Like many cooking enthusiasts, Mr LBG and I have quite a collection of cookery books. 136 to be precise as I have just this moment been to count. I am actually rather staggered by the figure. You can spot our favourites easily; the pages bear the hallmarks of culinary exploits (splatters of tomato sauce or marks from buttery fingers), notes are scribbled in the margins and books that fall open on favourite recipes. Others look pristine and unloved as they have failed to inspire and some fall halfway between the two - much browsed but rarely 'used'. I confess that increasingly I find myself turning to the internet for recipes - it is so much quicker when you know what you want to tap 'chicken cacciatore' into google than to flick through the books looking for the perfect recipe. (Wouldn't it be marvellous to have an online directory of all the recipes in your bookshelves so you knew exactly which to turn to when looking for something specific?). However, when planning a special meal or looking for inspiration, I love to turn to the in-house library for a good browse through the books.
For some time I have been thinking that I should make more effort to try recipes from some of the less-used books and I have found the perfect excuse in the form of blogging challenge organised by Dominic from Belleau Kitchen. His monthly random recipes event challenges us to pick a book and recipe at random and cook what you find on that page (no excuses save budget or seasonality). This month's challenge suggests we choose at random (no peeking) from books we received as Christmas presents. This year I received two new books and had yet to try either so this was the perfect excuse.
The book selected was Lorraine Pascale's 'A Lighter Way to Bake'. Very appropriate considering the January healthy-eating I am currently trying to embrace. The book has lots of tempting recipes from savoury pies and tarts to the expected cakes, cookies and breads. Lorraine aims to cut calories, sugar and fat whilst retaining as much flavour and authenticity as possible. An interesting challenge! I opened the book at random and it fell open on a page with no recipe but a photo of a rather good-looking cake studded with blueberries. I turned back a page to discover the recipe for 'Blueberry and Limoncello Drizzle Cake'.
I waited until I had friends visiting for tea and set to work. As it would happen, this is just the sort of cake that I might have chosen to bake under ordinary circumstances. Lorraine's healthy version replaces some of the butter with (full fat) Greek yoghurt and as well as two whole eggs, four lightly whipped egg whites are folded into the mixture. I confess that I found the recipe a little confusing - she states that the whites should be whipped until 'light and frothy' before folding them into the mix. Flour (half of it) is then added afterwards along with baking powder etc and you are then instructed to 'beat' until you have a smooth batter. This seemed strange as it would surely undo the effect of folding in the airy egg whites? Rather odd, I thought. I also found that at the suggested temperature (150C fan oven), the cake took almost twice as long to cook as she suggested.
All this aside, I was quite pleased with this lighter cake. I didn't have any limoncello so I simply used lemon juice in its place for the icing - probably more appropriate for afternoon tea for four Mums in charge of toddlers (....or maybe not?!). It is definitely not what I would describe as a lemon drizzle cake. To me, a drizzle cake involves skewering the warm cake and pouring a sugar and citrus glaze over the cake. This was more a nice, dampish lemon cake bursting with blueberries and topped with a drizzly lemon (or limoncello) icing. I wasn't wowed but Mr LBG thought it was superb and ate more slices than perhaps he should have done. I would have preferred it more lemony and - let's face it - with more butter! Having said this, I would make it again and, for a light alternative, it was rather good. You can find the recipe here.
|The labrador's favourite: oatmeal and ginger cookies|
I don't like to judge a book by one recipe so I decided I would also try one of the cookie recipes. I plunked for 'Oatmeal and Ginger Cookies' and thought this was a great and speedy recipe. Made with oats and wholemeal flour, these slightly chewy but crisp on the outside treats are satisfying and pack a seriously gingery bite (too gingery for Mr LBG who took one bite and passed it to me in favour of another slice of the cake). I thought they were delicious though (and so did the labrador who snaffled THREE from the kitchen counter whilst my back was turned - he is now, quite literally, in the doghouse).
Thank you to Dominic for organising this challenge as I'm pleased to have got started on this new book. Next stop is the filo-topped 'Thai fish pie'.