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.