Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cookbook Review ~ My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

Not content with being an Oscar winning actress, mother, wife to one of the world's most successful rock stars and founder of Paltrow has now also added cookbook author to her resume. My Father's Daughter (or Notes from my Kitchen Table which is what she called the UK version) was published in April 2011 and is Paltrow's first cookbook.

I have to admit due to completely preconceived ideas I wasn't sure what this book was going to be like. I thought it was going to be all healthy food (not that there's anything wrong with that!) based around her following various macrobiotic diets in the past......I couldn't have been more wrong. There are recipes of all kinds throughout this book, both healthy and perhaps not so(!), but they are recipes for every occasion and include plenty of vegetarian and vegan recipes along with recipes that you can make-ahead, or quick recipes when you are in a hurry and of course lots of recipes for sharing with family and friends. She doesn't eat red meat so there are no recipes using beef or pork but instead she focuses on chicken, duck, turkey and plenty of fish. If you are a big fan of red meat though you could definitely substitute it in some of the recipes. The chapters are divided into the standard Soups; Salads; Pastas; Main Courses and so on, so it's easy enough to find what you are looking for.

The book starts off with a chapter on 'The Well-Stocked Pantry' which I love because I am always intrigued by what people have in their pantries, and what items are essential to them. As with most cookbooks that contain pantry or 'Basic' must-haves, Gwyneth's pantry is stocked with all the usual ingredients you expect to see, however what she does have that I didn't was Vegenaise which she claims to be her “most often-used and beloved ingredient”. It's basically a healthier alternative to Mayonnaise and although it is a little more expensive I was able to find it easily enough at my local supermarket. The second ingredient that I bought was Miso paste. Now I know to a lot of you that is probably nothing special but for whatever reason it is new to me or at least my kitchen. I've had Miso Soup before, lots of times, but have never actually had Miso paste at I do! I opted for White Miso Paste as I thought it would be a good introduction and go with lots of things, but she also suggests having Red and Barley as well.

Following the 'essential food items' to have in your kitchen, she has a few basic recipes for what she considers to be more essential items that you can make yourself. I like this section as it is all things that I make and I so I have to agree with her on these(!), however she includes a recipe for homemade Sriracha sauce which I have definitely not made myself but I will as soon as chilli season comes around. If I wasn't a big fan of Gwyneth Paltrow before, I am now!!

Overall I bookmarked 20 recipes and have so far tested 4. I had hoped to try more but with my husband being away for 2 weeks I didn't try as many since I would have to either half or quarter the recipes.

The Tested Recipes:
  • Fish Tacos
  • Chicken Milanese: Four Very Special Ways {Tomato & Avocado Salad}
  • Vietnamese Prawn Sandwiches
  • Tortilla Soup

First up and I couldn't resist the Fish Tacos as the accompanying photograph made this a meal that I had to make. There are quite a few components to this dish as you also make pico de gallo, salted cabbage (much better than it sounds!), guacamole and lime crema to go with them. That being said they are all super easy to make and take no time so it wasn't that bad and definitely worth it for the final dish which was fantastic. Everything worked well and tasted good on it's own but even better all together in the taco. The only slight criticism I had was that by the time you assembled everything the beautiful crispy and golden battered fish turned a little soggy so not quite the crunch as when you eat it by itself.....however as I said that really was only a very slight criticism and I guess if you really wanted to avoid it you just have to watch how you layer your tacos or put the pico de gallo on the side! Overall though the first recipe was fantastic and a complete success and I love how she also includes a healthier option to grill the fish rather than frying it in batter, which I will also try.

Up next and I made myself and Wee One the Chicken Milanese: 4 Very Special Ways. For this recipe she gives the basic Chicken Milanese recipe and then includes 4 different sides to serve with it to dress it up. I opted for the Tomato & Avocado Salad as I had everything I needed in the house for that one but I would also be keen to try the Slow-roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Arugula and the Endive & Gorgonzola. The fourth option of 'Many Herb Salad & Dried Cranberries' was my least favourite idea and to be honest I'll probably give that one a miss! The Chicken Milanese itself was great. I was a little skeptical as you just use milk to dredge the chicken in and no flour or eggs as you would normally expect, however it worked just fine. A little of the crispy crumbs came off as I flipped it but it wasn't a lot and not a big deal! The chicken was perfect Chicken Milanese – tender and moist chicken and crisp and golden on the outside. The Tomato & Avocado Salad went perfectly and with a green salad on the side it was the perfect meal. Another success!

