“Jerusalem” and “John Whaite Bakes at Home” – Our Verdict

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. This was one of those months for “Cookbook a Month.”

When we were choosing the books for May, I lobbied hard for “Jerusalem” as we’ve had a lot of great meals out of that cookbook. Given their past experience with the author they lovingly call “Faffolenghi”, Anna and Kirstin naturally were quite reluctant to take him on again. I tried my best to convince them that the moniker didn’t apply to this cookbook, as I found for the most part the recipes to be pretty manageable, but I don’t think I succeeded, unfortunately. In the past, I’ve been known to call him “Otto-Impossible”, but I didn’t say that once in the past month.

My family loved the food from “Jerusalem” this month. I’ve had the cookbook for more than a year now, so they were all very happy to learn that we were returning to tried-and-true recipes that they already liked. We tried some new things, too. In fact, I cooked from this book so much that I didn’t even post everything I made, which is always a sign to the three of us that it’s an excellent book.

I can understand why Anna and Kirstin call him “Faffolenghi”, because sometimes the time and effort for a typical Ottolenghi recipe can be daunting. But this book succeeds in a way that his earlier ones did not. Aside from some less-known spices like sumac and za’tar, the ingredient list was always manageable. I never found myself having to go to a far-flung supermarket to find something. Some recipes took more time than I would have liked, particularly with all the chopping, but I’m learning to do more in the food processor when I can get away with it, which probably will help.

Not only is “Jerusalem” going to the bookshelf, it’s going to the high-rotation bookshelf, where it’s already sat for the last year. I think this is a real winner.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the other book we did this month, “John Whaite Bakes at Home.” We tend to do an extra baking book in May because there are several family birthdays in the month. We approached “John Whaite Bakes at Home” full of optimism. He’s a “Great British Bake Off” winner and seems a lovely guy. The three of us all like to bake (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), so we thought this would be a good book. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out that way.

In the end, I only made two things from the book, while Kirstin and Anna weren’t able to do any. For me, the problem was that the majority of the recipes either required too much time or just didn’t sound appealing. I laughed like a drain when I saw his recipe for mini-Gingerbread Houses to make in December. Who has time in December to do that? It’s very ambitious, to be sure, but there’s no way I’d have enough time in this lifetime to ever make mini-gingerbread houses. But high credit to anyone who can.

However, the “Cookie Dough Brownies” I made were an unqualified success. The boys loved them so much that I’ve already made them again. It was a very clever idea and fairly easy to do. We’ve already polished off the second tray of these brownies and they’ve asked when they can expect to see them again. I would call that a win.

Overall Grade (A- F): A+ While the recipes in this book do require some time and effort, they are absolutely worth it.
Best recipes: Hard to pick just one, but two that we particularly loved were the fish cakes, the butternut squash, the falafel and the hummus.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A.
Any disasters? None.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation?High-rotation bookshelf.

“John Whaite Bakes at Home” 
Overall Grade (A- F): D. The very low grade reflects the fact that I wasn’t particularly inspired much, and in fact, only managed two for the whole month.
Best recipes: Cookie Dough Brownies
Grade for Photography (A-F): C. Fine, I guess.
Any disasters? No disasters as I wasn’t inspired enough to make much from this cookbook.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? After I copy the brownie recipe, it’s off to the charity shop.

“Jerusalem” and “John Whaite Bakes at Home” – Our Verdict

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