Review of The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook by Jackie Collins
How often do you come across a cookbook that really offers you something totally different and exceptional value for money? Probably not all that often. LIke most people, I couldn't even begin to guess how many cookbooks must be published in the world each year, especially in these modern times of e-publishing and electronic reading devices. While many of these new books by established chefs in particular are of course very good - even excellent - it is very rare to find one that genuinely offers the reader something truly out of the ordinary.
When I read that legendary authoress Jackie Collins was publishing a cookbook, I was immediately intrigued and suspected that here we would have something totally above and beyond the average recipe collection. I can't actually remember where I first read about the book's pending publication but I was soon Googling around to find as many advance details as I could. So, as soon as it was available on I placed my order and to say that I was delighted by what I discovered in its pages doesn't even begin to cover it... Amazon
So What's Actually in The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook?
The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook is split in to logically arranged sections. It begins by featuring a variety of cocktails which you may wish to consider serving as aperitifs (or in fact simply sip and enjoy at any time!) followed by a varied selection of appetizers. A section on specifically pasta appetizers follows - in keeping, of course, with the Italian influence inspired by the character, Lucky Santangelo, and her extended Italian/American family.
A wonderfully extensive list of entrees (main courses) comes next, catering for vegetarians, pescatarians and omnivores, followed by some suggestions for side dishes and even accompanying sauces. Finally, it's all about desserts and those with a sweet tooth are sure to be salivating at some of the tasty and delectable treats on offer.
So without any further ado, let's take a look at some of the recipes you will find described in detail in The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook. I have prepared a few representative examples and included what are my own photographs to give you a tantalising little glimpse of what you can expect. Want the detailed recipes? Those, I'm afraid, are of course copyrighted and for details, you'll have to wait until you receive your copy of the book...
A Drink Before Dinner?
It's not only at the finest of dinner parties people are likely to appreciate a drink or aperitif before they take their places at the table to eat. The idea will very often be to help break the ice by introducing guests to one another as much as to whet the appetite for the culinary delights to come. The drink pictured below is my attempt at recreating the Jackie Collins, a cocktail created especially for Ms Collins by legendary chef Wolfgang Puck and the recipe for which is included in the book.
The Jackie Collins Cocktail
Example Entrée - Zucchini Boats
Zucchini (or courgettes, as we call them in the UK) are actually one of my favourite vegetables, though I can't help but feel they are often hugely under-rated. My favourite way of cooking them has always been to roughly chop them and roast them in the oven - coated in olive oil - with a selection of other Mediterranean vegetables such as aubergines (eggplants), cherry tomatoes and red onions. Although I had heard of them being stuffed before, I had never actually tried the idea myself until now and all I can say is, "Wow!" This dish will have your mouth watering and your taste buds tingling for sure. The zucchini are stuffed with rice, spices and a couple of other surprise ingredients that really work together in perfect culinary harmony.
Example Side Dish - English Roast Potatoes
If you are looking at the title of the above dish and the photograph (perhaps most particularly if you're in the UK) and thinking, "Yes, oven roasted potatoes simply cut in to wedges - so what?" you really should think again. These are not the average roast potatoes that so many people serve and enjoy with Sunday lunch. They not only contain a few extra little ingredients, they are cooked in a slightly different but non-complicated way for extra crunch as well as flavour. Definitely more than worth giving them a try!
Example Side Dish - Green Beans with Cumin
I've got to be totally honest in the sense that I wasn't sure beforehand how much I was going to like this particular dish. Why? For the simple reason that - just as I like my beef steaks pretty much with the "Moo" still in them - I tend to like vegetables such as green beans still crisp and crunchy, probably better described as blanched rather than cooked.
I did, however, prepare the recipe exactly as prescribed (I could hardly review it otherwise, could I?) and was not only surprised but absolutely delighted by the results. This has definitely given me a new way to cook and enjoy green beans and no doubt many other similar vegetables.
The Best Cookbooks, I Believe, Inspire as Well as Instruct...
If I could pick only one quality as to what makes a cookbook stand out from the crowd, it would have to be that it inspires me to devise and create new dishes from the ones featured. By this, I mean that I want to love the dishes I am seeing and to make them and try them out for myself; but I also want them to get my creative juices flowing as well as my gastric juices so that I'm immediately inclined to want to develop them further.
