Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An eBook to savour

I've had numerous friends say to me over the years that I ought to turn my little gardening blog into a little gardening book, and a friend of mine who has just published a very delicious and professional looking cookery book in eBook form has given me the motivation to at least make a start on such a project of my own. 

Our friend, Awia Markey, has shown me the way forward by publishing her own eBook. It's called "Soulicious" and is subtitled "recipes and interviews from my Soul Food journey to the USA".

And so, let me give myself a year or so to get my act together, and in the meantime I want to tell you about Awia's inspiring and very delicious cookbook. (And don't worry, I'm keeping my amateur status pristine, folks, this ain't a paid ad: I just like what Awia has done and want to tell you about it. We paid the mere $20 + p&h for our own copy and I hope lots more people do so as well.)

First things first: here's the cover.

Awia is an artist and graphic designer who my Pammy met
many years ago when they worked together in a design studio.

Awia has always loved food, travel, art and design, and
this book is a wonderful example of how to combine them all in
an eBook. 'Soulicious' not only contains a stack of classic Soul
Food recipes, but also some fascinating interviews and talks with
famous Soul Food cooks and neighbourhood legends of the
kitchen from all across the USA.
Pam and I have been following Awia's progress (via Facebook mostly) as she's worked up recipes and posted updates and sneak peeks over the last year or so. So it was with great delight that we finally received our very professionally presented CD in the mail. It was so easy to load up the computer with the disk, download the 21.6MB Acrobat pdf to my desktop, and start browsing. It's an easy document to navigate. 

As I went through the book I really appreciated one little thing: when I spotted the recipe I wanted to cook that first night – Cajun blackened fish with dirty rice – I hit the "Print" button and I printed out just that page. I used that in the kitchen, accidentally spilled some spices on it and so, at the end of the meal the messed-up printout made its way to the compost scrap bin for recycling. Instead of having a big clumsy cookbook getting in the way on our crowded kitchen benchtop, as they often do, that single-page printout was lovely to work with.

This is Awia's photo of the blackened fish with dirty rice, not
mine, by the way. I really loved the spice mix she has created
for both. I often get frustrated with US cookbooks which rely
on proprietary spice blends (you know, "Just add two ounces of
Mumma Jackson's Louisiana blend") that you can't get outside
of Louisiana. Awia's spice blends go back to blending the
real, original spices, so it's possible to get the flavour right all
the way over here on the other side of the planet.

The blackened fish cooked perfectly and had the right amount of heat, but the revelation was the rice, which was a beautifully spiced side dish. Awia's recipe suggested a range of chopped vegetables to add to it as an option, and so I added chopped celery, capsicum (bell pepper) onion and garlic, as she suggested.

Just in case you mistakenly think this is a seafood cookbook, it's not. There are separate chapters on seafood, pork, chicken, vegetables, barbecue, salads, sides and, of course, sweet things aplenty, plus a few drinks to sip. The recipes include all the famous classics plus a bunch of local specialties Awia discovered on her travels. It's a wide-ranging, very well balanced selection of Soul Food dishes.

So that's enough of a plug/preview from me. If you think it sounds interesting and different and delicious, head on over to Awia's Facebook page to find out all about it.

Amazingly well priced at just $20 plus postage and handling (that'll vary a bit depending on where you are, I guess), it's beautifully designed, interesting and delicious, and as far as I'm concerned it's inspiring, too.

One of these days, I'm going to do a little gardening book and it's going to be an eBook. Thanks for giving me the inspiration to make a start, Awia.


Ngeun said...

What a great idea! Looking forward to your ebook Jamie. The dish looks delicious although the name had me thinking twice. Great fb page too. :)

Wayne Jones said...

I wish nothing but success to my friend Awia,....I remember when she started her research for the ebook. This was her baby and I'm glad to see that she is reaping the rewards,...not to mention the receipes are out of this world!!! I highly recommend this ebook.

Awia said...

Hi Jamie, and thank you for spreading the word! I'm glad you're enjoying the recipes and the interviews with African American cooks. Soulicious has been a trip! Self-publishing isn't easy but it's a great experience and I encourage everyone to 'have a go'. If you have any questions about the food or the experience send me a note at awia.markey@gmail.com

Awia said...

Hi Wayne, thanks so much :)

Ngeun said...

Hi Awia, Congrats on your ebook. The food photos on your facebook page look great! :P The blackened fish with dirty rice looks very delicious & I was wondering why the rice is called dirty because it certainly looks fine to me. :)

Jamie said...

Dirty Rice is a Louisiana classic dish with many variants. Lots of restaurants, even fast food joints in Louisiana, offer Dirty Rice on the menu.

In the original classic Cajun version, Dirty Rice gets its name from the addition of finely minced chicken livers which are mixed into the rice.

These days though, a lot of people don't like eating chicken livers, so in Louisiana all forms of spiced rice dishes without the chicken livers are still called Dirty Rice. Awia's dish isn't so "dirty" looking, but as it has a good sprinkling of spices and lots of chopped vegetables it's nothing like plain steamed rice. It tastes fantastic.

Ngeun said...

Oh I see. So the small pieces of liver look like specs of dirt, hence the word dirty. It's so visual, I love it. :) I have not had much experience with soul food or Cajun cooking before, but am now very keen to learn. When I'm in the usa, I hope to go to Lao Thai Soul Food Kitchen. Have read some great reviews about them. Also, now I want to write an ebook too. Thank you for the inspiration. :)