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500 Cocktails

The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood

Smoothie Heaven

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Cookbook Collection:
Wendy Sweetser

On this page:

500 Cocktails

The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood

Smoothie Heaven

500 Cocktails

500 cocktails Apple Press has a series of books and all are called 500 something or other. They are great value, chunky books and this one, 500 Cocktails, is no exception. The photographs of these classy drinks are gorgeous. Ian Garlick has done a great job. Wendy Sweetser is the author, and she is an expert on the subject. She has spent many, I presume happy, years developing cocktails on a professional basis and she is the author of another 15 food and drink related books.

If you enjoy the classic cocktails then you might like to try mixing those and more contemporary cocktails at home. It’ll be cheaper and a lot more fun, although you might not want to spin bottles and juggle shakers unless you have invested in a nice big tarpaulin along with the spirits. The recipes are easy. This isn’t cooking it’s mixing, and it’s difficult to get wrong (even the mistakes will probably taste great!). There is a bit of equipment that might come in handy and the correct glasses are always nice but then you are ready to give lovely parties.

Summer is over and we might not naturally think of cocktails as part of our entertaining. Well, think again, dear reader. 500 Cocktails is full of drinks that are perfect of any time of year and any occasion. So picture this. A cold night in Glasgow, snow falling and you’re sipping a warm Spiced Hot Toddy. There are five variations of this, each one with a slightly different fruit flavour. Mulled Wine has got to be popular as you sing (, perhaps not) around the Christmas tree. The alternatives include Gluhwein, Julglogg, The Bishop, Mulled Rum Punch and Mulled Ale. The delight of this series of books is that once you have found a favourite recipe you can experiment with slightly different versions because each recipe has four or five suggestions.

There are so many recipes here, 500, as the book says. You might like the idea of having a themed cocktail party. How about All American? There is a list of drinks that would work: Cape Codder, Long Island Iced Tea (this is NOT tea), Cosmopolitan, which has been made famous by those raunchy ladies from Sex and the City, and a Manhattan must be included.

500 Cocktails is a chubby volume that will have you tending bar like a pro.... from Absinthe Montmartre to Zombie.

500 Cocktails
Author: Wendy Sweetser
Published by: Apple Press
Price: £9.99
ISBN 978-1-84543-271-3

food and travel reviews Wendy Sweetser

Smoothie Heaven

cookbook review I love cookbooks and consider them things of beauty and joys to behold. It is equally true, however, that up until a few weeks ago I would not have given you a Thank You for a book on smoothies. Did I have anything against liquid refreshments in principle? Had I taken against pourable foodstuffs? No. It had nothing to do with my life’s philosophy but more a lack of blender.

Smoothies are simple concoctions but a blender is an essential gadget. Not expensive and taking up little room on the kitchen counter or in the appliance drawer, I can guarantee that you’ll get plenty of use from a blender and not least in the preparation of smoothies.

Smoothie Heaven is one of the most comprehensive books on the subject. It’s a pastel-coloured, ice cream parlour-hued volume with hundreds of recipes for smoothies for every occasion. There are noble and healthful ones. Those for posh desserts. Alcoholic smoothie cocktails, and others more suitable for kids. The combinations of ingredients are masterful and intriguing.

We all know about smoothies: we find them in restaurants and cafes and even supermarkets. They are mostly delicious and expensive and don’t all fall into the ‘healthy’ category. But homemade smoothies can save you cash, and be tailor-made as either food or fun or a bit of both. They can be thick and luscious, they don’t feel like worthy health drinks even if they are, and that’s the appeal.

I once had a smoothie in New York which was so thick that the effort to suck it through the provided straw gave me spots before the eyes. Yes, the appeal lies in great measure with the texture of the drink, but they need to be predominantly liquid, and made with the best ingredients. Colour is also important. We are said to eat with our eyes, and I include drink in that saying. The recipes in Smoothie Heaven are designed to be made easily in the domestic kitchen with just the use of a regular blender. They are full of flavour and attractive. A smoothie could even tick off one of those elusive 5-a-day.

