Tara O'Brady was one of the earliest food bloggers to enter the scene, and now, more than ten years after she first started Seven Spoons, she has become one of the most highly regarded and unique voices in the culinary arena. In her debut cookbook, Seven Spoons, O'Brady shares stories and recipes from her Canadian home--fresh, ingredient-driven food that is easy to make yet refined. Recipes like Roasted Carrots with Dukkah and Harissa Mayonnaise, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Gremolata, and Plum Macaroon Cake are wholesome, hearty, and showcase the myriad culinary influences at work in O'Brady's kitchen. Her evocative writing and gorgeously simple, elegant photography has earned her accolades from Saveur magazine, the Daily Mail, and more. Impeccable food photography and a lavish package round out this beautiful, personal collection.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A PRACTICE OF COOKING
My first home with Sean, the man who would later become my husband, was a light-bathed, third-floor walkup just off the main drag of a decent-sized city in southern Ontario—the city where he was born, but a place I’d only visited. The apartment had a postage stamp for an entry, a sliver of a kitchen, a large living room, two bedrooms, one bath, and a balcony that ran the length of the place. Tall windows lined that same side, windows wider than my arms could stretch, with sills deep enough for a row of succulents to sit in matched white pots. My favorite seat in the house was at the end of a couch closest to those windows, through which a massive maple tree would stain the sunlight turmeric come autumn.
I miss those windows.
From that apartment, we could walk to the grocery store, to the lakeshore, and to the coffee shop, and Sean could walk to work. It was a good neighborhood.
Our preferred pub was a block away, a smallish place that was decidedly British in its leanings. The room was perpetually dim. The deep banquettes were burgundy velvet with button-tufted backs, and the tables were glossy wood atop heavy iron bases. The walls were crammed, frame to mismatched frame, with horse racing, football, and royal memorabilia. It was the kind of place where on your second visit, the staff would remember you from your first. Besides fish and chips, bangers and mash, and a decent chicken tikka, that pub made the best burger around. It came charred on the outside and juicy at its middle, garnished with thick-cut bacon, cheddar, iceberg lettuce, and a generous slice of beefsteak tomato. Pickles were served on the side. I miss those burgers, too.
Choosing that apartment was probably one of the easiest, and smartest, decisions I’ve ever made. Aside from choosing the person I shared it with, of course. That apartment was where everything began.
For the first time in my life I felt like I was making a home rather than playing at it. In the domestic division of duties, I took over our kitchen. I was comfortable in the tiny galley space and found a specific sense of fulfillment in being in charge of it.
The trouble was, after furnishing it with pots and pans and crisp tea towels, I had no idea what to do in that room. I had no idea what to cook.
I knew how to cook. I grew up in what could only be called a food-loving family, after all; a family that discussed lunch at breakfast and planned road trip routes around where we wanted to eat along the way. My maternal grandmother, who stayed with us often, kept notebooks on the coffee table for scribbling down recipes from the cooking shows on PBS. My mother collected crockery. She and my father held unforgettable dinner parties, with Mum chic in pearls and wearing perfume. She’d have cooked for hours, and there was a bubbling excitement in the reveal of what she had made. Dad would fill up the ice bucket and polish the silver. Ours was the house, and the kitchen, at the center of celebrations with both friends and family.
My childhood was one without culinary boundaries. My parents had moved to Canada, specifically Montréal, only a handful of years before my older brother was born (I was born soon after). They were originally from India—my mother from the north, and my father from the south. From my birth to about when I was fourteen, we often journeyed back to India to visit. My mother’s and my father’s side each had differing culinary traditions; there was tandoori chicken, idlis and sambar, rassam, chapatis, thali meals, and pani puri, as well as shepherd’s pie and Yorkshire puddings my maternal grandmother adored. (Through her my family has an Anglo-Indian connection, the particulars of which are unfortunately unknown.) When I was two years old, we moved from Québec to Ontario. Our next-door neighbors, the Roganos, had two daughters, and later a third, with the middle daughter my age and my best friend for all the years we lived side by side. They were Italian. And so, in between the masala dosas and sausage rolls at home, I’d be over at their house, asking for seconds of chicken scaloppini and licking Nutella off a spoon.
