Round Table Review :: Where Flavor was Born
|A little while back I was asked by one of my most favorite people in all the world, Sara, if I'd like to review a cookbook. "Hell yes I'd like to.. I love cookbooks!" Shortly after, I received one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I'd ever seen.|
Where Flavor was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route by Andreas Viestad.
I loved the layout of this book.. I liked how Andreas categorized recipes by their prominent spice usage and by country they relate to. I also love how there are sweet and savory recipes for most of the spices.
The deal was.. we were all to pick a few recipes that we wanted to try, hand 'em in to Sara and she'd pick 6 recipes from the bunch that we'd all make. She chose "Fresh Yogurt-Cucumber Soup with Coriander and Cumin", "Entrecote (steak) with Onion, Ginger and Tamarind", "Grilled Green Fish with Red Rice", "Stuffed Onions with Ginger and Lamb", "Bananas with Coconut and Cardamom", and finally, "Coconut Curry Cake".
Well right off the bat, I knew I'd first be trying the steak, the bananas and the coconut cake. Followed by the stuffed onions, fish and finally the soup. The first was the steak.. the recipe called for Tamarind. I'd never heard of Tamarind before so I had to go in search of it.. three grocery stores later, I could not find it.. so my Entrecote with Onion, Ginger and Tamarind was missing the Tamarind. After reading about everyone's trials and tribulations with this recipe, I can confidently say it's a winner by all. The trick, it seemed, was to cut back on the tamarind a bit. I can't really say for sure.. I mean, my steak with the onions and ginger was heavenly, but I don't know how I'd like it with the Tamarind since I couldn't find it. Unfortunately, I slipped into a mild loss of mind, as we actually ate these steaks without photos being taken. I know!!! What the hell?
Second on my list was the bananas.. ohh Lordie I do loves me my bananas.. AND I love coconut. This recipe is super easy, with only 5 ingredients and it all comes together in one pan.. how could this go wrong?
Let us not forget who writes this blog, shant we?
I have never cooked with coconut milk before. But I obviously had planned on trying it as I had 3 cans of it in my pantry. One was "light" coconut milk, so I quickly decided not to use it. The other two weren't light but they were made by different companies. I decided to go with the company I was more familiar with. Again.. I've never used coconut milk before.
I get my ingredients out on my counter, smoosh my cardamom pods like the recipe says and then I open up my can of coconut "milk". Uhhh.. milk she was not. I believe they should have labeled the can coconut "lard". This stuff was solid. And creamy-like. Like Crisco! But it smelled better. Well having never used the stuff before, I just figured that's the way it came. So I scooped out what was needed and flopped it into my pan along with the cardamom pods. Immediately it started to melt, so I figured this is where the "milk" comes into play.. now it actually looked like milk!
I let my lil green cardamom pods steep in the "milk" for a bit then I added my nanners and some brown sugar. Everything was going swimmingly! The mixture started bubbling around the nanners and it was smelling pretty nice..
I poured the whole thing into a bowl and let it cool for a bit before I took my first bite. Remember how I said I loved me my nanners and coconut? So it shouldn't be surprising that my first bite was a big one.. oh yeah baby, I filled these lips with warm banana and... ass juice?? *spit* *cough* *sputter* *wipe tongue off with dish towel* *spit* *make awkward face* *wonder just what the hell I did to deserve that kind of punishment??*
Needless to say that horrible dish of Satan, was promptly poured into the bin.
I couldn't understand it.. I didn't think it could have been the recipe.. the recipe also called for cloves, but they give me the hives, so I left them out - but dear sweet baby jebus, they certainly couldn't have helped what was created on my stovetop! I re-read the recipe and knew I had followed it's easy instructions to the T.. so what the freeg?
I wrote to Sara next.. "Uhhh.. is coconut "milk" suppose to be solid and more like coconut "lard"?? "Does coconut "milk" smell really good but tastes like ass?" To which she replied, "Well no, it's not suppose to be entirely solid.. the cream rises to the top like regular milk, but below should be liquid." 'kay well I checked the remaining contents of that can and it was solid through and through. I had myself some bad coconut milk!!!
Unforch, the experience was a lil too traumatic for me to retry the recipe with the other can of coconut milk I had. But today, today we went to our favorite Asian market and I purchased coconut milk that, when shaken, sounded liquidy! AND I bought coconut cream.. and it sounded liquidy too.. so this recipe will be tried again and I have a feeling that I'll love it.
Finally, no.. sadly, my last recipe that I tried was the Coconut Curry Cake. (I say sadly because that fish and red rice truly called out to me. I wish I could have made it in time for this review.) The first thing I noticed about the cake was that it was mild. Chock full of cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, nutmeg and ginger you'd think that it'd pack more of a spicy punch. I used a coarsely grated coconut so I could really taste it, where the others could not. Also, my cake came out almost underdone, so it was quite moist. I did top this cake with a quick cream cheese frosting, but only because W won't let cake touch his lips unless there is frosting on it. *sigh* I'd make this cake again, for sure, but I'd double those spice amounts and I'd add even a lil more coconut. I think this cake has lots of possibilities as well.. canned pineapple chunks would be great it in.. smooshed bananas would be heavenly.. a good sprinkle of powdered sugar on top would suffice if you needed a lil more oomph on your cake - but the cream cheese frosting was also a nice compliment.
I can sincerely say, Where Flavor was Born, is one of my new favorite books. The recipes that I tried, and have bookmarked to try in the future, are written cleanly with easy to follow instructions. The photos, by Mette Randem, were simply breath taking and the "extras" such as the section labeled: "The Spices of the Indian Ocean at a Glance" was very helpful and I learned quite a bit from reading though them.
And even though I only made 3 recipes, 1 of which was missing a main ingredient and the other a tangent into the depths of hell because I had coconut milk gone way wrong, I can still say, genuinely, that this is a great cookbook for the novice to expert cook. For me, what I got from this book more than anything else, is a little more confidence in trying recipes with spices that I'm not use to, and learning about the foods of cultures that I really don't know much about. It's made me think. :)
Thank you Sara! Thanks for thinking of me for this project! Thanks very much to Andreas and Mette for a gorgeous book! Thanks to Sia and The Lisa Ekus Group for sending the book (with such a nice note attached, thank you!) to me! And finally, thanks to Mike, Deborah and Mary for keeping me quite entertained this last week or so of constant banter through email. :)
If you'd like to try a few of the recipes that we tried, head on over to Sara's i like to cook where she will post them a little later today. :D
Labels: Cookbook or Product Review