2014 Recipe Challenge

All posts in the 2014 Recipe Challenge category

This bread is a cake

Published July 28, 2014 by Storm

A new favourite gadget

A few weeks ago I was given a bread maker, a very generous and gratefully received early birthday present. Since then we’ve been happily testing the different bread recipes from the leaflet accompanying the bread maker. The Railway Modeller likes the white sandwich loaf because it’s soft, though I find that hard to slice evenly, the tastiest loaf I think I’ve baked was 2/3 wholemeal spelt to 1/3 wholemeal wheat flour, but our joint favourite (so far) is the white French style loaf. There are plenty more recipes still to try and I’ve a few ideas of my own to experiment with, so it’s safe to say my bread maker is going to stay a busy machine. I was interested to see that I can also bake cakes in the bread maker so last week I gave that a try.

American Coffee Bread

I’ve been given The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking, to encourage me to make the most of my wonderful new gadget, so many tasty breads and cakes to try. I wanted to bake a birthday cake for someone who likes their coffee almost as much as I do so this looked a perfect recipe. As I didn’t have pecans in the cupboard and was using almond milk as the milk, I substituted chopped almonds for the chopped pecans called for in the recipe which worked perfectly well. I think I need to practice lining the bread pan with greaseproof paper, I ended up with a few creases which the cake tried to stick to, or track down some bread pan liners; but that’s a minor niggle and didn’t impair the flavour of the cake in anyway. The cake went down well and I’m looking forward to baking the next one.

5 out of 5 for a well written recipe and ease of making

4 out of 5 for flavour (I’d up the coffee content a little if I bake it again)

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A Nutty Bowl of Soup

Published July 18, 2014 by Storm

Having used all of my frozen soup supply I decided it was time I tried another soup. I wanted to try something different, something I would have minimal preconceptions about, and something that wasn’t going to be too heavy given current heat and humidity. I also wanted a soup that had a reasonable protein content as I was going to be eating it as a main meal rather than as a starter. I hadn’t used The Book of Vegetarian Cooking for a while, so I decided to look at it’s soup section first; I didn’t need to look any further, there were two interesting sounding options on the very first page.

Fennel and walnut soup

I considered making watercress and almond soup but, on reading through both recipes, decided on the fennel and walnut, The recipe book recommended serving it with sage derby puffs but, since I can’t think of a good sheep or goat’s alternative to sage derby and I’m having a lot of fun with a new bread maker, I opted for a rustic French style bread instead.

This was a really simple soup to make. The challenge was in the way the recipe is written, as the instructions for the sage derby puffs and the instructions for the soup are interwoven; personally I’d have written it out in four paragraphs, rather than the two used in the book, to make it easier for a less confident chef to follow. I probably shouldn’t complain, my soup making went without a hitch and the end result was delicious. This is a delicate, slightly earthy soup with almost a mushroomy hint to the flavour.

The recipe suggests it makes four to six portions, I’m assuming they must mean as a starter. I got two portions eating this as a main course which I followed with a portion of gooseberry crumble. I’m about to make another batch to put in the freezer.

4 out of 5 for ease of making (it would have got five if better written).

5 out of 5 for flavour.

A Taste of Turkey

Published July 12, 2014 by Storm

Imam Bayildi

I found last week’s new recipe (I’m a bit late writing about it) nestled in the page of The World Vegetarian Cookbook. I like aubergines, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve eaten in our local Turkish restaurant, I thought I should give this dish a try. For some reason I thought it would be fiddly to make, it wasn’t; I confess I made my life easier by not bothering to peel my tomatoes but, despite the recipe calling for peeled tomatoes, it doesn’t look like they were peeled for the illustration of the finished dish in the book.

Simple made special by spice

Basically Imam Bayildi is aubergine stuffed with aubergine, onion, tomato and a few pine kernels. It doesn’t sound the fullest flavoured of dishes but a bit of allspice lifts it from nice but uninspiring to delicious. The aubergine shell had a delicate flavour, mild with a hint of olive oil, while the stuffing was rich and fruity. I polished off two portions and would happily have eaten more but I’d halved the quantities given in the recipe so didn’t have more to eat. I will definitely be making this again and next time I’ll be making the full four portion version, maybe even more. The recipe book suggests Imam Bayildi can also be eaten cold so leftovers won’t be a problem.

