I love cooking and baking and although not trying out too many recipes from my vast book collection, my love of food is still there. I am probably still a person who is a traditionalist with her meat and vegetable meals but have made Mondays a meat free day. I have to work hard on remembering this when making my sandwich for work.
Another thing I do tend to do is follow recipes very closely and rarely deviate from them. I’ve surprised myself recently by actually coming up with my own Monday night recipe. This one is quick and easy and contains just five ingredients; three of which are my favourite foods of the moment.
The ingredients are (first three are my favourites):
Cauldron Lincolnshire vegetarian sausages – I love sausages and wanted to find a vegetarian sausages. The reviews were very good for these and I can confirm that they are lovely. They do a few varieties and whilst normally I would go for a Cumberland, they are not as good as a Lincolnshire.
Spinach – I just so love this. Why does it disintegrate so much!
Goats cheese – Chris has raved about this for years but I’ve only just started enjoying it. My favourite cheese (other than cheddar) at the moment. I will still eat Camembert, Brie, Wensleydale with cranberry, etc!
Baked potatoes – I forgot; I love potatoes in any form – mashed, roasted, chipped, baked and let’s not forget the plain boiled new potato.
Peppers – any colour will do.
I allow 2 sausages per person and whilst I could fry this, I tend to stick these in the oven for 20 minutes whilst preparing the rest. The great thing about these sausages is that you can actually cook them from frozen so I don’t have to remember to get them out of the freezer.
I put the potatoes in the microwave allowing one per person. Whilst these are cooking, I slice two peppers (any colour but red and yellow give a wonderful colour to the dish).
Once the potatoes are cooked, (I always over cook but it still works) I slice each one into wedges. My lovely red pan is put onto heat with a squirt of oil. I add the potatoes to this and fry until turning a golden brown. Then add the peppers and continue frying for a few more minutes.
I then chop the cooked sausages up, add to the pan along with a bag of spinach and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted. It might look like a lot of spinach but it isn’t when this process has completed.
Add the goats cheese and the dish is ready to be served. Once upon a time, I would have made sure Chris has the most of everything. I realise now that life is too short; I go for lots of goats cheese!
New potatoes can be substituted for the baked potatoes.
The sausages are also great in a toad in the hole (another favourite dish).
Most of my meals have always consisted of some sort of meat. Breakfasts are sometimes a healthy cook up, lunch for ease will probably be a ham sandwich and there is always some sort of meat/poultry for my dinner. As a child I was never forced to eat vegetables and I was never so keen. All that green on my plate did not appeal to me. Pregnancy made me realise that I should eat more plus when I actually cooked my own,vegetables were cooked with a little more bite. Whilst I would still prefer meat to veg, I am certainly trying a lot more.
I have therefore decided to make Mondays, meat free Mondays. The last four weeks I have been having boiled eggs or porridge for breakfast, a cheese sandwich for lunch and then having meat free dinners. Looking through my books, it is amazing how most of the books main courses all have fish or meat in and the vegetable section is mainly accompaniments. All of the recipes I have made are from my Rosemary Conley books. We have had a spinach and ricotta cannelloni and a pizza which I was a bit heavy handed with the passata. This week I bought Cauldron Lincolnshire sausages, added peppers, new potatoes, spinach and goats cheese (my new favourite) and within no time I had cooked a very tasty dinner. These sausages will replace my normal pork sausages.
If you ask me what is my favourite food, I will have so much trouble answering and it does change year by year. Among my favourites are lasagne, bolognese, toad in the hole, stew (chicken with dumplings is a big favourite at the moment and so quick) and of course, roasts. I also have a thing about macaroni cheese. It was a dish that I made a lot when the children were small; tinned was never served in my house. Now macaroni cheese sounds like it’s vegetarian but no it wasn’t. The first one I made had bacon and mushrooms in and was delicious. The family macaroni cheese had cooked turkey in and was topped with breadcrumbs. A very filling meal. My cheese sauce was always made with butter and I used the traditional method; melting the butter, adding the flour to form a smooth glossy paste then adding milk gradually stirring all the time. This sauce was a favourite to make as a cauliflower cheese for roasts too. As I became more health conscience, I did find an all in method without butter and the use of cornflour. It took trying a few different recipes before I found the perfect one to make the consistency I wanted.
I decided to try a new recipe from Rosemary Conley’s Ultimate Gi Jeans Diet, cider and leek macaroni cheese. I have to say that at first the idea of cider in my macaroni cheese did not appeal to me. With the exception of baby leeks and cider, everything else needed for the recipe where my normal “store cupboard” ingredients. The recipe actually said that preparation time was 10 minutes; with only baby leeks to finely chop, garlic to crush and cheese to grate, I actually did it in this time.
