Saturday, 28 November 2009

Fresh from the oven - White tin loaf

This month's Fresh from the oven challenge was hosted by Linda of With knife and fork. She chose a simple English tin loaf. Part of the challenge was to learn the kneading technique she was taught by Dan Lepard. This was the first time since before I bought my KitchenAid that I kneaded bread by hand. It was easy and the resulting bread rose well and had great texture. I would recommend any one who kneads bread by hand to give this a go but I won't be giving up using my KitchenAid regularly! The bread was good for sandwiches but taste wise I didn't enjoy it as much as other breads I bake. However this could be because I mostly bake wholemeal loafs for sandwiches. Thanks again Linda for hosting this months challenge.

Dan Lepard says he developed this when he was working full time in commercial kitchens (that made artisan hand kneaded bread) because there wasn’t time for full 10 minute knead of all the different bread batches so he switched to short kneads spaced out and found it works just as well, part of the development of a good gluten structure is dependent on the time elapsed not the vigorous kneading. I liked the idea because I’d not been getting good textures with either a machine or a normal hand knead. I am now a wholesale convert.


You must use oil not flour on the kneading surface and your hands. Something like vegetable oil is good.

The dough must be quite sticky and soft to start with. It will firm up when kneaded and as time progresses.


  • Once you have soft sticky dough leave it covered in the bowl for 10 minutes.
  • Now oil your kneading surface and hands and tip the dough out.
  • Knead for about 12 seconds by folding in the edges to the centre, a bit like shaping a round loaf, rotate the dough as you go.
  • Flip the dough over, leave it on the surface and cover with a cloth. Wash out the bowl and then oil it lightly. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover.
  • Leave for 10-15 minutes and then do another 12 second knead. You will notice the dough is already less sticky and firmer.
  • Leave for 20 -30 mins and repeat the fast knead. You are aiming to have kneaded the dough 3 times in the first hour.
  • Leave covered to rise until at least 50% larger but not more than double in size.
  • Tip out onto the oil surface and press the air out of the dough using the tips of your fingers so its square-ish in shape. Repeat the fast knead process (or fold in to thirds then rotate through 90, flatten again and fold into 3rds again).
  • Shape the dough as required for the particular loaf you are making. Put it in a tin, or supported in a floured cloth in a bowl.
  • Leave to rise until at least 50% larger and preferably almost double in size.
  • Slash top and bake as per your recipe.

White Tin Loaf

(based on Dan Lepard’s Quick White Loaf, p63 of the Handmade Loaf)

2lb loaf tin greased and floured or lined with baking parchment (no need to line the short ends just oil them).

Oven to be pre-heated to its maximum setting (R10/250C) and with a tray of water in the bottom to create steam.


200g semi skimmed milk at room temp (Dan uses whole milk but semi skimmed seems to work fine)

150g water at room temp (remember 1g = 1ml but its easier to be accurate weighing fluids)

1 tsp fast action yeast (or 2 tsp fresh yeast crumbled)

200g plain white flour

300g strong white bread flour

1 ½ tsp fine sea salt


Mix the flours and salt together in a bowl.

Mix the water and milk together in a separate bowl and whisk in the yeast.

Add the liquid to the flour and mix with the fingers of one hand to a soft sticky rough dough. You may need to add a little more liquid do this a teaspoon at a time until you have a soft sticky dough.

Follow the kneading instructions above.

The first rise will probably take about an hour from the last knead.

To shape for a tin loaf, flatten the dough to a square about the same width as your tin. Roll the dough into a cylinder and press the seam firmly, fold under the two short ends and place in the tin seam side down.

Allow to rise (covered) to 1 ½ to 2 times volume i.e. to the top of the tin.

Slash the top of the loaf along it length and put it straight into the oven for 10 minutes at maximum temperature. After 10 minutes check how it’s browning and drop the temperature as follows (these baking guidelines are from the River Cottage Bread Book):

R6/200C if the crust is pale

R4/180C if crust is noticeably browning

R3/170C if crust is browning quickly

And cook for a further 40-50 minutes.

I usually check again part way through this time and either adjust temperature again or cover the top with foil if it’s brown enough. Also note that with a traditional gas oven (i.e. one without a fan) the top may brown far too quickly on the side near the heat at the initial temperature so you might want to start at a lower setting of R8/9 for the first 10 minutes. Adapt the setting for what you know about your oven and how things usually bake.

When it’s cooked turn it out of the tin and allow to cool.

