Friday, 7 July 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge


Well, cutting up vintage embroidered tablecloths is proving to be a little more divisive and controversial than I thought. Who'd have guessed? I'm still going to do it, although I may keep one of the cloths made by women of my family intact, and leave it folded in a drawer where it will never be used because it's too nice, and perhaps once every twenty years or so someone will look at it then refold it and put it away.

It's been a long old week here. Work is very busy, school is the same, and we are all tired and looking forward to the end of term in a fortnight. The weather has been glorious again, warm and sunny, although the garden would benefit from a little rain. I spent a frustrating hour in Marks and Spencers earlier in the week trying to find some new swimwear for our holiday. I just want a bikini or swimsuit that is really nice and well designed, makes me look amazing, supports my boobs (tricky given my cup size is the same as my initial) and doesn't cost the earth. I mean, I'm not asking a lot. Many have suggested Bravissimo swimwear so I may have to try that. But it's shopping at it's worst, swimwear and bras. I loathe it. I'd much rather be doing, well, anything. In other news I have started running again and I'm enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. More than bra shopping.

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My chosen book for June's Cookery Calendar Challenge (hosted by Penny at The Homemade Heart) was Kitchenella by Rose Prince. Isn't the title lovely? And the fabric cover? And the colour? I bought this a few years ago on the recommendation of a friend and those factors did sweeten the purchase somewhat.

This is a reader's cookery book, one to take to bed and read propped up on pillows with a cup of tea. It's premise is based around the line of women who have shopped and cooked and served food to their families throughout the generations - both in Prince's family and mine and probably yours too- and what they can teach us. It moves away from the slightly showy, chef-y male style of cooking and is all about practicality, economy and flavour. It's about the kitchen as a place - in the home and heart - as much as it is about cooking food. Full of memories and observations about cooking and family life, it has few photos and is more of a conversation between author and reader. Method and quantities given often rely on a certain amount of knowledge from the reader, but never in a way that is intimidating, more friendly. It is, frankly, just a wonderful book.

I dithered around for ages planning what to make and decided eventually on Special Fried Rice and pasta in a tomato and anchovy sauce. With each passing month in this cookery book challenge, I think that what I am really looking for is more recipes to call upon for rushed, weeknight dinners. I have no problem deciding what to cook at the weekend, but trying to think of something easy, relatively economical, tasty, healthy-ish and which everyone likes on a Tuesday night when I am tired is always the challenge. We do plan our meals, yes, and shop for them accordingly, but sometimes I can't even be bothered to think about the planning, never mind the cooking.


The Special Fried Rice doesn't look much but it was good. You cook some rice, and fry chicken with pork and prawns. You can use up leftovers or cook from scratch with this, it's very easy. You add a little stock (I also added Chinese Five Spice just because I love it) to the meat then tip it into a bowl and wipe out the pan. Then you lightly scramble the eggs before adding back in the cooked rice and meat, throwing in peas, bamboo shoots spring onions and mixing it all together until it's piping hot. The one thing this dish lacked was the flavours I associate with Asian cooking. Where was the ginger, chilli and garlic? But actually this worked so well because everyone did their own thing. Bella enjoyed hers plain, as it was, while Angus drowned his in soy sauce, his new favourite thing. John and I added soy sauce, Sriracha hot chilli sauce and edamame beans. Everyone was happy and everyone liked it. It was all cooked within under half an hour and was an economical dish. Big ticks all round.


The next dish is called Aunts' pasta with sweet cooked tomato and anchovy. First you need to make a vat of sweet cooked tomato sauce, which involves mixing tinned and fresh tomatoes together with olive oil, water, basil, garlic and a little sugar, then simmering for an hour or so, before pureeing with a stick blender and storing in portions. The kind of cooking that is, frankly, zero effort, but leaves you feeling a bit smug and domestic goddess-y afterwards. 


To make the pasta dish, you cook some tubular pasta (we had rigatoni), while frying some garlic, capers and olives in a little oil. Then you pour a portion of the tomato sauce into this pan, adding seasoning and the anchovies, and heat it all through. Then stir the sauce through the cooked pasta adding cheese and chopped parsley.


I loved it, John thought is was merely ok. I love things with a strong salty flavour, so the anchovies and capers are just my sort of thing, but I don't think John would jump at the chance of eating it again. We still have loads of the tomato sauce left but it will get used up in all sorts of meals.


My choice for July is Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson. I don't think I've ever cooked anything out of this book, despite having owned it for at least a decade, and that's odd as some of her other books (How to Eat, Domestic Goddess, Nigella Express and Nigella Christmas) are some of my most frequently used books. I'm looking forward to trying some new recipes, and hopefully the weather will stay suitably summery too. 

