Our Verdict: NYT Cooking App

Kirstin: This is one of my favourite apps. It never ceases to cheer me up.

Maureen: There’s so many recipes to choose from! I would think of a recipe we wanted to eat and inevitably they would have one.

Kirstin: But we should point out that it’s crazy busy because it’s the end of term and other stuff happening, but we used this app way more than it would appear on the blog.

Maureen: That’s true. I made dozens more recipes than I actually got around to posting.

Kirstin: The comments are often worth having a peek at.

Maureen: There’s usually lots of good tips in there.

Kirstin: But just this week they announced that they’re going to start charging for access.

Maureen: They’re going to put a metered paywall, which means you’ll get a certain number for free, but after that you’ll have to start paying. It makes sense. I’m also from the school of thought that good content shouldn’t be free.

Kirstin: It’s a great app when you go on holiday because all the recipes are right on your phone.

Maureen: It’s also great when you’re out in the middle of the day when you don’t know what you want to make for dinner, so you can decide on the hoof and then stop at the shops for what you need.

Kirstin: Also, it’s got Melissa Clark and Sam Sifton. Do I need to say more?

Maureen: No. You do not. They are brilliant. I also liked the featured recipes at the top. They gave good suggestions.

Kirstin: Absolutely.

Maureen: It’s almost not a fair fight because the New York Times has so many good recipes over the years, and they’re all there. If you published all these recipes in books, it would be a multi-volume encyclopedia.

Kirstin: Also, the e-mails make my heart so happy. They just are so lovely. They have great suggestions. Sign up for the e-mail!

Overall Grade (A- F):  A (Maureen)  A (Kirstin)
Best recipes:  Salmon roasted in butter (Kirstin) The Katharine Hepburn brownies were definitely the most memorable, but the macaroni and cheese is a desert island dish in this house (Maureen)
Grade for Photography (A-F): A
Any disasters? Maureen: No. Kirstin: I’m trying to figure out how to spatchcock chicken.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Not applicable, but we’d put it on the front page of our phones.
Would you give this to a friend? (Both) Yes, though we would tell them to install it and to sign up for the daily e-mail.

Our Verdict: NYT Cooking App

Our Verdict: “Home Cook”

Kirstin: It was always going to be difficult to follow last month’s book by Melissa Clark.

Maureen: Yes, because that book was utter perfection. This book, on the other hand, was not.

Kirstin: No, it was not.

Maureen: The disappointing thing for me was I had really high hopes for this book, but it just didn’t deliver. The time I had hunt for the salsa recipe really did me in. That’s an utter cookbook fail.

Kirstin: I felt the book was rushed. It seemed as though was produced in a hurry.

Maureen: That would explain the problem with the index, and also the missing recipes.

Kirstin: But also, some of the recipes I had to read over and over again to make sense of them. I even had to have Tom read one for me to make sure I had done it correctly. I never have to do that.

Maureen: You shouldn’t have to do that. Recipes should be clear from the start. That seems like an obvious rule for a cookbook.

Kirstin: The adaptions for the roast chicken were really hard to understand. It just came across as not as well thought out as it should have been.

Maureen: My disastrous chocolate cake experience is a good example of that. She said it was based on a recipe she stole as a child, but the instructions really lacked direction at points. Like how long to let the chocolate ganache cool so the whipped cream won’t melt.  It tasted good but it looked disgusting.

Kirstin: I wasn’t sure of some of her flavour combinations either.

Maureen: I don’t know if it really was that bad a book because it was so poor compared to the previous month. But thinking about it and all the cookbooks we’ve done, I’d have to call it just a fair effort overall.

Overall Grade (A- F):  C (Maureen)  C (Kirstin)
Best recipes:  Njuda with clams (Kirstin) The guacamole and the salsa recipes (once I found it) were sublime. (Maureen)
Grade for Photography (A-F): Kirstin: B
Any disasters? (Kirstin and Maureen) Maureen: The famous melting cake. Kirstin: I didn’t have any disasters, but there was nothing I wanted to make again.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Unfortunately, charity shop donation for us both. (Though Maureen is going to copy down the guacamole & salsa recipes before she donates.)
Would you give this to a friend? (Both) Uh, no.

Our Verdict: “Home Cook”

Our Verdict: “Dinner, Changing the Game”

Kirstin: I just want Melissa Clark to move in to my house and cook with me. With all the jalepenos

Maureen: I could see how that would work. She would be fun to cook with and I also think her attitude would be, “Don’t stress. It’s just dinner.”

Kirstin: All the sticky tabs I use to mark the recipes I want to make are no longer relevant because I just want to make everything.

Maureen: Every time I open the book I find something else I want to make. I feel bad because due to a variety of factors, I wasn’t able to post everything I made. But there were no disasters, which is always the sign of an excellent cookbook.

