Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge

One thing I have realised while taking part in Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge is how important our Sunday evening family meals are to me. We try to eat together during the week but often, with after school commitments and depending on when John gets home from work, the children will eat earlier, between five and six, and John and I will eat later, usually after eight when Bella and Angus are in bed. The downside to that is cooking twice, unless it's something I can re-heat, and eating late. But the upside is the time John and I get together to chat over a meal. I like that.

But, Sunday evenings are for family meals. In the winter it's most likely to be a roast, stew, casserole or pie, something that takes a while to prepare. In the summer is can be anything, a barbecue, pasta, a salad, whatever takes our fancy. The children usually leave the table as soon as they're eaten dessert (if there is one) leaving John and I to sit at the table and chat, pour another glass of wine, put some music on. It's nice.

And so last Sunday, we ate Chicken Pilaf from Nigella Summer, my chosen book for July. Diced chicken breast is marinaded in yogurt, lemon juice and cinnamon before being fried then added to rice cooked in chicken stock flavoured with saffron and lemon zest.

It all cooks quickly and comes together in no time. At the last minute you add toasted almonds and pine nuts, chopped parsley and I added pomegrante seeds too because I thought they'd work, and they did.

Then you have that gratifying moment of carrying food to the table in a huge dish, and placing it in the middle with a spoon for everyone to help themselves. Although, it was just John and I as I'd kept aside Bella and Angus some of the chicken and rice before adding the nuts and herbs, as I knew these would not be well received.

It was ok. The flavours were good but I found it a little dry. I don't know if that was me overcooking it, but it needed a little something, olive oil maybe, to coat it all. It was very good cold the next day with some salad though. The kids found the lemony flavour a little strong but did eat it, mainly because they were hungry and there wasn't anything else.

My second recipe was lamb meatballs served with pitta bread, salad and hummous. I really enjoyed mixing all the ingredients together and rolling the little meatballs between my hands, watching them form pleasing rows on the baking tray.

Then they are pan fried before being served with salad (lettuce, tomatoes, red onion), lemon wedges, hummous and Greek yogurt. So it's a glorified sandwich really, but the benefit is that we could all add as much or as little of the different elements as we liked, which worked well.

However, despite containing four teaspoons of dried oregano and the same of dried mint, plus garlic and lemon zest, John and I both found the meatballs disappointingly bland. Lamb is a strong flavoured meat and goes so well with spices, so if I made these again I'd be tempted to add a lot of chilli, harissa or paprika, something with some heat, as well as all the other flavours, although I'd leave out the dried mint because I couldn't taste it at all, and it was a brand new bottle. It was a nice meal, but just ok. Not amazing. 

So, I remain ambivalent about this Nigella book, the only one - apart from Nigellissima - that I don't regularly use. The recipes all sound tempting and there's lots of things in here that I'd like to make but I feel a bit flat about the results of my cooking here. I'm going to keep it though - there is a whole chapter devoted to ice cream and a recipe for redcurrant sorbet, which I might make one day with the growing stash of redcurrants lurking in the bottom of my freezer.

Continuing with the summery there, August's book will be Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers. 


  1. I fear this is why I have had this book for years and never cooked anything from it! Good that you gave it a go though!

  2. They sound good, though if they weren't tasty, that's disappointing. I suppose some people may enjoy, as we all have different tastes. Wonder what this month's book will be? Take care.

  3. What a shame that you found the two dishes you cooked from this book a little bland/dry. I wonder if the meatballs would be better flavoured with fresh oregano and mint? Plus of course whatever other spices you might fancy. Oh the beauty of the humble meat ball. I am a big fan of Nigella Lawson's love for food actually. I am not sure at the top of my head with of her cookery books I use most, it may be Feast or Simply Nigella. I don't have the one you used but it looks to be one of her older publications?
    We always eat as a family, it seems easier like that. I expect the teenagers would choose to sit with Richard and I anyway. the kids usually disappear as soon as they are finished, leaving Richard and I to chat and maybe even clear the mess together. Mostly, the meals are those of the tried and tested variety. Sometimes we just have fish finger sandwiches and salad.... Weekends are more used for trying our new things, or a roast.

    Hope the Mexican food cooking goes well! I have looked through this book but refrained from buying it. For now. xx

  4. Thank you very much for sharing the best recipe that will help us to make things perfect and bake something best for our family and friends.

  5. I've also been disappointed with some of Nigella's recipes. It's almost as thought they haven't been properly tested and it's annoying to spend time and effort making a meal only for it not to be a success. I love your next recipe book though, so I look forward to seeing which recipes you choose. xx

  6. The girls and I eat at 5pm and then Andy rolls in any time from 5;20 to 5:30 we are usually still at the table and he catches the arse end of the evening meal but the girls are slow to eat so it works well because he doesn't get picky about them taking ages. We all eat pudding together and this feels like a great compromise to being in the kitchen from 5 - 8pm which I avoid at all costs. I am on my knitting needles well and truely by 8!!! I have a few Nigella favourites but you have made me want to revisit them now. Looking forward to the next one. Jo x

  7. I don't have that one, but I do have several of her other ones that I use quite a bit. I shall look forward to seeing what you choose from Mexico. CJ xx

  8. Both meals sound and look nice enough, and it is probably just a question of "spicing" them up a little :-) The rice dish being a bit dry could certainly be helped with a little oil, or maybe the yoghurt was too "slim", not containing enough fat?

  9. Both those meals sound very attractive,shame they didn't turn out tastier. I often make something similar to the chicken pilaf, but I add liberal amounts of sour cream. Looking forward to your Mexican food challenge.

  10. I think they both sound good, though admittedly, I'm not a fan of lamb. P loves it, but it's very expensive here so I never make it. I'm sorry they didn't come out tastier, but I know you and I share a great love of salty, acidic foods, and I'm picky about anything that doesn't make me pucker up when I eat it. I understand. :)

  11. They sound good, though if they weren't tasty, that's disappointing. I suppose some people may enjoy, as we all have different tastes. Wonder what this month's book will be? Take care.


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