4 out of 5 for ease of making.

5 out of 5 for flavour.

A guest cat

This pretty lady is the reason I missed a week and am late writing about this week’s recipe.

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More about her next Sunday!

Washing up must be in season!

Published June 27, 2014 by Storm

English berries and an unexpected avocado

This week I was planning to try a Turkish dish I’ve not made before, Imam Bayildi, I was even considering making my own pitta bread to enjoy with it. My plans changed when I got to the fruit aisle in the local shop and saw some lovely, large punnets of English gooseberries. I wasn’t expecting to see gooseberries for another couple of weeks but there they were and, to make them even more tempting, they were marked down to half price. I knew I’d seen a gooseberry ice-cream recipe in The Book of Vegetarian Cooking, so changed my plans and bought what I thought I would need to make ice-cream. I almost guessed what I would need correctly, there was just one ingredient I hadn’t expected… an avocado. I’m sure I could have come up with my own gooseberry ice-cream recipe without an avocado but in the spirit of my challenge I went back to the shop to buy the unexpected before creating the largest pile of washing up I’ve ever known one dish create.

2 saucepans, 1 blender, 1 sieve, 4 bowls, 1 fork, 1 whisk, 1 spoon and an ice-cream maker

Actually I only used one saucepan, because I rinsed it out between cooking the gooseberries and making the syrup, but even so there was a lot to wash up at the end. If I’d read this recipe through before getting excited about gooseberries I might not have chosen to make it.

I expected to need to cook the gooseberries first and then set them aside to cool but the rest of the method was a little different to my expectations. When I’ve made ice-cream containing egg yolks in the past I’ve always beaten the egg yolk and sugar together and then poured heated cream into them before returning it to the heat, as you would to make an egg custard; this recipe had me making a syrup and whisking it into the beaten egg yolks with the, separately whipped, cream being added right at the end. Beating eggs, then beating eggs and syrup, mashing avocado, then whipping cream, I certainly had aching arms by the time I poured the mix into the ice-cream maker; this is the most physically demanding recipe I have tried making this year, if not ever.

Was it worth the effort?

The finished ice-cream was (is, I still have a little left) delicious, I won’t be following this recipe again though. For a start, why the avocado? The note about the recipe claims that the avocado is there for the texture of the ice-cream; the texture was not discernibly different from what I think I would have achieved with my usual egg-custard based ice-cream, so if I want a rich gooseberry ice-cream in future I’ll be going back to familiar methods. If I want a lighter ice-cream, which in summer I might, I’ll try making gooseberry fool and putting it in the ice-cream maker. Either of my preferred techniques would create less washing up and cause less of an ache in my arms than this week’s recipe gave me.

2 out of 5 for technique – this was fiddly for the sake of being fiddly (I don’t need something to have been hard work to view it as a treat).

5 out of 5 for flavour- I can’t fault the finished dish.

Extravagant Asparagus

Published June 10, 2014 by Storm

Still in season, still locally grown, I had to try another asparagus dish this week. The indulgence levels crept even higher this time though, with fennel and baby leeks amongst the vegetables creeping in with some double cream to accompany the asparagus. Following it with strawberries was pure decadence.

Pasta with Spring Vegetables

I didn’t quite follow the recipe as written; Vegetarian Classics would have had me boil each of the vegetables, one after another, in the same pan of water then keep them warm while cooking the pasta and the sauce, instead I steamed them together and cooked the rest of the dish towards the end of the steaming time. My approach worked perfectly well and seemed simpler.

The sauce called for fresh mixed herbs so I raided the garden. In addition to the suggested parsley, thyme and sage I used lemon thyme and oregano. The lemon thyme particularly worked to compliment the fennel and asparagus and even in less extravagant suppers I will be combining those flavours again. Asparagus and lemon thyme omelette is crying out to be created.

As is often the case with vegetarian cookery books, Parmesan was the recommended garnish for this dish; I’ve said it before and will no doubt find myself saying it again but Parmesan is not vegetarian. I have had this cookery book for 10 years so perhaps more recent publications have finally started getting this right! I’d have been substituting on the cheese anyway as cows’ milk doesn’t like me but it does irritate me when vegetarian recipe books specify non-vegetarian ingredients.

