I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do another Cookery Calendar Challenge this year but, in the last week of January, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, surrounded by half opened recipe books, a notepad and pen. I love cookery books almost as much as I love cooking; in fact, sometimes I think I might like them better, given as I am to reading cookery books in bed at night. And I decided there and then to take part in Penny of The Homemade Heart blog's Cookery Calendar Challenge for another year. It gives me a reason to use my less-thumbed recipe books more, it's encourages us as a family to cook and eat new meals, and most of all it's fun.
Also, this year cake is included.
My chosen book for January was Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, a book I have had on my shelf for about six years but only cooked from a handful of times, and I really don't know why that is because it's very good indeed (much better than her most recent one, shhh). The recipes are varied, generous, and suited to the kind of family cooking (one pot meals and tray bakes) we seem to do a lot of at the moment, and happily are all available on her website so I've linked to them individually.
|This fab personalised jar was a birthday gift from a friend.|
But my first recipe was an indulgence, something I've always wanted to try but could never persuade anyone else to eat: Marmite Spaghetti. Marmite, that most divisive of yeast extract spreads, is not loved by everyone in this house. John and Bella think it is revolting, and while Angus likes it on toast I'm not sure he could be persuaded to eat it on pasta. But one Friday night, with the kids fed and in bed and John out, I found myself alone for the evening and in need of a quick dinner that could be eaten on my lap on the sofa.
It's very easy to make: you boil spaghetti and when it's almost done, melt a little butter in a small saucepan with some Marmite, as much or as little as you like. Drain the pasta, reserving a little cooking water, and stir through the melted butter and Marmite, adding a little water if it needs it, before serving with grated parmesan. It's divine. Just the right amount of salty and savoury, and perfect with a glass of red wine in front of the fire with season two of The Crown on Netflix. In fact, John should go out more often.
Next was something everyone could enjoy: Braised Beef in Beer. We make a similar kind of beef stew a lot, so I was curious to see how this one would differ. The addition of lardons gives a salty depth to the sauce, and the beer flavour came through really well, but not so much so that the kids didn't like it. The colour of the sauce was incredible, the deepest dark brown, and it full of flavour. We ate is with baked potatoes and lots of vegetables, but I would like to try it with gnocchi some day.
Now for the cake, and what a lot of good cake and pudding recipes there are in this book. (You may remember that I made Marmalade Pudding Cake from this same book back in January, and ate it with custard and a chorus of angels singing, so good was it.) Loving as I do anything with a citrus flavour, I opted for Lemon Polenta Cake because I have never made a cake with polenta before and something told me I was going to like it.
I was right. It is a flourless cake and the polenta and ground almonds give a wonderful moist heaviness to the texture, and I think it's nicest slightly warm with the lemon drizzle topping soaking right through to the plate below.
A successful first month then, with recipes I will definitely make again. I have no idea which book I'll choose for February yet, but I'm going to have fun deciding.