On to recipe number 3 and I made hubby and I the Vietnamese Prawn Sandwich for a relaxed Friday night meal once Wee One was in bed. Again this was another recipe that had a photo that looked so delicious that I just had to make it.....before the pages got too wet from my drooling! The recipe calls for 4 large prawns (or jumbo shrimp) but I just used ordinary sized prawns that I had in my freezer and used a bit more. You can however also use lobster tail or squid if you prefer.....both of which would be delicious. Again it was straightforward to make and the combination of the hot spicy Sriracha Mayo (or I should say Vegenaise!), crunchy quickly pickled carrots and fresh coriander combined with the succulent and beautifully flavoured, grilled prawns made this an instant hit which didn't last on our plates for long!

So far so good with 3 recipes tested and all delicious delights! For recipe number 4 I made something that I have wanted to make for a-g-e-s but for whatever reason just haven't. Next to be tested was the Tortilla Soup. I absolutely love Mexican Tortilla Soup (which is why I don't know why I haven't made it before now!) so I was super excited when I saw she had a recipe for it. Unfortunately my excitement was short lived though as this recipe was a big FAIL. Thinking about it after I should have seen it coming.....the only spice comes from the dried chillies (which were new to me and I was hoping they would create enough flavour – they didn't)...there is no other spices and so ultimately it fell flat.....super flat. It took literally hours to make and all for nothing. It was so bland and disappointing and nothing like Tortilla Soup I have eaten before. It's a vegetarian option so there is no chicken in it but you do finish it off with the usual Avocado, Spring Onions (Scallions), Lime and crispy Tortillas but even they couldn't save it. I was disappointed to say the least!

Unfortunately the testing ended there and as much as I hate to finish the review on a bad recipe I just haven't had a chance to make more. The Tortilla Soup certainly won't put me off though as the other 3 recipes were so good and I still have a whole bunch bookmarked to try including.....

  • Duck Broth with Soba
  • Corn Chowder (I think Wee One will love this!)
  • Miso Dressing (so I can use the Miso I bought!!) on the Mizuna, Tomato & Avocado Salad
  • Lobster Club Salad (yum!)
  • Panzanella with Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes & Basil
  • Duck & Rosemary Burgers with Plum Ketchup (high on my list to try)
  • Crab Cake Burgers with Spicy Remoulade
  • Turkey Bolognese
  • Duck Ragu (more duck!)
  • Perfect Roasted Chinese Duck (even more duck!)
  • Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
  • Spiced Apple Crumb Muffins
  • Grandad Danner's Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies

Overall this is a nice book and 3 out of 4 successfully tested recipes is good in my books! There is a complete variety of recipes perfect for cooking throughout the year, and the majority of them are accompanied by beautiful photographs which I always prefer....especially when trying something for the first time. I also like that in a lot of the introductions to the recipes there are little snippets about where the recipe came from, who or what inspired here and other nice little stories about her and her family. It makes it a very personal book which I happen to like.

There are definitely lots of healthy options as well and she includes a chart at the start of ingredients that she uses (for example Spelt flour; Grade B real Vermont Maple Syrup and of course Vegenaise) and provides options for what you can use instead of those things if you haven't had a chance to go to the Health Food Shop or Specialty Store. To be honest, with regards to the Vegenaise the taste of it was fine – I liked it – and I love that you don't have the cholesterol which you get with real mayonnaise, however for me what put me off was the fact that it has almost twice the amount of calories than the half-fat mayo I buy. I didn't look properly but if there is a ½ fat option then great but I think realistically I would almost be tempted to stick to regular mayo! That being said it's always good to try new things so I thank her for that. This book will definitely be used in future and it really is just a matter of time before I make those fish tacos again – they were by far my favourite of the recipes tested and I would buy this book for that recipes alone!!


Cooking the Books in May

This month's books that I am reviewing are.......


  1. What a thorough review! I think all cookbooks have their hits or misses, but this one sounds like it has more hits than anything =)

  2. Great review.. honest and thorough. Thanks! A.

  3. I was considering buying this book just today! Generally I cannot stand Paltrow but I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty a few recipes from her book were. The ones that you tested sound delicious too. This book is on my wish list for sure. If only it didn't have her on the cover...

  4. I have to confess I was unashamedly snobbish about this book and sneered at the idea that a skinny macrobiotic obsessed woman could write a decent cookery book but (or maybe because of this) it was given to me as a gift and I have to say - I was wrong, and I completly agree with you. Everything I've cooked from this has been delicious, and the 'Bruce's dip' has become a weekend staple in my house (slathered on a ripe avocado). Try the hot nicoise salad too - yummy and super easy. Damn her. :p

    1. Ha ha....isn't it funny how so many people seem to have that preconceived idea when in actual fact it really is a great book! I have to say though I did wonder as I was enjoying the fried fish for the tacos just how often she eats that!! Still it gets a thumbs up and I definitely want to try those 2 recipes you mentioned : )

  5. So glad to see your review! The recipes you tried sound great (I sooo want to try the Vietnamese Prawn Sandwich!) -- I'm definitely moving this to my cookbook wishlist!


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