Category Archives: Cookbooks

Cookbook Review: Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of Gordon Ramsay’s (I’d probably have to eat in his restaurants to really appreciate him), but I do like watching Kitchen Nightmares from time to time – even though the program is all in all pretty repetitive.

Anyway, I saw Ramsay’s cookbook (Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food) at the library and thought I’d give it a try. During the week, I do need recipes that can be done rather quickly. Plus I wanted to see if he’s as good as he believes.

One thing I can say, is that his book reflects his personality, at least as seen on TV. The book is completely frantic, going from one topic to another apparently randomly. Instead of having the recipes organized by ingredient, they are intercepted by recipes from different cuisines or courses. A chapter on working lunches, for example, is followed by one on Mexican flavors. The book is also very colorful and has pretty pictures of all the included dishes. The recipes are relatively simple, though not necessarily cheap.

The first dish I tried was his Pasta with pancetta, leek & mushrooms. Rather than spend $ on pancetta, I used bacon. I did use creme fraiche, which was a waste of money (I bought it at Safeway, it’s half as cheap at Trader Joe’s). I can’t imagine it made too much of a difference. In any case, I was not impressed. The dish was quite bland. It’d have been much better (but much more caloric) with twice the amount of bacon. I did add a lot of Parmesan cheese, and that helped – but then again, pasta with Parmesan cheese by itself is pretty good. I would not make this dish again. You can find my adaptation of the recipe below.

The second dish was Baked pork chops with a piquant sauce, a recipe which you can also find online. I followed this one pretty closely as well, though I used a different type of mushrooms and used dried thyme instead of fresh (because I couldn’t find fresh thyme last time I went to Safeway). My one big mistake was misreading “1 Tbsp” sugar for “1 tsp” sugar – so the resulting sauce was a tad too sweet. Mike liked the overall dish, but I wasn’t too impressed yet again. It just seemed like an average dish, not bad, not great. I probably wouldn’t make it again either. My version of the recipe (with the correct amount of sugar) is below as well.

BTW, IMHO, the recipe produces too much sauce for the pork chops, I’d either reduce it by a third or use it with 6 pork chops. I served them with buttermilk mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Finally, I made Sticky Lemon Chicken, another recipe easily found online. Indeed, it seems that you can find many of his recipes online, so it may not be worth it to buy his cookbook at all (it’s pretty sad that he has to recycle old recipes into a new book, rather than coming up with new ones). In any case, even though I skipped the fresh thyme and parsley listed in the original recipe, the results were quite good. I should say that the recipe calls for 1 large chicken cut into pieces – there is no suggestion that the chicken should be boneless. HOWEVER, as I suspected, my bone-in chicken parts did not cook in the 15 minutes it takes for the sauce to cook. I’d suggest that you either use boneless chicken for this recipe, or be prepared to cook the chicken for at least half an hour. I’d also suggest that you cover the dish while cooking. My suggestions are incorporated into the recipe below.

When l originally wrote this posting, I forgot dessert! Indeed, I made one of the desserts from the book, the Banana mousse with butterscotch ripple, it was very easy, quite good and extremely caloric. Still, it’s definitely the sort of dessert you can whip up when you really, really, really want something sweet to finish a meal – and happen to have both bananas and whipping cream handy. I did like how easy it was to make the butterscotch. This was my second adventure in candy making (the first being toffee).


