Friday, 9 March 2018

Cookery Calendar Challenge


Hello! Once again I'm joining in with Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge, in which each month I choose a different cookery book from my shelves - usually a title that I've previously overlooked but not been able to part with - and try a couple of new recipes. Should you fancy taking part, you can read more about it at Penny's blog The Homemade Heart

For February, I chose Easy Meals by Rachel Allen, a book I can't remember buying so I think it may have been a gift. The jacket screams "TV series tie-in" and the book contains as many photos of the author as of the recipes, but it's a really good solid book which is why I've never parted with it. I liked lots of elements of the book including the ribbon bookmark (essential!), the clear text and of course the recipes themselves, but a few more photos of the finished dishes would have been nice. I really struggle to imagine how a finished dish might taste based on the title alone, and ideally I like a photo as well. I don't know if this means that I am a very visual person, or a very lazy and unimaginative one.

Our first choice was Thai Steamed Fish, a very easy assembly job of a recipe and one John and I ate one Saturday night when the kids were in bed. First you mix together the sauce, which consists of garlic, ginger, lemon juice, fish sauce and coriander, my favourite flavours. 


Then you place your fish, salmon in our case, in the steamer or in a foil lined sieve on top of a saucepan if you don't have a steamer, like us.  Add the pak choi and drizzle the sauce over the top before clamping on the lid and steaming.



Not having a proper steamer (I knew I shouldn't have thrown it out!) meant that the fish took a little longer to cook than the recipe said, but it worked fine. We ate it with plain boiled rice and, while there wasn't that much sauce, what remained was packed with intense flavour. I absolutely loved this dish - light, fragrant, fishy, zingy - and could eat this kind of food every day, but John was less impressed. He said it was "alright". 

Our second meal was Chicken and Chorizo with Rice. I had high hopes for this dish, since chicken, chorizo and rice and three things that every single person in this house really likes. 

You start by frying the chorizo until it releases it's oils, then remove it and set aside.


Next you add the chicken thighs, followed by the onions, garlic and chorizo.


Finally add rice, wine and stock and let the rice cook in the stock and juices from the meat before serving with chopped parsley.


I like one pot dinners like this, where you can carry the dish straight to the table and there is minimal washing up. Unfortunately this wasn't the crowd pleaser that I'd hoped for; John and I loved the fragrant, sticky rice, full of the flavours of the chorizo and wine, and the chicken was so tender, but Bella and Angus were less impressed. Angus protested loudly about the weird rice that wasn't plain, boiled like was expecting, and pouted throughout.

John and I have started to adopt a slightly more no nonsense approach to our family meals of late. When we eat all together, which is four or five nights a week, we both tend to cook things that we know the children will enjoy and eat - it just makes life easier that way. But it also limits what we eat. So, our new policy it to cook things which we know they might not enjoy - butternut squash risotto for example - as well as meals we know they like, and they can eat it or not. I'm hoping we can eat more widely and adventurously as a result. 

Finally, continuing with the (unintentional) rice theme, I made caramel rice pudding. You begin, not surprisingly, by making caramel before pouring in a lot of cold milk. Instantly, the caramel sets to stone and there was a heart stopping moment when I though I might have to throw out my favourite copper saucepan, but as the milk heats up the caramel softens and dissolves into the milk. 


Then you add what seems like an unfeasibly small amount of rice before simmering for about half an hour. I've never cooked rice pudding on top of the stove before, and for ages it just seemed to be grains of rice swimming around in too much milk, but suddenly it all came together. 


Honestly, you couldn't really taste the caramel, but it was sweet and delicious and one rice dish that all of us enjoyed. Plus the stove top, frequent stirring method of cooking meant no awful, revolting skin which pleased me enormously. 


I'm not sure what March's book will be. I received a couple of new books for Christmas and my birthday which I haven't really delved into yet, so I might choose one of those.

Right. It's Friday night and I've had a bit of a week so I'm going to make myself a martini. Have a fabulous weekend everyone. 


20 comments:

Gina said...

I like the sound of the fish dish and the rice pudding ( I don't eat meat so chicken and chorizo doesn't have the same appeal.) Enjoy your martini... I'm half way through a glass of prosecco!

Jo said...

Not seen that book but I have to agree to liking seeing the finished result rather than the chef/cook in a posy happy picture. Jamie Oliver books are great for seeing the finished dinner. I made rice pudding this week with half a tin of coconut milk from the previous nights Thai curry made up to the amount required with milk - the children loved it. I loved it because I was cooking a beef and ale stew so the the oven was on low for a long time anyway so it seemed like a good use of energy. We let our children choose a recipe every week from our cookbooks and that spurs them on to try something new. Have a great weekend. Jo x

Christina said...

