24 March 2013

Review: Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

I'm off to New York in May for the husband's and my first wedding anniversary, so this arrived at the perfect time. We're staying in a gorgeous little West Village apartment which we booked  through AirBnB, and I'm really excited about having our own little corner of New York for the week, complete with its own teeny, tiny kitchen. Who knows, I might rise to the challenge and try some of the recipes while there.

 I'm a longtime fan of the Smitten Kitchen blog. Deb started her blog four years ago, cooking from her own tiny New York kitchen. In my flat in London, the kitchen is small, but at least the kitchen/living room is open plan so it feels a little less cramped and I can spread out onto the kitchen table as extra chopping space. Even so, I get shouty if people get in a 2 metre radius of the stove when I'm trying to cook. The space isn't big enough for two with a control freak like me in the kitchen, so I appreciate the challenges that a small kitchen can create, not least where workspace is at something of a premium.

Like me, she is a former vegetarian  so the recipes fit very well with the way I tend to eat on a day to day basis - the vegetables are clearly the main feature, with meat seemingly more of an aside. There's a fantastic array of vegetarian main dishes, though Deb has taken one step further down the path to omnivorous eating than I have as there's also some delicious looking pork, beef and lamb dishes too. Sadly, I am not yet brave enough to branch out further myself and try these but the chicken and fish dishes look to be such thing as foodie dreams are made.

 Sesame-spiced turkey meatballs with smashed chickpea salad

Deb is an obsessive cook - something which I cannot claim to be - always looking how to better and improve a recipe she has stumbled upon. She knows which ingredients shouldn't be scrimped on, and the ones where any old brand will do. And she knows that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well which is something I definitely adhere to.

Red wine velvet cake with whipped mascarpone

This copy landed on my doorstep with fortuitous good timing - it pulled me out of a creative rut when trying to dream up a birthday cake to make for the husband's birthday as there was the most fantastic red wine velvet cake featured in its pages. And even better, there's not a drop of food colouring in it!

wild mushroom tart

Similarly, a slightly quieter spell at work allowed me to indulge in a few post-work cooking sessions, which always helps me relax. Fabulous spiced turkey meatballs, wild mushroom tart and seared halibut were all perfect (if not a little indulgent) weekday dinner treats. I can see the meatballs rivalling my favourite Ottolenghi ones and going into regular rotation.

seared halibut and gazpacho salsa with tomato vinaigrette

This is a fantastic book which I think will become a firm favourite in my household. Deb's passion for food and ingredients is clear to see, and the book itself is both a love letter to New York and a compendium of immensely cookable recipes. In the time I've had it, I've had as much fun curled up on the sofa, absorbing its every word as I have cooking from the recipes. It really is home cooking at its best, with nothing so taxing that you can't make it when tired on a Thursday night. Every recipe has a lovely story behind it, and Deb's photography is similarly sumptuous, which is something as a food blogger that I am still trying to master. I can't recommend it enough.

I was sent a copy of Smitten Kitchen for review, however all views are my own.


  1. "Even so, I get shouty if people get in a 2 metre radius of the stove when I'm trying to cook."

    Or cats. I've seen Sabre cross the line and feel your wrath. That's why I stay well back, at the table. With the wine.

    1. it's always best to stand back and keep an eye on the wine. and by "an eye on", I mean "drinking".