Monday, 1 December 2014

Cookbook Review and Author Interview: Crazy Dumplings by Amanda Roberts

I really love cooking, so when Amanda got in touch asking for a review of her book I couldn't say no! I would say this is the perfect student cookbook. I am (hopefully) off to university next year, and I thought this would be a really simple but delicious concept for meals when I can't be bothered to make something elaborate

There are every type of recipe you could think of, from Chinese to Italian, to Dessert! All wrapped up in the same dumpling wrapper recipe! I was a bit suspicious of how it could work so I decided to try the Pizza filling and the Cinnamon Swirl filling, both were equally delicious and ridiculously simple! The only thing I did have trouble with was the folding, I never have been a very artistic person so fiddly things are not my forte. (I'm too embarrassed to put up a picture of how they actually looked) That being said it didn't affect the overall taste and I think there is a knack which I will get with plenty of practice.

Amanda was also sweet enough to answer my questions so here is my interview with her:

How did you get into cooking?

I've always loved cooking. I think I got into it as a teen because I had a big family and the rule was whoever cooked didn't have to do dishes. Seemed like a fair trade to me! I loved cooking big meals for family and friends and always hosted parties at my house.

When I moved to China, though, I had to completely re-learn how to cook. The first time I stepped in my new kitchen, I didn't even know how to turn on the stove! Going to the grocery store was like visiting a new planet. Even starting with "the basics" was hard. "I can just start with potatoes and chicken breast," I thought. But the grocery store didn't have chicken breasts, only whole chicken! And forget mashed potatoes. Over 80% of Chinese are lactose intolerant, so dairy products can't be found in rural areas.
Most of us learn to cook from our parents and know what ingredients are at our disposal to make the foods we like. Imagine being dropped on a desert island and being told to cook dinner with no one to teach you and no understanding of your surroundings. That was the situation I was facing.

What inspired you to write this book?

Well, after the experience I already talked about, I realized I couldn't be the only expat in the world facing this situation. My dream quickly became to write a cookbook for people living abroad. That is a big undertaking though, so I decided to start smaller.

There is a long stretch of road between the first town in China I live in (in northern rural Hunan) and the nearest city. I get carsick when I try to read in a moving vehicle, so on long trips like that, all I can do is sit and think for a while. Some of my best book ideas have come to me on that bus ride. Crazy Dumplings was one of them. It just came to me, really, and by the time I got where I was going I already had ideas for 20 recipes.

But what's really interesting is the way the book was funded, tell me about your Kickstarter journey!

I fell in love with Kickstarter about 2 years ago. I have backed dozens of projects since then and thought it would be perfect to help me get my cookbook off the ground. I actually ran two campaigns. The first time, my goal was $5,000. I raised $3,000. But I didn't consider it a failure. I learned from my mistakes and tried again a few months later. This time I set my goal at $3,000 and raised over $9,000! I presold over 400 copies of my book and received a lot of support along the way. For any authors out there who are thinking of using a crowd funding platform to get their project off the ground, I say go for it!

What advice would you give to those trying out your recipes?

Be flexible! That's something I write about in the book as well. This book is for everyone, no matter where you live in the world, so what ingredients are at your disposal will vary. Don't discount a recipe because you think something isn't available in your area. Try looking for substitutions. You can also simplify many of them if you live in a diverse area. For example, many of the sauces (sweet and sour, teriyaki, Thai sweet chilli) I give instructions to make from scratch, but if you can find these in your local grocery store and save yourself some prep time, go for it!

What is your favourite recipe in the book?

They are all so good! But I have to say the Creamy Chicken Dumplings are my favourite. They are really easy to fix, but they are so flavourful and the creamy sauce is just delicious. It's an easy way to impress guests with something original, but very simple to make.

You can find 'Crazy Dumplings on Amazon here or in the US here! I would recommend checking it out because the concept is so simple but this explores so many different variations! I also love that this has been funded entirely by donations, so give back to these generous people and make yourself some 'Crazy Dumplings'!

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