke about;

Hannah Tunnicliffe_2_Copyright Jody Lidstone

1. A bit on the real Hannah Tunnicliffe…

She is a writer, a Mum, a wanderer, a foodie and a dreamer.

2. How did this writing journey start? Was it a conscious decision to become a writer or a random result of life?

Great question. I made a conscious decision to be and do something different but I was unsure what that something was. Previously I was the Director of Human Resources for a 4,000 employee business in Macau, China. After becoming dissatisfied and burnt out I finally decided to quit my job and actively follow my ‘natural curiosities’. I did a range of things including career coaching, fundraising for a local orphanage and eating a lot of macarons! At the same time I dedicated myself to writing 1,000 words a day. The sum of those efforts and days eventually became my first novel, The Colour of Tea (published by Pan Macmillan).

3. And food! When did you discover your love for all things food?

I can’t remember a time I wasn’t in love with food. I believe that food is our earliest memory of love and that ensures our ongoing fascination and affection for it. Nourishment and sensory pleasure – what’s not to adore?


4. Personally, I find the best kind of cookbooks are those which tell a story. So far, there has only been one that has fulfilled that promise. Now looking forward to yours…..where did the idea for this book come from? How excited are you with this project?

I am very excited! While food was always a strong feature in Season of Salt and Honey it wasn’t until recently it was suggested to me that I include recipes for some of the food mentioned in the story. So I got cracking on recipe testing! I have had requests for recipes from readers of my first book, The Colour of Tea so I am thrilled to include them in Season of Salt and Honey.

5. How different is this book from your first one, ‘The Colour of Tea?’

Season of Salt and Honey has a very different setting from The Colour of Tea – the cool and serene Washington State coastal rainforest vs. thriving, bustling Macau – but the themes in the books are similar and include love, grief, escape and hope. I also hope I have created characters that are as intriguing and endearing as my readers tell me they found those in The Colour of Tea.

6. In keeping with the characters and location, Season of Salt and Honey features Sicilian American recipes. Any particular reason behind choosing this cuisine?

Francesca (Frankie) Caputo, the protagonist in Season of Salt and Honey is Italian-American. Her father’s family are from Sicily and her mother’s family are from Calabria so the book contains Sicilian, Calabrian and American style recipes. All the recipes were created using food already mentioned in the story and many recipes are quite symbolic of the plot and the characters within it.

7. What is your favourite food/cuisine in the world? And your most memorable meal?

I am a huge fan of Japanese cuisine (but will gladly eat almost anything fresh and delicious!) A memorable meal that immediately springs to mind was a dinner I had at The China Club in Hong Kong for my thirtieth birthday. Beautiful Chinese dishes served amongst 1920’s private club style décor while a jazz singer serenaded us and then wished me a very happy birthday. I was in heaven.

8. Currently settled in Auckland, NZ do you see the nomad in you packing bags soon again?

I am so happy to return to New Zealand after many travels abroad that I’m not looking to move anytime soon but…. you never know! These days my adventures are local – to food markets, galleries and museums, and taking road trips up and down the stunning NZ coastline.

9. Ria Voros and forkandfiction.com – how did this collaborative venture happen?

Ria Voros is a fellow author, Mum and food enthusiast. I met her during a writing course (she was the teacher!) and we became firm friends. When I suggested that we collaborate on a blog about our dearest topics – food and writing and books and family – she was keen as mustard. Ria writes wonderful children’s / YA fiction, you should check her out here: www.riavoros.com

10. Finally, what does the future look like?

I have no idea! I cross my fingers that it includes more books, more delicious food, a healthy and happy family.

Pan Macmillan has been generous enough to provide me with an extra copy of ‘Season of Salt & Honey’ to giveaway to one lucky reader. So while I am off to bake a batch of the almond cookies, you head over and take part in the competition. All the best!

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To be in the running for this giveaway, here’s what you must do;

1. Subscribe to my blog using your email id.
2. Leave a comment stating the name of your favourite book/novel. (Only entries with comments will be considered).
3. Cross your fingers!

Note – The competition is open for only Australian residents (sorry to my other readers). This giveaway will run from April 1st, 2015 to April 10th, 2015. The name of the winner will be notified on the blog and all my social media channels (if you aren’t following any, this would be a good time to). The winner will have 48 hours to get in touch with me; failure to do so will result in the drawing of another winner.