Penne with Bacon, Leeks & Mushrooms

  • 10 oz dried penne
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large leek, finely sliced
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. creme fraiche
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese

Boil the penne in salted water until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil to medium-high in a large skillet. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown. Add the leek and mushrooms; season with salt & pepper. Cook over high heat until the leeks are tender, about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Drain the pasta and immediately mix with the leek/mushroom mixture and the creme fraiche. Season again with salt & pepper. Sprinkle with the parsley and mix. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Baked Pork Chops with a Piquant Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 4 pork chops
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 3 rosemary sprigs (leaves only)
  • 1/2 head of garlic, separated into cloves but left unpeeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red Jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 8oz white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil a baking sheet large enough to accommodate the pork chops.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the pork chops. Place in the baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme. Put the rosemary leaves and unpeeled garlic cloves on top of the pork chops. Drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven and cook until done 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, red pepper, jalapeño and mushrooms. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and add sugar, mix. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the onions are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Once the pork chops are ready, let them rest for 5 minutes. Plate them, pour any liquid remaining in the baking sheet onto the sauce, and mix well. Spoon the sauce onto the pork chops and serve.

Sticky Lemon Chicken

  • 5 lb bone-in chicken pieces (or equivalent boneless chicken)
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 lemon, finely sliced

Salt and pepper the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and garlic and sprinkle with thyme. Brown the chicken on both sides.

Add the sherry vinegar and boil until reduced by half. Add the soy sauce and honey and shake the pan to mix. Add the hot water and lemon slices. Mix well. If using bone-in chicken, cover the pan and cook until the chicken is almost done (half an hour or so). Then uncover and boil the liquid until syrupy. If using boneless chicken, cook uncovered until the chicken is done and the liquid is syrupy, around 10 minutes, turning once.

Banana mousse with butterscotch ripple

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate

Place the bananas in the freezer for 1-2 hours, if possible. When they are ready, peel and chop them.

Meanwhile, make the butterscoth sauce by putting the sugar, butter and 2/3 cup of whipping cream in a small heavy pot and cooking it over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted, stirring constantly. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, still stirring, and then remove from the heat and let the sauce cool down completely.

Put the bananas, the lemon juice and the remaining whipping cream in a blender bowl. Blend until smooth and creamy.
To assemble, spoon some butterscotch along the sides of 4 glasses or serving bowls. Pour in the banana mousse and top with some more butterscotch. Grate some chocolate on top of each bowl and serve.

Marga’s Best Recipes

Burmese cooking

I just got a message about this new Burmese cookbook: hsa*ba, Burmese cookbook. hsa*ba means “please eat” in Burmese (is that the name of the language?). I haven’t seen the book, but as there aren’t many books on Burmese cooking, I thought I’d mention it. The website also has some Burmese recipes.
My cooking page on Burmese food is here. I enjoyed cooking the food, as it was quite different – but comforting – from what I usually make.

Library sale time!

This morning we had another library sale, and as usual I bought a bunch of cookbooks. Cookbooks that I have nowhere to put in my house (what a convoluted sentence). Here they are:
Coastal Carolina Cooking – by Nancy Davis & Kathy Hart
The Cooking of Japan [Foods of the World Series]
The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine – by Jeff Smith
Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet – by Claire Joyes
Natural cooking the finish way – by Ulla Käkönen
Savor the Flavor of Oregon – by Junior League of Eugene
Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain – by Penelope Casas, 1987

