Hello! Once again I'm joining in with Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge, in which I make an effort to use some of my less-thumbed cookery books and hopefully find a few gems of recipes along the way which will become firm family favourites.
My chosen book for April was Stephane Reynaud's 365 Good Reasons To Sit Down To Eat, a whopping great door-stop of a book. You could probably murder someone with it if you wanted to. I remember that I bought it on impulse it in the after-Christmas sales for something stupid like £5, purely because I liked the look of it. It contains 365 recipes for meals - snacks, lunches, dinners, desserts, even drinks - that work around what is available during the months and seasons of the year. That's so French, isn't it? So elegant and sensible, buying fresh at a market, cooking with what's in season and on offer at the time, rather than buying strawberries in December then feeling guilty because of the air miles and moaning because they're overpriced and have no flavour (which of course I would never do....) The recipes are brief and to the point, relying on a certain amount of basic cookery knowledge from the reader, but easy to follow and accessible. It has lots of photos - although not always on the same page as the recipe - and a ribbon bookmark so two ticks for those. The downside to this book for me is the sheer size of it, the enormous breadth and depth of those recipes. I feel exhausted even flicking through it. Where do you start?
Well, I started with April, but I didn't fancy any of those recipes (I can't remember why now) so chose a wintry slow-cooked pork dish which was actually perfect on Sunday when it was cold and rainy. The recipe called for pork belly but I couldn't get that so just used a normal pork joint, a leg I think.
You simmer it in water for an hour and half so it's nice and tender then carve it and put in in an oven dish. Then you make a sauce from a little stock, ketchup, soy sauce and loads of crushed garlic. You pour this over the pork and put it back in the oven for 20 minutes while the veg cook. I kept this very simple - remember we are aiming for crowd-pleasers with highly critical children here! - and just did boiled potatoes and carrots, which was actually perfect. The sauce is incredibly good, but very strong in flavour, and so the simply cooked vegetables worked well. Four clean plates, two pleasantly surprised adults and no moaning from the kids so we'll call that a win.
Next was a summery lunch dish, a simple tomato and mozzarella tart.
|Spot the crocheted tomato... :-)|
This couldn't have been easier; one sheet of ready rolled puff pastry spread with pesto then topped with sliced tomatoes and a ball of mozzarella, torn and scattered over the top. Basil would've worked here but I didn't have any. So far so easy, but the best thing in this recipe was the tip to sprinkle the uncooked pastry generously with semolina, to soak up the liquid that comes out of the tomatoes and preventing a soggy bottom.
This worked a treat and the tart was gorgeous, crispy and light. Well, it tasted light, but we all know that puff pastry isn't exactly healthy. But it was such a nice lunch for a weekend, taking about four minutes to assemble and twenty to cook. Definitely, definitely something we'll cook again.
I think I've misjudged this book. It's got some pretty random recipes in it which I'll never cook, like pike quennelles, and calve's liver with raspberry vinegar, but mainly it's good, seasonal, family cooking.
May's choice is Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. I will report back.
The crocheted vegetables - a few of you wondered why. Well, I am making them for the Reception Year home corner in the school I work in. I have always wanted to crochet some fruit and vegetables but felt that Bella and Angus were much too old now for play food, so there didn't really seem any point. But the pleasure I've had crocheting these makes me realise that there doesn't have to be a point, that so often it's just about the pleasure in making something. Anyway, I've fallen in love with them and don't really want to hand them over. But I will, and I've got enough cotton yarn left to make myself a set too.