The book for this review was provided with compliments of BookDepository.co.uk, however all images and opinions are my own.
Date and Coffee Loaf
HELP. There’s no more room on my bookshelf. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve now starting stacking books on top of each other and cramming them into the tightest spaces in order to fit more in than I certainly should. I’m sure that the Ikea designer who designed this damn thing didn’t intend for me to use it the way that I am, and I’m honestly a little worried that it is one (or maybe two) books away from collapsing in on itself…
There’s only one solution. I’ve self-imposed a ban on buying any more books in hard copy.
It’s fine for the fiction that I love to read since I’ve found that I’m more than able to cope with e-readers, however it’s just not the same with cookbooks. I love savouring the words and the stories told and slowly meandering through the photos (while occasionally wiping away a bit of drool from just how tantalizing the dishes look).
So when BookDepository.co.uk offered me a free cookbook to review, how could I say no? I mean, technically speaking, I wasn’t buying it so it got around my ban…and a brand new cookbook to read and enjoy? Hell yes!
This month’s title is the the beautiful “Around the world in 80 dishes” – a cookbook that has been put together by renowned food photographer David Loftus. He spins a journey through the different continents by weaving them into the footsteps of Phineas Fogg, and the recipes are contributed by a variety of different chefs from Jamie Oliver to Heston Blumanthel. The beauty here is that though the chefs are different, the photographer is the same, and you quickly fall in love with the simplicity and style that he’s used to capture each and every dish.
As for the recipes themselves? Well, using contributing chefs of this calibre means that you know you’re going to be getting some good recipes – the only problem being that since they span all the way from the Middle East to America, it’s just so difficult to pick what to make first! I found that during my multiple reads through the cookbook, my mood would dictate whether I wanted to start with something European, Asian, savoury or sweet!
Cherry & Almond Cake
Rather predictably, I ended up going for a few different oven-based recipes (I am a baking queen, am I not?), and decided on trying something savoury and something sweet.
Well, a few somethings sweet…
The chapter that I inevitably explored most was the one on America. You see, I have a fascination with the United States – from dreams of eloping to Las Vegas, to hiring an big ol’ convertible and driving down (what remains of) Route 66. So while I wait for that journey to become a reality, what better way of living the dream than through what I could create in my kitchen?
Meatloaf with cherry tomato relish
One of the things that I absolutely adored about this book was that almost every recipe had a tantalizing snippet of a tale. David explains that the pecan pie was based on something called a “transparent pie” which was a pie with a plain, glossy filling made of various sugars that somewhere along the track, became filled with pecans. The apple pie, on the other hand, comes from his Aunt’s cookbook which she still keeps at over 90 years of age. This sort of storytelling is one of the things that I look for in my favourite cookbooks because it allows you a peek into the head and life of the storyteller, as well as seeing the passion that they have for the subject.
Bourbon Pecan Pie
Were all the recipes hits? Well, some were far better than others (unfortunately, I was not a fan of David’s own meatloaf and relish recipe, much preferring the recipe that I found many years ago in an old cooking forum and using ever since), however there were definitely more hits than misses as far as I am concerned – quite reassuring since the recipes have come from such a variety of sources. I don’t know about you, but I do wonder about the consistency of the recipe testing in these sorts of compilations – thankfully, I’d say that they did a pretty good job here.
All in all, I’d rate the book as a solid 8.5 out of 10, and one that the average cook would quite enjoy reading as well as cooking from. The recipes are very straightforward and tasty, the book is a pleasure to read and the photography is just beautiful.
For more information about it, you can visit the BookDepository.co.uk website, but see below for my absolute favourite recipe (thus far) from this book – my version of Debora Madison’s Cherry and Almond Cake! (I’ve made it a few times and made a few tweaks to make it a bit easier, but you’ll have to go to the book for the original version!)
Cherry and Almond Cake
Recipe by Deborah Madison, from “Around the world in 80 dishes”
110g / 4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g / 5 oz all-purpose flour
150g / 5 oz almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp salt
200g / 5 oz caster sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
550g fresh cherries, washed and pitted
Icing sugar or good quality vanilla ice cream, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F / gas mark 4). Line a 23cm (9″) springform round cake tin with non-stick baking paper and set aside.
2. Set aside approx 50g (1.8 oz) of both almond meal and caster sugar in a small dish and mix together. Cream the remaining sugar with the butter till pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, making sure that it is completely beaten in before adding the next.
3. In a clean bowl, whisk together all the remaining dry ingredients, then quickly beat it into the creamed butter till just combined.
4. Spread half of the cake batter into your prepared cake tin, then scatter half the cherries on top. Carefully spread the remaining cake batter on top of this, and then your remaining cherries on top of that. Take the almond meal/caster sugar that you set aside before and sprinkle it over the top – you’ll find that this will make a very loose kind of a crumb on top that also looks quite pretty!
5. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or till a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven and set aside for about 10-15 minutes to cool and stabilize, then remove from the cake tin and cool completely. Serve with a simple dusting of icing sugar, or with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream for something a bit more indulgent 😉