Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Cookery Calendar Challenge


This year I am joining in with Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge. Penny began this idea when she found herself surrounded by cookery books but cooking the same old meals without enjoyment night after night, and hoped the challenge would reinvigorate her repertoire of family meals, encourage her to revisit her cookery book collection, and to plan and shop for meals in an organised way. I really enjoyed reading Penny's blog posts about her challenge last year and thought it sounded fun and simple; choose a book a month and cook two meals from it which you've never cooked before. You can choose any meal but not cakes or bakes, although puddings are included. (Oh good.)

Now, I don't think I am particularly in a cooking rut, but John and I do tend to cook the same things in a fairly cyclical way, depending on the time of year and how much time we have. We both enjoy cooking a great deal and do it to relax, although in different ways; I love to bake at the weekend, whereas John is much happier cooking a big dinner, and hooray for that. And regarding shopping and planning, I think this is something that we do quite well. The day before we go to the supermarket, or before we place an online order, we sit down and plan the meals for the coming week. This is often painful. How do you know what you fancy eating next Tuesday night, for example? But it does work, and we try to decide on four or five meals, the rest being leftovers from the freezer or nights when we might all be doing different things at different times so it's pasta pesto all round. This habit is ingrained and goes back to when I was a stay at home mum and money was tight. I'm sure I'm not the only person who's spent over £100 in Sainsburys then got home to realise there isn't actually anything for tea.

But we do have a large number of cookery books. I love cookery books, of any style or age, and often read them in bed at night. I've never regretted buying one or felt it was money wasted, but I have regretted giving them away (I'm thinking of that copy of the Wagamama cookbook I gave to a charity shop some years ago - I still kick myself.) Many came to us via our jobs in bookselling years ago, some are gifts, some just bought because we liked the look of them, and we've found some excellent bargains on Amazon over time. We probably use about half of them regularly, but the rest not so much. So, over the next twelve months, I will deliberately choose my least used books and hopefully discover some new meals which will become family favourites at the same time. 


My choice for January was Diana Henry's Simple: effortless food, big flavours which I was given for Christmas. I suspect this might become a real favourite and there are many recipes which I think really suit the way we cook and what we like to eat, and I like the way the book is broken down into chapters like Pasta & Grains, Fish, Chops & Sausages, Chicken etc. The photography and styling throughout the book is beautifully done and it has - crucially - one of those ribbon bookmarks which are attached to the spine of the book. I love those. 


My first choice was "merguez with sweet potatoes, beans & chermoula" chosen because any sausage/beans combination is going to be good, and I didn't know what chermoula was. It turns out it's a kind of marinade/relish/salsa, made from oil, garlic, chilli, coriander, spices and lemon juice.


I couldn't find merguez sausages so I used some spicy Toulouse ones, but I think merguez would have had more flavour. The result was hearty and warming, perfect January comfort food, and the chermoula was fantastic dolloped on top, adding a needed punch of pungent flavour.


Our second choice was "Tim's parmesan chicken"; chicken thighs coated in breadcrumbs, parsley and parmesan, then rolled and baked. 


We ate it with roast potatoes and green salad and loved it, although the kids were less keen. Bella found the crust a little too garlicky and Angus protested about the "weird green bits". But for me it felt like more of a spring or summer dish, and would go better with new potatoes and some nice green veg, asparagus maybe, or a salad. 


My choice for February is Leon: Family & Friends. I think this is one I saw for £5 somewhere and just bought it because, for that price, it seemed daft not to, and I really liked the look of it. I've used my Leon: Baking & Puddings book loads but this one gets ignored for some reason. Not this month!











21 comments:

Jocelyn Thurston said...

This is a fantastic idea. Like you, I take cook books to bed with me and I love getting them at the library. I also have a collection and seem to use them more for cakes and cookies than entrees. I must look anew myself. I'd never hear of chermoula either,so also good to learn something new. Good Luck with this.

Sol said...

I agree this is an excellent idea to get out of cooking the usual same old smae old.

Jennifer Hays said...

Both books look really interesting. It's always a good idea to find new things to cook, it's just so easy to make the same things over and over but you really don't have to if you're willing to branch out. I have to remind myself now and then. :)

VeggieMummy said...

You make me feel much better about my shelves of cookbooks! I've been veggie for so long that I have difficulty judging whether meat dishes look yummy anymore, but your roast potatoes had me drooling! xx

Julie said...

