Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cookbook Review: Community by Hetty McKinnon

Thursday, April 16, 2015
"For me, the happiest expressions of food are the ones that stem from sharing – whether it be sharing a plate, sharing a story over a meal, or sharing a recipe"- Hetty McKinnon, via Arthur Street Kitchen Blog
Today, I am excited to get the ball rolling with the first Cookbook Review on Windswept Wishes. Other than my immediate family, not many people know that I am a massive cookbook fiend. It's so bad that one of my 'goals', so to speak, is to one day have a room where cookbooks line the walls! It's not just the recipes I adore, and enjoyment I get out of cooking delicious meals, but I'm also drawn to cookbooks that have stunning photography that make simply flipping through pages a joy in itself.

The problem with owning a fair amount of cookbooks though is that you can easily fall into the trap of just making one or two recipes and be done with it. So I thought that by creating a 'series' of cookbook reviews, it would help me get more value out of the books I own, as I will hopefully become more motivated to try a range of recipes from each book.

Cue Hetty McKinnon's Community. The story of Hetty herself is quite an inspiring one; born out of her love of vegetables, Hetty one day decided to establish a community kitchen, called Arthur Street Kitchen, in Surrey Hills, Sydney. Every Thursday and Friday, Hetty would ride her bike to deliver fresh and seasonally curated salads to residents. After gaining quite a following, her cookbook followed suite after she received a number of recipe requests. 

So, this cookbook is all about salads. Now, that may sound dull, especially if you're not a salad fan unlike myself. But I guarantee that even the most devote meat eaters will find these recipes delicious, because they're not just your standard salad. Hetty's recipes are inspired and prove that there are is so much you can do with vegetables to make them shine, and to make them stand as a complete and satisfying meal on their own. 

This cookbook ticks all the boxes in my 'cookbook' criteria. Its layout is extremely helpful, as all the recipes are sectioned into 'chapters' with each focusing on different ingredients ie. root vegetables, fungi, cereals (grains) and more. There is also a section at the beginning of the book titled 'The Larder' which is a helpful guide stating the necessary ingredients of a well stocked larder and 'Salad Fundamentals'. 

All the recipes in Community are tasty, wholesome and filling. I have really enjoyed whipping up something different once a week for my family, and the great thing is, there's always leftovers that have me sorted for a couple of University lunches during the week, making healthy food choices so much easier to maintain. I have discovered a lot of different ingredients; I never knew there were so many different types of grains, which is awesome as it means that I can switch it up every now and then, rotating between quinoa, couscous and lesser known grains such as farro. Beyond that though, there are also pasta salads, lentil salads, green salads, noodle salads; everything you could think of and more. Above all, I love that Hetty's belief in Community, the sharing of good food with loved ones, shines through in this cookbook; a belief further accentuated by the stunning accompanying photography by much loved photographer Luisa Brimble. 

Whether you are seeking exciting ways to reinvent the humble vegetable or simply want to get more into your diet, Community is the cookbook you need.

Sample Recipe: Slow-Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes with Spelt Pasta, Porcini and Ricotta by Hetty McKinnon
Serves 4-6
10 roma tomatoes (1.4kg), each cut into 8 wedges
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbp extra virgin olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, grated
Sea salt and black pepper
500g spelt pasta (or your favourite pasta shape)
10g butter
30g dried porcini mushrooms (or other dried mushrooms), soaked in hot water
250g ricotta
1/2 basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup oregano leaves
2 tbsp caramelised balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius

In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, thyme, 1 clove of grated garlic and season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 1-1.5 hours until the tomatoes are shrunken and juicy.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spelt pasta (or whatever pasta you're using) according to the packet instructions.

In a small frying pan, melt the butter, add the remaining grated garlic and cook for 10 seconds until fragrant. Remove the mushrooms from the water and add to the pan, along with a couple teaspoons of their soaking liquid (making sure not to exclude any of the grit) and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until the water has evaporated.

Combine the tomatoes, pasta an mushrooms and season well with salt and black pepper. Break the ricotta into chunks and gently fold through the pasta. To serve, scatter over the basil and oregano leaves an finish with a drizzle of caramelized balsamic vinegar and the remaining olive oil. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tiny Tales from Paris #4: Du Pain et des Idées

Friday, April 10, 2015
"I'm going to make you bread like you've never seen before, and in this bread there will be love and friendship"

Such are the words of Christophe Vasseur, the baker behind Paris' best bakery, Du Pain et des Idées. At thirty years of age, he decided to leave his job as a sales executive in the fashion industry behind in order to pursue a career as a baker. His ambitions were no minor feat; wishing to not just be an 'ordinary baker', he strove to be a 'one of the kind' by practicing time-honored and traditional techniques in order to ensure all his baked goods are a standard of quality to the highest degree. He has certainly excelled in his aim, and today, Du Pain et Des Idées continues to be one of the most loved boulangeries in Paris. 

I knew that I couldn't possibly miss a trip to this stunning bakery while in Paris, and had I been able to stay longer, I just know I would have soon become a regular visitor. Stepping into the tiny bakery filled with patrons, my senses were treated to the deliciously warm and heady aroma of freshly baked bread, yeast and sugar. Words really cant accurately describe just how heavenly this sensation is! You really must experience it for yourself.

I was also amazed by the stunning majestic interior. The bakery building itself dates back to 1889, and as Christophe states on the bakery website, has the ability to transport you a century back in time. The whole experience had me feeling nostalgic for a past that didn't even exist in my lifetime; for when 'simple' things such as bread was made properly.

I wholeheartedly admire Christophe's vision and his 'aim to show that [his] profession is amongst the most beautiful in the wold'. The sheer, unadulterated happiness that I experienced from walking away with a loaf of Pain des Amis and other added goodies, nibbling on pieces while strolling the streets, should not be underrated. It is one of the simplest kinds of magic that exists in this world.

P.S: If you haven't already, take a peak over at Sunny Sweet Pea to read my guest post 'Hidden Paris' for more tiny tales.
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