Then when it’s cooled cut a big huge doorstop of a slice toast it and slather with lashing of butter. Yum.

The recipe also works well with a mix of 50:50 wholemeal and white bread flours. You’ll prod need 2-3 tbps extra water.

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Friday, 27 November 2009

Daring bakers - November 2009 - Cannoli

I had mixed feelings about this months Daring bakers challenge. On the one hand I love cooking and eating Italian food but on the other, I refuse to deep fat fry anything. A bit further in to the post and I discovered that it was possible to bake cannoli. So I decided to give the baked version ago. I just needed to find out at what temperature and for how long and what I could use instead of buying cannoli forms. A bit of research on the Internet and I found a video where not only did the cook bake his cannoli but he used 1 inch diameter wooden dowelling to shape and bake the cannoli.
So armed with 6 3 inch lengths of wooden dowelling one Sunday afternoon I set about making baked cannoli. The dough itself was simple enough to make using my KitchenAid, however rolling out thinly was quiet a challenge. I shaped the dough around my soaked lengths of dowelling (just as suggested in the video) and baked as directed. I only made 6 cannoli since there were only 2 of us but unfortunately 4 of them refused to be parted from the dowelling! The two that survived with filled with whipped cream (a cheats filling I know but I guess I must have known they wouldn't turn out!) and decorated with chocolate chips. The taste? I have to say I wasn't impressed with the taste. I'm sure that part of the problem was that I went for the healthier cooking option but even so I didn't rate the flavour of the shell that much. At least this was a slight improvement on last months macaroons!

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Christmas pudding challenge

A few weeks back I saw a competition posted on the UKFBA website. The competition was to come up with an alternative way of using a Christmas pudding. The competition is being run by Mathew Walker who have been making Christmas puddings in Derbyshire since 1899. Mathew Walker generously sent all bloggers wanting to enter the competition a 100g taster Christmas pudding and a full size (454g) Christmas pudding.

So I started to think of recipes using Christmas pudding, specifically leftover Christmas pudding (yes, I believe it does happen in some households!). I wanted to create something simple that could be used as a desert on boxing day. The final recipe I settled on was to replace meringue with Christmas pudding in a twist on the traditional Eton mess - a Christmas mess!

I still wanted there to be a mixture of textures as well as flavour so I decided to include broken up pieces of brandy snaps in the cream mixture. The hardest part was deciding what fruit to put in it. Cherry's soaked in kirsch? cranberry sauce? mandarin segments? I think all would work well. In the end though I found a tub of pears in cranberry juice which left them a beautiful pink/red colour. The dish tasted delicious. all the flavours blended together well (helped by the Christmas pudding being so delicious and flavourful) and I enjoyed the mixture of textures. The brandy flavour in the Christmas pudding infused through all the cream making it all lovely and as my boyfriend called it "Christmas in a glass".A Christmas mess is the ideal desert for boxing day. Its quick and simple to prepare (exactly what you need after all the preparation and cooking on Christmas day), uses up any leftover Christmas pudding, includes many of the traditional flavours of Christmas and tastes fantastic. Leftover Christmas pudding can be included cold or reheated (and then cooled slightly before adding to the cream). You could heat by frying lightly or in a microwave. The quantities are a bit vague allowing you to customise the recipe to your families tastes.

Christmas Mess
Serves 4

200g leftover Christmas pudding (or as much as you have/like).
400ml double cream or whipping cream
4-6 brandy snaps
Tub of pears in cranberry juice (tinned pears in natural juice would also work or any fruit of your choice)
Icing sugar and coco powder for dusting.

  • In a large bowl softly whip the cream until it is thick and soft.
  • Gently stir in most of the bits of brandy snap and all the Christmas pudding.
  • Put a layer of pears in the bottom of 4 glass dessert bowls (I used wine glasses).
  • Spoon the cream mixture on top.
  • Decorate the tops with the reserved brandy snap shards.
  • Dust with icing sugar and coco powder.
  • Serve.

