Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hors d'Oeuvres by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Eric Treuille

Hors d'Oeuvres offers more than 200 recipes for appetizers and several meal plans for throwing the perfect party. There are also step by step instructions for things like croustades, potato röstis, filo tartlets, pastry tartlets and other vessels. The "6 ways with" pages feature different topping/filling/ingredient options for various appetizers.

This is such a beautiful book! It has large stunning photographs of delicious looking bites. The book is nicely laid out with one recipe per page (with the just a few exception). The font is large enough so that you don't have to squint to see the type.

The introduction gives you ideas on what to serve, how much to serve, and what beverages to serve with your appetizers. The 24 different menus using the hors d'oeuvres from this book are presented for different party situations. Where it's a summer party, winter party, afternoon tea, something quick and easy, or one that allows your guests to sample foods and flavours from around the world, there's a menu for it. There's even one for a full vegetarian feast. All of these look delicious. I'm really terrible at putting together dishes that complement each other. I tend to make things that I like regardless of whether or not they "go" together. In this book, the authors have done that work for me.

The recipes have tips and advice on how to make some of the items or perform some of the steps ahead of time, so you can spend more time with your guests. The recipes also list essential equipment if any are needed. It's good to know up front if you need a mandolin or piping bag, for example. Some of the recipes also have variations listed so you can change it up a bit for something different or change it to suit your tastes.

I love that some of the recipes are quick and easy and are labelled as such. These would be good ones to make when time is short or when unexpected guests show up. Of course, there are many more involved ones that require long marinating times or require many steps to complete the hors d'oeuvre.

Besides being beautifully presented, the "6 ways with" pages offer a number of recipes to make that are quick, easy and varied. Two examples: a two-page spread for "6 ways with oatcakes", which features different toppings; and another for "6 ways with wraps", which features different fillings. The "step-by-step" pages feature many photographs and explanations on how to complete the recipe. For example, the book shows the reader how to make parmesan shortbreads from start to finish. All of these pages are terrific!

Most of the ingredients used in the recipes are readily available at larger supermarkets. However, a few of them are going to be harder to find. These include: quail eggs, gram flour, duck, smoked eel and micro cress. Also, some of the recipes feature seasonal ingredients that may not be available year-round depending on where you live. I don't think my supermarket carries eggplant or butternut squash all the time. Even if they did, the price would probably be cost prohibitive.

I love that one of the authors is a caterer and has selected these recipes based on actual experiences. She made sure "the recipes work, not only for the cook but also for the guest". I don't entertain a lot, but I know that some foods can be annoying and messy to eat while trying to hold a glass of wine in the other hand. From the looks of these recipes, it appears that the authors have thought of that.

So far I've only tried one of the recipes, Piquant Peppery Hummus.  Instead of putting on top of oatcakes as the book suggested, I bought some crackers from the store and used those instead. I loved it, however, some people I served them to thought the jalapeño chili in the hummus would have been enough heat for them. They didn't need the chili garnish as well. I'd definitely make it again, but the next time I'd adjust the heat.

For my next book club get-together I plan to make the following:
  • Oven-dried Root and Fruit Chips (page 94). I might even make these for just me and my husband.
  • Sweet Potato and Ginger Rösti with Cilantro Pesto (page 148) I'll definitely make a few changes to this one because I despise cilantro, but as a whole, the appetizer looks and sounds delicious.

Besides all of the savoury bites offered in this book, there's also a chapter on sweet ones. It's kind of short, but it's filled with yummy recipes.

I have two small complaints about the book. The first is that not all of the recipes have photographs. That usually doesn't bother me, but with hors d'oeuvres the presentation can be just as important as the taste. Even a small photo would have sufficed. The photographs that are included, though, are so gorgeous, that they almost makes up for the ones that are missing. My second complaint is that one of the recipes in the quick & easy menu planner requires marinating for 8 hours. I don't think it's "perfect for those impromptu guests" as the section suggests.

The table of contents is a little sparse. It lists only the chapter heading, the "step by step" and "6 ways with" items. It's probably good enough, though. The index looks pretty good. It has lots of entries for ingredients as well as recipes.

Highly recommended for those who love finger foods and for those who like to entertain. I have a number of friends and neighbours who love to have people over. I'll definitely be recommending this book to them.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Hors d'Oeuvres by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Eric Treuille, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756698362(Hardcover), 224p.

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