Earlier this month, Gwyneth Paltrow came out with a cookbook, Notes from my Kitchen Table and I was asked if I would be interested in reviewing the book. Whilst celebrity associated things are definitely not usual on Mummy Zen, I was keen to check out the book for a few reasons. Gwyneth is known for following a healthy diet, we've all probably heard about her macrobiotic diet specifically. Her daughter Apple is a vegetarian (as am I) so I figured there would be some good vegetarian recipes in her book. Thirdly, I love to cook and try new recipes. Finally, the book is written with families in mind, so with food that appeals to children and adults alike and the book also includes some tips on involving children in cooking.
The US version of the book has the title, My Father's Daughter which certainly reflects the personal tone in which the content has been presented. There are photos, stories and anecdotes amongst the recipes that bring a real sense of family, memories and special times, many of which concern Gwyneth and her father.
I've tried out a selection of the recipes, all vegetarian but I can assure you the non-veggie recipes prevail. In fact, there is only one vegetarian option in the 'main course' section of the book. Here's what I cooked, with some feedback on the end results:
Veggie burgers: I'm always looking for a reliable veggie burger recipe as too often they disappoint in one way or another. I was keen to try this easy combination of rice and beans binded together with a few other ingredients. They were quick to make, healthy and my 2-year old son enjoyed them. My husband and I found them lacking in flavour and had to rely on the condiments we served with them to make them tastier. I will however make them again, just with some added spice next time to liven them up a bit.
Tortilla soup: This was fun and new to try. It was quite tasty and we liked the texture of avocado and fried tortilla strips with the flavours of the soup. However, there wasn't much substance to the soup and it was very watery in consistency. We ate two bowlfuls each as one was not very filling but maybe it's intended as a starter and not as a main meal. My 2-year old didn't get to try this one so I can't comment on the suitability of the soup for a child's palette.
Vegetarian chilli: This was the best of all the recipes I've tried so far from the book. I've always been happy with my own version of veggie chilli but now I think this one will replace my own as I really enjoyed the puy lentils and combination of black and kidney beans together. My son devoured his bowlful - we all loved it.
Spiced apple crumb muffins: I splurged on some spelt flour and good quality maple syrup to make these macrobiotic muffins. They were simple to put together and we had them for breakfast one day. My husband thought they were trying too hard to be healthy whilst appealing to sweet tastes and he found them too sweet. I thought they went well with a black cup of coffee and my son thought they were yummy. Gwyneth describes them as 'super-healthy' but with their sugary topping I'm not sure that's very accurate. They make a macrobiotic diet sound easy to follow!
In conclusion, I like the ideas in the book and the personal way in which they are presented. There's an eclectic range of types of dishes and there are definitely more recipes I want to try out, like the macaroni cheese made with mascarpone, the white bean soup and the oatmeal raisin cookies. Gwyneth has some good suggestions for vegetable side dishes that children will likely enjoy too. When it's back in season, I'm keen to try out her kale crisps, which Gwyneth reports her children eat like they are potato crisps.
"This is the food that I cook for my family and friends, over and over again, the food that never fails me".I think that summarises the feel of this book. Gywneth doesn't pretend to be a professional chef imparting her culinary wisdom, but rather she shares her family favourites with us. It's much like using trusted recipes from your own family or friends.
Have you bought or seen the book? If not, are you likely to have a browse through it next time you're at a bookshop?