It was my turn to choose the cookbook for the cookbook club for the cookbook club I’m in… and because the other choices before mine have been books that the chooser knows and loves that presented a teeny bit of a problem. While I was tempted to suggest something I know and love I didn’t because:
- I’m in this to discover new books and authors
- I don’t want to put one of my faves out there in case it gets ditzed (I’d far prefer that one I’m not yet attached to is ditzed)
- I have literally shelves full of cookbooks (please don’t ask my husband how many) and yet (before I began in this cookbook club) none were by American authors. As most members in the cookbook club are US-based I wanted to suggest a book they’d be able to access without having to purchase it if they didn’t want to.
This last point left me in a tad of a quandary. It meant I’d need to pick a book I knew had done well in the US so would be available in US libraries – and that meant choosing a US author. It would also need to be available in libraries out here so this time I wouldn’t need to buy it if I didn’t want to – so needed to be a US author that was also known to Australian audiences. Alison Roman seemed to fit the bill.
The premise of this book is a simple one – rather than using the word entertaining, Roman suggests you take the pressure off yourself and think of it as having dinner, but with more people. Unfussy food, unfussy vibes, no occasion necessary. My kind of entertaining.
And this is my kind of book. With its simple cover to the double-page layouts and the food styling it looks the part. And with every recipe crafted to add extra layers of flavour it certainly tastes the part too. Plus, she’s a woman after my own heart and anchovies feature strongly. (Don’t worry, if you’re not a fan they’re always optional…)
Because I’ve been interstate for the day job for most of May (and trying to juggle the completion of my new novel) I’ve so far only cooked a couple of dishes but have many more marked with post-it stickers for when I’m back home: all of the dips, but especially the labne with sizzled spring onion and chilli; most of the sides, but especially the grilled carrots with limey hot sauce and cotija, the sticky roasted carrots with citrus and tahini, the roasted pumpkin with yoghurt and spiced buttered pistachio, the long roasted eggplant with garlic, labne and tiny chilli croutons, and the garlicky broccoli with kale, hazelnut and coriander. Then there’s the lemony white beans with anchovy and parmesan, the spicy pork meatballs in brothy tomatoes and toasted fennel, the coconut braised chicken, the yoghurt marinated lamb and… I’ll stop there. Suffice to say, it’s a book I suspect I’ll get a lot of use from. Yes, I now have my own copy – my intrepid cocker spaniel bought it for me for Mother’s Day. Not only is she a dog with impeccable taste (and always seems to know which book I want) but she also has access to my credit card.
As for what I cooked for this review? Slow-roasted oregano chicken with buttered tomatoes.
This one appealed to me on several fronts:
- I do love a roast chook but have never slow-roasted one.
- The oregano in my garden thinks it’s still summer and needs cutting back.
- I’d run out of gochujang so couldn’t make the coconut-braised chicken.
- Work was messy so something I could chuck in the oven in between Zoom meetings and let the oven do all the heavy lifting for a few hours was exactly what I needed.
- Tomato with chickeny, buttery, garlicky juices and bread. Need I say more?
And it delivered. Oh, how it delivered. We squeezed the garlic cloves from their skin into the pan juices and served it with sourdough bread – smearing the garlic and tomato onto the bread and dipping and slurping. The tomatoes and juices were so good that my husband declared the chicken (which was tender and flavourful) was almost a distraction.
Slow-roasted Oregano Chicken with Buttered Tomatoes
What you need
- 1.5-1.8kg chicken
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 60 ml olive oil
- 1 ½ tbsp fennel seeds crushed (used a mortar and pestle)
- 1 bunch oregano
- 750g small-ish vine-ripened tomatoes halved lengthways (or quartered if they’re large)
- 2 garlic bulbs, unpeeled, halved crossways
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp red (or white) wine vinegar
- Sourdough to serve
What you do with it
Preheat the oven to 160C
Season the chicken inside and out, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle over the fennel seeds.
Stuff the cavity with half the oregano and place in a large roasting tin. Scatter the tomatoes, garlic, butter and the rest of the oregano around the chicken. Chuck it in the oven and get on with your life for 2 ½ – 3 hours. (I was going to clean the bathrooms but ended up doing meetings instead. #suchislife.) By this time the chicken should be golden and the tomatoes jammy.
Pour the vinegar over the tomatoes and let the chicken rest in the baking dish for about 10 minutes.
Carve or pull the chicken apart and serve with the tomatoes, the juices and plenty of bread to soak it up.
As an extra I also made the lemony mustard green beans from the book – and the mustard and lemon made it all even better – if that was at all possible – but truly, it wasn’t necessary.
While some recipes have ingredients that can only be found in the US – or specialty shops – google gets me around that minor problem and other than that (and the fact there’s no ribbony bookmark thingy) I really enjoyed this book.
As for you? Does this book deserve space on your cookbook shelf?
You need this book if:
- You love having people over for dinner but can’t be faffed with the faff of it all.
- You’re after some simple-ish tasty dishes and sides to add to your repertoire.
- You enjoy experimenting with different flavour combinations.
- You like a simply styled, well-photographed book.
- You like a good “do ahead” tip or two.
Don’t buy this book if:
- You like to entertain with a capital E and all the palaver and stress that goes with that.
- You’re hung up on getting exactly the right ingredient and following a process to a T. There’s a certain amount of free-styling that goes with this type of no-fuss cooking, which implies a certain amount of confidence in the kitchen.
- You like a photo with every recipe – while most recipes have a photo, some do not.
Joanne Tracey is an Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction and cozy culinary mysteries inspired by her travels, a love of baking and happy endings.
Based on the Sunshine Coast in South-East Queensland, Jo is an unapologetic daydreamer, eternal optimist, and confirmed morning person.
When she isn’t writing or day-jobbing, Jo loves baking, reading, long walks along the beach and posting way too many photos of sunrises on Instagram.
Jo’s life goals (apart from being a world-famous author) are to be an extra on Midsomer Murders and to cook her way through Nigella’s books.
You’ll find her foodie blog at Brookford Kitchen Diaries (BKD).
Her travel and bookish blog at And Anyways
And her books at: www.joannetracey.com
Thank you, Jo for this delightful and interesting review. Please visit Joanne the talented food blogger behind the Brookford Kitchen Diaries. Her blog is dedicated to sharing her love of food, cooking, and travel with the world. She often writes about recipes, cooking tips, and her experiences trying food from different cultures. If you’re a foodie, like good writing, and have a sense of humor, you should definitely check out her blog!