Thank you all so much for your nice comments on my 2017 Creative Review. I was surprised at how much I'd managed to make, considering there are quite a few half finished projects in my basket at the moment, including a cross stitch I haven't touched in over a year.
This is my final Cookery Calendar Challenge post, which was started by Penny of The Homemade Heart. The aim, this time last year, was to dust off some of my least used cookery books and cook at least two meals each month from a chosen title. Some months it was a bit of a struggle, finding time to fit it in, but overall I have enjoyed it hugely and found it really useful. We've planned meals more efficiently, tried new ideas, tried new flavours (the kids, anyway) and it has cemented the importance of our Sunday night family meal together in the week.
My chosen title for December was At My Table by Nigella Lawson, which I received for Christmas. I didn't struggle to find anything I wanted to cook and eat, but I did find the layout of the book challenging; there are no chapters, just a long, continuous and loosely arranged series of recipes. There was a fair amount of flicking back and forth, loosing my page and muttering under my breath. But, is almost always the case with her books, the recipes are clear, well written, carefully explained and work, which is why I continue to buy and enjoy cooking from her books.
My first choice was Meatballs with Orzo because I wanted to try cooking with orzo, and I knew there was a good chance everyone would like it. Orzo are tiny pasta shapes about the size of a grain of rice uncooked, and I thought it might cause less tomato sauce down Angus's t-shirt than the usual spaghetti.
You begin by making a tomato sauce which you cook a little before dropping in your meatballs (I just bought them ready made), then cooking a little more until adding the orzo pasta. It's the easiest kind of one pot cooking.
The tiny pasta shapes took about fifteen minutes to cook in the tomato sauce before adding a little chopped parsley at the end.
It was a resounding success. Bella did comment that the meatballs were a little bland (clearly I should've made my own!) but both she and Angus loved the orzo and asked for second helpings.
Our second recipe, following a theme of meat and carb heartiness befitting January, was Cumberland Sausages with Apples and Onions. I couldn't find the attractive ring sausages, so just made do with the ones I found in the supermarket. Again, very easy - just toss the sausages, apples and onions in a little oil and mustard seeds before cooking for an hour or so.
While I will admit that the result looks unattractive, it tasted delicious, and I don't know why I've never cooked apples with sausages this way, when you think that pork and apple sauce is such a well established combination. The onions caramelise and the apples soften to the point of almost being mush, and the whole thing with the sausages and mustard seeds is so good.
I served it with Cumberland Gravy and Garlic and Parmesan Mash, both of which were lovely and not much effort at all. It was essentially a really good bangers and mash dinner, and I will definitely cook sausages this way again.
I'm in two minds about whether to do it again this year. Not because I don't have twelve more cookery books to use - I do! - but I find the time constraints challenging at times, which is only down to my own organisational skills, or lack of. But it has certainly made me revisit cookery books I'd previously forgotten about and, for me, there is always such comfort and joy in reading a cookery book, notepad and pen in hand, and talking to John about what to cook and eat, bouncing ideas off each other, writing lists and planning meals. I think one of our favourite things to do together on a Saturday morning is to plan all the meals we are going to eat over the weekend.
Cooking makes me happy.