Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Cookery Calendar Challenge

My chosen recipe book for September was The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, who writes the well known cooking blog Smitten Kitchen. I love her blog, and her Instagram feed - especially her stories - and find her approach to cooking very inspiring. I've used this book a lot, but only the Sweet Things chapter. I have never used it for meals, which is a shame, as the cake chapter is only one part of the book. Chapters are divided into breakfast, salads, sandwiches etc, vegetarian main dishes, meat main dishes, sweet things and party food. Recipes are well laid out, easy to follow and each with a nice introduction, giving a little background or context to the development of the recipe. 

The first meal was a real test. Usually, I choose meals for this challenge that can be cooked at the weekend and eaten together on a Sunday night. I prefer not to have to get to know a new recipe when I am feeling rushed, but the meat needed eating up (and we have quite a relaxed approach to use by dates in this house at the best of times) so I decided to cook these tomato-glazed meatloaves with mashed potatoes on a busy week night with two hungry, waiting children, John late back from work and a puppy underfoot. That's some test. 

You begin by making the tomato glaze, briefly simmering together tomato puree, vinegar, mustard and a few other spices to create what is essentially a quick, fancy ketchup.

The meatballs required a little more attention, but not much.  

You finely chop some vegetables in the food processor then cook them for a little while.

Then add them to the bowl containing minced beef and bread crumbs.

Then the best part; wash your hands, roll up your sleeves and squish everything together with your fingers until it's combined and you have lots of large meatballs (or mini meatloaves).

Once glazed you bake them and serve with mashed potato, and then take a really terrible, unappetising photo of them. 

They were nice but the whole dish needed more liquid. I could've done with ten times as much of that delicious tomato glaze/sauce to go with the meatloaf and potatoes which are, let's face it, a little on the dry side, especially when you're doing slimming world and can't put loads of butter in the mash.

The second dish was wild rice gratin with kale and caremelised onions. This was a really last minute choice which I had no expectations of, and it turned out to be one of the best things I've cooked this year. And it was so easy.

You cook some wild rice and, while it's boiling, fry onions until they're really soft and sweet then add kale although I used cavolo nero as we had some lurking in the fridge. 

You mix the cooked rice, onions and greens together in an oven dish with grated cheese, add a little stock to stop it drying out, then top it with breadcrumbs and more cheese. 

Then you bake it until the top is crunchy and bubbling. 

I know, it looks so boring, but it's so good. The wild rice is chewy and the topping crispy, and the combination of cheese, onions and greens together is amazing. I'd never thought to cook a rice dish like a gratin, but it was so good. Definitely one to make again. 

I am joining in with Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge in which, each month, I choose a neglected cookery book from my shelves and cook two meals from it. My choice for October is Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann, a birthday gift which I haven't used much. It is, incredibly, only £8.99 on Amazon at the moment, which is not much more than the price of a couple of magazines, so if you were thinking of a little early Christmas shopping, or a treat for yourself, you could do worse. Amazon didn't pay me to tell you that by the way, just see me as your cookery book buying enabler, helping you fill your shelves with tempting and beautifully produced volumes of recipes...


  1. The second one looks so delicious, I can almost smell it.

  2. I LOVE this cookery book, although I don't have my own copy. I like the sound of the gratin, I'd definitely give it a try. Very impressed with your weekday cooking with puppy underfoot. Tricky stuff indeed. I struggle keeping a salad safe half the time. If there were meatballs it would be armageddon. CJ xx

  3. Your wild rice gratin sounds delicious and I have kale coming out of my ears at the moment, so I'll have to give it a try. Hugs to Ziggy! xx

  4. I'll admit it, I am no fan of meatloaf. I think the sauce sounds really good, so maybe it would help me like meatloaf a little more if I tried it that way. The rice gratin sounds delicious to me, though. I really enjoy rice in a lot of different ways. I didn't grow up eating much rice, aside from when we had Chinese takeout, but as an adult, I do a lot with rice and it's a big part of our diet, which I really like.

  5. Don't know why you are saying it looks boring - doesn't look boring to me, but yummy!
    We like gratinated food a lot (who doesn't!) and had a very nice use-it-up meal on Monday night after work. Tuesday was a day off for both of us (public holiday in Germany, celebrating the re-union of East and West Germany more than 20 years ago), so we had red wine going with it.

  6. Yes, the mini meatloaves are crying out for a lovely tomato sauce but the gratin looks great and a dish I will be making soon. I love wild rice and cavolo nero is simply black kale and has a much better flavour than the standard curly kale I find. grow both types at my allotment. Actually wouldn't cavolo nero look great as a centre piece in a winter planter? Imagine it dusted with frost and with snowdrops or little blue irises pushing up through the compost!

  7. I love the sound of that gratin... I might even try to cobble together my own version!

  8. Both dishes sound good. Well done & take care.

  9. Those meatloafs sound like good autumn teas!

  10. Everything looks so delicious. I have the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook but hardly use it, you've inspired me to give it another chance :-)

  11. The gratin looks and sounds delicious. I've only made meatloaf once from The Hairy Dieters cookbook, it was very tasty. When I did the cookery challenge recently (not written / posted yet) it was whilst we were rushing to get dinner before the teens and I went out, husband broken down somewhere and needing to be towed home with the AA. Oh well, if we waited for it to be perfect, it just may never happen. You did well and it all looks good. Cathy x

  12. I like my meatloaves with an outer layer of bacon... I wonder if that would make them less dry? Either that, or add extra liquid to the tomato glaze to make it more of a sauce?
    But the second dish looks lovely just as it is. I always want to use cabbage and kale more in my cooking, but I'm never brave enough to risk the rejection from my (meat and two veg) sons.


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