I really enjoyed doing my cookery challenge a couple of years ago but soon reverted back to my usual recipes. I might give this one a go particularly as I added to my collection at Christmas. Diana Henry is one of my favourites and is reliably good - the Parmesan chicken sounds delicious. X

Christina said...

How nice that you are joining this challenge Gillian. I am in, too. I particularly like the sound of your parmesan chicken. My kids don't like it when I try new things, they always find something 'weird'. Glad to read it is not just mine that find green bits suspicious :-) Happy February cooking x

Mac n' Janet said...

The chicken parmesan looks heavenly. I make this, but yours looks better.

Sandra (Cherry Heart) said...

That's a brilliant idea. We plan out a weekly menu too, so we're quite good in that way but I'm not a huge fan of cooking so the weekday meals are a little function. Hubs is much more into cooking so we're just starting to make an effort to try something new at the weekend, when he's around to do it! This does look delicious though so I'll look forward to seeing what else you try

S x

Susan Smith said...

What a great idea. I've definitely got a lot of cookbooks & like you, seem to use the same old ones an awful lot, but will get some out & plan our menus around them. I also do a weekly menu plan and shopping list, which has always worked well and something I started when working full time while the kids were growing up. Don't have a hubby who cooks at all, but that's OK, as I've still got him after 42 years, with our 40th wedding anniversary this year. I'm sure he's not going to change now. Have a good weekend & take care.

Jules said...

That's such a great idea. I'm so very guilty of being in a cooking rut, tonight's risotto being an obvious one, but Lily has such a restricted diet I find it hard to push out of my comfort zone and discover new meals. This has spurred me on to try a couple of new recipes each month. I think that's doable, even for me.
Your dishes look delicious. X

KirstenLN said...

Such a great idea! I'm adopting it immedately and will ask some friends if they would like to join in.
I have loads of cook books but tend to hardly ecver use them as I often cook without any recipe. But I really welcome inspiration, new ideas and new dishes to add to our cooking routine so this is perfect. I look forward to follow your challenge througout the year :-)

AnnieOBTextiles said...

A great idea that needs to be adopted! I used to always plan my weekly menus and batch bake when I was working but that does not happen so much now. Time for a new plan, thanks for the idea.

Marion Ogden said...

You've chosen two really delicious looking dishes from your January cookbook. I think my family would love both dishes although I do agree, the parmesan chicken sounds more like a summery or spring dish better enjoyed with new potatoes and a salad and with chips and peas for the kids! x

rachel said...

yum! what a great idea...and I just did that exact thing in Sainsbury's today - kicking myself! It's the expensive granola that tempts me :)

cedartree said...

Wagamama cookbook? Oh, be still, my heart! I'm going to have to look for that one. I was so happy when they opened at Heathrow. I've had great stuff there at various hours of the day and night!

rachel said...

Really like this idea. I plan all our meals and as hubby is not a keen cook struggle with things for him to make when I'm working late.

In a side note...am impressed you can feed everyone with 6 sausages, I need at least 10 to keep my mob happy (and 3 different types... normal, vegan and low carb)

Gillian Roe said...

That was just for John and I. I need ten, minimum, for all of us, and God forbid I buy the ones with green bits in!

Librarian said...

Instead of merguez, I can imagine chorizo working really well in this dish. I didn't know chermoula, either; thanks for the explanation!
Cooking for me usually only happens on weekends. When I am on my own during the week, I have salad or some bread and cheese for tea, having eaten a hot meal for lunch at work already. But when O.K. is here or I am at his place, we enjoy the cooking almost as much as the eating of a meal.

Anonymous said...

What an excellent idea, and your photos are delicious (as I expect the food was). I also love reading cookery books, and I tend to use them for ideas more than for actual recipes. But they're great for helping extend the repertoire, especially when it gets a little tired.

Katie said...

Those both look like great dishes, the chicken particularly appeals. I have seen Leon books a few times but haven't bought one yet, so I'll be keen to see what recipes you choose next month! x

galant said...

Not looked in for a while, Gillian, and then remembered to have a look-see at our lovely blog! I now have my own blog but things have been held up thee past few days as my computer died and I've had to have a new one (plus a new camera, plus a new dishwasher, plus a new Dyson ... all since the beginning of the year!)
I have also been trying out new recipes ... and they have been highly successful! I love sausage casseroles! I make one using Devon Rose sausages which are truly excellent and can be bought in Waitrose. They are not stuffed with rubbish and they are good, solid meat from free-range animals.
All good wishes,
Margaret P
www.margaretpowling.com