Kirstin: She is so good at flavour combinations. Everything is so tasty.

Maureen: But they were all made with easily sourced ingredients. Other than my experience with daikon radishes, though enough people told me they thought I’d easily be able to find them in London. I still haven’t seen them in any of the greengrocers or supermarkets I use regularly, but I’ve not given up hope.

Kirstin: I’ve loved this book so much that I’ve already given four copies away.

Maureen: If that’s not a sign of a good book, I don’t know what is. The thing I loved about this book is that it was all attainable deliciousness. It’s not overly cheffy in that it involves multiple steps and multiple bowls. They were all pretty straightforward, but absolutely delicious, which is all you really want, in the end.

Kirstin: I think this is my favourite book ever.

Maureen: High praise indeed.

Kirstin: You know how much I love Gwyneth Paltrow and Bill Granger. They do lovely Italian and Asian dishes, which is what we love most in our house. But Melissa Clark does those dishes so much better than they do.

Maureen: This is a very, very, very good book. I don’t know if it’s my favourite cookbook ever, but I don’t know what that would be. That’s going to take some thought.

Kirstin: This cookbook is just the business. Everything has tasted so amazing. It’s made me really get back into the kitchen and enjoy being back in the kitchen.

Maureen: I think it’s made me a better cook overall. I really started to think about what we should have for dinner, what would taste good with it, what extras I could make. Not in an over the top way, but in a more thoughtful way than I usually do, and I put it down to this book.

Kirstin: If I could only have one book on my shelf, it would probably be this one. This is my Desert Island Cookbook.

Overall Grade (A- F):  A* (Maureen)  A***** (Kirstin)
Best recipes:  Korean Bulgogi (Kirstin) There were so many good ones, it was hard to pick one. But maybe the Za’atar Chicken. (Maureen)
Grade for Photography (A-F): Kirstin: A
Any disasters? (Kirstin and Maureen) Absolutely not.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? High-rotation bookshelf.  Kirstin: This one might have its own bookshelf.
Would you give this to a friend?  (Maureen) Absolutely. (Kirstin) Indeed. I’ve given it away four times already.

Our Verdict: “Dinner, Changing the Game”

Our Verdict: “Crumb”

Maureen: This was great, but the problem with baking books is you don’t always have time to make a loaf or bread or a cake. So I didn’t make as much as I would have liked.

Kirstin: That’s true.

Maureen: But the things I made worked and were good. I really wanted to try to make croissants once and for all, but I just never had a day to devote to it. But when I do try to do it– and I definitely will– I’ll follow Ruby’s method.

Kirstin: I probably would have cooked from this book more, but my problem is my oven. I think it hates me. I do have some techniques that I can use, but still, it’s difficult to bake with it. It’s frustrating because the book made me realise how annoying my oven is, so that’s a shame.

Maureen: Maybe that’s why you’ve never taken to baking, because your oven is so problematic.

Kirstin: When I did do it, I had a lot of fun baking from this book.

Maureen: She gave really good explanations for how to do certain baking techniques, which was very helpful.

Kirstin: It’s a great baking book. It’s got solid straightforward recipes with things that you want to make. If I had a friend who wanted a baking book, I would definitely recommend it.

Maureen: I agree.

Kirstin: I would totally trust her instructions, she was really good.

Maureen: All in all, recommended.

Overall Grade (A- F):  A (Maureen)  A (Kirstin)
Best recipes:  Ciabatta (I didn’t actually make this, but I did enjoy eating this) (Maureen) Cheesecake, because now I love cheesecake. (Kirstin)
Grade for Photography (A-F): Kirstin: B
Any disasters? (Kirstin and Maureen) No.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf, the one dedicated to baking.
Would you give this to a friend?  (Maureen) Yes, but if I had to choose between this one and “Flavour,” I would probably give the latter. (Kirstin) Yes, I’d give it to someone who wanted to learn about baking.

 

Our Verdict: “Crumb”

Our Verdict: “Flavour: Eat What You Love”

Kirstin: I am so sorry we chose to do this book in February, the shortest month of the year.

Maureen: Tell me about it. I’ve got at least eight other things that I made out of this book– all delicious– that I never wrote up.

Kirstin: I’m sorry we’re doing it in winter too, because there’s loads of recipes I want to do in the summer. Salads and fruits and all sorts.

Maureen: I think we may have already found our book of 2017.

Kirstin: You think? I’m so gutted we’re not doing this any more. I have loved this book.

Maureen: I was making stuff last week that I knew I wouldn’t even post about. It was that good.

Kirstin: I am so bringing this out again.

Maureen: Over the years of doing this blog, ,we know that cookbooks are like fashion, in that they can be trendy, or specialised or whatever, and also how everyone has their own cooking style. We also know that my style is different to your style, but this book hit the sweet spot for both of us. It was delicious, it was relatively easy and it was healthy.

