Our Verdict – “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite” by Gizzi Erskine

Maureen: I like that Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite is not lots of weird health food.

Kirstin: I think she really excells at the Asian recipes. They were all ace.

Maureen: Cynically, I feel as though she’s jumping on the Ella Woodward-Hemsley Sisters bandwagon with the name of this cookbook.

Kirstin: No, that’s not it. I think she’s doing something slightly different. She’s saying you can eat well, but you don’t have to eat horribly. She’s doing something differently from them.

Maureen: You’re right. Though a recipe for spiralizer spaghetti did sneak in there.

Kirstin: The thing I love about Gizzi is she obviously loves food. It was such a joy.

Maureen: Following on from Jamie, which was completely joyless, this was good.

Kirstin: Yes absolutely.

Maureen: My only complaint was she did that cheffy thing where she uses lots of bowls and steps when there’s probably a simplier way of doing it.

Kirstin: I didn’t do any of the complicated recipes

M While the recipes were good, they all involved a decent amount of time. There were hardly any recipes for weeknights, when you’ve only got half an hour or so to get dinner on the table.

“Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”
Overall Grade (A- F): B (Kirstin) B (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Korean rice. Maureen: Beef bourginoun.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  B.
Any disasters? Maureen: The epic disaster that was Black Velvet Cake.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf, but not high rotation. Maureen: Same

Advertisements
Our Verdict – “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite” by Gizzi Erskine

“Featherblade Bourguignon” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

IMG_2303I need to lay all my cards on the table right now: I’ve always hated beef stew. Sure, you can fancy it up by calling it Beef Bourguignoun, but it’s still stew. And I always thought, “Yuck.”

I’m not sure why– does anyone know why they hate perfectly reasonably foods– but I never could abide it. In our family, we always got to pick our favourite meal on our birthdays and my brother Tom always, always, ALWAYS picked stew. So I could count on being forced to eat it one day a year. Yuck.

In recent years, when my cooking became better and we became more adventurous, my husband (who also loves beef stew) encouraged me to try it again. I tried all sorts of variations, but the one that most sticks with me is the time I made the Julia Child version from her classic tome, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (a cookbook I highly recommend, by the way). I thought surely I would like that one. I sourced the best beef from our local butcher. I lovingly slaved over the dish for an entire afternoon. It even smelled good. But when I sat down and took my first bite, I thought, “Nope. Yuck.”

But to make a long story short, this beef stew, sorry Featherblade Bourguignon, was DELICIOUS. I did not sit down and think, “Nope. Yuck.” I thought, “Yes. Yum.”

It was, by a million miles, the best stew, sorry “Featherblade Bourguignoun” that I’ve ever had. I even reheated some the next day for my lunch. And I’m already planning on making it again for Sunday dinner. And again for when my parents happen to be here for Tom’s birthday, because even though he won’t be here (he’ll be home in North Carolina), I think it would make them happy to have beef stew, sorry “Beef Bourguignoun”, on that particular day since they had it on day so many times before.

That, my friends, is a successful recipe.

I’m really not sure why this one succeeded where so many before it had failed. But succeed it did.

If you want to make this yourself, maybe for your next Sunday lunch or once the autumn really settles in, click through this sentence to find the recipe in Google Books.

“Featherblade Bourguignon” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

“Lasagna” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

Sorry. No pictures, as I deleted a bunch from my phone in a flurry before leaving for our trip to Paris. Trust me. It looked just like a lasagna.

Maureen: Lasagna Night!

All: Hooray!

Maureen: Though I have to say for the record that this lasagna is different than the ones I usually make.

Tim: How?

Maureen: It’s a meat-based lasagna, rather than a vegetable one like I usually make. What do you think?

Andrew (16): Yum. You know I love lasagna.

Nicholas (12): It’s good, but I think I like the other one better.

Andrew: Me too.

Maureen: Does anyone want to guess how long it took me to make the meat sauce?

Tim: No. That sounds like a loaded question to me, so I don’t want to answer.

Maureen: It is a loaded question. It took me four hours to make the meat sauce.

Andrew: Four hours!

Maureen: Indeed. Not four hours at the stove, mind you, but still four hours. As this is neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas, I don’t want to spend four hours making something. It would never live up to that sort of time commitment.

Tim: The sauce is good, but I can’t taste four hours worth of cooking in it.

Maureen: I think we’ll go back to our usual lasagna. This is fine, but not transformative, and given how long it took me to make it, it ought to be transformative.

“Lasagna” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

“Black Velvet Cake” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

IMG_7685

Does this cake look like a Great British Bake Off contender to you?

Nope. I didn’t think so.

This cake was a disaster. “How?” you may ask.

Let me count the ways, though it’s so hard to know where to begin.

