When I was sent a review copy of Delicious Food Editor Valli Little's new book Quick Smart Cook I flicked through it eagerly and my gaze fell upon one dish in particular. You know I love quirky and putting a twist on anything and this dish put a twist on one of my favourite dishes, the Caesar Salad. It was a Caesar Salad Soup. Like a lot of Modern Australian cuisine Quick Smart Cook borrows spices and flavours from different cultures. There's Moroccan style fish with chermoula, Blue eye with Spanish crumbs, Baja Fish Tacos, Baked Whole Salmon with Wasabi Tartare, Salmon with tomato and coconut sambal, Salmon baklava with dill butter - and that is just the fish section. Other sections use Scandinavian, Egyptian, Thai French, China, Italian and there is even a recipe for verrines which are very now.
Then there are the items I have bookmarked like prawns with bacon mayo (you know me and bacon), Instant Fondue with roast vegetables, Thai Lobster curry, salt and pepper squid and chips (the long matchstick chips are very cute), Lavender Panna cotta with Lavender shards, White chocolate mojito cheesecakes and probably my favourite named tart: the Forrest Gump tart for Mr NQN who loved the movie.
One thing that is different with this cookbook is that every single recipe has a large picture right next to it. You've probably heard me gristle about photos and I'm a visual person and the first thing that sets off my food lust is photographs. It's a very simple process for me: if it makes my mouth water, I want to make it and I post it note it straight away. So fellow food porn afficianados this is good stuff indeed. Photos have clean, clear styling which is simple.
Chapters are organised by ingredient e.g. eggs, cheese, pasta, fish etc although there is a separate chapter for starters, breakfasts, vegetarian, low fat , desserts and ices. There aren't any cooking or prep times though all recipes are designed to be quick and easy (hence the name). For ideas and quick ones at that and ones that are entirely doable and don't require extraordinary cooking skills, this is a fantastic book.
Back to the soup (recipe at the end), because I know you'll be rather fascinated by it. It was easy to make indeed and I do happen to love anchovies in moderation so I was sure to add some. For those of you familiar with Chinese cuisine, cooked lettuce is no big deal at all and is in fact rather good but the idea of cooking an ingreident that is usually eaten raw can be mystifying to others. It's a moot point really, the lettuce flavour was relatively mild in it and the soup resembled more of a delicious pea and ham soup with some sour cream. I found that I enjoyed it with more sour cream (although that's no surprise is it as I love sour cream).
Achievability: 4.5 out of 5
Usability: 4 out of 5
Degree of difficulty: Easy-Medium
Food porn score: 4.5 out of 5. Oh joy to have a large photo of every single recipe!
Post it note tabbed recipes: 16
Gift book: Yes, especially for the time poor but stylish Modern Australian home cook
And Valli has signed 4 copies of her new book and I am giving them away! All you need to do is tell me what is your quickest or smartest recipe.
**THE LUCKY WINNERS OF THE QUICK SMART COOK GIVEAWAY ARE:
CONGRATULATIONS AND ENJOY YOUR BOOK!**
The giveaway ends midnight January 16th 2010 AEST. Enter as a comment on this story and this giveaway is open to Australian residents only._
Quick Smart Cook by Valli Little is published by ABC Books and retails for $39.99
Scroll down for the Caesar Salad Soup recipe_.
Menu For Hope
I received an email from the dapper Ed from Tomatom asking if I'd like to take part in this year's Menu For Hope. I had joined in a couple of years ago and it's a great cause. It's an international campaign which relies on the generosity of food bloggers sourcing or donating prizes that will be used to sell virtual raffle tickets. Over two weeks, the general public have the chance to buy virtual raffle tickets for the prize of their choice for US$10 each. You will be able to purchase tickets between December 14 25. Any donations after this date will not qualify for entry into a prize raffle so do get in quick :) All donations will be collected by a third party, the online fundraising company First Giving.
My last prize was a set of Nigella Lawson cooking utensils and I always feel like a prize or gift should reflect the giver and recipient. Since I don't know the recipient I thought that it should at least reflect me. The first thing I thought of food-wise was Afternoon Tea, something that I love to do and I recently went to the Sir Stamford's Pink High Tea in October which was full of lovely little morsels, tea and a wonderful atmosphere and the Sir Stamford Hotel has kindly donated a Traditional Afternoon Tea for Two lucky people worth $80!
**Prize code: AP11
Prize detail: A Traditional Afternoon Tea for Two at the Sir Stamford, Circular Quay.
The above is the Pink High Tea which is slightly different as it was a one off High Tea but please see my previous story on the regular Sir Stamford Traditional High Tea
**To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle
Heres what you need to do:
Step 1 - Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list.
Step 3 - Please specify which bid item youd like in the Personal Message section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code. Each US$10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of US$50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 2xEU01, 3xEU02.
Step 4 - If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match. (This isnt relevant to Australian bidders)
Step 5 - Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
Read more: http://www.tomatom.com/#ixzz0ZwZYF6IS
Caesar Salad Soup
6 pancetta slices (I used bacon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1-2 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
1 potato (about 200g), peeled, chopped
3 cups (750ml) chicken stock
200g frozen peas
1 cos lettuce, outer leaves discarded, thinly shredded
1/4 cup (20g) grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
2 tablespoons sour light cream
Toasted Sourdough croutons, to serve
Step 1 - Preheat the oven to 200C. Lay 4 slices of pancetta on a baking tray, then cover with a sheet of baking paper and top with another tray to keep it flat. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until crisp, then break into shards and set aside for serving.
Step 2 - Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Chop the remaining pancetta and add to the pan with the onion, garlic and anchovy and cook for 2-3 minutes until onion has softened. Add the potato and stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes until potato has softened.
Step 3 - Add the peas and lettuce and simmer for 2 minutes until the lettuce has wilted. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in the parmesan and season, then use a stick blender to puree the soup until smooth (or cool slightly, then puree in batches in a blender and return to the pan). Warm through over low heat or serve chilled. Divide among bowls, drizzle with sour cream, then serve with crisp pancetta shards, croutons and extra parmesan.