There is a new cookbook on my shelf, a recent arrival from the Berkshire kitchen of my friend, Alana. Actually, it hasn’t rested on the bookshelf yet; I’ve been keeping it with me in the kitchen for daily cooking, baking and tea-time reading.
The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure is the second cookbook from Alana, and a long awaited companion to The Homemade Pantry. It’s a personal and passionate ode to home cooking without an ounce of pressure. Alana encourages aspiring cooks with memorable lessons such as Do Your Best and Then Let Go, Be a Beginner, and Do the Work. In fact, these guiding principles form the outline of her book, and she explains and expands on them in thoughtful essays that undoubtedly come from a place of learning.
I’ve been cooking plenty from The Homemade Kitchen already, so read on for more thoughts on the cookbook and a splendid giveaway, too.
There is a warmth in Alana’s cookbook that I recognized right away. It is the same generosity of spirit and open-armed welcome that I received last February when we dropped in to her home on my book tour. Having sipped Chemex coffee and devoured breakfast burritos in the same kitchen the book is named after, I can honestly say that The Homemade Kitchen is a truthful portrayal of the real thing.
Soup was the first dish I was inspired to make. Minestrone, to be exact, a recipe tucked into the back of a chapter titled ‘Use Your Scraps’ – a worthy cause that is close to my heart. And so I did just that, opening the fridge and turning odd bits of vegetables, leftover beans and some tired kale into a bowl of comfort food.
To keep everyone happy (although my crew adores a vegetable-filled bowl like the one above) I slid a batch of Alana’s Popovers into the oven 25 minutes before dinner. At my beckoning, the three little ones skidded into the kitchen and parked in front of the glass door of the oven to watch them puff. They rose to impressive heights, and stayed that way until we devoured them with our Minestrone.
It was a perfect October weeknight supper.
Alana introduced me to the term ‘snacking cake’, although I can’t remember exactly when. She has long professed a soft spot for tea and cake and really, what are October afternoons for if not for nibbling on cake while watching the leaves fall?
I debated long and hard between The Homemade Kitchen‘s seasonally appropriate Pear Gingerbread and the tempting Rhubarb Snacking Cake, because my little plant is still producing. In the end I decided to save the rhubarb for one last pie for Thanksgiving and reached for a box of Quebec pears.
Before long, the kitchen was perfumed with an intoxicating concoction of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The cake rose tall and turned golden, and it wasn’t long before Clara and I were tucking into a slice each. Delicious. Spicy and dense; not too sweet.
Our little family is going to face a few challenges in the coming months. Does knowing what lies ahead help ease the anxiety? Not really. But perhaps I can store a few pans of pear gingerbread in the freezer for the more difficult of days. Slowing down for tea and cake seems like a good way to come to grips with grown up issues. Add homemade applesauce and a little whipped cream and the road to recovery will be swift.
|Pear Gingerbread|| |
- 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus additional for the pan
- 1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup or honey ((used honey)
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (I used organic muscavado)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 Tablespoons ground ginger (I used half fresh, half dried)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 2 Bosc pears, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch square or equivalent pan.
- In a small sacuepan, melt together the butter, syrup, and brown sugar over low heat. Gently stir to combine as the mixture melts. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and combine with a few strokes of a wooden spoon, taking care not to overmix.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and yogurt. Add the egg mixture to the batter, and gently combine. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
- Lay the pears on top of the batter in a pinwheel shape. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake, 30 to 35 minutes
Wisely, Alana calls for a 9x9 inch pan. I only had 8x8 and the baking temperature was longer than usual, which made the edges of the cake dry out slightly. Go with 9x9!
If you get a chance, pick up The Homemade Kitchen in a bookstore and flip through it for the lovely photos. They are magazine-pretty, yet don’t feel staged – not an easy accomplishment.
When Alana and family dropped in on us earlier this summer, her daughter Rosie and my Noah perched on the sofa together with their mum’s cookbooks and chuckled at the photos of themselves on the pages. Alana and I elbowed each other and tried to listen into their nine-year-old commentary. It was all rather adorable. I’m happy Noah got the chance to commiserate with someone who understands what it’s like to have a photographer follow you around in the apple orchard.
Thanks to the lovely people at Clarkson Potter I have a very special giveaway for you!
One winner will take home a grand prize of:
- One Zwilling Stainless-Steel 6-inch Chef’s Knife (I own and love this knife)
- The Homemade Kitchen’ tote bag (these are beautiful!)
- A signed copy of The Homemade Kitchen.
Second and Third Prize:
A copy of The Homemade Kitchen shipped to the doors of two runner up winners.
To enter: leave a comment on this post and tell me your current fall baking or cooking obsession. That’s it!
Giveaway ends Sunday, October 11, 2015 at 7AM. Winners will be announced in my Weekend Links post. Good luck to all!