Preparation in any dishes really should be done before starting any cooking; I can sometimes fail here particularly if I am trying to hurry a dish. I am trying hard to get better at this. This sort of dish requires everything to be ready as it is one of those meals that need to be served straightaway. I started cooking the macaroni then started frying the leeks and garlic. Now here I think I chose the wrong cooking pan; my lovely red frying pan (well a saute pan but it is my favourite pan ever). It was perfect for frying the vegetables but I then had to make the sauce in the pan and I think it was the wrong size. The actual smell coming from the kitchen was delicious but the sauce didn’t thicken the way I would have liked it to. When assembling it together, I didn’t really feel it looked like a macaroni cheese so I was a bit disappointed serving it up.
Chris and Kathryn were very generous with their praise and it did taste very nice. I will cook again and try harder with the sauce.
With some cider left over, I was keen to try another dish with it in. I found a cider cake recipe from Paul Hollywood’s British Baking book and thought I would give it ago. I did look at the ingredients and feel that it sounded a bit bland. I also think that by the time I did bake it, the cider did go a little flat. I was intrigued with the science of the ingredients; the raising agent used was bicarbonate of soda and Paul explains that you need an acidic ingredient to activate it. In this case the cider does the job perfectly. My cake did turn out like the picture but it won’t be one that I will make again although I think if I had served it with hot custard, it would have been delicious.
As Macaroni cheese is one of my favourites, I think I will try a few more recipes out to find my perfect dish.
Along the top shelf of my special corner, are books by very well known food writers plus a lot of Rosemary Conley books. I don’t think she would approve of Gary Rhodes and his little bit of butter, the amazing croissants and pastries, all using so much butter by Paul Hollywood but she might approve of some of the Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I do think that she would forgive me for my passion of books by Delia Smith and Mary Berry. I am trying very hard to do without diets for keeping trim and try to “keep everything in moderation”. Not working yet but there is hope.
I decided on Delia for the next recipe. My first book by her was my very tatty and well used Compete Cookery Course. Her first edition was published in 1978; my omnibus edition was published in 1983. I have used it for finding out so much; how to cook eggs, the most perfect roast potatoes ever (adapted now to be more healthy although mine were never that bad!), make a wonderful Christmas cake, perfect sauces to make her wonderful lasagne and her many macaroni cheese recipes, enjoying a lovely cottage pie with leek potatoes and not forgetting the leftover chicken curry which was always known in our house as the green curry. Not sure why!
In 1998, Delia was given a new TV series with her new (or maybe updated book for young cooks) and brought out Delia’s How To Cook Book One. Poor Delia come under fire by the likes of Gary Rhodes and my brother because she dedicated a section on cooking eggs. I actually think that this is one of the most important parts and was invaluable to me. I have revisited in the last few months and if you follow the instructions step by step, you will make the most wonderful boiled eggs and as for the scrambled eggs; delicious. Whilst I do my own version of the poached egg and omelette, I do plan to take some time to revisit these pages. I thought I would look through this particular book for the next recipe and found what Delia calls a low-fat moist carrot cake. Carrot cake is a great favourite when going out and I actually thought this would be one that would be one I try for my 50 recipes.
Carrot cake comes in so many different shapes, ingredients and icings so this won’t be the first recipe I try but I thought it was a good start. This recipe called for a cake tin measuring 10 x 6 inches and 1 inch deep (metric sizes 25.5 x 15 cm with depth of 2.5 cm). Now Delia has set 5 rules for cakes and biscuits for beginners:
It is absolutely crucial to use the correct sized tin
You must have a reliable recipe
You need to weigh the ingredients correctly
Once the cake is in the oven, don’t open the door
Make sure your oven is functioning correctly
Brought up with Delia’s cooking book, I do try to follow these rules. Over the years, I have collected a lot of tins but did I have a 10 x 6 inch tin; the answer was no. However, I did have an 8 x 8 inch one so I thought this might be perfect.
I carefully did a check of my ingredients in the larder and placed an order for everything I needed. In my larder I had all sorts of sugars; light brown soft sugar, dark and light brown muscovado sugar, demerara sugar, jam sugar, caster sugar, icing sugar and even bulk standard granulated sugar. I needed dark brown soft sugar and I didn’t have this so that was another ingredient put on the order.
Delia said that this was one of the quickest, easiest cakes to do and I would have to say I agree apart from the first hurdle; recipe said dark brown soft sugar, sifted. I gave 5 minutes of attempting and gave up. I do plan to ask if it would have made my cake lighter but thought I could cope with the whatever the results. In no time, my cake was in my incorrect sized tin and in the oven which had already preheated because I had already made a Victoria sandwich. I was working hard this particular morning.
One of the other vital points of cooking in general is to read the recipe fully. This recipe called for the topping to chill for an hour or two in the fridge before using. A syrup glaze also needed to be made to spoon over the cake when it came out of the oven. Important stuff to know before the cake can be completed.
Ingredients used in the cake that were a little bit different were wholemeal self raising flour, quite a lot of mixed spice (smells wonderful) and sultanas. Walnut pieces were not used. The topping used quark. Now I have tried one with mascarpone cheese which is heaven to me and first impressions was I didn’t like the taste of the topping at all. I hoped for a miracle and that once it had been given chance to chill, it would appeal to me.
