Seven Spoons is the much-anticipated cookbook from Tara O Brady, the author behind the popular and long-running food blog Seven Spoons. Like her site, the book features recipes that speak to everyone, showcasing fresh ingredients and seasonal produce. Dishes that are refined and elegant, yet easy to make. As well as the recipes, the book offers engaging stories about food and life and the gorgeous photography.
O’ Brady’s voice is a unique one. Her dishes combine the bold flavours she grew up with (her mother was from New Delhi, her father from Chennai) with the Canadian foods of her childhood and feature definite influence from her husband’s Irish and British upbringing. This book is a testament to the multicultural culinary landscape of Canadian food today. Dishes like Roasted Carrots with Dukkah and Harissa Mayonnaise and Z’aatar Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Salad showcase the eclectic combination of culinary influences O’Brady draws on.
O’Brady states “I wrote this book as my side of the conversation I imagine we’d have while cooking. It includes the chatty tidbits that are cookery’s gossip, whether that is the back story to a dish or why certain biscuits crumble and others flake.” Reading the book is like sitting down with Tara, enjoying a conversation over a cup of tea, then cooking a meal together. Her writing style is easy and conversational – it’s hard to stop reading after just one recipe.
The chapters are organised by meal-type: Breads and Breakfasts, Lunches, Soups, Starters and Snacks, Suppers, Vegetables and Sides, Sweet Treats and Sips .
There’s a great section at the beginning called “Stocking the Pantry” where O’Brady talks about how to go about organising your kitchen and pantry. She believes a well-equipped pantry and kitchen offer the ability to experiment, switching in comparable ingredients and tailoring recipes to suit what works for you. “Figuring out what you want and need in your kitchen, be it equipment or ingredients, is best achieved through trial and accumulation, over time,” says O’ Brady. I love that she encourages people to trust their instincts both in terms of the organization and stocking of a pantry to working with the actual recipes themselves.
As well as store-bought items, O’Brady walks us through what she considers “Staples” in the final chapter of the book. Covering everything from churning butter, ricotta, mayonnaise, salad dressings, pickles and pie dough, these are recipes which complement the others in the book and are great if you can’t get hold of some of the ingredients called-for in the recipes.
O’Brady’s is simple, yet refined food with bright, bold flavours. It’s not fancy food per se, rather, the flavours modernize old favourites while the presentation brings it to the next level. This is food you can make for your family or for a dinner party – it works on both levels. A note on some of the ingredients – depending on where you live, you might find a few of the spices tricky to track down, although O’Brady does offer substitutes, where possible in case you can’t find something.
I’ve cooked a number of recipes in the book, and I’m drawn to the simpler dishes like the Avocado Toast, Mushrooms and Greens with Toast, the Soft Set Scrambled Eggs, the Burger Treated like a Steak. I loved the way simple ingredients are elevated through the clever, often unexpected combinations of spices and flavours. The recipes themselves beg to be played with just a little – O’Brady encourages you to use what you have on hand, using the recipes as a guide so if you are a little more experienced in the kitchen, you’ll be able to see how to easily adapt her recipes according to what you have on hand. “Trust your instincts,” she says “It is your meal, after all.” O’Brady believes a good cookbook should empower its users to trust their own instincts and consider their own situation, perspectives and opinions and Seven Spoons does just that. This is the book you open when you come home from the farmers’ market with a new-to-you ingredient that you’ve no idea how to cook. In these pages, you will find inspiration.
This book is appealing on so many levels – visually, it is stunning, yet if you can get past the photography, the stories that accompany the recipes are captivating. O’Brady suggests it’s just as comfortable on your nightstand as it is in your kitchen but beware – if you read this before you go to sleep you will definitely wake up hungry!
Mushrooms and Greens with Toast
The title alone sells this one. Part Welsh rarebit, part fondue, and totally crave-worthy. The measurements need not be exact and, so you know, chunks of leftover roasted winter squash or other hearty vegetables also take well to such treatment, and can stand in, or be added to accompany, the mushrooms and greens.
On the topic of the mushrooms, I like to tear the mushrooms into reasonable bite size; it is quick enough work, and somehow meditative in its repetition, plus I think many mushrooms look best when spared the blade. Chanterelles, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, for example, are especially attractive in rough pieces that preserve their natural shape. If pressed for time, slice or chop the mushrooms instead, but still let them be a bit irregular if you can.
image courtesy of mardi michels from eat.live.travel.write.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 pounds (680 g) mixed mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
2 thick slices from a large, crusty boule
2 cloves garlic or
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 fresh red chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
Medium-grain kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces (170 g) chopped greens such as kale, chard, spinach, or nettles
9 ounces (255 g) good melting cheese, thickly sliced (see Note)
Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Tear the mushrooms into bite-size pieces and add to the pan. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have given off their water and started to turn golden brown, 8 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, grill or toast the bread.
Once the mushrooms look nice, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Still stirring, drip the vinegar around the pan. Add most of the chile and season with salt and pepper. If using hearty greens that need some cooking, dump them in now. Move them around until wilted. After around 5 minutes, rip the bread into irregular croutons and push them into the vegetables. Lay pieces of cheese atop everything. Turn the heat down to medium-low, pop on a lid, and let the cheese melt, maybe 5 minutes, depending on the cheese. Sprinkle with the rest of the chile, hand out forks, then bring the pan to the table.
NOTE: The cheese doesn’t have to be one kind in particular. The point of this is using what’s around— anything from a young chevre to a robust, oozy blue. As long as it melts well, it’s fair game. Fresh mozzarella or burrata, Taleggio, and Fontina are specifically good.
Excerpted from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady. Copyright © 2015 by Tara O’Brady. Excerpted by permission of Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Seven Spoons – A GIVEAWAY!
Thanks to Appetite by Random House Canada we have one copy of Seven Spoons to give away to a Canadian reader!
To enter, simply leave a comment telling us what your favourite fresh and seasonal recipe is!
For a second entry, tweet the following message:
I entered to win a copy of @taraobrady’s #SevenSpoonsCookbook from @RecipeGeekMag + @RandomHouseCA ! Details: http://ow.ly/NJp3m
Then come back to let us know you did in a second comment!
Contest closes Monday June 22, 2015
Winner will be chosen by random.org and announced/ emailed on Monday June 22, 2015
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She spends nearly every summer in France, honing her cooking and baking skills and touring different wine producing regions. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She was one of the founding members of Food Bloggers of Canada, and is a cook, baker, traveller, photographer, writer, Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto, contributor to JamieOliver.Com and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.
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