We were also a Canadian family. I knew that my hometown had the best bagels. Mum would make Buffalo chicken wings and egg drop soup, and one time she made a cheesecake crowned with a pile of cherries and a golden graham cracker crust that climbed all the way up the sides. I recall how the fresh, dairy tang of the cheese was set off by the tart fruit, lush and bathed in thick syrup. I thought no other dessert could be more beautiful. At Thanksgiving we’d have a proper roast turkey with all the trimmings and mutton pilau.
It was a childhood where cooking was part of our daily routine, and the kitchen was where we hung out.
I have cooked for as long as I can remember. The food I first made was often outside of my family’s canon—I’d wager it was my way of feeling independent. I “invented” pizza sandwiches in elementary school and assembled casseroles with canned soup as the featured ingredient. I took on cookies and cakes in high school, and fine-tuned my Pavlova in university.
After university came the next stage of my adult life, the first I truly shared with another. And so I began to think about the food we liked. I wanted to establish the way I cooked, the flavors that intrigued our palates, and the recipes that might slowly become our regulars.
The idea of we, not me alone, was another thing altogether. At the time, Sean didn’t like onions, the first ingredient in so many Indian recipes. I, on the other hand, held a years-old prejudice against mushrooms—one of his favorite foods. Sean’s family has been in Canada for generations, with Irish and English roots, and the tastes to match. It was through the Ralphs and O’Bradys that I was introduced to the nuanced merits of an exceptional butter tart, one with a pastry that’s both sturdy and flaky, and the filling firm enough not to ooze. In their company I ate a particular pasta salad, ice cream sandwiches made with fresh waffles, and a cake that had sliced apples standing on end in concentric circles, like edible dominoes, in a clafoutis-like batter.
Sean brought an entire food history to our home, one drastically different from my frame of reference. However, as much as my upbringing shaped me, my way of cooking and my tastes weren’t that of my parents, not exactly. Neither were Sean’s that of his. Deciding our food would be an act of both negotiation and discovery.
I strode as confidently as I could into the uncharted wilds of our kitchen. I wanted to be able to improvise, to master the culinary witchcraft that allows a true cook to whip up something delicious from seemingly nothing, to tell if bread dough has enough flour by feel and if a loaf is properly cooked by sound, or to check if a cake is baked by eye, and to judge by the smell of butter that it is browned and not burnt—tricks only learned by doing.
I culled sources for advice on what should fill fridge and pantry; I compiled a catalog of equipment to keep on hand and ingredient combinations that worked together.
I started to cook. Not every day at first—that pub on the corner was still our usual reward on Friday nights, and the diner down the way was our destination come Sunday mornings—but I cooked a lot. I cooked from memory, advice, magazines, books, the Internet, and television shows.
I tried recipes printed on the backs of food packages and flour sacks and in promotional materials they gave away at the grocery store checkout. I made yogurt the way my mother did, leaving it overnight in the oven with the interior light on. I made peanut butter cookies to fill a jar on the counter, fiddling with the ratio of sugars and honey with each batch until I settled on the best combination of chew and crunch. I tested and tasted my tomato sauce until it was close to Mrs. Rogano’s of my memory. I made cinnamon buns that were a spectacular bomb one Christmas morning. I volunteered a dish for every office party and potluck. We held our first dinner party.
Sean learned to like onions, and I came around to mushrooms.
At some point in that tiny kitchen, I fell in step with the rhythm of cooking. I learned which spices I wanted at arm’s reach, which knife felt right in my hand, and the vinegars that were most useful. The kitchen shelves filled up. I made fewer lists, instead taking more notes. I noticed the way oil spreads and shimmers in a hot pan, how a fresh egg slips thickly from its shell. I didn’t just cook; I became a cook.
One year into living in that apartment, I started a blog called Seven Spoons, so named for a number that seems to pop up in my life quite often and, well, spoons sounded nice with it. It would be my modern-day recipe file, a place to keep all the scraps of cookery knowledge I was collecting.
Seven Spoons was a chronicle of what was going on in our kitchen and, by extension, our lives. It granted me a space to work through the emerging opinions I was developing about food and cooking, and was my way of offering the newly established online food community a seat at our table.
These days, ten years from that apartment and since Seven Spoons began, my life is quite different. Sean and I bought our first house, and had our first son (Benjamin), then moved to our second house, and had our second son (William). There are a million and one directions in my waking hours, but I find there’s a welcome habit in cooking, in the routines of the kitchen around which our lives revolve. It’s what gets us going in the morning and brings us back together each night.
