Friday, June 19, 2009

Traveling in my own cookbooks #1

One of the things I always try to bring back from a trip/journey/vacation is a local cookbook, just because.
This started way back, as soon as I started to travel without my parents, when I still didn't even approach a stove.

I realized years ago that I never get to actually use them, but still that's something I have to bring home with me.
I seldom get to actually open these books other than for looking at the pictures, even if I carefully moved them around Italy and the world everytime I moved. Thing is, most of the time I'm more lured by recipes in magazines, or from some friends, and more recently from the Internet, of course. And also, something always seemed to go wrong; I would blame myself for my inexperience, but that was before discovering the concept of badly written cookbooks.
I thought that just because something was written in a book, it had to be right and thoroughly proved, but I've been questioning this idea for awhile, now.

Well, this is the time, I will pick every cookbook I own, starting from the first on the left at the top shelf, choose a recipe from each and share the outcome.
It's not an original idea, I know, I saw that there was a community with a similar cookbook challenge, but they stopped. So, if you know of some other group bringing on something like this, let me know. Or if you want to join me, you will be more than welcome.

First book is "Cocina Aragonesa": I bought it during a vacation through Spain and Portugal when I was 24. There were 10 of us, friends from University, just driving around from Barcelona to Madrid, to Lisbon, To Algarve and back on the South coast.
Beautiful, I would do that all over tomorrow! Except maybe for the part where I put my life at risk, 2 or 3 times, but I was young and free, and probably that was my wildest holiday.
Anyway, I remember that 4 or 5 of us got together and decided to buy one specific region cookbook each, so we could trade them during the years to follow.
Of course, that never happened.

I would have liked to make something savoury, but everything I set my eyes on had tons of garlic, or was about eels, and I needed a softer start, so I headed to the dessert pages.

The one I picked was called "Yemas de Coco" (Coconut Buds).

Looked pretty simple: make a syrup with one glass (3/4 cup) of water and 1 1/2 cup of sugar (if you're wondering about the quantities in the pictures, I made half batch),

Then add 3 cups of grated coconut,

then leave the mix in the fridge overnight.
The subsequent passage would be to form buds by hand and roll them in melted chocolate.

At this point I thought "Wow, how will this simple mix aggregate? How will I be able to form those little balls that keep together in melted chocolate?"
I wasn't.
The mix didn't hold together.
I tried to wet the mix, I tried to dry the mix, but no.

So, in the end I made layers and refrigerated, and found myself with a home version of a Bounty bar.

Nice, healthy and everything, but still too much fuss for the result.

I probably should have made the buds, frozen them, and then rolled them in the chocolate.


I decided to give the book another try, there and then, and I picked the recipe soon after: "Leche Frita" (Fried Milk)

Put 1 liter/1 quart of milk and a pinch of cinnamon on a stove, and when it starts to boil add 4 tbsp of flour and 4 egg yolks, always beating in the meantime.

Pour in a dish and refrigerate overnight (this overnight refrigeration seems recurring).
The day after you should have this unsweetened pudding

that has to be cut in pieces, rolled in a mix of one yolk and two eggwhites, then in flour, then fried in hot vegetable oil.

At this point, I had the feeling I was in front of a book meant for tourists, printed in a time when cooking wasn't really much of a hobby.
Either that, or I suddenly have an issue with aggregation, because the 4 tbsp of flour were not at all enough to make the pudding dense enough to handle it with ease.
I made it, but another time I will use 4 tbsp of corn starch (the book said I could use corn starch instead of the flour, but only 2 tbsp).
This should also reduce the ratio between fried surface and fresh content.
Dust with sugar and serve.

They were pretty good, actually, it's just a matter of texture, not of taste.

I have a feeling that this project, started just for fun, will help me understand a few things about cookbooks. I'm looking forward to discovering the differences between one book and another, old and new, small and big, with a theme or not.


  1. ma in questo caso specifico, le foto sono tue o del libro?>?

  2. I love the idea of getting a cookbook from your sounds like something I would do because I love to have mementos of places I've seen.

    I also love the idea of going through the cookbooks and selecting recipes to try. I recently renewed my love of cookbooks when I had to have Martha Stewart's Cooking School Book. I bought several others and have been trying recipes out of them.

  3. I had a New Years Resolution to do this in 2008, and I made it through each of my cookbooks! It was a great experience, and has really made me use my cookbooks more often. Good luck!

  4. Anna,
    innanzitutto complimenti per il blog! Molto curato e gradevolissimo da leggere. Brava! :)

    Mi attira molto questa tua iniziativa poiche' anch'io sono affetta da ricettarite. In casa ho davvero un numero esagerato di ricettari di ogni genere. Da quando siamo qui in Giappone, poi, non ne parliamo: la mia gia' pingue collezione e' aumentata in maniera spropositata. Ho giusto comprato un nuovo ricettario una settimana fa, intitolato "Hamauchi-san ie no kenkoo washoku", ovvero la cucina giapponese salutare della famiglia della signora Hamauchi.

    Mi piacerebbe quindi dare ad ognuno di questi libri la possibilita' di spostarsi dal salotto alla cucina dove diventerebbero - anche se solo per un giorno - protagonisti.

    A dire il vero, ogni tanto gia' cerco di rispolverare qualcuno di questi libri, ma dovrei farlo piu' spesso, soprattutto quando sono a corto d'idee e finisco per cucinare sempre le stesse cose, day in and day out.

    Insomma, mi hai dato un ottimo spunto!

    Ciao Anna e di nuovo complimenti per il blog!

  5. What a great idea!! I will have to buy cookbooks from places I hope to travel to. I do have some cookbooks from Hawaii (I love Hawaiian food) from when I lived there and I should get them out and make something. I'd love to join you if you get a group together to "travel" with the cookbooks.

  6. Not a new idea to start using your cookbooks, but the recipes you chose and the results are totally fascinating! Maybe some of the savory recipes would work out better, but often recipes are approximations of what someone has cooked for years without measurments or directions...and unless you are psychic the results are not what you expect. Might try the coconut dessert layered like you did...I love coconut and chocolate together.
    Can't wait for your next book.