Cooking the books…and the menu….

Inspired by my friend Mel over at The Cooks Notebook, I’ve taken on the challenge to cook from as many of my cookbooks this year as I can. I’m also attempting to recreate one common takeaway meal per week…

What came out of the books and onto the table this week?

Monday- Cooking the Menu

The Book:


Two Asian Kitchens, Adam Liaw

The recipe: Laksa Lemak p123, Curry Laksa Paste p 22

Laksa is a food hall and hawker stall fave. With it’s rich, spicy gravy, made velvety smooth by the addition of coconut milk, how could you resist?

The problem with laksa is its ability to jump from the bowl onto whatever white clothing you happen to be wearing.

Eating it at home is the best solution, and, as it happens, seriously satisfying.

To do ahead:

You can use a good quality shop bought paste, but the laksa paste can be made in advance and stored in the fridge, so is worth having a go at.

My tips:

I keep home-made chicken stock in the freezer.

The verdict:

Just as good as a bought one…and better than some! And, as long as you have your paste done, is on the table faster than you can pick the phone up to order it in. Besides, at home it doesn’t matter if you slurp the gravy.

a photo of the photo in the book...
a photo of the photo in the book…

Notes on the ingredients:

  • Candlenuts can be difficult to source, but are available at most Asian shops. I use these in bumbu Bali, so generally stock up when I can. If you can’t get any, macadamias are an ok substitute.
  • Belacan smells dreadful. Truly dreadful. These days you can buy it in the supermarket in individually wrapped tablespoon serves which is, coincidentally, the amount usually needed in recipes.
  • Fresh turmeric gives a much deeper flavor to the paste than powder, but if you can’t use it, substitute 1 tsp turmeric powder for 3 tsp fresh turmeric.
  • Fried tofu puffs and fried fishcakes can be found in the fridge section of your Asian grocery store and are cheap as.


The Book:


French Odyssey, Rick Stein

What to cook for a Saturday night family dinner when you want something just a little bit special, but you also know that your tummy won’t appreciate the extra calories? Seafood…of course. And, when cooking seafood, Rick Stein is my go-to man…

The recipes:

Oysters with sauce mignonette p42

When you’re trying to watch what you eat, oysters are the perfect food. Low in calories, low in fat, high in zinc and other vitamins, and relatively high in protein, they’re also just a little special to eat. In fact, 6 raw oysters are under 60 calories or just 1 Weight Watchers point. Not bad- if you’re into oysters, that is…

Naturally, you can make them a whole lot worse for you by adding mornay and Kilpatrick sauces…or you can make a simple vinaigrette like this one.

Ragout of seafood with fines herbes, white wine and linguine p100

The key to this is perfect seafood- after all, when something is this simple, there’s no room for watery prawns and rubbery mussels.

the photo of the photo in the book
the photo of the photo in the book

To do ahead:

Aside from preparing your seafood so it’s ready to go when your stock is, this is a last minute dish.

My tips:

Hmmmm, as I said, it’s all about the seafood.

The verdict:

This tastes so good, who’d know it was also relatively healthy?

my (unstyled) version
my (unstyled) version


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser