Saturday, December 4, 2021

Our December/January selection: Midnight Chicken

If you read my post for the last selection, Cinnamon and Gunpowder, you might remember I found myself in some sort of time warp.   Apologies to Claudia, the host for the last round, because I am still reading that book (and enjoying it).   I just ran out of time.

Imagine my surprise when I also realized that it was time for me to host.  It seems like it was just a couple of moths ago that I chose Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger.  

About the book:

A book of recipes and reflections that reveal the life-changing happiness of cooking.

"Bridget Jones' self-effacing wittiness, Julia Child's companionable forgiveness and Sylvia Plath's poetic prose." --NPR

"A manual for living and a declaration of hope." --Nigella Lawson

There are lots of ways to start a story, but this one begins with a chicken.

There was a time when, for Ella Risbridger, the world had become overwhelming. Sounds were too loud, colors were too bright, everyone moved too fast. One night she found herself lying on her kitchen floor, wondering if she would ever get up--and it was the thought of a chicken, of roasting it, and of eating it, that got her to her feet and made her want to be alive.

Midnight Chicken is a cookbook. Or, at least, you’ll flick through these pages and find recipes so inviting that you will head straight for the kitchen: roast garlic and tomato soup, uplifting chili-lemon spaghetti, charred leek lasagna, squash skillet pie, spicy fish finger sandwiches and burnt-butter brownies. It’s the kind of cooking you can do a little bit drunk, that is probably better if you’ve got a bottle of wine open and a hunk of bread to mop up the sauce.

But if you settle down and read it with a cup of tea (or a glass of that wine), you’ll also discover that it’s an annotated list of things worth living for--a manifesto of moments worth living for. This is a cookbook to make you fall in love with the world again.

About the author:

Ella Risbridger is a writer and editor, mostly found in a pink kitchen in South London. She writes cookbooks, children's books, poems, articles and honestly, a whole bunch of stuff. Midnight Chicken was Sunday Times Book Of The Year 2019, Guild Of Food Writers General Cookbook Of The Year, and an Amazon bestseller in both hardback and paperback. Likes poems, cats and gardens.

Please note that the recipes are written using British measurements.

As always, I can't wait to see what is whipped up! The deadline for contributing your post is Monday, January 31, 2022.   Please leave a comment below with a link to your post or email me at  For more information, please visit the Guidelines tab.  

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Cinnamon and Gunpowder - The Roundup

 Well, it seems that we've all enjoyed our trip aboard the Flying Rose.  Of course, as usual, some more so than others,  though it was a grand and rip-roaring adventure for sure.  Now get ready for a fabulous Roundup meal to celebrate our safe return!  All hands on deck! 

First to arrive was Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats, with a delicious Apple Pie.  I'm partial to having dessert first occasionally myself.  And, this certainly looks like perfection!  

She tells us, "I gravitated right away to the pie making described in the book, where the conscripted chef prepared one on board for the pirate ship’s captain, a lively and stern ship‘s master. It was a peach pie in the book, but I took a few liberties, and the narrative connected me to my family’s pie-making history."

Next, Wendy, of A Day in the Life on the Farm, came in with a fine pot of Pirate Pasta Puttanesca with some fresh sourdough bread for the shipboard party.  She says: "I laughed out loud when (Chef) Wedgewood found some anchovies and decided to make a Puttanesca sauce, remembering the woman who taught him the recipe while he was serving in a monastary and his not being allowed to call it by it's rightful title. You see, puttana translates to whore and rumor had it that this dish was made by prostitutes because it was quick and could be made and eaten between customers." 

I don't know what it says about me, but this pasta dish is a favorite and on regular rotation here.

Amy, of Amy's Cooking Adventures, arrived with a sweet and tasty between courses snack, Spiced Candied Pecans to whet our appetites a bit further.  I could scoop those up at any time.  

She had this to say: "I was contemplating some sort of cocktail (because pirates), when the very last chapter came in to save me.  Candied walnuts spiced with honey, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and salt made an appearance. I knew they were meant to be. The walnuts in the book were cooked on a skillet. Since I am not aboard a pirate ship, I added butter and brown sugar to my pecans (because I thought I had walnuts in my pantry, but actually I had pecans) and cooked them in the oven instead."

My fellow Hawaiian blogger and CTB hostess, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, brought a most delicious sounding chowder to the celebration.  Just what the doctor ordered!   A Pirate's Stew of Cod, Potatoes and Garbanzo Beans with Saffron.  Oh boy!  I would like to dig in immediately.

Deb commented that "Pirate stories are usually fun and Cinnamon and Gunpowder is no exception....
It's a relatively quick read and I was surprised at all of the food mentioned. I didn't immediately take a shinning to the overly picky and pious Wedgewood, but I grew to enjoy him, the crew and Captain Mabbot and enjoyed the journey."

 Claudia of Honey from Rock, (moi) was next in, with my African Yam adventure.  Said yam, was served, among other things, with a hearty elk stew.  Inspired by a stop on the Ivory Coast, during the Flying Rose's imaginary journey, and after the pirates have taken a ship, on which there are barrels of pepper.  The fallen ship would have likely had in their cargo various other spices as well, vegetables for their own use, and ivory for later sale or exchange.  

Needless to say, I got a very large kick out of this novel.  There were many food notes I took, but after going ahead with the purchase of a big yam online, direct from Ghana, I just went with the oceanic flow.  I do love food experimentation, and trying new vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.  The yam is delicious and very much like potato.

Next Simona, of Bricole fame, came aboard for the celebration with a delicately spiced dish of vegetables,  Red Napa cabbage and winter squash with applesauce,  Perfect!  And just what this party needed.

She noted that "The novel offered a change of time and scenery to my usual reading: I sailed on the Flying Rose, met the characters, followed their adventures and on Sundays I sat down with Captain Mabbott and Chef Wedgwood to savor his dishes and their conversation. As you can imagine from the premise, there was a fair amount of food in the book, some intriguing dishes, some less so, all providing to the reader a chance to think about the limitations of cooking on a ship that spends a lot of time sailing and does not have refrigeration on board."

Terri, of Our Good Life, brought an inspired pot of tea, a comforting melange of herbs and spices,  to round things out at our pirate bash.  She said "My inspiration came from this passage:  “Sweet is the welcoming hand, the mother’s milk, the kiss, the warm bed. its color is the orange of dusk. Bitterness is the love behind a stern word, it is hard-earned fortitude. Its color is green. Astringency is a strong wind; it tightens and cleans, it invokes self-reliance. It is the blue of cold water.” p. 75

"I decided to brew up a tea based on some of the words above: orange, milk, bitterness, green, cold water. Do you see where this is going? Yes, I made tea from green tea, oranges, milk, sugar, and water. I also added a bit of lemongrass as well. It is a wonderful blend of flavors, perfect for fall."

Debra of Eliot's Eats decided to contribute a quite yummy sounding recipe she calls Cinnamon and Gunpowder Muffins.  Unique and totally pertinent to the book, incorporating both apples and gunpowder green tea.  

I imagine they would be a wonderful pick-me-up, the morning after our wild and crazy pirate ship party!  Especially if paired with Terri's herbal tera.  Debra got sidetracked and didn't finish reading in time, but says she "will post a true review of the book when I finish it.  I have picked it back up (after I realized it was due at the end of November) and I am enjoying it." 

I do believe that's everyone.  Let me know if someone got missed!  Thank you all for participating with us, and joining the party after.  

I  hope you will take part in our next Cook the Books adventure, which will be Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger.  This December/January selection, will be hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats, and the deadline for contributing your post for that is Monday, January 31, 2022. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Our October/November Selection: Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Ahoy Shipmates!  And welcome aboard!  Are you ready for a rollicking good read?  Pirates, danger and wild women, oh yeah!  Our Cook the Books Club selection for October/November is Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown.  A tale of piracy on the high seas, with kidnapping, doses of danger, and a chef's unique creativity, in extremis, while aboard, serving under the Jolly Roger.  After reading a review of this book last year, it immediately hit me what a good pick it would be for our Cook the Books Club, which reading it only confirmed.  I truly enjoyed Brown's novel!  Just imagine the challenges faced by Chef Wedgwood, cooking under such difficult conditions, and coming up with truly creative meals.

From the Publishers: 
"A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship
The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.
To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.
But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food."
Yes indeed, and enough food to tempt and inspire us all. I do hope you'll have fun with this one. The deadline is November 30th.  Cook the Books is always open to everyone, so just pick up this latest selection, read it, and let yourself get inspired to create a dish.  Next, post your creation by the deadline, and comment below with your link Or, email me with it:
For more information and guidelines, click here

Bon Voyage,

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe: The Roundup

I am happy to round up our entry posts for Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber. Overall, our group really enjoyed this sweet southern tale as a summer read, and we have all kinds of delicious dishes, and yes...even some pie to share. 

I am taking a page from Simona's recaps and listing our contributions as a meal of sorts--starting with a cup of tea, and ending with glorious desserts. After that, entries are listed in the order I received them. Enjoy!

Terri of Our Good Life says, "Told from multiple persepectives, over a sixty day time period, this book hooked me from the first line. I was deeply immersed into the all the gorgeous details: teas for maladies, blackbird pie (which is NOT made from blackbirds), lemon verbena soap, soups, baked goods... and the story of how a small town's personality comes alive when a few caring people take care of one another. It's an important book, one that we all need to be reading now.  Tell everyone you know." For her dish, Terri said she decided to dabble in tea, saying "From many wise lessons, I created my own destress tea blend I am calling Bee Calm Tea. The "bee" part is the dash of honey and the calm comes from the three ingredients I chose from learning about what herbals are good for destressing. I hope you enjoy!"

