My Kitchen Cookbooks: Nigella Christmas

Julie's Family Kitchen

I simply couldn’t let December pass by and not feature Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson in ‘My Kitchen Cookbooks’ series. Nigella Christmas is an iconic Christmas recipe book full of enticing and decadent delights. It oozes Christmas charm and is a joy to browse through whilst planning your Christmas feast. I received my copy as a Christmas present quite a few years ago and it’s a book I turn to every year for festive inspiration. It has recently been republished with a stylised front cover but I quite like my retro looking copy.

Nigella has all manner of Christmas meals catered for in this book from informal suppers to the main event featuring roast turkey. There’s a huge variety of side dishes, starters, canapés and cocktails too.

The Spruced Up Vanilla Cake recipe is one I’ve been meaning to try for a long while, in fact I bought the Nordic Ware Holiday Tree bundt tin especially a couple of years ago but just never got round to it. I have to admit the thought of using a bundt tin for the first time was a little scary, I had visions of bits of cake clinging to the side and the resulting cake looking a complete disaster. As you can see from the picture, I shouldn’t have worried. I sprayed the tin inside liberally with cake release spray and the cake came out with no bother at all. The Spruced Up Vanilla Cake really has the WOW factor and is an ideal centre piece for a Christmas party.

Julie's Family Kitchen

I don’t know about you but I actually like brussels sprouts. Inspired by Nigella’s recipe, I now always cook my brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta. I don’t bother with the Marsala wine as Nigella recommends but it’s definitely a great way to liven up sprouts.

My favourite chapter in Nigella Christmas has to be ‘Joy to the world – Christmas baking and sweet treats’, I just wish I had enough time to bake everything. One year I baked two batches of the super chocolatey Christmas Chocolate Biscuits for my girls to take into school for the class Christmas parties. I’ve also baked the very delicious Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies as presents for the class teachers and the school lollypop lady.

I don’t usually make a Christmas pudding as I always make a Christmas cake instead. This year I’m seriously considering making the ‘Chocolate Pudding for Christmas Pudding Haters with Hot Chocolate Sauce’, it looks like a chocolate lovers dream dessert and I think it will please everyone. There’s an amazing chapter on edible gifts, perfect if you like to make and give your own Christmas hampers. Nigella really has got everything covered with a fabulous selection of chutneys, flavoured vodkas and sweet things.

Nigella Christmas is a cookbook I’d definitely recommend and would make a wonderful Christmas gift for the foodie in your life.

Until next time.


My Kitchen Cookbooks: Paul Hollywood’s British Baking

Paul Hollywood's British Baking

It’s probably no real surprise that Paul Hollywood’s British Baking is one of the latest books to adorn my bookshelf. It was a birthday present from my husband and children along with a copy of The Great British Bake Off Christmas. Perfect for a Bake Off fan like me. I even managed to get my copy of British Baking signed by the very man himself at the recent BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show in London.

Paul Hollywood

In his latest offering Paul Hollywood has researched recipes from up and down the British Isles. The book is divided into regions, the Southwest, the South & Southeast, the Midlands, the North, Wales, Ireland and Scotland which all have their own individual baking traditions but there are many similarities too, such as griddle baking and steamed puddings.

I really like the style and layout of this delightful book, each region is introduced with a charming explanation of its baking history and characteristics. All the recipes have clear instructions and are accompanied by a beautifully styled photo. Some of the bakes I’ve never heard of before e.g Ecclefechan Butter Tarts and Kentish Huffkins, so having that all important photo is extremely helpful. Plus, you’ll find there are a few recipes with step by step photos too.

I think my favourite chapter has to be the one on Scotland, the recipes look incredibly enticing. I’m sure I’ll be making the Raspberry Crumble Cake and Treacle Sponge Pudding featured in that chapter very soon. I did find it quite amusing to see a recipe for Cheese and Chive Scones of which I have my very own version here.