Cookbooks I own

I’ve decided to make a list of the cookbooks I own, so I don’t have to search all over the place to see if I have one in particular. It’s a time consuming task, but c’est la vie.
General Cookbooks
Bay Wolf Restaurant Cookbook – by Michael Wild et all
Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook – 1953
Frugal Gourmet – by Jeff Smith
The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine – by Jeff Smith
Joy of Cooking – by Irma and Marion Rombauer Becker Rombaucher
Specialty Cookbooks
The Barbecue! Bible – by Steven Raichlen
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking – by Molly Stevens
The Fabulous Fondue Cookbook – by Carmel B. Reingold
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book
The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas by Jeff Smith
Children’s Cookbooks
Great Girl Food: Easy Eats & Tempting Treats for Girls to Make – by Jeanette Wall
Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook – 1997 edition
Kids’ Party Cookbook! – by Penny Warner
Ethnic Cookbooks
The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors – by Jeff Smith
Bon Appetit Tastes of the World
Ethnic Cuisine: How to Create the Authentic Flavors of Over 30 International Cuisines – by Elisabeth Rozin
Unusual Acadian Recipes for the sweet tooth – by Mercedes Vidrine
The Africa News Cookbook: African Cooking for Western Kitchens – by Inc. Africa News Service
The Africa Cookbook – by Jessica B. Harris
The complete American Housewife – 1776 – by Julianne Belote
British Museum Cookbook – by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson
Las Recetas Económicas de Doña Petrona – by Petrona C. de Gandulfo
The Balkans Cookbook – by Jugoslovenska Knjiga
The Basque Table: Passionate Home Cooking from One of Europe’s Great Regional Cuisines – by Teresa Barrenechea
The Basque Kitchen: Tempting Food from the Pyrenees – by Gerald Hirigoyen
Cocina Vasca – by X. Costa Clavell
Traditional Bulgarian Cooking – by Atanas Slavov
Caribbean and African Cookery – by Rosamund Grant
The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking – by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz
Sky Juice and Flying Fish: Traditional Caribbean Cooking – by Jessica B. Harris
Coastal Carolina Cooking – by Nancy Davis & Kathy Hart
The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome – by Jeff Smith
Danish Cookery – by Susanne
Natural cooking the finish way – by Ulla Käkönen
A Taste of Florida – by Dorothy Chapman
The French Chef Cookbook – by Julia Child
Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet – by Claire Joyes
Green Cookery – by Marin
Authentic Indian-Mexican Recipes – by William Hardwick
Prashad-Cooking with Indian Masters – by J. Kalra (Author)
Best Ever Indian Cookbook – by Mridula Baljekar et al.
Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery – by Sri Owen
The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian: Recipes from the New and Old Worlds, Simplified for the American Kitchen
The Korean Cookbook by Judy Hyun
Mediterranean Cooking – by Paula Wolfert
Great Book Of Couscous – Classic Cuisines Of Morocco, Algeria And Tunisia – by Copeland Marks
Book of Middle Eastern Food – by Claudia Roden
Savor the Flavor of Oregon – by Junior League of Eugene
Tradewinds And Coconuts: A Reminiscence And Recipes From The Pacific Islands – by Jennifer Brennan
Las Mejores Recetas de la Cocina Peruana – by Mirza Vasallo González
Philippine Fiesta Recipes – by Leonarda R. Belmonte and Perla B. Del Mundo
Polish Cookbook – by the Culinary Arts Institute
Traditional Quebec Cooking – by Micheline-Mongrain-Dontigny
The Romanian Way of Cooking – by The Geroy’s of St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Ohio
Russian Cooking – no author
The Foods and Wines of Spain – by Penelope Casas
Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain – by Penelope Casas
Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain – by Penelope Casas, 1987
The Elegant Taste of Thailand: Cha Am Cuisine – by Sisamon Kongpan and Pinyo Srisawat
The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking – by Ghillie Basan
Time-Life Foods of the World collection
American Cooking: The Northwest
The cooking of the British Isles
The Cooking of the Caribbean Islands
The cooking of Provincial France
The cooking of Germany
The cooking of Italy
The Cooking of Japan
Latin American cooking
Middle Eastern Cooking
The cooking of Scandinavia
The cooking of Spain and Portugal
The cooking of Vienna’s Empire

Library Booksale Redux

This morning we went to yet another Friends of the Library booksale at the San Leandro library. I didn’t mean to buy too many cookbooks, I have no room as it is, and it’s not like I ever use them. But once again, I couldn’t resist them. So this is what I got:
A Taste of Florida, by Dorothy Chapman – I guess I’m adding Floridian, to the list of cuisines I’ll probably never cook.
winelovers.jpgThe wine lover’s cookbook by Sid Goldstein – Mike found it. It’s not a book of wine-based recipes (darn!), but of recipes with recommended wine pairings. It gets good reviews at, and it seems it’s the kind of book one has to read and not just get recipes from. Seems like a good buy.

