2014 Recipe Challenge

All posts tagged 2014 Recipe Challenge

Midnight Spud Feast

Published September 24, 2014 by Storm

Sometimes I need to plan better, or not to let myself get distracted from my original plans. On Monday I got home from work at a sensible time planning to make Creamy Potato Gratin with Herbs from the dinner party section of Vegetarian Classics; somehow the evening sped by and I ended up opting for a quicker to prepare option for supper. Last night I got home from work at 10:30pm and decided that, since I’d bought the cream and cheese on Monday, I ought to make my gratin despite the time. 

This wasn’t a difficult dish to make but I underestimated the preparation time; I think it took as long to chop and grate ingredients as to actually bake the gratin. If I’d wanted to speed up the process I could have used the food processor to cut the potatoes into matchsticks and to grate the cheese but I tend to avoid using noisy gadgets late at night.

I used a goats’ gouda in place of the gruyère the recipe called for, very flavoursome but not too goaty for the Railway Modeller. My herbs in this instance were a simple mix of parsley and thyme, I had those in the fridge and didn’t fancy going out in the dark and wet to cut anything else from the garden, and I was fairly generous with the black pepper and nutmeg.

We didn’t eat until just after midnight but it was worth the wait. Both our plates were cleared too well for the cats’ liking, I had a second helping I probably didn’t need, and neither of is is objecting to the fact that we’ll be eating gratin again for supper tonight. Although the recipe suggested a wider selection of herbs we both felt the flavour was just right as I’d made it. Some of the potato in the centre was very slightly firmer than would have been perfect; I think cooking it in a shallower dish with a larger base area than the casserole dish I used would avoid that next time.

I’d better not make this too often though, with all that cheese and cream it’s a slightly wicked supper!

5 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking

5 out of 5 for flavour

Advertisements

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.

Carrot and Tomato Soup

Published May 25, 2014 by Storm

I haven’t been doing so well at trying a new recipe every week; a whole month passed without me trying anything new, though I did make a couple of the dishes that I’d tried earlier in my challenge. I blame a recently rediscovered social life! There’s the somewhat raucous and off the wall weekly quiz, a couple of gigs, medieval fancy dress, family lunches and (when I’m not being sociable) I’ve been losing myself in some damn good books. None of which is good for my housework, my cookery challenge or finding time for crafty things but it is fun.

This week though I did find my way round a recipe book and made

Soup

I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe for soup before but I’ve noticed a few which sound interesting amongst my recipe collection. This week’s was a fairly safe option, carrot and tomato, from Just One Pot. It was also a very simple soup to make; chop and fry a couple of onions, chop the carrots while the onions fry, then add everything else to the pan and boil for around half an hour. My largest pan wasn’t quite big enough so I reduced the volume of stock by ½ pint, this wasn’t a problem as I like a good, hearty soup.

The day I cooked it I was a little disappointed in it; I was disappointed in the carrots anyway, they were pretty bland and something of a let down. Reheated the next day the flavourless carrots became less of an issue as the spices from the curry powder came through more noticeably. I took some to work to heat up and got approving comments on the aroma in the kitchen.

The only thing lacking in this soup as a meal is some protein. I accompanied it with cheese and crackers but if I made it again I’d probably tweak the recipe to add some lentils or split peas.

5 out of 5 for ease of cooking

3 out of 5 for flavour (blame those carrots)

The Cake That Almost Wasn’t

Published April 23, 2014 by Storm

I missed 2 weeks of my recipe challenge, back to it this week though with…

Somerset apple, honey and pecan cake

I needed to bake a birthday cake, I should have baked a birthday cake a week earlier but we were still eating simnel cake. I happened to have a glut of apples in the kitchen so this tasty sounding treat looked perfect on paper. The recipe is from Vegetarian Recipes From The West Country, which was a gift from a family member in Cornwall.

It was slightly more interesting to make than the chocolate cake I originally planned to bake; a topping had to be made first and set aside, but didn’t seem difficult. At least, it didn’t seem difficult until the very end of baking! I had foolhardily trusted the recipe for cooking times, and after cooling in the tin for the recommended time the cake did seem done, this proved not to be my smartest move. When I came to turn the cake out it looked more like a soggy sandcastle disaster than a cake! The outer inch and a half was cooked all round but the middle was like quicksand, the whole cake started gently sinking through the cooling rack.

After a moment of dismay I decided to mount a rescue operation. I transferred the cake, topping and all, to a casserole dish, broke up the bigger chunks of cooked cake and mixed everything up before putting it back in the oven. Surprisingly, it turned out not just edible but tasty. I was disappointed to lose the beauty of the original cake but at least it wasn’t going to waste.

3 out of 5 for ease of baking: there are places the cooking instructions could be more clearly laid out (the oven temperature is hiding in the last paragraph) and the cooking time was woefully under stated.

4 out of 5 for flavour: if it tasted good with some over done bits after my rescue operation it should be delicious if I get it right next time.

Spaghetti Squash and a Sample of Simnel

Published April 1, 2014 by Storm

Baked Squash with Parmesan Goats’ Cheese

This is the closest to cheating at my own challenge I’ve come since I started in January. I have been baking squashes since a friend introduced me to cheese topped baked butternut squash when I was eighteen. This week’s recipe just about counted as a new dish as, on the rare occasion I’ve been able to buy them, I’ve always baked my spaghetti squashes with a stuffing; for this recipe you bake the squash on it’s own then season with a herb butter and top with grated cheese. 