3 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking (too much faffing about as written)

5 out of 5 for flavour

Leeky Asparagus Soup

Published June 4, 2014 by Storm

The best of this season’s veg’

It can’t be beaten, locally grown asparagus that is. I know the supermarkets try to tempt us with asparagus year round but that just doesn’t work for me. Part of the joy of asparagus is that it has a relatively short season; I indulge, as far as budget will allow, while that season lasts but before I can make myself sick of it or start to feel guilty about the extravagance of it the season is over. Asparagus season marks Spring transitioning to Summer and, while we’ve already had some uncomfortably warm nights, I do relish the longer days and lighter evenings. White asparagus is different, I’ve never seen it UK grown and it’s fiddly to prepare from fresh (I have done so when I was treated to a bunch from Germany), and I do occasionally use it from jars in the later part of the year but green is to be enjoyed in season from local growers.

Souped not steamed

Usually I steam asparagus and serve it with, well, anything really! It pairs well with French toast and is fabulous alongside baked mushrooms with goats’ cheese. This week though I was offered some beautiful asparagus at a discounted price, it would have been rude to say no so I bought three bunches and tried the Asparagus Soup recipe in The Greens Cookbook. 

There’s no cheating in this recipe, it starts with using the ends of the asparagus stems and the greens of the leeks to make a stock. Boiling the stock up is the longest part of the proceedings, once the stock is made it takes about 10 minutes to make the soup itself. Instructions are given for making this either a clear soup or a creamy one; we had cream open in the fridge so I opted to make the slightly more decadent version. This soup was easy to make, probably just as well since I was making it late at night to have some for the freezer and some to re-heat over the next couple of days.

I might make this again, if I get another chance to buy good quality bargain asparagus, but I’ll do a couple of things differently if I do. When I make the stock I’ll reduce the volume of water used but keep to the same quantity of asparagus stalks, I might also add a second bayleaf, as it was almost too delicately flavoured a stock and I had half as much again as I needed for the soup. I’ll also reduce the leek content and possibly increase the asparagus as the flavour of the leeks was attempting to overpower the flavour of the asparagus. It was tasty but definitely more a leek and asparagus soup than an asparagus one.

5 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking

3.5 out of 5 for flavour

I froze a tub of this soup, which I defrosted and reheated a month after I made it. The flavour of the asparagus came through much more in the portion that had been frozen than it had when I first made it.

Coconutty Beans

Published May 31, 2014 by Storm

This week saw me trying a recipe for a side dish rather than a main. I had some mildly spiced chickpea burgers to try, bought not home-made, and I fancied an interesting accompaniment for them.  This was to be a purely self indulgent meal, I was cooking the Railway Modeller one of his favourites and felt I should do something nice for myself while I was about it. I’d happily eat locally grown asparagus every day while it’s in season but my budget might end up a little stretched if I did, and I’d already indulged in asparagus this week, so I looked to the other green crops arriving at work and was spoilt for choice on the bean front. The french beans at the moment are some of the longest I’ve ever seen and absolutely flawless so I chose a recipe to take advantage of them.

Long Beans in Coconut Milk

I remembered having seen this recipe when I was flicking through The World Vegetarian Cookbook and thought it might be just the dish I was looking for this week. Yes, the burgers were evidently inspired by Indian cookery while the bean recipe is Thai inspired but isn’t fusion cookery supposed to be all the rage?

I had to miss out the galangal as getting to the one shop in town which would sell it isn’t really practical on a work day but the beans certainly didn’t taste like they were lacking anything; chilli and lemongrass gave a nice, subtle seasoning and the coconut milk gave them a richness I don’t normally associate with green beans. I cooked half a pound of beans and ate the lot!

My beans did go well with the burgers, though I’m not convinced I’d bother with the burgers themselves again. The one lesson I would take from this first attempt at the recipe would be to chop the lemongrass much finer next time as I found it a bit tough and woody. I’m not sure what I’d choose to serve the beans with next time; I’ll have to keep in mind finding a partner dish for them when I’m browsing my recipe books for future cookery experiments.

5 out of 5 for ease of cooking

4 out of 5 for flavour

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