Snowflakes and Schnapps
by Jane Lawson
Publisher: Murdoch Books, Country: AU
ISBN: 9781921259029, Year: 2009
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


The front cover of “Snowflakes and Schnapps” shows a dinner table with a white painted antler in the middle of it. On first impressions it looks very stylish. But then you ask yourself, “Why is it there? Is there a purpose to it? Won’t it get in the way?” Look at the photo a bit longer, and the realisation hits that there is no food on the table. This book is like the photograph. There’s lots of style, with food almost as a secondary consideration.

Despite the glossy magazine feel of the book, and the expectation that it’s destined for the coffee table rather than the kitchen bench, it does contain recipes that would tempt even the most experienced of home cooks. A very impressive winter dinner could be built upon the offerings in this book.

“Snowflakes and Schnapps” will certainly satisfy those looking for a gift and many who are looking for a good cookbook. However, anyone who wants a more detailed and authentic look at the winter foods of Europe would be best advised to look elsewhere.

Full review

Structure of the book

The book starts with an introduction by the author, followed by four chapters of recipes. The titles are “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (36 recipes based around small dishes, soups, and drinks), “Warmed To The Core” (34 recipes covering breakfast and slow cooked dishes), “Diamonds And Fur” (25 recipes for special occasions), and “Dreaming Of A White Christmas” (20 recipes for Christmas celebrations). The book concludes with an acknowledgements page and an index. Recipe titles and the ingredients are listed on the edge of the page, and the instructions are given on the spine side. Almost all of the recipes also come with pictures of the final dish. The instructions are written in a conversational manner and are very thorough.

About the author

Jane Lawson is an Australian born chef and author. Her previous books include Grub, Cocina Neuva, Yoshoku, and A Little Taste of Japan.

How is this book interesting/special/new/useful?

Lawson’s aim is to present a range of winter foods from Europe, but with her own modern twists. The dishes range from France (pot au feu) to Russia (borscht with horseradish cream), from Austria (cherry strudel) to Scandinavia (Nordic seafood hotpot). An example of her tweaks include adding parmesan into the crust of a Beef Wellington and serving Bircher Muesli in the form of a pancake.

The recipes are built upon easily found ingredients, and any confident cook will find the methods straightforward. Every so often, an exotic ingredient does appear, but substitutes are suggested. Still, it would have been interesting to learn more about items like quark (a soft white cheese), bärenjäger (a honey liqueur), and Riga black balsam (a herbal liqueur). It’s the all too rare mention of these items that can give you a feeling of a European winter.

Of particular interest are the drinks at the end of the first chapter. An elderflower, gin, and lemon sipper or a honey and saffron liqueur sound like perfect companions for a winter’s day. The photographs and the flavour combinations make these drinks very enticing. There are recipes that grab your attention, and I would be keen to try the balsamic glazed veal sweetbreads and the slow baked brown beans with spice roasted bacon. One very good thing about the recipes is that many of the dinner dishes are meals in themselves, with the meat based main show well supported by vegetable accompaniments.

However, the most startling aspect of the book are its production values. In an effort to develop a wintery feel, white is the dominating colour in the book. The dust jacket is textured, the photograph is of a high standard, and the pages use very good quality paper.

What problems/flaws are there?

Lawson’s aim is to take us on a journey, and we end up going nowhere. She takes recipes from a wide area, but the origins of the dish are not noted anywhere. Another issue is that she puts her own spin on each dish, thus removing them further from their origins. In her introduction, she says that she does this to “raise the bar” and concedes that purists “would never appreciate such meddling”. However, in terms of food education, and considering the regions she has travelled are not as well served in books as others, it may have been better to use a high quality, authentic recipe.

In attempting to get you in the mood for each chapter’s recipes, Lawson pens a few words to set the scene. Unfortunately, her writing is about the same standard as breathless advertising prose (“Dust off the fur coat and conjure up an imaginary private jet ride with friends to an exclusive Alpine chalet beside the piste, lit only by twinkling lanterns and the reflections of an oversized moon.”). It would have been better if she had related the recipes to her own personal experiences as she has done in her previous books, rather than providing contextless, uncommented recipes.

There seems to be little logic behind the order of the recipes. For example, the first chapter opens with a finger food recipe, then a substantial soup, followed by a fondue, more finger food, and then another soup. Another curiosity is the book includes three variations of roast pork (caraway roast pork rack, crisp roast pork, and rolled pistachio-stuffed pork loin bake), which may be a good thing for a pork lover like myself, but still seems to be a bit of overkill.

Some of the recipe titles raise an eyebrow. For instance, why isn’t the rich onion soup with cheese toasts simply called French onion soup? Or the beef fillet in parmesan pastry with truffle butter sauce a Beef Wellington? And yet, with other recipes, she uses traditional names like sauerbraten, frikadeller, and piroshki. It’s a strange combination of being sophisticated and simplified at the same time.

Who might enjoy/use this book most?