There is a recipe included in The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook for broiled (grilled, in the UK) salmon and it really got me thinking. I normally poach or shallow fry salmon and have never cooked it this way before. So what follows is my own recipe for broiled salmon - very different from the recipe in the book - which I have served accompanied by the Green Beans with Cumin and English Roast Potato sides featured above.
NB - preparation and cooking times relate to the salmon and sauce part of the dish only
Broiled Salmon with Raspberry, Whisky and Heather Honey Sauce
Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 5 or 6 min
Ready in: 45 min
Yields: One serving
- 1 Scottish salmon middle fillet
- 12 to 15 fresh Scottish raspberries
- 1 tablespoon Scottish heather honey
- 1 tablespoon non-peaty Scottish single malt whisky
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
InstructionsClick thumbnail to view full-size
If you wish, you can have your fishmonger pinbone and skin the salmon fillet on your behalf. When I bought this fillet, it had already been pinboned but the skin remained intact. The good news is that salmon is one of the easiest of all fish to skin, due both to the thickness of the skin and the layer of fat between the skin and the flesh. These factors combined mean that your filleting knife will slip over the skin like the proverbial hot knife through butter.
- Lay the salmon fillet skin side down on a chopping board with the thinner side nearest your weaker hand.
- Take a proper filleting knife (this really is important) and make a small nick as close as you can to the thin end of the salmon - angled at forty-five degrees towards the thicker end - right through to but not actually through the skin.
- Pinch the end of the skin between the thumb and index finger of your weaker hand and twist your knife almost to the horizontal (sharp end away from your fingers!) Gently but firmly pull the skin to the left (if you're right-handed) while working the knife towards and away from you over the skin. In no time at all, you will slice the skin off. Discard the skin.
- Put the raspberries in to a flat-bottomed bowl. Add the heather honey, whisky and balsamic vinegar. Mash with the back of a fork.
- Pour what is now your marinade in to a suitable dish. Add the skinned salmon fillet and with your hands, turn it over to ensure it is evenly coated. Cover the dish with clingfilm/plastic wrap and leave it to marinate for at least half an hour. Do not, however, put it in the fridge. It should be cooked from room temperature.
- Preheat your broiler (grill in the UK) to high. Cover an appropriate grilling tray with foil and lightly oil to prevent the salmon sticking. Lay the salmon on the foil skinned side down.
- Broil/grill the salmon for five or six minutes until just done. You can actually see by looking at the side of the fillet when it is just cooked through. Remember, salmon is a fish which should be served that tiny little bit "underdone" to be enjoyed at its best. If you see the white fat starting to run out of the fillet, it is overcooked.
- When the salmon is on to cook, pour the marinade in to a saucepan and bring to a moderate simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. By the time the salmon is cooked, you should have a thick and luscious sauce.
- Carefully spoon the sauce on to the plate as a bed for the salmon and lay the fillet carefully on top with a spatula or fish slice. Serve with the roast potatoes and green beans.
Example Dessert - Baked Peaches with Cointreau
Reviewing desserts/puddings of any type is not easy for me - simply because I don't really have a sweet tooth and they're consequently not something I would normally eat. I do, however, love peaches and oranges so the baked peach with Cointreau was something I felt I may well enjoy. Hand on heart - it was delicious! The way the peach is cooked sees it beautifully soft and tender and I really loved it. If - like most people - you are a dessert lover, you will be sure to have a ball sampling the rich and luxurious recipes afforded in this section of the book.
Have you got a hold of your copy of The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook yet?
The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook - Conclusion
This is of course above all a cookbook but it is also very much more. Fans of Jackie Collins and arguably her most popular character to date, Lucky Santangelo, will be able to relate to the recipes featured, the tantalising tidbits of text which so often accompany them and the stunning photographs which show off the creations at their best.
A review of any type has to be balanced, however, if it is to be fair and above all, accurate. I would therefore offer only one small negative piece of criticism of this otherwise splendid creation. While the photographs liberally incorporated in the book more than do the recipes justice, I personally would like to have seen a photograph of every recipe and not just a substantial percentage of them. I'm not really a person who puts undue, excessive emphasis on presentation when it comes to food (taste and texture are far more important!) but I do like to see a recipe I am considering preparing in all its glory.
This one small criticism should not in any way detract, however, from the overall quality and value represented by this book. I hope that when you get a hold of your copy, you have as much pleasure exploring its pages and trying out the recipes for yourself as I have had already and intend having for some considerable time to come...
All Things Carefully Considered? - My Overall Verdict...
© 2014 Gordon Hamilton