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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Cookbook Review: The World Food Cafe

The World Food Cafe Cookbook
I love cookbooks. Buying me a new cookbook is a failsafe birthday present. I read them like novels; from cover to cover. Inevitably, however, I only ever end up make 3-5 recipes from each book and then I remember them as old favourites and return to them again and again. I always seem to forget that all the other recipes exist. It's probably because I've got distracted by another cookbook. Do you find that the same thing happens to you? For any specific recipe or method I need (e.g. how to make homemade buttermilk), I'll just search for it on BBC Good Food rather than check out my encyclopaedic recipe books. Bad I know, but it's just so much quicker.

The World Food Cafe cookbook finally arrived from Amazon. It cost £9.59 (link) and, reassuringly, it's very highly rated. It's really the diary of a married couple's travels around much of the world. They don't attempt to comprehensively list all the recipes from a particular region - they merely give their particular favourites. The book itself is complemented by Chris Caldicott's beautiful photography of particular areas e.g. local tribes men in Africa. If I had to have one negative, it would be that I would prefer more photos of the dishes themselves. Most of the recipes are unfamiliar to me and I would appreciate a photo of the end dish so I know what I'm aiming for.
I really like how the cookbook is written. It's more than just a cookbook. It's full of funny little anecdotes like the time they accidentally ate brain which they thought was in fact brie. It's actually really personal which makes a refreshing change from the generic cookbooks churned out continually by celebrity chefs.

The ingredients can sometimes appear a little daunting. But after a quick flick through the recipes, you soon realise that it's the same (easy to obtain) spices being used repeatedly. It's not the kind of the cookbook which sends you on a huge mission to hunt down something ridiculously hard to get hold of and expensive. The recipes themselves are fairly easy to cook, just a little vegetable preparation here and there. It should be noted that the World Food Cafe cookbook is a vegetarian cookbook.  Throughout the book it gives the fish or meat alternatives if you prefer. The book isn't trying to force the reader to be vegetarian or make you feel bad about eating meat, it's more that the recipes just happen to be vegetarian. The World Food Cafe is really just demonstrating that meat eaters aren't necessarily missing out if they don't have meat as the centre point of their meal. Personally, I think it's a great cookbook. The recipes I've tried so far have worked out well and are very tasty. I really enjoyed finding out about new flavour combinations too.

One of my particular favourites is Zanzibar Beans in Coconut Sauce. The coconut milk conveys a lovely, sweet creamy flavour and the sweet potato is a lovely robust vegetable to take the place of chicken or beef.

Serves 4-6

6 tbsp oil
450g sweet potato, cut into 2cm dice
1 onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
thumb sized piece of root ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves
4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and case discarded

2 tsp ground turmeric
3 green chillies, roughly chopped (alter this depending on your personal preference)
handful of fresh coriander, chopped
400ml coconut milk
450g black eyed peas, cooked
salt and pepper

1. Begin by heating half the oil in a frying pan and sauteeing the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same pan, add the rest of the oil and fry the onion, garlic and ginger for 4 minutes.
3. Add the spices, chillies and coriander and cook for a further 3 minutes.

4. Stir in the coconut milk, sweet potato and black eyed peas. Simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender. Season with salt and pepper. 

Serve with brown rice and some extra freshly chopped coriander.

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