I’ve spent quite some time this weekend considering my options as to what I am going to contribute to this month’s The Cookbook Guru. The challenge for August is to pick a recipe book from my bookshelf to cook from and share with the group as an introduction that may result in it becoming part of next years list. In theory this sounded like quite an easy and straightforward challenge…until I looked at my cook book collection and realised just how many wonderful books I have.
In the end I’ve done a bit of playing in the kitchen from a short list to see which book is going to cut the mustard. This is not to say that you won’t be seeing more from these books as I think a few of them are worthy of sharing with the wonderful group that is The Cookbook Guru.
On this short list for now is the highly esteemed Jane Grigson (twice!) with both her Vegetable and Fruit books, Rick Stein’s Seafood Lovers Guide, blogger Kate Quinn Davies’ What Katie Ate and finally Manna from Heaven from Rachel Grisewood. The latter two are not actually books I own, but two that I am coveting from my local library that I really would like to spend some time exploring properly.
Today’s recipe has been inspired by a recipe from Rachel Grisewood. I’ve adapted it to the ingredients to hand and renamed them seeing the resemblance between these delicious coconutty bites and the beautiful sunset haystacks painted by Claude Monet. In my opinion there is nothing quite like food to get the inspiration going as it engages so many of the senses. It’s not unusual for me to be as taken with the look (ie texture, tone, colour and shape) of what I’m cooking as much as the flavour.
Coconut Macaroons, as these are more accurately named, are actually very simple to make, requiring no machinery and in fact benefit from you digging in with your hands as Grisewood suggests, to make sure that the orange and vanilla are well massaged into the coconut. The base mixture was on the sweeter side and I would probably reduce the sugar quantities next time around because of the changes I made to the recipe. Other than that I found these to be the best combination of crunchy toasted coconut with a chewy centre, fragrant with orange and just a hint of cardamom. The recipe was easy to follow and I love the tone of this book for its casual mixing of recipes to suit the narrative of the author talking about her history in the food industry. If you happen to get your hands on a copy of the book you may even notice one of our lovely fellow Cookbook Guru’s getting a mention as Lona spent some time working for Rachel in her kitchen and was the one that originally suggested I track this book down. Thanks Lona, it was a really great tip and one that I’m happy to pass on to everyone.
As for The Cookbook nomination, this book is still on my shortlist for sometime in the future for us to cook our way through. Whilst I loved reading through it, I think I can find a better option for the month’s contribution to our book club so stay tuned.
Orange Coconut Haystacks
inspired by Manna From Heaven by Rachel Grisewood
makes approx 30 biscuits
- 180g Shredded Coconut
- finely grated orange zest from 2 oranges
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 150g castor sugar
- 2 egg whites
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp concentrated vanilla essence
Pre-heat your oven to approx 120c. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
In a bowl combine all the ingredients and massage together with your hands until well combined and the coconut all is a slightly orange colour. Using 2 tsp, create little mounds of coconut mixture onto the baking sheets, shaping as desired. You can place the stacks quite close together as they don’t spread when baking.
Once you’ve used up the mixture place the tray into the middle of the oven and bake for approx 30 minutes or until the edges of the coconut just start to turn a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before taking off the baking tray.
These will be a little fragile, but if you’ve made sure the mixture is well stuck together when you place your mounds on the tray they will stay together as a biscuit unless under serious duress.
Happy Baking and Happy Eating,