While this book seems to promote style over substance, thankfully very few of its flaws are about the recipes. There are plenty of dishes in this book that I would happily cook, with enough choice for either a dinner party or a family meal. It does cover an area of cooking that is poorly represented compared to French, Spanish, and Italian food. Sadly, it doesn’t do a great job of it, despite being an attractive work. People looking for a gift and cooks who are willing to overlook the lack of informative context will enjoy the book. But those who want to learn more about European winter food should look elsewhere.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 3. Recommended – some flaws
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
Rate this review
OkayQuite helpfulVery helpful/interesting (Rating: 1.00/3, 1 votes)
Loading ... Loading ...
VN:F [1.9.7_1111]
Rate this book
Rating: 3.7/5 (6 votes cast)
Snowflakes and Schnapps, Jane Lawson | 2009 | AU, 3.7 out of 5 based on 6 ratings

More reviews and announcements that might be interesting:



  1. Posted 13 Sep 2009 at 19:31 | Permalink

    This weekend, I tried the crisp roast pork hock recipie (pg 131), although I had to give the spiced red cabbage and apple horseradish bit of the recipe a miss.

    The recipe calls for cooking the hocks at 220 degrees celcius for one hour, then 160 degrees for another hour, and finishing with a return to 220 degrees for a further half hour. I skipped the extra half hour at the high temperature. The hock was fine, but I suspect that a futher half hour would have dried it out (quite a feat considering how much fat there is in that part of the pig).

    In addition to the recipe, I dried out the skin by salting it and leaving it uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours.

  2. Posted 18 May 2010 at 05:52 | Permalink

    I have hundreds of cookery books – love them dearly, but I have to say, as a late comer to Jane Lawson, that I find her fab book, Snowflakes and Schnapps, totally inspirational. She manages to take some ‘known to us’ dishes – think ski season – and transform them into the most delicious and ideal supper/dinner entertaining!

  3. Jenny Papazi
    Posted 31 Mar 2011 at 13:34 | Permalink

    I made the first recipe in the book, Bitterballen balls and it took most of the day. They were still soft afte 3-4 hrs in the fridge and they broke open when I fried them, all the mince fell out. Hmmmmmm.
    Might try something else.

Click for all book news

New release: White Bread


How did white bread, once an icon of American progress, become “white trash”? In this lively history of bakers, dietary crusaders, and social reformers, Aaron Bobrow-Strain shows us that what we think about the humble, puffy loaf says a lot about who we are and what we want our society to look like.

[read more...]

New release: Making Soy Milk and Tofu at Home


Why make tofu yourself? Because experiencing tofu’s flavors and textures at its peak–freshly made, creamy, and subtly sweet–is the best way to explore this treasured staple. With minimal equipment required and Nguyen’s clear, encouraging step-by-step instructions, making soy milk and tofu from scratch is a snap for cooks of all levels.

[read more...]

Worth a look: Limoncello and Lemon Water


Much-loved author Tessa Kiros celebrates the heritage of Italy. This whimsically feminine book is a tribute to the women in our lives – mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers – and the important lessons we learn from them.

[read more...]

Worth a look: Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales


Discover the flavors of Mexican street food in your own kitchen. Americans are having a love affair with the taco. What began as affection for the fast-food version—that hard yellow shell filled with ground beef and mysterious yellow cheese—has blossomed into an all-out obsession for the real thing

[read more...]

Visit our Buying Books page to find out how to support this site

Worth a look: The Aesthetics of Wine


The Aesthetics of Wine shows that discussing wine within the framework of aesthetics both benefits our understanding of wine as a phenomenon, while also challenging some of the basic assumptions of the tradition of aesthetics.

[read more...]

Worth a look: Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee


In 1784, Thomas Jefferson struck a deal with one of his slaves, 19-year-old James Hemings. The founding Father was traveling to Paris and wanted to bring James along “for a particular purpose” – to master the art of French cooking. In exchange for James’s cooperation, Jefferson would grant his freedom.

[read more...]

Worth a look: Turkey


Turkey’s culinary customs are as rich and varied as its landscape, and award-winning food writer Leanne Kitchen does justice to them both with more than 170 glorious photographs of the country’s foods and people that make readers want to drop everything and board the next plane.

[read more...]

New release: I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas


This is the perfect holiday baking guide, packed with 72 seductive and decadent chocolate recipes. Offering perfect inspiration for chocolate lovers and holiday do-it-yourselfers, the book includes tips and advice on ingredients and cooking techniques, as well as on packaging and shipping holiday food gifts.

[read more...]

New release: The Complete Nose to Tail


Now Fergus Henderson’s books are joined together in a compendious volume. With a dozen new recipes on top of 250 existing ones, more than 100 quirky photos and exceptional production values, The Complete Nose to Tail is not only comprehensive but extremely desirable.

[read more...]

New release: The Country Cooking of Greece


The Country Cooking of Greece captures all the glory and diversity of Greek cuisine in one magnum opus from Greece’s greatest culinary authority, Diane Kochilas. More than 250 recipes were drawn from every corner of Greece, from rustic tavernas, Kochilas’ renowned cooking school, and local artisans and village cooperatives.

[read more...]

Visit our Buying Books page to find out how to support this site
Click for all book news

website uptimeNEWSITE