32 comments:

  1. I'm absolutely loving all the bright yellow accessories in your first picture. And laughing at the bra/swimsuit shopping. I have the opposite problem in being at the start of the alphabet. Everything for that size seems to assume you're unhappy with a small pair and want to push 'em and plump 'em as far as they'll go!
    The pasta dish sounds just my kind of thing - full of gutsy flavours. x

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  2. Oh yes, the pain of the weeknight dinner, I hear you. There's been so much cricket lately (5 matches in 5 days, followed by training on the 6th day) and there's a very short window to get people fed before we need to head out. Fast food indeed. I shall look forward to seeing what you cook of Nigella's. I also use Domestic Goddess and Express quite a bit, don't have the summer one though. Have a lovely weekend Gillian. I'm looking forward to the end of term too, it's far too manic at the moment. CJ xx

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  3. I love a nice reader's cookbook too and that one sounds wonderful. Your pasta dish looks delicious, although I'd have to omit the anchovies. I hate bra shopping too - I recently spent a merry hour in M&S looking for a running bra. Most seemed to be more for posing at the gym than giving actual support and I spent so long running on the spot in the changing room that people must have wondered what I was up to! Happy cooking! xx

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  4. That pasta sounds particularly delicious, but it's always a let down when the other half is luke warm, isn't it? So many of the flavours I love, he hates, and vice versa!
    Anyway, have fun with Nigella. I bought that book when it first came out and we were living in Adelaide. I always used to always make the chocolate pavlova when we had friends over - the first time I did it I tried to whisk the meringue by hand (we had no kitchen equipment) and added all the quite expensive dark chocolate and it just flopped. I tried again and it flopped too. They ended up being thrown around out the courtyard like frisbees. I bought myself a little hand whi shortly afterwards! (I remember the watermelon and feta salad in that book being quite nice too.)

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  5. I just took Nigella's How To Eat out of the library yesterday. I've read it cover to cover a few times over the years, but I've been in the mood for her writing lately so I had to have it again. I hope it wasn't my comment about the weirdo linen person that is causing you concern over the tablecloths. I think it's a very nice idea, but I wanted you to know what I'd witnessed on that other blog. It was silly. I think you should do whatever you're comfortable with! I would love that pasta dish. It sounds similar to puttanesca, which is one of my favorite ways to eat pasta.

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  6. I'm enjoying your journey through cooking & the fact that you're dipping into some of your cookbooks. I grab a few of mine & the write up a week's menu & shopping list, probably much the same as you & also find it tedious at times, especially after nearly 48 years of thinking up meals. Love the sound of the rice dish & may have to jot that one down. The tomato sauce sounds a winner for keeping in portions in the freezer. Well done for this month so far. Hope the weekend is lovely & sunny for you all to enjoy. Take care.

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  7. Follow your creative heart! If you have not already done so, please look at a copy of Jane Brocket's book, "The Gentle Art of Stitching." Page 113 on for a few pages she describes how she collected inexpensive vintage embroidery pieces and dared to cleverly cut them into squares and stitch a quilt top from them. The photos show a precious Garden Party Quilt that honors the artistic work of many anonymous stitchers, actually prolonging the life and appreciation of their work for a lovely and practical purpose. [in my opinion] :)

    Interestingly, back in the day, my fellow teaching assistants and I were not keen on cooking although I did try out some new recipes...aiming for healthy, fast, cheap, and pleasing to all the family members. Your efforts are more impressive than I remember mine being! xx

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  8. Goodness, I missed all of those comments. You are so creative, and do such lovely work, that I think you should make your quilt. If I had done the embroidery, I'd much rather have them being used, and not tucked away, never to be seen. I would have loved the pasta recipe. I'm a big fan of capers and olives. My husband would've picked them out. I am sitting here feeling guilty that it is Friday, but I am just pulling all of the leftovers out and letting everyone have at them, instead of cooking. But they need to be eaten, so that's the plan. Back to cooking tomorrow. I do have bread in the oven though, as my daughter and I listened to a radio program about local bakeries this morning, and were inspired to make some bread!

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  9. Yellow is my favourite colour, so your first picture here is my favourite :-) The book looks so Sixties, it could almost be a vintage one in perfect condition. It also sounds like a book I'd really like to read.

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  10. I have LOTS of vintage stained and damaged tablecloths that I've been acquiring from auctions and boot sales over many years with the plan of making a quilt. Because they have rust stains and holes, plus I have no attachment to them I don't have any worries about cutting them up. My slight problem is that I'm concerned about the different styles of fabric mixing together. I have coarse linens and fine cottons so I'm assuming that I'll have to keep the linens and cottons together so they are going to be divided into 2 piles and end up with either 2 quilts or more probably a few cushions.

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  11. For swimwear you could have a look to Prima Donna (lingery and swimwear), they have good shapes and big breasts have a good support.

