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.