Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cookbook Review: Community by Hetty McKinnon

"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. 
Emily Black said...

I'm excited for this series! I have really been wanting some new cookbooks to look at, as I've been cooking for my family a lot more lately. This one sounds really great, I'll have to check it out. I've been wanting to incorporate more vegetables into our diets, but so far roasting is about as much as I can think of. Inspiration is sorely needed! x

Carina Maree said...

That's lovely! I have been cooking for my family a lot more too, and they have all been loving the recipes thus far (even my dad, who is mad about meat, admits that these salads are a meal in themselves).

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