I chose to bake the Marmalade Cake first of all. Worryingly, the mixture did appear curdled quite early on so I added a spoonful of flour with the last two eggs (I think the eggs were too cold!). I baked my cake at Fan 160c and after 40 minutes of baking it looked golden brown but wasn’t cooked through. I decided to cover the cake with a layer of foil and placed it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. Once the cake had cooled and knowing my family are quite keen on icing I made a glacé icing using orange juice to finish it off. I was pretty pleased with this cake regardless of the minor hiccups I had, which didn’t appear to effect the overall bake. The cake had a lovely tangy sour orange flavour from the marmalade and a little sweetness from the orange icing, it’s definitely a cake I’d make again.

Marmalade Cake

Other bakes I’d like to try include the Denby Dale Pie (a tasty looking meat and potato pie), Chocolate Heavies (a chocolate chip biscuit I think my children will love) and the Dorset Apple Cake (perfect with my mid morning cuppa!).

I would love to know if you have tried any of the recipes from Paul Hollywood’s British Baking and how you got on. Please let me know if you have any recommendations of which recipes I should try next.

Until next time.


My Kitchen Cookbooks: Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect

My kitchen cookbooks

Every year as autumn approaches there always seems to be a flurry of new cookbooks hitting the book shop shelves. So like any true Great British Bake Off fan I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mary Berry’s new book titled Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect, which features all new recipes. Published officially on 1 September by Dorling Kindersley with a RRP of £25, I pre ordered it online. However, the estimated delivery date was far too long for me to wait so after spotting it in a bookshop ahead of the publication date, I cancelled my online order and bought it straight away.

The book is divided into sections Soups, First Courses, Fish and Shellfish, Poultry and Game, Meat, Pasta and Rice, Vegetables, Salads, Puddings and finally Cakes, Small Bakes and Bread.

I feel this book is probably aimed more at the novice / intermediate cook. However, don’t take that as a criticism or let it put you off if you are more a more experienced cook. Each recipe is accompanied by a large photograph with clear step by step instructions. In addition, there are ‘Keys to perfection’ along side each recipe to help you achieve perfect results. If you are watching the calories you’ll be pleased to see each recipe has a calorie count per serving too.

I’m quite partial to banana cake, so was very keen to try my hand at baking Mary’s Banana Loaf with Honey Icing.

Banana cake with honey icing

The banana loaf is moist and the chopped pecans provide a lovely contrast in texture. For me, the special part of the cake is the drizzle of honey icing on top which is delightfully sweet and works perfectly. If you want to bake a cake for a coffee morning with friends then this is the cake to bake, it’s a simple recipe and tastes absolutely delicious.

Banana cake with honey icing

I’ve book marked lots of other recipes to try out including Curried Lentil and Spinach Soup, Quick Haddock with Tomato and Puy Lentils, Steak and Guinness Pie, Greek Lamb Pilaf with Orzo, Spiced Dorset Apple Traybake and Hot Cross Bun Loaf.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this instalment of My Kitchen Cookbooks. Do let me know if you have the book too and if you have tried any of the recipes.

Until next time.


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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

Mary Berry's Baking Bible

I really had no hesitation choosing Mary Berry’s Baking Bible as my next book to feature in ‘My kitchen cookbooks’, the section of my blog dedicated to reviewing my ever growing collection of cookbooks. The list of recipes I’ve baked from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is so long that it’s most definitely one of my most used cookbooks.

Believe it or not I didn’t actually buy this book when first published. I was put off by the lack of photos and opted to buy 100 Cakes and Bakes by Mary Berry instead. After borrowing it from my local library I was completely persuaded to get my own copy. The Baking Bible is one of the most comprehensive baking books I own featuring over 250 classic recipes, including all the traditional favourites such as Madeira cake, Swiss Roll, Carrot Cake, English Muffins and Millionaires’ Shortbread.

The ‘Introduction and Techniques’ chapter is a must read for any new baker, as it guides you through baking terminology and tips for success. The book is then divided into chapters for different types of bakes e.g classic cakes, chocolate cakes, fancy biscuits and breads. At the end of the book there is a really helpful ‘Cake Decorations’ chapter which includes recipes and instructions on making almond paste, fondant icing, coulis and chocolate decorations.