I wanted to try something new with spaghetti squash, really I did. The problem was I worked in reverse this week. Up until now I’ve chosen a recipe then raided my store cupboards and shopped for the ingredients. This week I got excited about squash and bought one, confident that I would find spaghetti squash recipes in abundance in my library, and then discovered that of all my books only Vegetarian Classics Simple Dishes for Every Occasion had even one recipe for me to try.

I was slightly surprised by the seemingly short cooking time given but I assumed that it was because the squash wasn’t bursting with stuffing. Towards the end of the cooking time recommended I concluded that my doubts were in fact well founded and I gave my squash an extra twenty minutes. It was edible but still a little crisper than I would prefer. I still like spaghetti squash but I’ll go back to cooking them my way.

4 out of 5 for ease of cooking.

3 out of 5 for flavour (I made a poor choice of cheese though).

Simnel Cake

A couple of weeks ago I baked a Simnel Cake to a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year. On Sunday I added the marzipan ready for us to enjoy a sweet treat. Adding the marzipan did provide some mild stress! I obviously made my marzipan eggs a little on the small side as, when I tried to brown them under the grill as instructed, two of them softened too much and dropped through the rack and into the base of the grill pan. The errant eggs were retrieved and all eleven made it onto the top of the cake.

We like this cake. I really like this cake. It reminds me of my Gran’s cakes, though I can’t put my finger on exactly what makes it like one of hers. I think we’ll be having a Simnel Cake for Laetare Sunday every year from now on.

This also gets 4 out of 5 for ease of cooking.

4.5 out of 5 for flavour.

Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Published March 25, 2014 by Storm

Neither potato nor humble

I’ve become quite a fan of sweet potatoes in the last year or so but my use of them hasn’t tended to the adventurous. Most often I’ll use a sweet potato to make wedges as an accompaniment to a cheese topped baked mushroom; the sweetness of the sweet potato providing a delicious contrast to the goats’ cheese I typically top my mushroom with. Simpler still, I’ll occasionally bake a sweet potato and serve it with salad and grated cheese. Basically, I use sweet potatoes as a replacement for the humble spud when I want to make an easy meal slightly more indulgent.

Spicing it up

After a brief flirtation with Spring, the weather has turned grey, blustery and slightly chill again; I felt the need to cook something colourful, warm and exotic to combat the great greyness. Turning to Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian for inspiration I was drawn to a recipe for Sweet potatoes with sultanas and cinnamon. Once I’d chopped the sweet potatoes, which seemed particularly hard, this was ever so easy to cook, not a dish to turn your back on but not one which requires the cook to be juggling multiple tasks at once. In a possible deviation from the recipe I opted for red onion instead of white, I tend to assume white is called for if it’s not specified, the richness of colour from the onion and the sweet potato was a feast for the eye. The combination of ginger and cinnamon made this both exotic and comforting and I would happily have eaten double portions. It’s suggested to serve this with dark greens and cavolo nero would be perfect with it but this time round I served it with buttered spelt bread and a handful of almonds, I’d happily eat it with the same accompaniments again.

 

This is getting 5 out of 5 for ease of cooking and for taste!

Bulgar and Lentil Pilaf

Published March 11, 2014 by Storm

Minimal preparation and only one pan

I’m conserving my energy at the moment, by next week I should have plenty but at the moment I’m at a low ebb; this pilaf, from Vegetarian Classics Simple Dishes for Every Occasion, looked like it would suit this weary cook nicely. With only one onion and a few mushrooms to slice, and minimising the washing up by being a complete meal cooked in only one pan, it doesn’t get much less strenuous to cook from scratch.

It’s almost all in the spices

Unusually, the aroma of the spices sautéing with the onion drew The Railway Modeller through to the kitchen to tell me how good it smelt. Uncertain as to whether The Railway Modeller would like bulgar, he doesn’t think he’d ever tried it, and knowing he doesn’t share my liking for lentils I was heating something else up for him but I promised him some of the pilaf to try as well.

Once everything was simmering in the pan with the stock it could more or less be left to itself. With an almost finished knitting project on my needles, which I’m keen to wear before it warms up too much, and the next knitting and crochet projects crying out for me to start them I was quite happy to let the pan simmer away with little attention beyond an occasional stir. My dinner didn’t suffer for my neglect, it was ready in the expected time with both bulgar and lentils cooked to perfection.

Almost too much of a good thing

The recipe suggested that it would make four portions as a main dish, you could probably get five or six portions out of it if you were serving it with a good salad or planned a dessert. Personally I think I’d prefer this pilaf as a side dish, it would compliment a nice, fruity tagine very well. The Railway Modeller seemed to like the balance of spices in it and I don’t think he objected to the bulgar but I’d need to come up with a lentil free version for him to try it again.

5 out of 5 for ease of cooking

4 out of 5 for flavour

Katzenworld

Welcome to the world of cats!

sourdough movement

wonders of bread machine: baking bread and beyond

5 Things I've Learned About...

Life. Learning. Condensed.

The Sweaty Knitter, Weaver and Devotee of Other Fiber Arts

Interweaving life with fiber arts! (Photograph by Carly Moskat.)

Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

the twisted yarn

Knitting, crochet, running, and silliness.

Jack Monroe

The #1 budget recipe website

Chocolate Sheep

a knitting blog with occasional bites of dark chocolate

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.