The reason I wanted to make this cake in the first place was because I was intrigued by the icing, whereby you take a bottle of champagne (not a typo) and boil it down into two tablespoons to act as the flavouring. This was a variation on champagne cupcakes I had made last weekend from “Lola’s Forever,” but in that case, for the icing you add just two tablespoons of champagne to it after adding two tablespoons to the cake mixture. This method comes with a special bonus because you then have to drink the rest of the bottle yourself because it’ll lose all its fizz by the time your guests arrive. I can fully endorse a recipe that has leftover fizz that I need to drink right away. (If you’re curious, those cupcakes were delicious.)

To Gizzi’s credit, she says you don’t actually have to use champagne– though I wouldn’t mind having a life whereby you’d give no thought to having a spare bottle that you could use in that way. I ended up using a bottle of Cava we had kicking around. I was curious as to how it would work, and it was fun to see the Cava fizzing away on the stovetop. But at the end of the day, it meant I spent £6 on two tablespoons of ingredients, which seems a bit rich to me.  We couldn’t even taste the cava in in the icing anyway. Also, as you can see in the picture, the icing was a bit gloopy, which meant I couldn’t really ice the cake well.

The other method she endorses that I’ve never really understood or used when I make cakes myself (though other people, including the Queen of Cakes herself Mary Berry do sometimes do it this way) is to make one large cake. Once it’s baked, you then slice it into thirds for your three layers. I don’t know why you’d do it this way when it’s so much easier to just divide the batter into thirds and bake them.

In this case, this created one large cake that then cratered in the middle. I’m not sure if it was operator error or a problem with the recipe, but either way, it didn’t work. Consequently, it was impossible to then divide it into thirds. I could then use all the icing to fill up the crater in the middle, which was a means to an end but not the way I’d like my cake to be.

It looked a disaster and it tasted fine. Not delicious exactly, but our friends seemed to enjoy it. On the other hand, that might have had something to do with the copious amounts of wine we drank that night. But when I went to eat the cake, I could only taste bitterness, because I thought of the wasted cava and the wasted afternoon lost in the making of this cake.

Important Addendum: Thanks to “A Cookbook Collection,” she told me that Gizzi posted an apology on her Instagram feed that said the recipe should read 2 1/2 teaspoons NOT tablespoons. Duh! I should have known better, but sometimes you just have to trust what they tell you to do. (That was my mistake.) If you want to read the apology yourself, it’s here. As I don’t follow Gizzi on Instagram, I didn’t see the correction. At least now I know it wasn’t operator error. But there’s no way I’m giving this cake another chance, given all the other amazing things I want to bake. As a variation on the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” I would say, “You only get one chance to boil down an entire bottle of Cava.”

Will I make this again? I think you all know the answer to that one.

“Black Velvet Cake” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

“Bolognese Sauce – The real deal” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

DSC01586

Kirstin: So this took 4 hours to cook. What do you think?

Tom: That’s quite intensive!

Kirstin: Only the first hour really. And not really. The rest was just 3 hours of simmering on the hob, which gave me time to get our favourite bottle of red wine to go with.

Tom: Oh yes. Thank you!

Kirstin: Can you taste the milk?

Tom: Not really.

Kirstin: I’m not overly impressed with this recipe. I suppose for 4 hours, I would have expected something with more flavours. Think I’ll stick with our traditional sausage sauce.

“Bolognese Sauce – The real deal” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

“Thai Chicken Fried Rice” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

DSC01576

Kirstin: Oooo. This is super tasty!

Miles: The chicken is very yum!

Kirstin: What do you think, Ella?

Ella: I like it!

Kirstin: That’s it? No buts?

Ella: Ha! No butts!!!

Kirstin: Really, Ella? Oh but this is so good. Just the right amount of chilli. And so many lovely flavours. Shall I make this again?

Ella: Yeah, OK.

Mile: Yum.

“Thai Chicken Fried Rice” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

“Korean Chicken and Potato Stew” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

DSC01560

Kirstin: I made TWO trips to the Asian supermarket to get the ingredients for this recipe. But I got there in the end!

Miles: I’m going to try it!

Kirstin: Me too! I put in half the amount of curry paste that it said. But was it still too much?

Miles: It’s sooooo yum!

Kirstin: Ooooo. It’s really yummy! I’ve missed having things that taste good!

Ella: What if yum was the accusative of yus?

Kirstin: It’s so good!

Miles: I know, right?

Kirstin: And of course it took much longer too cook than it said in the book, but that’s possibly because I had a long chat with my mother in law in the middle about Christmas arrangements and then had to pop to the Asian supermarket as I had bought the wrong paste.

Miles: hashtag epicfail.

Kirstin: And what do you think of the chicken, Ella?

Ella: It’s a bird. An edible bird.

Kirstin: And you are eating the edible bird.

Ella: And it’s yum. And do you know what else is yum?

Kirstin: No!

Ella: CHOCOLATE!

Kirstin: Thank you for that. Would you I make this again? Probably not as it’s a bit of a faff, but I have the paste now, so you never know!

“Korean Chicken and Potato Stew” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”