Saturday, 2 February 2019

January's Cookery Book

Well, I decided to continue with the Cookery Calendar Challenge for another year. Started by Penny of The Homemade Heart a couple of years ago, the idea is that you choose one title a month, often a book which isn't much used, and try a couple of new recipes. I have enjoyed this challenge so much over the last couple of years, and it has really made me revisit and reread old recipe books and look at them afresh, rather than buying new ones. I am a sucker for a cookery book, I really am, and find them hard to resist.

My choice for January was A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones, the first of her three cookery books and published in 2014. It's actually a book I use a lot, but always going back to the same four or five recipes again and again, so I felt it deserved a bit more attention. It's a vegetarian cookery book, with vegan options for most recipes, but I don't think of it as a "vegetarian cookery book", just another really good title in my little much-loved collection. It's superb, by the way, one of the best food books I've ever bought, and I would really recommend it to anyone, vegetarian or not. It's well written, the production, design and photography are all beautifully styled, and each recipe starts with a little introduction as she talks about the idea or story behind that particular recipe, why and when it works, and suggesting variations. Chapters include "what gets me up in the morning", "food for filling a gap" and "hearty dinner and food to feed a crowd", but my most used section is "cakes, bread and a few other things" which includes some really excellent, reliable baking recipes. Meals are seasonal but not slavishly so, and almost always feel achievable and possible. 

But the real test, and the reason I chose it this month, was to see how my harshest critics, Bella and Angus, got on with some new recipes that used more grains and pulses than meat, and might challenge their suspicious taste buds a bit. This came in the form of Proper Chilli, which uses lentils, bulgar wheat, quinoa and haricot beans as it's base, rather than our usual minced beef and kidney beans. The cumin, ginger and chipotle paste gave it a smokey warmth rather than a searing heat, and the variation in texture was really good.

It took about an hour to prepare and cook, making it an achievable week night dinner, and a very economical one too.

Anticipating a food battle, I served this with tacos not rice, as the kids love tacos - they are basically giant crisps, after all - and I think we can call this a success. Bella said it was "really good" (her actual words) and while not full of praise, Angus ate it all and didn't moan. 

I tried the Crispy Sweet Potato Fries as a side with barbecue pulled pork and they were fantastic, with a sprinkling of polenta to give them extra crunch.

For John and I, as I felt this might be a bit of a stretch for the kids, I made Dhal with Crispy Sweet Potato and Quick Coconut Chutney, which sounds like a lot more effort than it is. You make a dhal (and it's a good one, one of the best I've eaten) and while it's cooking chop and bake some sweet potatoes. 

While they are cooking, you make a quick coconut chutney from rehydrated desiccated coconut, chilli and herbs and sprinkle this on top when you serve.

It's fantastically good. The recipe was supposed to serve four but we managed to eat enough for three between the two of us, and John took the leftovers to work the next day. This is what Anna Jones is really good at: she takes what might look like a pretty ordinary recipe and through solid flavour and the addition of some kind of relish, gremolata or even just a squirt of lemon juice at the end, raises it to the level of total deliciousness.

For dessert, we tried Melting Maple Chocolate Puddings, sweet little flourless chocolate pots served in individual ramekins with vanilla ice cream for the kids and natural yogurt for us. The only thing I would say about these is that the maple syrup flavour didn't really come through enough for me to warrant using such an expensive ingredient. Next time I'll just use golden syrup or sugar, and save the maple syrup for pancakes.

Finally, I made Lemon Maple Granola for myself. No-one else likes granola in this house which suits me just fine, as I get to enjoy it all myself without going to the jar and wondering why there is none left.

Granola is granola, but the addition of lemon zest makes the whole thing taste a little lighter and fresher, while bringing out the earthier flavours of the nuts, seeds and oats.

I ate it with stewed apple and Greek yogurt at the weekend, and then just with yogurt on weekday mornings.

In other news, we had a little snow; not a lot, and it's mostly gone now, but it was nice while it was there and I took lots of photos which I will bore you with soon. I hope you are all keeping safe and warm in this extremely cold weather, wherever you are.


  1. Good to read such a positive review of this book, which I've been promising myself for a while. I love all pulse/bean/nut sort of stuff, and family is pretty on board. Anna Jones has a lovely website as well. The first recipe of hers I tried was in a Waitrose magazine - lentil, wild rice, roasted shallot and sour cherry salad. After numerous similar experiences to yours with maple syrup I just always use golden syrup. Snow has lain here since 17 January and we've just had a load more. Tricky driving!

  2. That's a ringing endorsement for that book, I shall go and see if the library have a copy. I'm cutting meat out around here, although I haven't told anyone yet... But to be honest, I serve so little they probably won't notice. The biggest boy is vegan at the moment, and I'm happy to eat vegan food as well, so it should be a good book for us. CJ xx

  3. ohh do you think you could freeze the chilli and it come out ok the second time?

    1. I hope so as there's about six portions in the freezer!

  4. I've actually got a copy of that book languishing on my shelves - I too am a sucker for a cookery book! You've inspired me to dig it out and dust it off, the recipes look delicious. xx

  5. Hello and many thanks for carrying on with th cookbook challenge - I love reading these posts. I, too, am a sucker for a pretty cookery book and usually end up trying roughly one recipe out of each! This book looks fantastic, and like so many families we are trying to eat a little less meat. I have ordered from the library! Looking forward to next month already! Xx

  6. Your meals look delicious and your photography is just beautiful. I wish I could get my S.O. to eat less meat. He really doesn't feel like he's had a meal if it doesn't contain meat. Although he will eat fish once a week. Glad you decided to do the cookbook challenge again!

  7. That chili looks delicious, and of course I love sweet potatoes, so anything with them is a sure winner with me!

  8. The dahl dish looks exceptional. We had one of those really tasty dinners you describe last night - A veggie Ghurka curry. There were a lot of spices in it but there was so much flavour by roasting the veg before adding the sauce. It was Jamie Olivers' superfood book. Have a good week. I am painting again now that the temp has risen a bit.

  9. I'd love to have your recipe for granola please.

  10. Oh I'm so pleased you're continuing with this challenge this year as I always feel inspired to try a new recipe after reading your posts. I love a cookery book recommendation! Thanks x

  11. Always like reading your cookery challenges... but always the same mistake of reading during early morning swim training when there is no food to be had. Other than the vending machines, which sadly don't contain handmade granola. An unknown to me recipe book which looks tempting for this family of vegetarians plus one vegan


Hello there! Thank you for leaving a comment. I read them all and I always try to answer questions, although sometimes it takes me a while.