This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been chosen.

The F-Word by Mita Kapur – a Review

One of the best cookbooks I have read so far……

I don’t claim to have a great knowledge of cookbooks nor do I have a library full of them. But I have read quite a few of these to arrive at the above conclusion.

The F-Word by Mita Kapur is a food lover’s dream come true, especially more if you love to read. It is a treasure house of recipes, each one better than the other and I have cooked a lot from this book by now.

The F-Word by Mita Kapur - a detailed review on thespiceadventuress.com

 

Mita Kapur is a freelance journalist and a well known member of the Indian literary scene. Also the founder of Siyahi, an organization responsible behind many literary festivals both in the country and abroad. Mita’s unique way with words is perfectly captured in this book which beautifully showcases her relationship with food and its importance in an Indian household.

If you are an Indian or understand the workings of a large, joint Indian family, you will enjoy this book more because the book unfolds as a story of Mita’s and her family’s everyday life, the food they cook and eat, the experiences they enjoy etc….By the end of the book, you would have formed a personal connection with each member of her family, it’s as if you have always known them.

With plenty of humorous anecdotes and witty comments, Mita brings out her family’s love and craze for food. The book is a joy to read, often bringing a smile to your lips and sometimes, making you burst out into laughter. A very good exercise!

The recipes are from around the globe, so this book is a keeper for everyone. Unlike most cookbooks, there aren’t any fancy pictures or glossy photographs. Instead, there are plenty of illustrations and doodles by Prabha Mallya which adds a shine to the book. Very refreshing!

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The book, from beginning to end, is a riot; a chaotic celebration of food at its finest. There is a recipe for everyone in this book, from traditional Indian ones to fusion to global cuisines; food is celebrated with pomp and gaiety in The F-Word.

Divided into nine chapters, with interesting titles like ‘Papad, Peanuts or Pepperoni’ and ‘Steaming Hot and Subtly Flavoured’ to name a few, this cookbook is sheer culinary delight and a food lover’s dream come true. While the chapters do have a central theme, there are plenty of cross over recipes to keep the story interesting.

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One of the recipes that I have tried from this book is the Malai Kebabs. And I cannot stop gushing about it. Thoroughly enjoyed by my family and a great conversation starter at any party at home, this recipe is now part of my blog also. Find my version, here.

Malai Kebab (Minced Chicken Patties cooked in Spices, Aromatics and Cream) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Well, I could go on and on about this book but then that would spoil your experience of discovering it for yourself. So head to your nearest book store or get one online. Like I mentioned before, this one’s a keeper.

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Mangia! Mangia! – Teresa Oates and Angela Villella

Published in 2011, Mangia! Mangia! celebrates authentic and traditional Italian food, food rituals and family dinners. The authors, Teresa and Angela, are Italian immigrants settled in Australia. Through this book, they hope to preserve the food rituals and recipes of their home town, Calabria, which might otherwise be lost to the modern generations.

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The writings are beautiful and poignant filled with anecdotes and fond food memories. It is a glimpse into their households and kitchens where food is prepared and served with passion, love, care, generosity and appreciation. Most of the recipes outlined in the book are treasured ones handed down over generations through the matriarchs and patriarchs of the two families.

This cookbook has an old world charm and you get transported through the photographs, writings and recipes to the heart of Italy. By the end of the book, you feel as if you have known the authors’ families and have been a part of their households forever.

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This book will be a treasure house for those who are seeking to learn traditional Southern Italian cooking. There are detailed recipes along with step by step instructions to make preserves and pickles, sun dried tomatoes, Salsa di Pomodori (tomato passata), Olive Verde (preserved green olives), Melanzane Sott’Oho (aubergines preserved in oil) etc…

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There is also an elaborate section on meats especially pig and how to slaughter, section and bone a whole pig. Using pictures and diagrams, Teresa and Angela teach us how to identify the different parts of a pig, how to utilize every single part of this beautiful animal and also how to prepare salami and sausages at home. There are also chapters dedicated to curing the different parts of the pork like neck, belly etc…

And of course, no Italian cookbook will be complete without a section on pasta. Apart from a bunch of recipes, you also get to learn a lot of basics like preparing the pasta dough and making different shapes and types of pasta at home.

