Pros: Lovely color photos of the recipes. Nice stories that explain the origins of the recipes. Every recipe tested multiple times.
Cons: The recipes are not organized in a traditional manner. Some ingredients may be hard to find.
I think it is safe to say we have all experienced executing a recipe exactly as written only to have it be a disaster. We are left hanging up our aprons in shame and shaking our heads, wondering what went wrong? As we come to our senses we mentally go over the steps we took, looking for errors. Having found none, we go to the ingredient list and scrutinize it, only to realize that the recipe itself was not correct! Although we sigh in relief, knowing we didn’t make the mistake, we are in a quandary wondering what to do with the erroneous cookbook. Sometimes there are typos, when a tablespoon is really supposed to be a teaspoon. Sometimes the author cuts down a large recipe assuming it will work the same, and it doesn’t. Sometimes you just have to wonder if anyone has ever really tested that particular recipe or if it was included without testing? I am not sure. I would like to think that it is a mistake. However, when it comes time to serve a dinner on which you have spent hours, and it is a disaster, you often wish there was a way to ensure recipes were actually tested - by real people, like you and me - before they go to print. That is what I found in the Monday Morning Cooking Club: the food, the stories, the sisterhood. “For three years, we tested (and tested and tested again), and then refined some of the most wonderful recipes from so many diverse cooks. We were committed to ensuring that these recipes would work in any kitchen, and that the cooks at every level could master them.”
This cookbook is about a group of women in Australia, who came together to cook and share stories on Monday mornings. They had such a good time and felt so connected by the food that they decided to form a club that met weekly. During these weekly get-togethers, they would enjoy tea and coffee as they cooked and shared their favorite family recipes, eventually deciding to compile the best recipes into a cookbook. Monday Morning Cooking Club is full of treasured recipes handed down through generations. Some are modified to fit particular tastes, others are left as is. One thing is very certain though; they have all been tested and tested again. Only recipes receiving careful scrutiny were included. The authors themselves are not professional chefs. They are regular women who love cooking and collecting great recipes to share with their families and friends.
It is the real, down to earth people and their stories make this book endearing. It reminds me of my mother’s cookbook. When I wanted to look through it, I had to gingerly lift it down to the counter top from the cupboard, careful not to let any recipes fall out. Inside was a treasure of hand written recipes, written on all sizes of paper, and organized by person. They were priceless treasures, and each recipe was perfect. If I wanted my Aunt’s meatloaf, I went to the section where all her recipes were; for my grandmother’s pie, I would find that with other recipes from my grandmother, not with other pie recipes! There wasn’t any division of desserts or main dishes. I offered to organize these for my mother once and was promptly educated about how recipes are as much about the person as the food they represent. This is where Monday Morning Cooking Club is different from other cookbooks, and similar to my mother’s. The layout in this cookbook is similar to my mother’s cookbook collection, organized by creator – but without the danger of loose recipes falling out. I feel an appendix listing the recipes, by category, would be helpful. I did go through and break out the recipes into categories to find out how they were disbursed: of the 123 recipes 26% are main dishes, 43% are desserts with the rest comprised of appetizers, salads, soups, side dishes and a Challah bread recipe.
The cookbook itself is a nice soft bound book that has large, sturdy pages that lay flat when opened. It is full of nicely colored photos of the beautiful food and the familiar cooks. I found the photos to be quite helpful and inspiring at the same time. Helpful for when I don’t understand what the recipe is, and inspiring when I see examples such as the pan of Cheese Blintzes (on page 162). I can almost taste those blintzes, gazing at the photo, hot with butter sizzling around the edges as they are pulled from the oven. The cookbook is divided into sections consistent with the spirit of the book. They include: our story; who we are; the cooks, the stories, the recipes; glossary; index; and international conversions. If you are not familiar with grams then simply flip to the International conversions section and you will soon be measuring away in imperial. Another thing to note is that some of the ingredients may be difficult to find, depending on where you are. A quick trip to your specialty store or Amazon may be in order. However, before you head out to get your specialty items make sure you check the “Some terms/Ingredients used” section in the back of the book. For instance Kipfler potatoes are simply fingerling potatoes. It would be a shame to make a special trip for that. In the recipe I am sharing I could not find “Icing Sugar Mixture.” However, regular confectioners’ sugar worked just fine. This is not a cookbook that is intended for a professional chef, but for the home cook to enjoy. Along with this cookbook, the cooking club also has a Facebook page “Monday Morning Cooking Club,” and a web site: http://mondaymorningcookingclub.com.au
The recipe I chose to share is a Baked Custard with Fresh Strawberries. I loved this recipe because it was really simple to create and it tasted like a lot more fuss went into it. Enjoy.
“Gretta Anna made this at least once a week for her ‘custard-loving husband.’ It’s a really quick yet sophisticated dessert that can be made in record time, and then can wait in the fridge to be served. If you like, sprinkle the custard with flaked almonds and caster sugar instead of nutmeg.”
Baked Custard with Fresh Strawberries
600 ml pure cream (35%fat)
300 ml milk
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 large eggs
Dash of vanilla extract
Ground nutmeg, for sprinkling
500 g (2 punnets) strawberries, hulled and washed
1 ½ tablespoons icing sugar mixture (I used confectioners’ sugar)
60 ml (1/4 cup) Grand Marnier, or to taste
Whipped cream, to serve.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. You will need a 1.5 litre (6 cup) ovenproof dish.
To make the custard, place all the custard ingredients (except the nutmeg) in a large bowl and beat well to dissolve the sugar. Pour into the prepared dish. Put the custard dish in a large deep baking tin and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the custard dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake for 1 ¼ - 1 ½ hours until the custard is set but still slightly wobbly. Remove from the oven. Cool, then remove from the water bath and place in the fridge to chill for several hours or overnight.
Finely slice the strawberries and sprinkle with the icing sugar then crush with a potato masher. Add the liqueur, to taste, and mix well. Place in the fridge to chill. Serve the baked custard with the crushed strawberries and shipped cream.
*I contacted the Monday Morning Cooking Club and asked them about “icing sugar mixture.” The Icing Sugar Mixture is a product sold in Australia. It is similar to Confectioners’ sugar but it has about three percent cornflour added to it.