cookery

All posts tagged cookery

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.

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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

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.

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