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D.I.Y. Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch Hardcover – Aug 11 2010
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About the Author
Vanessa Barrington is a chef and author with co-writing credits on Heirloom Beans. She lives in Oakland, California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Plus, the recipes themselves are pretty great. I have a family to please, one of whom is a vegetarian, so I am always looking for interesting ways to prepare beans and grains and veggies -- recipes for all three abound in this book. The way the recipes can be juggled and combined really plays into the way I fix meals: some of this for one person, some of the that for the other, with meat as a side dish. This book totally works for the way I cook.
I am a DIY enthusiast (I have a sourdough starter in the fridge, I make canned goods) but I've never made my own fresh cheeses. This book shows me how in a way that seems completely NOT intimidating. And the book itself is nicely produced, with great photos and plenty of friendly advice. It's like having Vanessa hanging out in your kitchen, showing you how it's done. I love that.
I am a seasoned DIY cook; I regularly make my own yogurt, pasta, fresh cheese, and bread from scratch. I was excited to expand my repertoire. The first recipe I tried from this book was for Flour Tortillas. It was the darnedest thing-- the recipe called for way too much water! I salvaged it by adding a lot more flour, and they came out good, but I was really taken aback by how off the recipe was. It made me very hesitant to try another. But over time I decided that that must have been a fluke, maybe a typo, and I tried the Whole Wheat Sesame Crackers recipe.
Well, now I am officially convinced: these recipes weren't tested by anyone before they were published in this book. I should have known better than to trust it when it said to process the flour + liquids in a food processor until a dough ball forms-- 2-3 minutes. Two to three MINUTES? In a food processor? Um... But I trusted. I went ahead and tried it. IT SUCKED! There was again, way too much water in the recipe, the dough became a sticky, goopy mess that seeped into the nooks and crannies of my food processor (a HUGE pain in the butt to clean later). To fix it, I had to add a ton more flour and pulse to get the mixture to come together (this is after waiting 20 minutes for the machine to cool down-- seriously they are not meant to be run that long continuously). I kept going and made the crackers...
And here's the part that really bothers me-- the book tells you to pick up your rolled out crackers with both hands and "carefully" place them on the pizza stone that has been heating up in your 400 degree oven. Um... please, no one do that. These crackers, if you manage to even make the dough, are not worth losing the use of even one of your precious fingers. Use a farking pizza peel, my God, if you have a pizza stone you most likely have a pizza peel, or if not you can use the back of a cookie sheet. I have a lot of trouble believing that this writer makes these crackers as often as she would have you believe and uses her hands to "carefully" place the dough on a hot pizza stone.
The most intriguing thing to read about in the book is her friend Rachel Cole's Porridge Manifesto, which I would actually really love to read, but PSYCH! it's not included in the book. It turns out the author herself was not even allowed to read it, but don't worry-- just from talking to Rachel, she got "enough information to start to experiment and pass on some valuable information to you." Oh yes, please do experiment based on what your friend says! And publish your "recipes" in a book that people have to pay for! It's not like anyone's going to try to make any of these things anyway! Who has the time?!?
Well, I do, because it's important to me to make my own stuff, and it's usually really fun, so I don't care if it takes a long time. What I don't like is spending a lot of time on something that doesn't deliver a good product, and making a big mess and wasting ingredients along the way. Sorry, book, you're pretty and all, but I don't want any more to do with you.
Oh, did I mention it's gorgeous?
Vanessa Barrington has obviously thought long and hard when writing this treasure. Her passion to make foods from scratch that we normally tend to buy these days, shines through in this clever, fun, simple, honest and well-written cookbook.
Some things that I have tried, with great success is: yogurt and fresh cheeses, ginger beer (yes, you can do this and it's super-easy, just be sure you use a fresh yeast (I used champagne yeast I picked up at a brewing store) and clean, plastic soda bottles, NOT the thinner plastic water bottles, as they are not intended for carbonated beverages, you'll be amazed at that one), and of course, my fave... cultured butter! (like the kind you'd find at a fine French market)!
Please allow me a word about the cultured butter, Vanessa's recipe is Super-Easy. If you've ever made whipped cream, you can make fresh cultured butter!
*I have tried using both my blender and my hand mixer, and I like the hand mixer best I believe, but if possible, put the bowl in a dry sink, since it will start to spit a bit when the buttermilk separates. Keep that buttermilk for pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc.... excellent.
~ I'll never spend money on fancy imported butter again! and I have wowed friends by bringing fresh cultured butter with Vanessa's sour dough bread to dinner parties. OK, looks like I could go on and on about making butter, and I have...but the point here is, that I never knew how easy it was to make. In DIY Delicious you can make a plethora of fabulous, pure and tasty foods yourself, easily, and Vanessa has a knack for speaking to novice and gourmet cooks alike. There's a lot going on in this book and I'm so pleased I happened upon it.
That's just one of the many splendid recipes and ideas she's shared in this book.
I also loved the introduction, (which you can read here)... I found myself feeling the same way about natural foods, the nostalgia and art of foods made at home, less packaging, less waste, and above all... foods made fresh just taste that much better!
Looking forward to her next book!
update: I've also made both the cracker recipes, both fabulous, but probably love the cornmeal-parmesan best.
next up: kimchi and bread and butter pickles!