Cookbooks for Christmas stockings

We review some gift-worthy cookbooks… and try a holiday-friendly recipe from two!

DSC_0360MASTERCHEF SOUTH AFRICA: THE COOKBOOK. Published by Human & Rousseau. Recommended price R350.

FOR anyone who was a fan of the hugely popular – and hotly discussed – “MasterChef SA” screened on M-Net earlier this year, the official cookbook from the series is the perfect stocking filler.

Launched earlier this month, the book features recipes from the top 18 contestants, including overall winner Deena Naidoo from Durban, and also from the judges, Pete Goffe-Wood, Benny Masekwameng and Andrew Atkinson, and celebrity guests like MasterChef UK’s Michel Roux Jr, who conducted one of the master classes.

It also contains behind- the-scenes glimpses from the show, like the time contestants had to cook at sea, as well as flashbacks to the pressure tests, mystery box challenges and those hideous invention tests in which they had to conjure up appealing dishes using random ingredients.

I am especially eager to try Deena’s traditional prawn curry, which he made for one of the invention tests, as well as his chocolate fondant with amarula creme and caramelised pears, from the pudding family challenge that he ended up winning.

Also of use to home cooks are the many tips and tricks on offer, such as how to fillet a fish and “turn” or barrel vegetables like carrots and potatoes the way the top chefs do.

The recipe below, by contestant and former swimwear model Ilse Fourie, is from a group challenge in which teams had to set up shop in Zanzibar and cook street food using ingredients from the market. The dish is ideal for the holidays as it is done on the braai.

DSC_0368

Spicy mango chicken

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 mangoes, juiced; 5 cloves garlic, crushed; 5ml cayenne pepper; 5ml ground cinnamon; 5ml ground cumin; 180ml coconut milk; 10ml salt; 7.5ml ground pepper; juice of 2 limes; 1.8kg chicken pieces

Method

Mix all the ingredients, except the chicken, together in a flat container. Add the chicken, cover and marinate for three to five hours. Braai over moderate coals for 20 to 25 min, or until cooked and golden brown.

DSC_0358NIGELLISSIMA: INSTANT ITALIAN INSPIRATION by Nigella Lawson. Published by Chatto & Windus. Distributed in SA by Random Houise Struik. Recommended price R415.

THE domestic goddess’s new book follows hot on the heels of her latest BBC TV series, which has not yet been shown in South Africa.

Paging through it, who would not be tempted to try her uniquely British take on Italian cuisine? Nigella makes it all look so quick and easy … so what if it is not really the real deal.

Indeed “Nigellissima”, far more than Italian, is so very Nigella, from the trademark lyrical writing to the homely yet sumptuous styling of the dishes.

This time, however, there are virtually no pictures of the voluptuous kitchen queen herself, save for the cover.

More than 100 recipes are contained in chapters on pasta, “flesh, fish and fowl”, vegetables and sides, and sweet things. At the end there is even a section for an Italian-inspired Christmas. In her introduction to her recipe for cranberry and pistachio biscotti, Lawson concedes the addition of dried cranberries (great for festive flavour) makes this “rather more of an Italo-American recipe than an Italian one”.

Biscotti, so named because they are cooked (“cotti”) twice (“bis”), are not difficult to make, but it’s not a fast job, she says. The biscuits would make a thoughtful homemade gift this Christmas but you would have to rustle up more than one batch for that.

The Italians dip their biscotti into the sweet dessert wine vin santo, but Nigella likes to enjoy her cranberry-studded ones with “colour-coordinated ruby port”.

DSC_0352OORVLOED: STADSKOS VAN DIE KAAP by Marlene van der Westhuizen. Published by Human & Rousseau and Bookstorm. Recommended price R325.

VAN der Westhuizen needs little introduction as, for some years now, she has had foodies salivating over delectable dishes in best-selling books like “Sumptuous” and, yes, “Delectable”.

She is not only a well-known chef, but renowned for her cooking classes in Cape Town and in the French village of Charroux, where she has a house.

“Oorvloed”, which means “abundance”, is beautifully written in her mother tongue and features exquisite photographs by Johan Wilke, who studied and lectured at the former PE Technikon but now lives in the Cape.

This is so much more than a recipe book, it is a treasury of all that is dear to the writer about that magical city at the foot of Table Mountain, and the friends and family that are part of the picture of her life there.

The recipe below is an old favourite that, with the addition of panettone, has been given a festive Italian twist. It serves six.

DSC_0363

Bread and butter pudding

Ingredients

6 eggs; 300ml double cream; 300ml milk; 60ml caster sugar; zest of 1 lemon, extra fine; 1/4t cinnamon; 1 Tbsp vanilla paste; 12 slices panettone bread; 60g butter, unsalted; 2 Tbsp brandy; 2 Tbsp demerara (brown) sugar; 1 Tbsp icing sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine the eggs, cream, milk, caster sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon and vanilla paste in a medium-sized bowl and beat very well until a smooth, creamy custard mixture is formed.

Butter the panettone lightly on both sides. Cut in triangles and layer into an oven-proof dish, sprinkling every layer with a bit of brandy followed by a layer of custard mixture.

Sprinkle the sugar over the pudding.

Bake for about 35 min, until the custard has set slightly and is a beautiful golden-brown colour.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with cream.

DSC_0354JUSTIN BONELLO’S ULTIMATE BRAAI MASTER: LEKKER BRAAI RECIPES FROM ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA. Published by Penguin Books. Recommended price R206.

BOYISH Bonello has become something of a national treasure, much like the braai itself.

His “Ultimate Braai Master” book is based on season one of the inaugural television series that ended on SABC3 earlier in December and saw the team of Who Dares Wins made up of friends Tubby and Elaine claiming the overall title.

The 192-page, affordably priced book documents the contestants’ experiences while also sharing their recipes. It covers their 8000km culinary road trip or “fireside journey” across Southern Africa, and as such also features some interesting and unusual places to visit.

The book would make a delightful Christmas gift for any keen braaier, or if you have home-sick South African friends or family living overseas.

Having not followed the series, I especially enjoyed seeing so many innovative dishes to try on the braai.

If you’ve been doing the lamb chop and “braaibroodjie” thing to death then clearly it’s time to broaden your braai horizons – and this book will certainly help you do so.

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