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Vegetarians will find this book a delight because there are plenty of recipes minus meat. There is also quite an elaborate section on traditional Italian breads, sweets and desserts.

The photographs are beautiful, rustic and homely; depicting the whole family coming together to make the pickles, preserves tomato passata etc…..Italian to the core.

Traditional Arabic Cooking – Miriam Al Hashimi

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A cookbook review and this time, it is a cuisine that’s always held a soft spot for me – Arabic cooking.

Even though I am an Indian by birth, I spent a rather large chunk of my childhood in Sharjah (an emirate in U.A.E). Food at home was largely Indian, but there were a few Arabian delicacies that were a part of our daily diet – hummus, shawarma, kubbuiz, pita breads, grilled meat skewers, Arabian dates and desserts.

When I started cooking and experimenting with world cuisine, it was Arab or Middle Eastern cuisine that excited me the most. Guess it’s those deep rooted memories associated with my childhood or the fact that I still call UAE my home. From a culinary perspective, it is one of the earliest cuisines with a rich legacy and the influences of this cuisine have touched almost every other nation on Earth. It is also a completely balanced and healthy cuisine.

This cookbook is a dictionary of traditional Arab cooking. Featuring 200+ recipes, the book is a knowledge storehouse for those who like to delve into the history of this age old cuisine and learn more about traditional Arab preparations. Like I already mentioned, the influences of Arab cuisine has left a mark on the world culinary map since the Arabs were the original traders and seafarers visiting and trading with most of the world especially India, Orient and Meditteranean Europe.

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If you love to bake, there are plenty of recipes for making traditional breads and pastries…

The book contains a varied selection of recipes, both simple and complex. Almost all of these dishes can be found in any Arab household; while some are simple everyday fare, others are prepared during banquets, celebrations and festivals.

This is a no-nonsense cookbook – no flowery language or highly digitalized, carefully styled photographs. There are many pictures, which like the recipes are real and rooted in the traditional way of Arab life. This cookbook is for those who want have a serious and in depth understanding of this cuisine and experiment with traditional Arab cooking at home.

Published in 1993, the book is divided into categories based on courses as well as ingredients. I have been trying out quite a few recipes from this book over the past 2 months and will soon be sharing some with all of you.

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Not a fancy coffee table cookbook, but one that must be a part of your archived collection – truly worthy of passing on to future generations.

Tortoises and Tumbleweeds (Journey through an African Kitchen) – Lannice Snyman

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I am pretty much a novice to the world of cookbooks and hence was a little hesitant to do a book review earlier. But finally I have decided to start (not that I have become an expert, but I have been reading quite a few in the past year equipping me with a new found confidence).

So here is the first one that I have decided to review…..

I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading ‘Tortoises and Tumbleweeds’ and cooking from it too. The author has beautifully captured the country and its rich, vibrant and varied culinary history. There is a good selection of both traditional and modernist African dishes, most of which can be easily replicated in your home kitchen.

Winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, this book captures the true essence of the South African countryside and takes you on a culinary trip introducing you to the tastes, flavours and cooking practices of the region.

Personally, being an Indian, this book has introduced me to the heavy influence and contribution of the Indian cuisine to the South African table. There was a heavy influx of labourers and migrants who came to the region during the colonial rule and went on to stay even when the rule ended. And this resulted in the introduction of spices and spice blends to the region, a prime example being garam masala. And so in the book, you can find recipes for samosas, biriyani, lamb rogan gosh etc – much to my delight!

The book also illustrates the influence of other cuisines like Malay, Portugese, Dutch, British etc…each of these lending a culinary ‘something’. This has made the South African cuisine a gastronomic amalgamation of so many different flavours and ingredients.

‘A complex rainbow nation’ is how the author refers to her birth country, which truly captures the culinary history of this great country.

The photographs and the food styling are done beautifully – earthy, rustic and colourful. A must buy and must read for anyone interested to learn more about South African cuisine.

Would you be interested in trying out the recipes from this cookbook? Check out ‘Eggs in Tomatoes'(https://skinnychefdecuisine.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/eggs-in-tomatoes/)

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