The classic Banana Smoothie is the first recipe in the book. It’s the easiest to make, it uses cheap ingredients and it’s a perennial favourite. The banana gives a silky and comforting texture. This will be the one that the kids will be making when they get home from school. It’s also a great meal replacement when children are ill and off their food. Maple Banana Smoothie is an adult version of the classic. If you can’t find maple syrup-flavoured ice cream (not common in Europe) then just use some extra maple syrup in the mix. It has a unique taste so don’t leave it out as it’s the main flavouring.

Lassi is a traditional Indian drink which falls nicely into the Smoothie category of beverages. It has a natural yoghurt base with various fruits or flavours added. Melon and Ginger Lassi is the variety included in Smoothie Heaven. The melon is mild, sweet and refreshing and ginger gives some zing. Serve this with an Indian meal or savoury snacks on hot afternoons.

The chapter entitled Rejoicing Smoothies carries the alcoholic concoctions. These slide down very well on summer evenings while waiting for the barbeque to heat up. Use sparingly as the alcohol is masked by the other ingredients. Singapore Slush is a chilled version of the ever-popular Singapore Gin Sling. The slush is provided by lemon sorbet but the gin and cherry brandy will pack a punch.

The Healing Smoothies chapter offers some delicious but healthful drinks for staying in peak condition. Lemon Tea Coolie has natural antioxidant qualities that you might be glad of after weeks of watching the World Cup, Wimbledon tennis, cricket and eating TV dinners. It’s the tea that is so good for you. This smoothie is more tempting than a hot cuppa on those scorching days of our English summer. Well, we can dream.

Smoothie Heaven has a wealth of recipes but this book will inspire you to find your own combinations. These drinks are easy and fun to make and a good way to slip some fruit or vegetables into the kids. Get them to help and even design their own smoothies. Smoothie Heaven is one of the best books on the subject and great value for money.

Cookbook review: Smoothie Heaven
Author: Wendy Sweetser
Published by: Apple Press
Price: £12.99
ISBN 798-1-84543-384-0

food and travel reviews Wendy Sweetser

The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood

The Cook's Guide to Fish and Seafood I see many cookbooks every week and hundreds every year. Most are very nice, some are inspiring, there are a few that would be better left as trees, and then there are the gems.

Apple Press have done it again! This publisher never seems to put a foot wrong. They present books that are marvellously practical but also attractive, but they might just have surpassed themselves. The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood is one in a new series of books that will become heirlooms.

Strong words, them. I am going to stick my reviewer’s neck out and say that these small books, described as handbook-sized in leatherette, are a must for any serious cook but also for any serious cookbook collector. The author, Wendy Sweetser, trained at the Cordon Bleu cookery schools in both London and Paris. She has penned fifteen other food- and drink-related books as well as being food editor and feature writer for OK, The London Magazine, and Period Living.

Most of us love the glossy, celeb chef cookbooks. What’s not to love... mostly. But The Cook’s Guide books offer an in-depth look at culinary subjects. They are well written but it’s the illustrations that are striking. Food photography has reached amazing degrees of perfection but no camera can present its subject in such charming detail as can brush, watercolour and pen. The artist, Jane Laurie, has skills that add character and elevate this volume to gift quality.

Elevated though these books surely are, they are far from simple coffee-table dust-magnets. These are food manuals to read, learn from, and to delve into. The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood considers... well, fish and seafood. Each fish has its illustration, and its characteristics are described; its habitat, availability, cooking method and substitution suggestions are all mentioned.

We know that fish is good for us but there is often the underlying question, Are the stocks sustainable? The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood includes farmed fish where available, and notes when wild varieties are in season. This helps the shopper to make informed choices.

The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood offers advice on choosing fresh fish, equipment, storage, trimming, scaling and gutting, filleting and skinning. It’s a marvel of a book that will be appreciated by cooks and cookbook collectors as well as fishermen. Great Christmas gift and good value for money.

Cookbook review:The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood
Author: Wendy Sweetser
Illustrator: Jane Laurie
Published by: Apple Press
Price: £12.99
ISBN 978-1-84543-333-8

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