Blurry Sunrise Smoothie
This tie-dyed smoothie sounds a little like it belongs on a Tiki bar menu instead of as a breakfast offering. Still, the moniker, inspired by how the golden and fuchsia layers blend into each other, amuses my children and me, so there’s that.
If raw beet isn’t appealing, go ahead and steam, roast, or even microwave it until barely tender, then chill before using here. The aim is to soften the flavor of the beet, without cooking the life out of it. For extra color and kick, include a spoonful of Golden Honey Elixir (page 62) when buzzing the carrot.
If you don’t have a high-powered blender, the beet and carrot may be need to be grated rather than chopped.
2 navel oranges, peeled
1 red beet, scrubbed well and chopped
1 cup (105 g) fresh or frozen raspberries
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece ginger, peeled and chopped in half
Very cold water, as needed
1 cup (185 g) fresh or frozen chopped mango
1 carrot, scrubbed well and chopped
Break 1 orange into segments and add to the carafe of an upright blender. Puree. Add the beet, raspberries, and 1 piece of ginger, and blitz again. Add cold water to get the blade moving if necessary. Divide between 2 glasses.
To the same blender, add the remaining 1 orange in pieces, followed by the mango, then the carrot, and the second piece of ginger. Puree, once again adding cold water as needed. Tilt one of the filled glasses and carefully pour half of the carrot smoothie over the top the beet (this will give a slant to the layers). Do the same with the second serving, then use a straw or chopstick to swirl the layers. Sip away.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Breads & Breakfasts 23
Simple Sandwich Bread 26
Seeded Boule 29
My Best Biscuits 32
Dipper Eggs with Cheese-Fried Toast Soldiers 35
Soft-Set Scrambled Eggs 36
Huevos a la Plaza de Mercado 39
Savory Steel-Cut Oats with Cheese and Spinach 45
Fig and Ginger Cluster Granola 47
Roasted Peaches with Glazed Sesame Oats 51
Berried Breakfast Batter-Style CobbLer 53
Blackberry Buttermilk Whole Grain Scones 54
Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Bread 57
VanilLa Espresso Walnut Butter 59
Chia Pudding with Fruit and Golden Honey Elixir 61
Blurry Sunrise Smoothie 63
Default Smoothie 64
Chapter 2 Lunches 87
Fattoush with Fava Beans and Labneh 71
Messy Bistro Salad with Spanish-Fried Egg and Crispy Capers 72
Salad Rods 75
Collard Wraps with Hummus and Quick-Pickled Vegetables 77
Glazed Eggplant with Roasted Shallots and Greens 81
Baked Eggs, North Indian-Style 85
Chaat Tostadas 87
Mushrooms and Greens with Toast 91
A Burger Treated Like a Steak 92
Fennel and Chard Puff 95
Avocado Toast 96
Chapter 3 Soups, Starters & Snacks 99
Esquites and Yellow Tomato Gazpacho 102
Celeriac Soup with Green Horseradish Oil 106
Feel-Better Curried Soup with Crispy Chicken 109
Pickled Strawberry Preserves 111
Hummus with White Miso 112
Blitzed Ricotta with Peas 114
Beet-Cured Gravlax 115
Chicken Liver Pâté 116
Hard Cider Gougères 120
Halloumi in Chermoula 122
Garlic and Cilantro Laccha Paratha 127
MasaLa Peanuts 129
Pakora (Indian Vegetable Fritters) 131
Flat Potatoes 134
Vietnamese-Inspired Sausage Rolls 135
Spiced Candied Nuts 139
Trail Mix Snack Bars 140
Chapter 4 Suppers 143
A Pot of Braised Vegetables 147
Lemon Bucatini with Roasted Kale 149
Specialty Restaurant Lentil Kofta Curry 151
Everyday Yellow Dal 155
Dog in a Bog 157
Clams and Orzo 158
Slow-Baked Salmon and Butter Beans 161
Fuss-Free Roast Chicken with Lemon and Herbs 162
Chicken and Couscous with a Punchy Relish 165
Bee-Stung Fried Chicken 167
Za'atar Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Salad 170
Five-Spice Steak 172
Braised Beef with Gremolata 175
Chapter 5 Vegetables & Sides 181
A Refreshing Salad with Charred Green Onion Dressing 185
Roasted Red Pepper; Almond, and Feta Salad 186
Brussels Sprout and Hazelnut Salad 188
Olive and Orange Cauliflower 189
Broccoli Rabe with Bagna Cauda 190
Soused Tomatoes 193
Turmeric Fried Okra 194
Mind-Changing Okra 195
Green Beans with Mustard Seeds 196
Roasted Carrots with Hanssa Aïoli and Dukkah 198
Baked Irish Mash 203
Confetti Rice 207
Fennel, Citrus, and Avocado Salad 209
Chapter 6 Sweets, Treats & Sips 211
Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies 215
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies 217
Rhubarb Raspberry Rye Crumble 219
Caramel Apple Pie 221
Walnut Cherry Oat Butter Tart Pie 225
Roasted Grapes with Sweet Labneh 229
Coconut Kheer with Bronzed Pineapple 230
Fig Toasts with Buttered Honey 233
Plum Macaroon Cake 234
Blueberry Poppy Seed Snacking Cake 236
Blood Orange Stout Cake 238
Whiskey Self-Saucing Pudding Cakes 240
An Uncomplicated Cheesecake 243
Twangy Blueberry Sauce 245
Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream 247
Rhubarb Rose Gin Gimlet 249
Lime Ginger Ale 250
Paloma with Chaat Masala 252
Chapter 7 Staples 255
Cultured Butter 258
Clarified Butter, Browned Butter and Ghee 259
Compound Butters 260
Clotted Cream 261
Crème Fraîche 261
Nut Milk 263
Basil Buttermilk Dressing 267
Citrus Miso Tahini Dressing 267
Bang-up Blue Cheese Dressing 263
Shaken Sesame Dressing 263
Rustic Salsa Verde 269
Pickled Jalapehos with Garlic and Orange 271
Family-Approved Pie Dough 272
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another one of our cook book reviews! This one is about Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady. Have you looked at the cover? it is so eye catching and gorgous. It is definitely a cook book I would stop at just based on that. This turned out to be the focus of the book because Tara O'Brady's book was also inspired by her cook blog where she posts beautiful photos of all the recipes she makes. It seems that many cooking bloggers are getting their big break in the form of their own published books. This makes me happy because usually the photography is beautiful on those blogs to attract fanbase. I actually ended up even going on her blog and squeezed at all the gorgeous photos as well as recipes that range from breakfast to dinner. Seven Spoons is divided by meal types. From Breads & Breakfast to Sweets, treats, and sips. The recipe was also fairly simple however, there is a ton of steps in the recipes.. some are over two pages long. I like details, but this seemed a bit unnecessary. This wasn't the case in this recipe though. However what's nice is that at the beginning of each recipe, the author introduces it and gives a little adjustments depending on your day. For here you have options for a "luxe mood" or "lean days". There is also a note section on the sidebar that is helpful for people who have never cooked with any difficult ingredient, clams in this case. This recipe contains wine but because we don't drink alcohol, we substituted it with vinegar. It's a good thing my made made this because if it was me and I was faced with this delimma.. I would be online googling and panicking about my recipe not turning out right because the book didn't specify an alternative and what if nothing will make it taste as good? Who always wants a photo of the finished product of the recipe they're trying out? *puts hand up*.. yup, I always want to see what my meal will look like.. I tend to over analyse everything and if I feel that I'm getting some weird color or look.. I'll think it's because I did something wrong.. that's why I never try out recipes without a photo.. unfortunately that's one disadvantage of Seven Spoons.. not all the recipes contain photos.. actually almost half don't and that saddens me to no end because I know the author probably has photos that correspond to these recipes but it's because each recipe will have to take up an extra page of the book, but it's already on the thicker side as it is. I think that was a complaint my mother and I (she cooked) had in regards to Seven Spoons. Another thing is the meaning behind the title? we assumed it meant all you need is seven spoons to make a recipe, but that wasn't the case. Recipe review: However, reviewing the recipe itself? it was delicious! I couldn't stop eating it and I actually finished that whole bowl. This is a recipe that I will definitely make again because I'm a big seafood fan and I loved the broth made. This book contains many recipes from different countries. There are some greek, indian, arabic, and asian recipes. There are also some simple ones. I will definitely be flipping through it more and focusing on the recipes without photos too.