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To order a copy of Melinda Messenger’s Family Cookbook <click here>


In the Introduction to the book Melinda opens by posing the question "Why did I want to write this book?":

It all started when I was on a camping trip in the summer with a group of families from my children's school. We were all sitting round the fire late one night having just finished a delicious campfire chilli, when we started talking about all the recipes we had shared between us, not only in our immediate group, but with extended family and friends, from traditional recipes passed down from great-grandmothers to the ordinary parent's take on new and exciting cuisines, such as as Mexican, Indian and Chinese. And so the idea for a book came about. My view with the recipes has been that if my family eat it, love it and ask for second helpings, then it's worthy of a place in the book!

. . . to find out more you will need to read it for yourself.

There are nine categories defined as follows:

  • Breakfast
  • Outdoor eating
  • Weekend lunches
  • Teatime treats and simple suppers
  • Comfort food
  • Desserts
  • Baking
  • Party time
  • Trying new things

As you would expect from a contemporary cooking book it is beautifully illustrated and well laid out making it easy both to read and follow the recipes.



Beetroot and Chocolate CakeThis is another wonderful recipe given to me by one of the mums at our school. Jo is a very good friend of mine but before she came to our school she lived in New Zealand and this recipe was given to her by the mothers of the Takapuna Playcentre in Auckland shortly after the birth of her second child – the beetroot means that it is an excellent pick-me-up after childbirth. It’s absolutely delicious – chocolatey, rich and a gorgeous colour but nutritious as well. I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t like it.


225 g (8 oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
25 g (1 oz) cocoa powder
2 eggs
150 g (5 oz) caster sugar
125 ml (4 fl oz) vegetable oil
grated rind of 1 orange
juice of orange
150 g (5 oz) cooked beetroot,
200 g (7 oz) chocolate chips
icing sugar, for dusting

How to make

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4. Lightly grease and line a 20 cm (8 in) round cake tin.
  • Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy.Add the oil, orange rind, juice and grated beetroot and beat well.Take a moment to admire the colour!
  • Gently fold in the dry ingredients until well combined. Then stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Turn into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50–55 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  • To serve, dust with a little icing sugar.

Serves 6 - 8


Chinese Chicken RiceThis is a really easy dish – everything you need in one bowl!

You can vary the ingredients – turkey or quorn pieces also work well.


1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 rashers bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
handful of mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) rice
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp mixed herbs
500 ml (1 pint) chicken stock
400 g (14 oz) mixed vegetables (peas, baby corn, sliced mangetout)
3 cooked chicken breasts
handful of cooked prawns (optional)
1 tbsp soy sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to make

  • Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and add the onion and bacon. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic, mushrooms and carrot.
  • Add the dry rice to wok, along with the turmeric and herbs. Stir so that each grain of rice is coated in the oil.
  • Add about half the stock, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat. Leave to simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more stock as you go. Add the vegetables and continue to cook for about 2–3 minutes until the rice is cooked and has absorbed the liquid.
  • Add the cooked chicken and prawns (if using) and continue cooking until warmed through. Add the soy sauce and season to taste.

Serves 6


Toad in the holeSausages and crispy batter – what a perfect combination. I like to use smaller chipolatas.


1 tbsp vegetable oil
450 g (1 lb) good-quality pork sausages

For the batter:
125 g (4 oz) plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
300 ml (pint) milk
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or thyme

How to make

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F / Gas 7. Heat the oil in a medium roasting tray on the hob, tilting the tin to oil the sides .Add the sausages and place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the sausages are just browned and the fat is very hot.
  • Meanwhile, make the batter. Sift the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the egg with a little of the milk. Whisk the eggs and milk together, gradually drawing in the flour from around the sides. Add the remaining milk and chopped herbs, stirring all the time. Beat for a couple of minutes to make a smooth batter.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Pour the batter into the roasting tin around the sausages and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the batter is well risen, golden and crisp.

Serves 4

To order a copy of Melinda Messenger’s Family Cookbook <click here>

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Published 12 October 2010

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