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Joy Lucky Book Club, or How to Have Your Book and Eat it.

May 30, 2012

I bought my first cookbook when I was at primary school. Lucky Book Club, oh how I loved thee! Sure I went to the library, with its sprawling chestnut tree out front, but it was some kind of special different to order, anticipate and devour my very own brand new, previously unread book.

Marguerite Patten’s Second Piccolo Cookbook.  Now I didn’t own the first Piccolo cookbook and despite Marguerite’s constant and ever-so-slightly annoying references to recipes in the first book, this was a Pandora’s box experience for me.  Each chapter contained vital information for the enthusiastic preadolescent wannabe chef:  Equipment, taxonomy, abbreviations, metrics, safety, shopping, storing, nutrition, making a complete meal, baking with yeast, snacks, suppers and desserts all with delightful line pictures,  tips for success – and so much margarine?!  It didn’t cover how to pay for all the ingredients, but for me it was like preparing for grand theft auto down the highway to yumville.

Boy steals limelight circa 1970

I could have taught Ms. Patten a few things about gender equality though – just take a gander at that kid on the front cover, obviously the girl was quite in control of the pastry until Jamie (I’ll do the pastry and you do the jam) Oliver came and took over – how things have changed since then.

The first recipe in the book is for pancakes, and following the dictates of my as yet undiagnosed OCD, I planned to cook my way through the entire book, in order, starting with the pancakes.  I don’t think I ever made anything else from the book, and looking back through the pages, it’s 50/50 whether I would have succeeded or that the house would have remained standing.  Marguerite’s instructions can be a little skewed, heating the pan for croque monsieur while the sandwich is resting in the beaten eggs!  Opening a tin of salmon and removing the skin and bones, I’d probably still be there clutching at skin tissue and dissolved calcium.  There is a LOT of margarine and corned beef. These are simple recipes, Marguerite Patten was famous for stretching food during wartime rationing, economical, tasty and plain, tried and tested, the publisher of 170 cookbooks and 170 million worldwide sales – I’m not arguing the toss here, she is truly a living legend.

One of the most appealing recipes to me now is a version of a Pear and Ginger Upsidedown cake – and as I received a  bottle of Hakanoa Ginger Syrup in me Ooooby box this week – I thought I would include a warming winter cake recipe – perfect for dessert me thinks.  It is based on two separate recipes from Christine Manfield’s wonderful book Spice.

Gingerbread and Spiced Pear Upsidedown Cake

Spiced Pears
6 x pears, peeled, cored and halved
Poaching liquid:
Sugar syrup 250ml water/250gm raw sugar simmered together for 5minutes
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp freshly ground allspice
150ml Stone’s Green Ginger Wine
250ml Made up of Hakanoa Ginger Syruip & Monteith’s apple cider (replaces Poire William eau-de-vie- or could use apple juice)
Heat all ingredients except pears in a wide heavy based saucepan and simmer 15minutes.
Arrange pears in liquid, cover with cartouche (baking paper circle) and simmer gently until cooked & softened – approximately 30 minutes.  Remove pears, quarter and set aside, reduce liquid over a medium heat to syrup – strain and set aside.

Note – Instead of spicing pears from scratch, you can used preserved or tinned pears


 175g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
100g butter
60g golden syrup +10g molasses for colour
125g brown sugar
2 large eggs
125ml milk
2 tbsp crème fraiche or yoghurt or buttermilk
2 large tbsp chopped glace ginger

Note: The Gingerbread component of this recipe could stand alone beautifully

Preheat oven to 180 degC – use the cartouche you used to poach the pears to line a round tin (not springform – it will leak), butter the sides and line with baking paper or just do what you normally do to stop a cake from sticking to the baking tin.  Sift flour, baking powder, spices and salt  into a bowl.  Melt butter with golden syrup, molasses and brown sugar.  Whisk eggs with milk, crème fraiche & glace ginger – then stir in melted butter mixture.

Before you add the liquid to the flour mixture, arrange the pears roundside down in a circular pattern in the tin – try to cover the whole base – pour 150ml of your syrup if you need a measurement or enough to generously cover the pears, it really depends on how much you reduced your syrup.

Stir egg mixture into spiced flour until combined and pour over the pears and syrup.  Bake for around 40minutes or until tests cooked.  Leave in the tin for 10 minutes until the syrup settles, then carefully put a cake plate over the tin and turn out – should be amazing – mine was!

This recipe can easily be veganised – butter=oil eggs=banana or applesauce milk=soya or rice or almond milk creme fraiche=soy yoghurt – if you care – you prob know the drill – same goes for glutenfree flour.

My mother was a wonderful cook, until the diet aliens left implants in her brain, and my father grew wonderful vegetables until he went west with the gardening tools.  But I was born into a foraging frugality which had woven its way through our Anglo Saxon genetic makeup, this meant that I really wanted to cook, but not for family and friends as Marguerite suggested, bugger the family, I wanted to learn how to cook so I could eat, and therein lies the foremost reason to develop a passion for cooking, hunger and a developing ravenous appetite plain and simple.

Since my first purchase I have accumulated many recipe books, many, many, many recipe books, but how do you find a recipe amongst all those written words?  How do you extract specific information from all the blood, sweat and batter splatters? The answer my friends, lies in Eat your Books a brand spanking new subscription based cookbook database and search engine.  A what? A masterstroke for masterchefs is what it is, pure genius.  You create a searchable virtual bookshelf of the books you own (or scarily, books you want to own) or books and recipes you have access to, note well, there are no recipes here, only access to indices.  Culinary research and writing will never be the same.

I can now search for specific recipes, authors, ingredient types, courses, occasions, dietary constraints or different cuisines, – all hidden within my books or library books, or inside books I don’t even own yet – and if I like the look of a recipe, I can buy the book via a direct link to either Amazon or The Book Depository! I can even perve [a word which means here to stare at in a lewd manner] at other peoples’ racks!  EYB are indexing magazines, blogs and online recipes, you may add your own recipes or recipes from that bulging vanilla folder of cuttings, heck you can even create shopping lists!  Not many of the 100,000+ books are indexed as yet, so you can request one to be, and most democratically,  if enough members ask, the book shall be indexed.  There are professional indexers or any member can apply to index a book – it’s so much fun for a cookbook geek like me – I have signed up for a year and have started going through my books adding them to my virtual searchable shelf – I am loving going through my books and you know, I get the same thrill as I did when I opened Marguerite Patten’s cookbook 40 odd years ago.


From → Recipes

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