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Saturday, 11 May 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Martha's American Food

I admit I have a cookbook habit.  It started when I put a shelve up in my kitchen to store the 4 modest books I owned.  Then, for some reason, I started to develop a habit of going on Amazon and finding bargain books.  Some second hand, some brand new but reduce but my golden rule was always hardback.   I do have the odd paperback cookbook but 95% of my whole collection is hardback.  They just feel better, look better on the shelve and seem to inspire me more to cook.  

My book collection consists mainly of a few authors which I admire - Nigella, Ina Gartan, Tamasin Day-Lewis and then I have a range of other authors, some well known others new, which I enjoy flicking through whenever I get that time to bake feeling.

I have decided to write a short review of my newest book - Martha's American Food.  Yes it is a US book therefore the quantities are in cups and temperatures in F not C.  However I have a number of American cookbooks now and seem to be slowly adapting to their 'unique' (perhaps simple) ways.

Originally I planned to blog Ina Garten's Beatty's Chocolate Cake but in my rush to make it I noted that as I put the tins in the oven I had totally forgot to take any photos - doh!   So here is my short and sweet book review (please don't expect anything to compete with those Amazon Top Reviewers posts...)

Martha's American Food
by Martha Stewart

Page count: 432

This is my second Martha Stewart book and I am not disappointed with it.  I had wanted it for a while but never got round to buying it until one night I saw it on Amazon for £19.  A few days later I was reading it in bed one sunny Saturday morning.  This is a heavy book and looks well produced.  The images are high quality and the text clear and bold.

The contents breaks the book in to six main areas - all american, northeast, south, midwest, southwest and west.  There is also a basic recipe section, tips and techniques and the normal sources/acknowledgements.

Briefly some of the recipes from each section...

All American
This the the classics chapter.  Blueberry Pancakes, Meatloaf, Hamburgers, Lasagne, Pot Roast, Mac & Cheese, Brownies, Strawberry Shortcake, Apple Pie and Ice Cream.

Clam Chowder, Walforf Salad, Meatball Subs, Piccalilli, Corn Muffins, Pretzels, New York Cheesecake, Boston Cream Pie (not a pie), Whoopie Pies. 

Pickled Okra, Shrimp and Grits, Green Tomato Gratin, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Hush Puppies, Key Lime Pie, Peach and Berry Cobbler, Pound Cake.

Sloppy Joes, Barbecued Ribs, Creamed Corn, Hoosier Pie, Cherry Pie, Chowder.

Salsa Verde, Corn Dogs, Texas Chili, Steak Fajitas, Chicken Enchiladas, Skillet Cornbread, Texas Sheet Cake.

Guacamole, Cobb Salad, Fig Pizza, Fish Tacos, Hazelnut Cookies, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Cioppino.

I have always loved American desserts and always wanted to know how to cook them correctly.  This book is both savoury and sweet so should interest everyone.  Nearly all the recipes come with a photograph and the book also contains a range of 'scenic' images.  Most recipes come with a backstory that tells your the origins of the recipe.  I enjoyed looking at the images, reading the clear recipes and finding out a little about where they came from while slowly getting more and more hungry.

If you are going to buy this book, or any American cookbook, be ready to start translating some of the methods.  I am not going to go in to detail on this post about American cooking as there are many websites that answer all the questions - I know because I have had to look myself.  However two pointers when cooking American....

Cups - be careful here 1 American cup is 236ml, 1 British cup is 250ml -  this is a big difference when baking.  Many supermarkets in the UK sell cup measures but when you check the volume they tend to be UK not US.  I found my US cup set in Marks and Spencer.  

Stand mixer - many recipes from American always assume you have a 'Kitchenaid' of some sort.  I was lucky enough to get a Kenwood KMix for Chirstmas one year but I am sure you can do every recipe by hand - it will just take longer.  The only areas that may cause problems are American style frostings that normally require long whipping while they cool.  After making many frosting batches using a stand mixer I wouldn't even bother trying it by hand unless you want to go crazy.

I have not had chance to try any of the recipes yet but a number have got my attention.  Keep an eye out for upcoming recipes.