Friday, 12 August 2016

In The Mood For Quick Family Food by Jo Pratt (book review + carrot cupcakes)

Jo Pratt doesn't need any special introduction. She is a well known TV cook and an author of several cook books, as well as an acclaimed food stylist. She has recently opened a restaurant at Heathrow Terminal 2 with two other chefs.
Like busy Mums around the world, Jo is always pressed for time. Having taken a realistic look at the situations and circumstances of family and work balance, Jo wrote an inspiring cook book - In the Mood For Quick Family Food (published in paperback on 18 August 2016 priced at £14.99).

This first version of the cook book appeared in 2013 as Madhouse Cookbook.
This book has been endorsed by Jamie Oliver "Home cooked book that's tasty and stress free - this is Jo's guide for busy parents".
As much as I admire Jamie Oliver, his 15-minute meals were totally unrealistic, as he had a team behind him who chopped and prepared all the ingredients, did the washing and cleaning for him.

How is Jo Pratt's book structured? It is divided into 3 main chapters - Monday to Friday Survival, The Busy Weekend and Cling on to Your Social Life.

Monday to Friday Survival includes recipes which are quick and easy to prepare. Like Jo says, "recipes to help you get through the week of racing about and constantly chasing your tail". I know that feeling, Jo.
Which recipes does Jo classify as "in a hurry"? You will find recipes for a Chicken, potato and spinach curry, Special fried rice, several quick pasta recipes, Honey Miso Salmon with warm green salad, Pot noodles, Baked risotto Primavera etc. Most of the recipes in this section are indeed quick and easy.

There are also some recipes included which will take you longer to cook like a Moroccan lamb stew, Meatballs with olives or Beef and barley casserole.
What I liked about this section that many recipes come with a tip on what to do with leftovers. For example, if you have any leftover spaghetti carbonara, it can be transformed into really tasty fritters that are great for lunch or even cold in school lunchboxes (except my kids perhaps, I doubt they would eat cold pasta fritters).
If you had a cheese fondue for dinner, any leftover cheese could be a perfect base for a cauli cheese.

Most recipes are family-oriented and kid-friendly, though there are some grown-up recipes included as well.

The Busy Weekend section is for those manic family weekends, when you try to fit in more than there's room for. This chapter covers delicious breakfasts, light bites for easy lunches. And then there are The Family Meal options for the times when you all sit down together to share a meal.

Like Jo's, my family enjoys baking. And if this is your favourite kind of cooking too, head straight for Baking and Things for a Sweet Tooth. There are some classic recipes with a twist as well as more experimental recipes.

Jo and I have different ideas on parenting: as for her Saturday Night is when kids are banned. In fact, even the subject of children is totally banned at all dinner parties.
Not sure how that would work in real life. Certainly it's never going to happen here. What do you actually do? Send the kids off to their prospective rooms? or delegate to the grandparents? Anyway, this is not meant as a criticism, just saying that we have clearly different approaches to parenting and lifestyle in general.

Returning to the food: there is plenty of delightful recipe ideas in this section. My all times favourite cocktail Bellini is made with mango and lychee rather than a peach puree, and I would absolutely love to try this version, as I can imagine it will be delicious.

Don't Griddled peaches with Pimm's and strawberry cream sound very tempting?! And what about a Limoncello and blackberry Pavlova?!

The photography in the book is excellent, with beautiful props. The images look stylish, fresh and modern.

The recipes are nutritionally sound and would suit most different approaches to eating and diets from omnivores to vegan.
There are also some non-dairy and gluten free recipes.

Carrot cake is one of our top favourites. I was excited to try Jo's recipe for carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. They were delicious.

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (recipe reproduced with the kind permission from the publisher)
Makes 12 cupcakes
Prep time 20 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes

150ml/5fl oz/scant 2/3 cup rapeseed/canola or sunflower oil
100g/ 3 1/2oz/heaped 1/2 cup soft light brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
75g/ 2 1/2oz golden/light corn syrup
175g/6oz/scant 1 1/2 cups wholemeal or white self-raising flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground allspice
1/2tsp ground ginger
1tsp bicarb of soda/baking soda
200g/7oz carrots, peeled and finely grated
75g/2 1/2oz/scant 2/3cup sultanas/golden raisins
25g/1oz/1/4cup dessicated/dried shredded coconut

I have used sunflower oil, golden syrup and white flour. I have also substituted bicarb of soda for baking powder, as I don't like the taste of the soda in baking.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 and line 12 hole cupcake pan with paper cupcake cases or lightly grease a silicone cupcake pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and golden or corn syrup, using an electric mixer, until totally combined.  Mix in all the remaining cake ingredients and spoon into the cupcake cases.
Bake for 20 minutes until nicely risen and firm but springly when lightly pressed. Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the cream cheese frosting:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g cream cheese
finely grated zest of 1 orange plus extra to decorate
250g icing/confectioner's sugar

To make the frosting, beat the butter until smooth, using an electric mixer. Add the cream cheese and orange zest and beat for another minute or so. Add half of the icing/confectioner's sugar and mix together on a low speed. Add the remaining sugar and mix until the icing has a light creamy texture. Chill until needed.
When the cakes are completely cool spread or pipe the frosting on top, sprinkle with extra orange zest and serve.

I didn't use an electric mixer, a hand whisk is perfectly fine to make the smooth frosting, and you will have less to wash too. I omitted adding the zest to the top and sprinkled with some bronze sugar instead.

Disclosure: I received this cook book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

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