Blogging has undeniably changed the the way people think about, and enjoy, food. It’s democratized the previously restricted world of restaurant reviews and taught millions how to cook exciting new dishes. One of the first blogs to break into the mainstream was Deb Perelman’s ‘Smitten Kitchen’.
A self-taught chef, cooking in her tiny New York kitchen, she writes about food that even the most timid of readers can manage. It’s simple, honest and entirely delicious. Her eponymous cookbook was launched before Christmas in the US and is finally getting an outing in the UK.
The book includes a great range of recipes, from breakfast through to dessert. All the measures have been converted from American to British and most of the temperatures and ingredients too. The photography – done by Deb herself – is fantastic, and the introductions to each recipe are beautifully written.
Over the last couple of weeks i’ve been working my way through several of the recipes…
Keen to try something from her breakfast section I baked this granola on a quiet evening. It’s delicious – like flapjack for breakfast. She uses minimal quantities of sugar and golden syrup to ensure that it stays in the same ballpark as healthy and it goes great with greek yoghurt and fruit.
Flat Roasted Chicken with Tiny Potatoes
This recipe didn’t work great for me – the instructions don’t really tell you how to spatchcock a chicken (chop out the back-bone and smash it flat) so it would be easy to get wrong. The tiny potatoes took quite a while to cook through and – given that you’ve got a pan that’s covered in chicken jus, not making a simple gravy is almost criminal.
Iceberg and Blue Cheese Salad
This is a great quick salad – tasty, simple and light.
Beer and Balsamic Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Puree
I love short ribs. They capture huge amounts of beefy flavour and provided they’re cooked carefully have a fantastic texture. In this recipe the ribs are browned before being slowly braised in beer, balsamic and beef stock. It’s fall apart tender – the sauce reduces down great and the parsnip puree is a perfect side. I love that she adds horseradish – it goes really well with both the beef and the sweet parsnips.
Banana Tarte Tatin
I love tarte tatin, but i’ve never tried a banana one. Keen to take my shiny new (just seasoned!) skillet for a spin I gave this a try. It works brilliantly – the bananas go a lovely dark caramel, the sauce is rich and the pastry – well, who doesn’t like light, fluffy pastry!?
Red Wine Velvet Cake
I baked this for a colleague’s birthday. I really like the idea of replacing the red food colouring with wine – it adds a surprisingly delicate fruity note and ‘most’ of the alcohol gets baked off anyway. The result was fantastic – moist, rich and completely delicious. It caused a feeding frenzy – the entire three layer cake was demolished in seconds. Those too slow off the mark spend the rest of the day giving me baleful looks. I’ve posted the recipe here.
It’s a great book, if like me and many home cooks, you have a tiny kitchen and limited resources then this is perfect for you. It’s simple, unashamed home cooking and utterly marvellous for that. Almost all the recipes I tried were fantastic – I spotted a couple of printing errors which should be fixed in the next run, but otherwise it was very reliable. Ingredients are relatively easy to find and I love that she includes lots of variations and tips for preparing things in advance and saving things for later.
‘The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’ by Deb Perelman, RRP £20, is published by Square Peg and available from all good bookshops