Kirstin: Yes. I liked the light flavours and her simple style.

Maureen: The other thing I loved about this cookbook is that she writes beautifully in each introduction about her inspiration and why she likes eating the particular dish. She reminds me of Nigella Lawson in that way, because she also writes beautifully.

Kirstin: I subscribe to Elle magazine and her column is always the first thing that I read.

Maureen: I loved it when she wrote for the Saturday Guardian, and now I miss them. But I guess it would be hard to produce that many recipes week on week. We’ll just have to look for her recipes elsewhere.

Kirstin: She’s also just such a role model. I love her.

Maureen: The flavour combinations always looked a bit crazy, but they worked. Look at the chocolate pretzel peanut butter pie. You’d never think those three flavours would work together, and yet, they did. The title of the book holds up.

Kirstin: Thank you Ruby for making February so yummy. It’s the worst month of the year and it’s given me joy.

Maureen: Maybe it’s a good thing we did it in February then, even if it is the shortest month. It made everyone happy.

 

Overall Grade (A- F):  A* (Maureen)  A* (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Pie (Maureen) Grilled cheese sandwich (Kirstin)
Grade for Photography (A-F): Kirstin: I love Charlotte Bland’s photography, so a big A from me.
Any disasters? (Kirstin and Maureen) No.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? This is going straight into the High Rotation Bookshelf for both of us.
Would you give this to a friend?  (Maureen) Happily. (Kirstin) Oh, yes. It’s got something for everyone in this.

Our Verdict: “Flavour: Eat What You Love”

Our Verdict: Cooking for Jeffrey

We’ve spent the month cooking with Ina while she did some cooking for Jeffrey.

Ina, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, has quite a following in the U.S. The book was given to me by my best friend in the U.S. who knows how much I love a good cookbook.

I ended up making nine recipes from the book. I suppose this is a “Greatest Hits” book for her, as it’s apparently all the things that her husband Jeffrey likes best. Kirstin said she thought the recipes were a bit dated, and not very inspiring. I can see what she means, but while they may have felt a bit dated, they all worked and were delicious.

In many ways, she reminds me of a modern Julia Child. She has no fear of butter and double cream. In fact, the more the merrier seems to be her philosophy. This is a philosophy I can fully endorse in the bleak month of January.

Equally, some of the suggestions are just daft. Why in the world do you need to add lobster to fish cakes? Answer: You don’t. (I suppose if you’re an internationally well known cook who has ready access to fresh lobster in the Hamptons it makes more sense. Not so much when you’re just an average Jane trying to make dinner in the deep mid-winter in London.)

In the end, I awarded this book a solid B+. It was very very close to getting an A, but what held me back was it seemed to lack something special to make it a Can’t Miss book.

 

Overall Grade (A- F): B+ (Maureen) B (Kirstin)
Best recipes: (Maureen) Devil’s Food Cake with Meringue Buttercream by a country mile.
Grade for Photography (A-F):
Any disasters? (Maureen) None, though adding lobster to fish cakes was pure folly.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? It’s going on my bookshelf, but not the high rotation one. (Maureen)
Would you give this to a friend? Maybe. After all, I got it from a friend, so maybe I should continue the circle of virtuousness. But I need to think about it. (Maureen)

Our Verdict: Cooking for Jeffrey

Our Verdict: Bread Street Kitchen

Kirstin: Maureen, you made loads more from this book than I did.

Maureen: I did! We had some really good meals from it. It had some really good recipes for comfort food, which was just what my family wanted in November.

Kirstin: It certainly did. Those brownies looked amazing! I loved the Yorkshire pudding recipe; I’ve already made them a couple of times since.

Maureen: Oh yes. Such a classic recipe and such good tips too.

Kirstin: But this book did feel like it was a throwback to the cookbooks of the 90s. Glossy pages, the very British recipes. I say that, but the sticky toffee pudding was exceptional, so the recipes were definitely worth checking out. I’m not sure I’d keep it on the kitchen bookshelf though.

Maureen: It’s a good solid effort, but there’s really nothing special about it. Everything we ate was good, there were no disasters– and some real triumphs– but I wouldn’t give it as a gift. It was fine, but didn’t set my world alight.

Overall Grade (A- F): B (Maureen) B (Kirstin)
Best recipes: (Kirstin & Maureen) Yorkshire puddings.
Grade for Photography (A-F): C
Any disasters? (Kirstin) None. (Maureen) None.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? In a holding pattern on the backup cookbook shelf (Kirstin)
Would you give this to a friend? No. It doesn’t have anything that really wowed me (Kirstin). Unfortunately, no. I can think of several other books from 2016 that I would give before this one. It’s good, but it’s not spectacular.

Our Verdict: Bread Street Kitchen