Cake did bake very well and I quickly spooned over the syrup glaze and left to cool completely. Once it was cold, I took it out of the tin and spread over the topping. What appealed to me about this cake was it was a single layer cake and I cut it into 12 small pieces; perfect size when you are having a cup of tea. One of my pet hates when going out for tea is the enormous slices of cake you get. I know that customers might moan if the slices are too small but, to me, there is nothing worse than feeling sick because you have eaten a cake that is far too big. Some say leave what you don’t want but that seems a bit criminal!
The most important bit of baking is the tasting and now was the time. I was still worried by the topping but I found the best way to eat the cake was with a fork and to make sure you had a piece of cake with the icing. The combination was perfect. This version of the carrot cake tasted Christmassy and was very moist. I will be baking this again but have three others to try:
Mary Berry’s Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Topping – single layered again but with the addition of walnuts and ripe bananas
The Great British Book of Baking Carrot Cake – a layered cake with walnuts and a filling and topping made with full fat cream cheese, butter and icing sugar
Carrot Cake on the back of the self raising wholemeal flour packet – made in a deep 8 inch tin the cut in half and topped and filled with a marcarpone topping
It will be interesting to see if we have a favourite. Delia’s recipe did not disappoint though even without the perfect tin!
I have been back from my holiday for over a week and have been trying to get back into the flow of things. I actually did very well in the first few days and made a great start on my new 50 challenges of this year. Just to recap, I plan to cook 50 recipes from all the lovely cookery books I have in my special corner.
So I made lots of hints before my birthday and was delighted to receive the new book by Joe Wicks (the Body Coach), Cooking for Family and Friends. Joe has three other books out and whilst Jordan has cooked a few lovely recipes from them and I have cooked a few, I have not followed as a healthy eating plan. What I like about him is he does make food sound like a friend and not an enemy. He takes away the calories as most of the recipes are higher in calories than the normal diet books but he encourages you to exercise. I am a great believer in eating and exercising although I have to confess I am doing far much of the eating and not enough of the exercise lately.
Once I had my holiday washing sorted, I sat with the book and looked for a recipe to try for my first week. There was so many recipes that I wanted to try and I was drooling looking through. As Jordan was going to be home for a week and also Kathryn was around too, it was a good week to be cooking something from the book. In the end, I decided on Baked Chicken Sausage Risotto but before this was cooked, I couldn’t resist trying something from the sides section, Hassleback Potatoes. I know that I shouldn’t be surprised but I was amazed when I finished cooking and the completed dish looked like the picture in the book!
Now for the baked chicken sausage risotto. I am trying to plan my meals so I have a category for each day. I remember when I was growing up, we had certain food each day of the week. I didn’t have healthy foods but I thought that the they could be incorporated into one day of the week and I would call it “Comfort Tuesday”. It will include all the foods I love to make me feel better about life; simple egg and chips were Monday’s meal, a mince dish for Tuesday (who doesn’t love cottage pie on a cold day) and sausages on a Wednesday. Confession time here; I didn’t like Wednesdays. Rupert was on the TV (I don’t know why I didn’t like him and his checked trousers!) and the sausages were never nice. I love sausages now and always go for healthy ones. I often make meatballs with them and whilst tomato ketchup isn’t a favourite of mine, one of our favourite sausage recipes is sausages marinated in tomato sauce, honey and mustard. So to get Comfort Tuesday started, this was a perfect recipe.
Whilst I think I might have made a risotto before, rice isn’t something I have mastered. I tend to stick to bags otherwise I end up with a sticky mess. The recipe stated that baking risotto is much easier as it only requires a few stirs and the oven does the rest of the hard work. Sounded like my kind of recipe.
Most of the ingredients needed were ingredients I always have in the cupboard or fridge so I didn’t need to buy too many extra bits. I did buy some fresh herbs but think I might actually start growing my own. I am inspired by one of my 50 birthday challenges to grow vegetables that I think growing herbs would be a wonderful thing to do. Although the day I chose to cook this was a particularly hot June day, I did actually enjoy the process of getting the ingredients prepared. The recipe stated 10 minutes preparation; Tina’s time was around 25 minutes! My normal plodding time. The ingredients certainly looked good.
I needed a large hob-proof casserole dish or ovenproof saucepan that I could use on the hob then put in the oven. The pan I used was one that I bought 7 years ago from Lakeland. I have used it quite a lot and it cooks and cleans very well. The only disadvantage is the handles do get very hot so you have to be very careful when cooking with it. I will replace it sometime but it does the job for now.
I had to start with frying the ingredients in coconut oil. As a bit of a Rosemary Conley fan, I don’t tend to use oil but my new attitude to cooking and eating is enjoy the food so I am open to most things now. The frying up didn’t take long and I did manage to cook the dish in the 35 minutes, the time stated.
On a warm June Tuesday evening, we were able to sit down to a very tasty meal. It is one that I will make again and hoping to share it with some of my friends.