I like to see photographs of the actual cooked meals, it helps me decide if I might like it and also helps me with the cooking process. Richard is the opposite, he prefers recipe books without photos. I might be with Angus on the rice dish. I love risotto but I don't like sticky rice with meat cooked in it. I know, bizarre. Rice pudding always reminds me of my granny. I love Thai flavours very much, I would happily have them every day. I like your new approach to family meals. We have a similar approach but not always consistently so. I hope your martini was good, what a civilised choice. Have a good weekend. x

VeggieMummy said...

I know what you mean about preferring to have a photo of the recipe - I think it helps to know what you're aiming for. I haven't made rice pudding for ages, but remember that I always chicken out at the 'too runny' stage and add more rice. Then, of course, I have to thin it down again! Enjoy your martini. xx

Hooks and Needles said...

Your rice pudding sounds lovely, I'm not keen on the skin either so this sounds a good method. Delia does an all in - lemon chicken and rice recipe which is very nice. Yours sounds very tasty. Yes I prefer photographs with the recipes too. Have a good weekend. Cathy x

Jennifer Hays said...

You have such a nice collection of cookbooks. I usually make my rice pudding in the oven, I find it easier to keep it moist and from sticking to the pan. I do stir it often, so I've never had a skin. I've never understood people who like the pudding skin. I remember kids in elementary school begging each other for the skin off the school lunch pudding...still kind of makes me queasy almost 30 years later. :)

CJ said...

I always make my rice on the stovetop, so no skin and the pan is always much easier to clean. I sometimes make a Rachel Allen mocha cake which everyone loves. I know what you mean about children limiting what you eat. Your dishes look lovely, glad you enjoyed them. Have a great weekend Gillian. CJ xx

Jane said...

I have this book and I haven't made many recipes from it, but there are three or four we've enjoyed and gone back to: spicy lamb pittas, chickpea and aubergine salad, mushroom and gruyere tart, lamb shanks with potatoes and pearl barley. Your dishes look lovely, especially the fish and rice pud, will definitely give those a go. Have a lovely weekend xx

Ali said...

You always inspire me to get my cookbooks out and must admit I've pinched a few of your recipes as well :-) - can I be cheeky and ask do you have a link to the Butter Chicken (a pic you posted on Instagram??) Many thanks xx

Librarian said...

The first dish sounds good if made with a different type of fish - for some reason, I really like fish, but not salmon; trout being my favourite. The second dish sounds VERY good! As for the rice pudding - thanks, but no thanks :-)

Emma said...

I love your Cookery Calendar Challenge posts, although I usually end up having to purchase a book after reading them :) A really good chicken, chorizo and rice dish that we love is Delia's Chicken Basque - it's a pretty easy one pot dish that is really delicious (although you might still get grumbles about 'bits' in the rice!)

Catherine said...

I think you are doing the right thing by trying different dishes for your children among the ones they are more comfortable with. You never know, they may actually enjoy them and develop adult palates. I have earmarked the salmon recipe to try on Monday evening. Justup my street. I too thought that the only way to cook rice pudding was to bake in the oven. I LOVE the skin. I will give the stove top method a go too.
I really enjoy these posts, thank you


Saskia said...

Recipes sound lovely, as does the martini! What sort of thing do your kids eat? I'm stuck in a rut for family meals that we all like.

Gillian Roe said...

Yes of course, it's very easy.
content/waitrose/en/home/recipes/recipe_directory/b/butter-chicken-potatoandspinachcurry

Gillian Roe said...

They're favourite meal is a roast dinner, especially chicken or beef. Pizza they love of course! Anything with pasta - Macaroni cheese, spaghetti Bolognese, pesto etc - goes down well. Mince based dishes like chilli, shepherd's pie and cottage pie are always gobbled up. They'll eat curry happily providing it's not too spicy. Fish pie. Quite a lot now I come to think of it.

Susan Smith said...

Well done with the cooking & although I don't do spicy or garlic, I too sort of bake/steam salmon in the oven in foil, dowsed in lemon juice, parsley sprigs & a sprinkle of sea salt & that is nice. I don't do a lot of rice, but we do like it. Possibly eat more of that in winter. Our granddaughter from UK is with us for a while & she's been looking at my cookbook collection, so is going to cook occasionally she says. Have a good week & take care.

wakemeupbeforeyoucocoa said...

Hope you enjoyed the martini!
I don't have a steamer either, and never realised I could hack one together with tinfoil and a sieve. A whole new world of recipes is now on the menu! Thanks for the tip!

mrsrobinson said...

Why oh why do I always read your yum posts when I am at the swimming pool?! Now hungry. That rice pud looks heavenly...

Julia said...

The Thai steamed fish looks delicious! We love salmon and try to eat it often. You'll have to let me know when you try a new recipe from the Smitten Kitchen Every Day cookbook. It's filled with lots of delicious recipes!

Angela said...

I watch my niece and nephew two days a week and I'm having the same problem with feeding them that you seem to be having. I make just what they like and then we end up eating the same couple of things over and over again and I get bored. I'm working on trying to branch out. Last week, Sofie said, "I'm going to be so brave and try tomatoes" and she actually ended up liking it. But it's hard getting them to try new things.