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Saturday, 14 November 2009

Daring cooks - Sushi

Not that long ago, if you had asked me to eat sushi, I would have point blank refused, stating that I don't like raw fish (even though I had not tried it!). Thankfully I seem to be getting much more adventurous and willing to try new things. So when I read that this months Daring Cooks challenge was sushi, I surprised myself by getting quiet excited about the challenge. The next weekend we gave up or usual coffee and cake shopping break and instead opted to visit the Yo-sushi bar in our local shopping centre and try a few different types of sushi. I loved the set up of the sushi bar with the conveyor belt where you can pick which dishes you want to try and the ability to watch the chef's preparing the sushi whilst you eat. However it was with some trepidation that I took my first bite of a raw salmon nigiri sushi. It was actually quiet nice! so much so that I went on to try a tuna one as well! I have to admit to still being a bit freaked out by the thought of fish roe but I tried a dragon roll with fish roe on the outside of the rice and it wasn't bad but I wasn't rushing to eat any roll containing large amounts!

After our research trip to Yo sushi I started to think about making sushi at home. I was unconvinced about buying fish fresh enough to eat raw locally so I decided to stick with smoked salmon and cooked prawns as my fish element. I also used avocado, cucumber and roasted red peppers.
The challenge had four parts:-
Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings

The most time consuming part of the challenge is preparing the rice but once you have this done and all your filling ingredients prepared the rest of the process is easier than I expected and so much fun. You can get as creative as you like with the fillings and in particular presenting the dragon rolls.I really enjoyed preparing and eating the sushi rolls for this daring cooks challenge. I think it has been my favorite so far. I tried (& liked) raw fish sushi for the first time, I had fun preparing my own sushi (even if I cheated and didn't use raw fish) and I was very impressed with how my sushi turned out!

Thanks to Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen for picking a great challenge!

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes


  • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

Optional Ingredients

  • 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
  • 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
  • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
  • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

Rinsing and draining the rice

  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice

  1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
  2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
  3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat on low setting.
  3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

  1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
  2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
  4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice

  • Turning out the rice

  1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
  3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

  • Dressing the rice with vinegar

  1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
  2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
  3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

  • Fanning & Tossing the rice

  1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
  2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

  • Keeping the rice moist

  1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.

* Tip: While the rice is draining, soaking and cooking prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings.

PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls


  • 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
  • 1/2 Japanese cucumber
  • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
  • Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
  • 1 Avocado
  • Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
  • Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)


  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)

1.Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
2.Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
3.Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
4.Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
5.Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
6.Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
7.Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
8.Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
9.Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
10.Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
11.Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
13.Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

* Tip: Excellent videos on making Dragon Rolls

PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
This is easiest 'decorative' sushi roll.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces


  • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
  • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

1.Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
2.Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
3.Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4.Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5.Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6.Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7.Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8.Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly coloured. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc....

PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi


  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice


  • Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
  • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)

1.When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2.Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3.Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4.Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5.Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form 'battleship' sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
6.Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
7.It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

* Tips: A great video on making nigiri sushi
A great web page on slicing fish for nigiri

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Cookbook review - Supper for a song - Tamasin Day-lewis

First off I have to admit to having never read another Tamasin Day-lewis cookbook so I can't compare this latest book to her usual style. This latest release is another in a long line of books clearly written with the more cost conscious cook in mind. In it Tamasin provides recipes for making the most of the food we buy and in some cases encourages the reader to cook extra food so there are left overs to be made in to some mouth watering recipe the following day. Yes the book is called Supper for a song but this doesn't involve buying the cheapest food in the supermarket. This book is about using good quality ingredients and making sure you waste none of it. Recession or no recession this book (and the others similar to it) are designed to help us make the most of the food we buy and in the processes eat delicious food.

This book is packed with ideas for using up left over potatoes, bread, meats, chickpeas and fruits (to name just a few). It is filled with delicious looking photos, mouth watering recipes and tips from the author. There are recipes for roasting a chicken and making stock and risotto with the left overs, Shepard's or cottage pie with leftover roast beef or lamb, potato bread and cakes and hummus and chick pea soups and stews. There is a chapter on meat using the cheaper (but more flavourful) cuts of meat such as braised belly of pork, brisket with pickled walnuts and oxtail stewed with grapes. There are also plenty of recipes for those who love to bake such as carrot cake, Earl Grey fruit tea loaf and chocolate brownies.

One thing I would warn some people about is that the title may make you think this is 'budget' cooking. It's not! Its about buying the best quality ingredients you can afford and using them wisely. Recipes use organic ingredients, wild salmon, vanilla pods and many different types of alcohol including Marsala, Creme de cassis and Madeira (so clearly not aimed at those on a tight budget!).

Further information:
Supper for a song. Tamasin Day-Lewis
Published by Quadrille publishing, September 2009
Hardback, full colour photography, pages 192
ISBN 978 1 84400 743 1

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