Debra of Eliot's Eats said, "I enjoyed the story and the family drama. I struggled with some of the plot lines and the way one of the mysteries is tied up at the end. But, I still want to visit Wicklow and partake of some pie." For her dish, Debra said, "What to make? It had to be zucchini something.  There was always lots of zucchini mentioned, most of it from a cherished plant in Anna Kate’s garden. I landed on my take on the Zucchini Frittata with Goat Cheese, Onion and Fresh Mint (242). ... I loved the flavors of this recipe! LOVED. It wasn’t the most beautiful frittata but, again, it was delicious."

Camilla of Culinary Adventures With Camilla said. "There seem to be a lot of books with this formula: person inherits a restaurant from a relative, comes to town to wrap up the estate (and sell!), but ends up falling in love with the restaurant and, usually, a person tied to the restaurant or town. Oh, and the person might unearth some family secrets along the way. The fact that the plot is predictable doesn't diminish the enjoyment though!" For her dish Camilla said, " the end, I was swayed by my boys' desire to perfect their Karaage, Japanese Fried Chicken, recipe and process. Gideon brings fried chicken to a picnic with Anna Kate. According to the townsfolk, he's famous for it. Josh admitted dreaming about Gideon's chicken." 

Claudia of Honey From Rock said, "I enjoyed this book, the sometimes wacky characters who visit the cafe, the strange occurrences with neighborhood blackbirds, and the development of the protagonists and antagonists as they finally are able to forgive long held bitterness and preconceptions about one another. A little romance adds a nice dollop to the overall picture." For her bookish inspiration Claudia said, "Posting a pie would seem to be the way to go. Maybe for some. I'm not really a pie baker, though I have been known to prepare one on occasion. The food of our American South covers a much bigger palate, however, and I was inspired to do a combination of Red Rice and Beans with a side of Collard Greens and Ham Hocks."

At Kahakai Kitchen, I really enjoyed the book--the sweetness and comfort of the story was exactly what I needed the last few weeks. For my dish, I wanted to attempt the special recipe for Blackberry Sweet Tea, but couldn't find any good fresh blackberries so I channeled Doc's favorite comfort food dish and made Easy Weeknight Comfort Red Beans and Rice. A bonus is that I had everything in my pantry to make it and the leftovers were even better. 

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm found extra meaning in the book, "Having recently lost my dearest friend, Kirsten, this book especially sang to me much like the blackbirds in the story sang love and comfort to those who heard them." Wendy combined the abundance of zucchini and pies in her unique Zucchini Cream Pie, saying, "I decided to make a pie using zucchini that my neighbor, in my small town, shared with me from his garden.  This pie is the perfect ending for this wonderful novel and will be a perfect ending for your next dinner too."

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures, said, "Overall, this was the perfect relaxing summer read. Just enough magical realism to make this fantasy fan smile plus a nice happy ending." There's something magical in the way the ingredients came together for Amy to make the titular Blackberry Pies, and she says, "Hubs agreed that this was one of the best pies to date! Was the the mulberry syrup? I guess we’ll never know. I don’t, however, have Anna Kate's magic as we were not visited by any spirits in our dreams..."

Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader joined us and said, "I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I hadn't really looked too much into what the book was about but it was my kind of book, and I knew it from page 2!" Marg debated what to make with so much delicious inspiration but said, "In the end though, I have decided to make Hummingbird Cake, because it is a Southern classic, and because I really wanted to make something with cream cheese frosting."

Simona of Briciole said, "The novel is a fairy tale (favola) set in a village in Alabama, mostly in the café of the title. Anna Kate, the protagonist, inherits the business and uses her spare time to untangle family secrets. It is a pleasant read and while the ending is fairly expected, there are a few surprises along the way. When it came to making a dish Simona said, "I am Italian, so when I think about a dessert made with fruit, I think about crostata(tart). I presented crostata di mele (apple tart) some time ago so here I am sharing a recipe for Pear TartWhile the rendition on the photos uses Asian pears (pere asiatiche), the tart can be made with other pear varieties."

Thank you to everyone who joined in this round! I really enjoyed reading your reviews and seeing how Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe inspired you in the kitchen. 

I believe I have all of the submissions, but if I missed someone, please let me know and I'll add them. 

It's time to turn the hosting duties over to Claudia from Honey From Rock with our October/November Selection, Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Our August/September Selection: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

Can you believe it's almost fall? We have cycled around again here at Cook the Books Club and I am kicking off our next four selections with a novel, Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber.

I chose this book as it has been languishing on my TBR stack for a couple of years now and I really wanted a push to read it. That push is sharing it with you! 

From the Publisher:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café. 

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about. 

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

I'm in the mood for something sweet and I'm always in the mood for pie, although it seems like there is other southern food inspiration to be found in the pages too. I look forward to seeing how it inspires us in the kitchen!

The deadline for contributing your post is Thursday, September 30, 2021

As always, Cook the Books is open to anyone. Just pick up the latest selection, read it, and get inspired. Then whip up a dish sparked by your reading and post during by the deadline. For more information and guidelines, click here.

Happy reading and cooking!

Deb, Kahakai Kitchen