After years of making a Victoria Sandwich the traditional way by creaming the butter and sugar first, I now only use Mary’s All-in-one method quite simply because it’s foolproof. I made a Pretty Pink Birthday Cake using this recipe earlier in the year and it really did taste amazing.

Pretty Pink Birthday Cake

Another favourite recipe of mine from the Baking Bible is Mary’s Chocolate Chip Brownies. There’s no faff with melting chocolate and I usually have all the ingredients stocked in my baking cupboard (yes, I really do have a baking cupboard!). The brownies are fudgey and very chocolatey, just how a good brownie should be.

If you’re after a quick and easy tasty bake then I recommend you try the Date and Cherry Butter Bars. They’re best described as a cross between a cake and a biscuit, they are quite moreish with a cup of tea.

Date and cherry butter bars

I can’t stress enough how delicious the Viennese Fingers are, they are seriously good. They are beautifully delicate in texture and have a luxurious buttery taste. Don’t be put off by the need to use a piping bag, as the recipe is pretty easy and worth a little bit of effort.

Mary’s Crown Loaf is a fantastic looking loaf of bread to bake. The crown loaf is constructed by baking 12 rolls together in a round cake tin. The individual rolls are light and soft inside with a good outside crust. My eldest daughter baked this crown loaf recently and she did a brilliant job, I think Paul Hollywood would be impressed too.

Crown loaf

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible has a wide range of recipes from simple and traditional to more complex and technical. It’s an essential book for any baking beginner and definitely worth a read too if you are a seasoned pro, there really is something for everyone. There are so many more recipes I want to try but deciding what to bake is difficult as there are so many. What’s your favourite recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible? Let me know, maybe it will be my next bake.

Until next time.


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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

Today is the start of a brand new feature on my blog called ‘My kitchen cookbooks’, that’s all about sharing with you my passion for cookbooks. I’ll select one cookbook from my continually growing collection and tell you why I love it. I regularly visit my local library, so the odd library book may appear every now and again.

The first book I’ve picked is Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson.

The strapline for this book is ‘Instant Italian inspiration’ and that really does sum up the book well. Packed full of Italian influences and flavours this is the book that really got me into cooking and helped me progress from just baking. Nigella herself states within the book that the recipes are not authentically Italian but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The recipes feature lots of my favourite Italian ingredients such as pasta, pancetta and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The first recipe I ever cooked from Nigellissima was the Pasta Risotto with Peas and Pancetta. I halved the quantities and cooked it just for me and I now make this often if I’m eating alone. The uniqueness of this dish is that orzo pasta is substituted for risotto rice, making this far less labour intensive than a traditional risotto. The combination of the salty pancetta and sweet peas work beautifully together, this is a recipe I highly recommend.

Pasta risotto from Nigellissima

Another recipe I cook frequently from the book is Curly Edged Pasta with Lamb Ragu. I’ve cooked this dish so much that the book pages are stained from splashes of tinned tomatoes and the recipe is now committed to memory. This is a straight forward no nonsense recipe combining a meaty lamb sauce with long pasta. For me, the use of chilli flakes and red currant jelly absolutely make this dish complete. Don’t bother to make it unless you have them because it isn’t quite the same without them. The malfadine pasta used can be a bit tricky to find in the supermarkets, I do one of two things either track it down in an Italian deli or substitute it for tagliatelle or bucatini pasta instead, both work equally well.

I have quite a sweet tooth so I’m always keen to try any new cake or dessert recipes. I really enjoyed the Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, which is a bit like a light and luxurious chocolate brownie. The recipe states using regular olive oil but I recall in the TV programme that accompanies the book Nigella suggests using mild and light olive oil. Guess what, you can’t taste the olive oil at all just pure yummy chocolate cake.

If you’re on the look out for a super easy but divine dessert then the Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce is amazing. Incredibly simple and quick to prepare ahead, makes this dessert a perfect after dinner treat.

Nigellissima has less recipes than Nigella’s other book but it is undoubtedly my favourite. There are still many more recipes I hope to try, so watch out for those recipe reviews on the blog.

If you have a copy of Nigellissima, I’d love to know what’s your favourite recipe and why?

Until next time.


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