Christmas is just round the corner and because few things please me more than Christmas shopping, I’m going to give you all suggestions to keep the fun alive since I’ve finished all mine already. This is a mix of things I own, want or generally recommend but hopefully with a bit more insight than the average Amazon review.
First up is my new toy: the Sage by Heston Blumenthal Risotto Plus. Previously known as the Multi Cooker, this is a slow cooker with bells on. As well the usual high and low settings as a slow cooker, it is also a rice cooker, steamer and risotto maker. You can ever sear and saute directly which is a boon for those who like to brown things before they slow cook.
I was a bit sceptical about the risotto setting so it was the first thing I tried. I made a chicken and mushroom risotto and was pleasantly surprised by the results, especially as the instruction booklet is vague to say the least. There’s no hint of how long making the risotto will take so it was all a bit of a magical mystery tour with carnoroli rice. I was very surprised that it only took about 25 minutes so was very glad I’d also tried the saute function out on the mirepoix and the chicken or it might have gone horribly wrong with raw chicken and crunchy carrots. I think I’d also recommend that you don’t rest the risotto as advised in the booklet as that made it rather too soft for my liking. But all in all, it was good enough to please an Italian friend of mine.
Buoyed by the excitement of successful risotto, I tried out all the other functions over the next day or two. Once I got used to the fact the high and low slow cooker settings have a set timing function rather than the freewheeling I’ve been using on my non digital slow cookers, I was very happy with that side of it. I really really loved the fact this is a rice cooker as well since mine gave up the ghost a few years ago and I couldn’t justify the cost in replacing it despite eating a lot of rice.
I liked the idea of the steamer insert as I think it means I’ll be able to do my standby meal of steamed fish and vegetables with rice with a minimum of effort even when I’m really not well which is the multi cooked icing on the cake with this. I think it’s a great investment if like me you’re a slow cooking fiend with a taste for rice and steamed veg and an aversion to washing up although I must make it clear I’d didn’t pay for mine. It was sent to me courtesy of the company.
I’d give it 10/10 if it wasn’t for the rather lacking booklet. I’m not sure how accurate the recipes are considering they suggest cooking kidney beans from dried in there which is highly dangerous, but since I could recommend you an excellent slow cooker cookbook, I’ll give it 9/10.
Also on the slow cooker front, I was recently introduced to cake tin liners by the fantastic BakingQueen74 which are the perfect gift for anyone who enjoys slow cooking cakes as they mean you can avoid the tell tale oval shape of the crock. Like everything else in my life, I went to Ebay for mine and got a good selection at an excellent price.
Speaking of baking, my first book choice has to be fellow Ebury author Ruby Tandoh with her fantastic book Crumb. I loved her on the Great British Bake Off and felt she was treated harshly by many people at the time. I’ve baked quite a few things from her Guardian column and enjoyed them all. I like her writing style and her recipes and hope to see more from her in the future.
I’m also keen for more from the fantastic Diana Henry. Her book A Change of Appetite is about to become my go to to while I readjust to watching my fat levels again but with none of the misery and deprivation of previous gallbladder related diets. The good news is that this is Diana’s eighth book so I can simply go back and buy some of the others to satisfy my lust for beautiful photography and great food.
I’m very much hoping there will be a second (and third) book from Mimi Aye after how much I’ve enjoyed Noodle! this year. I have always been absolutely terrible at cooking noodles and after a year of eating almost nothing but instant ramen when I was extremely poor and had no kitchen, I’d fallen out of love with them until I got this book. The Fish Ball Noodle soup has become a massive favourite and I can’t wait to try some of the Burmese dishes in the future as Mimi writes particularly well about the cuisine of her heritage. My days of cooking noodles badly are over after her guidance! Mimi has signed copies at her site currently.
Entirely coincidentally my other two book recommendations are also by women. Meera Sodha’s Made in India is a a glorious book that thoroughly deserves its nomination for the Andre Simon Award. I was lucky to eat Meera’s cooking at a dinner at The Draper’s Arms a few months ago and it was one of my favourite meals of the year.
I also heartily recommend Salmagundi by Sally Butcher. Some of you might know her from the wonderful Peckham based shop Persepolis or you may have seen her previous books including Veggiestan and Persia in Peckham. Sally’s books are especially good for getting you out of a rut of what to do with seasonal veg which can become a bit repetitive at times despite being so delicious.
If you already have all those books or fancy something slightly different, don’t forget about magazines as a great source of food writing and photography. My choice of the year is Toast with their beautiful annual edition but I’ve also been enjoying The Gourmand and Cherry Bombe.
And don’t forget that Recipes from Brixton Village is still available from all good retailers and independent bookshops. I’ll also be signing copies through Herne Hill Books on Saturday 13th at the Christmas Fair.