The Greens Cook Book by Deborah Madison. I am, as you may know, an anti-vegetarian, I eat barely any vegetables, but I do cook vegetarian food from time to time and I thought it’d be a good addition to my cookbook collection.
The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz. I already own two or three Caribbean cookbooks, but there are so many islands in that area that I can always use another one. And this book tells you from which country each recipe is.
Middle Eastern Cooking and American Cooking: The Northwest from the Time-Life Foods of the World collection. This is a really old collection – the books are from the 1960’s and 70’s, but I’ve found some good recipes in some of them. I have quite a lot of them now, as I keep buying them when I see them at the library sales.
And this is it – until the next sale 🙂

Got a lot of books

Last Saturday our local library had its book sale and I scored a lot of cookbooks. Granted most of the stuff they had was quite old, but for $1 for hardcovers and 50-cents for softcovers, who can complain? Now I need a place to store all these books!
Anyway, I got a few spiral or home-bound books:

-Traditional Quebec Cooking
by Micheline-Mongrain-Dontigny
circa 1995

-Authentic Indian-Mexican Recipes
by William Hardwick
a small pamphlet circa 1965 of recipes from the Rio Grande region
-Unusual Acadian Recipes for the sweet toogh by Mercedes Vidrine
These are cake & pastry recipes from the Acadians that settled in Louisiana, aka Cajuns
-The Romaian Way of Cooking by The Geroy’s of St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Ohio
Really, Romanian-american recipes, c. 1968
Kauai Cookbook by the Kekaha Parent-Teacher’s Association
c. 1959
Recipes: The Cooking of the Caribbean Islands
a Time-Life publication
Though I have several Caribbean cookbooks, i got this one because it helpfully mentions what country each recipe comes from. Often times Caribbean cookbooks don’t.
I also got several books from the Time-Life “Foods of the World” collection circa 1968. These are all hard cover books. I got:

  • The cooking of Provincial France
  • The cooking of Vienna’s Empire
  • The cooking of Italy
  • The cooking of Scandinavia
  • Latin American cooking
    and finally a couple of hardcover cookbooks
    -Russian Cookinb
    a translation of a Russian original circa 1974
    -The Balkans Cookbook by Jugoslovenska Knjiga
    circa 1987
    and finally:
    The complete American Housewife – 1776 by Julianne Belote
    A book on colonnial cooking circa 1974
    Now it’s time for me to get cooking!

  • Library sale

    Today our public library had a sale and I picked up a few cookbooks. They are mostly pretty old (cookbook selection at these sales is never that good) but for $1 for hardbacks and 50-cents for paperbacks, I can’t complain. I got:
    La Cuisine Creole A collection of Culinary Recipes, 1956 reprint of 1885 original
    Danish Cookery by Susanne, 1961
    The Fabulous Fondue Cookbook by Carmel B. Reingold, 1980
    This is a small paperback but might be useful.
    The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child, 1968
    The Frugual Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines, 1989
    Indonesian Food and Cookery by Sri Owen, 1980
    I already have a newer, longer Indonesian cookbook by the same author, but for 50c couldn’t pass it up
    Polish Cookbook by the Culinary Arts Institute, 1978

    All About Braising

    I found Molly Stevens’ All About Braising at the library a few weeks ago and liked the first couple of recipes so much that I decided to buy the book. I got it for only $11 plus shipping brand new through one of Amazon’s affiliates, which I think it’s quite a bargain.
    The book has a long section on the principles of braising which I haven’t read yet, but I do mean to. I’m new to braising but I enjoy the results so much that I do want to try it.
    The recipes themselves have been quite good. So far I’ve made Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze, Herb-Stuffed Leg of Lamb Braised in Red Wine, Whole Chicken Braised with Pears and Pork Pot Roast with Apricots, Cardamon and Ginger. All of them have been quite good.
    In all, I can recommend this book wholeheartedly.