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  12. My cup size is your initial too and I would definitely recommend Bravissimo for swimwear and clothes (and bras!). I started going a couple of years ago, mainly because my daughter worked there during Sixth Form and uni and I admit the discount helped to persuade me but haven't looked back and no longer feel like Titty Galore. I love your tablecloths and have some that are very similar from my grandmothers. Cut them up if you want to! They were designed to be used as well as admired and I bet the ladies who made them would applaud the idea of their being repurposed and used again and the lovely designs and workmanship will still be visible. I know my granny would - she was a quilter herself

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  13. The frittata from Forever Summer is one of our go to favourites. And I cut up and repurpose old embroidered cloths too. Far better they are used and seen than tucked away, intact in cupboards!

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  14. I remember my first embroidery was a good old stamped lazy daisy traycloth for my mum's birthday. I think if you are creative about how you cut the tablecloths it can be really charming. I have a piece of crochet lace that my grandmother was working on when she died and I feel so guilty that it never sees the light of day because I can't think what to do with it! So go ahead and showcase all that vintage needlework.
    I make a tomato sauce like that and I have a husband who doesn't think the plate is complete without meat. So I do some crispy pancetta or spicy sausage and chuck it in at the last minute.

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  15. I still have some blog reading to catch up on, but I am guessing from some of the comments etc that you have had a bit of opposition regarding cutting up old embroidered tablecloths?? I would say Go For It! Use the bits you love, and they will live again as something useful and beautiful, rather than being stuck away in a drawer!
    What an inspirational book you have found! The cover alone is juat so beautiful. I have read some of Rose Prince's writing, and I think I once had a book of hers (from the charity shop, of course) called something like 'The English Table' which was very interesting to read but I dont remember cooking anything from it. I like the idea of the 'base' rice dish being customised by each family member to suit, that sounds like a winner to me, sounds like you scored a double green tick there! (Yum, new favourite!) I would also have eaten up every bit of the pasta too, those intense savoury, salty flavours appeal to me more and more as time goes by. Thank you so much for joining me again this month, and I will try to catch up with your other recent posts over the next week or two. X

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  16. Oops--sorry I offered an opinion. Things are getting bitey. Bye.

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    Replies
    1. All comments and opinions are always welcome. :-)

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    2. All comments and opinions are always welcome. :-)

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  17. I make pasta sauce from scratch and it does indeed make me feel like mum of the year! Sometimes it is the best meal I can do when I have a 5 day work week. Cheering you on with your sewing project... Jo xx

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  18. I have made white choc mousse, feta and melon salad, and the lovely red onion in vinegar thingy which gives you such a luscious colour in a salad without the harsh oniony flavour, such lovely recipes, a lovely read, just - well - lovely really ;o)

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  19. Glad you had a good months cooking! Both sound delicious to me. I have that Nigella and don't think I have used it either, I will be interested to see what you think.

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  20. This Embroidered Table Cloth is looking amazing, I have to get one :) I really appreciate it for sharing as this article is very helpful :)

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  21. The tomato anchovy sauce sounds delicious as, like you, I love those strong flavours of anchovy & capers.
    As for Forever Summer, there are some lovely recipes in there. I particularly recommend the courgette fritters and the Keralan fish curry (although not together!). The success of the curry depends on the quality of your tamarind though, you do need a strong concentrated paste. I have to say my children probably wouldn't eat either of these though. The chocolate pavlova is worth a try too!

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  22. Oh I do so sympathise...bra shopping is pants! Seriously, I hate it and all that tosh about getting measured -I've been measured in two branches of M&S in the same week before now and had two completely different outcomes. The first measurement resulted in a bra that was so tight once I'd worn it for an hour, that I could barely breathe. Returning the bra to a second branch I was remeasured. This time the cup was too big. Eventually I found one which fitted well (from a choice of 6 that I ordered online). Since it felt good, I ordered the same in another colour ........which was too tight despite being the same size! It's a nightmare. Eloise

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  23. Love the yellow-themed photo - nicely done. I once worked with Rose Prince on a book... The less said about that the better! I'm intrigued by the whole tablecloth thing. Who'd have guessed it would be controversial! xx

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  24. On the vintage embroidery front I would say, go for it! For the people who stitched them, the precious bits are the embroidered sections that they spent their time creating so beautifully, not the bits of fabric in between. As a maker myself, I'm sure I would prefer to have the embroidered sections appreciated and on display, rather than the whole piece intact but tucked away:-)

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  25. Ps, I'm always on the lookout for easy midweek recipes too. I recently discovered this one, and have cooked it at least once a week since. Its delicious! It even has the approval of my 2 and 3 year olds, so is definitely a keeper! https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2411639/lemon-and-oregano-chicken-traybake

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  26. there's a chicken and rice salad in Forever summer that's delicious, you marinate the chicken in yohghurt and cinnamon.
    (try Figleaves for swimwear?)

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  27. It's got to be M&s for bras hasn't it, at least when I go there I know I'll get a good fit.
    Well done on the week day meal find that everyone likes, they are like gold dust!
    Lisa x

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