Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Hairy Bikers' Family Cookbook: Mums Know Best Review - and Bill's Basics revisited

This week I've been trying out my Hairy Bikers Mum's Know Best cookbook. I've had it since I saw them last year (talked about it in my first month of blogging) and oh yeah, my edition is signed! Obviously didn't mean I was itching to use it straight away though! That's what happens when you're addicted to borrowing cookbooks from the library, you never get around to using your own! The book has a great layout, practically one photo per recipe and they're nice and bold with big close ups. It includes all the lovely recipes that were in the TV show, again I'm going to pick on The Great British Book of Baking as how not to do it! If you buy a book to accompany a series you want all the recipes you've seen, any extras are most welcome of course.

There is a good selection of starters, mains and desserts as well as accompaniments. Some of the chapters are Family Favourites, Show-off Food and Birthday Treats. It also spans a wide variety of cuisines from Estonian bread to Curried Mutton from the Carribbean. A nice dip into some styles you might not have tried before.

Looks all kinds of wrong but this is Maryland Chicken, my first dish. Sticky, sweet marinated chicken serves with a baked banana wrapped in bacon. It also sounds all kinds of wrong but it was really tasty together! We were running out of honey so I used maple syrup instead for the marinade and I think it worked really well. A certain someone in the house licked all 3 plates after we'd finished as the sauce was so delicious! It was really easy to make and I'd make it again - including the bananas. The combination also made me think that my next batch of French toast with maple syrup and bacon also needs some baked bananas. Yum!

The other dish I made was the Sweet and Sour Pork Hong Kong Style, brought to us by the Chinese Older People's Group. It sounds like they have an amazing time together! This was more time consuming to make and the batter was disappointing but the sauce was perfect. It tasted exactly like a take-away sweet and sour sauce, except you knew everything that was in it. Brilliant. I used pork belly which was fairly lean. The pork had to be marinated in chicken stock, sugar and seasoning but I'm not actually sure why. It didn't say the quantity of water to put in so I think I added too much. I got rid of most of the liquid when I then added the egg and cornflour but it was still too liquid and the egg mixture was a bit pointless. No nice coating for me but it still fried nicely and was gorgeous and crisp on the outside. A shame though, would have been to have a bit more guidance in the recipe. Other than that I was very happy. I think I might just make the sauce next time and add it to some prawns.

So apart from my batter mishap I'm very happy with the book. I've already bought it so there's no great decision about whether to get it or not. I'd certainly recommend it to other people. Next up for me are Boston Baked Beans and Kringel ... maybe ... if I can tear myself away from new cookbooks. Just bought 4 new ones, so very naughty! And 6 more to pick up from the library!! Oops.

Oh, and there is a second Mum's Know Best coming out next month. I hope that means another TV show as I really enjoyed the last series and the Christmas edition was great too.

After my tagine adventures last week I had some preserved lemons in the fridge to use up so I had a look at some books and found Spaghetti with Scallops and Preserved Lemons in Bill's Basics. Ah, darling Bill Granger! It was a slightly strange flavour to get used to at first as it was slightly bitter from the lemons but it did grow on you. I think the butter helped to soften the sauce and it didn't overpower the sweet scallops. One to make again with slightly less preserved lemon. I like the sound of this recipe though: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/12711/preserved+lemon+salmon+caper+pasta

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Jamie Does... Cookbook Review

Now I do have Jamie's 30 Minutes Meals but I'm sure a lot of people are testing it out at the moment, especially to check if the meals can be made in the 30 minutes advertised. I'm sure I'll get to it eventually but I thought I'd go back to his last book, Jamie Does..., which I've had since it came out (which you can see I bought for £8.99!!) but have never used thus far.
I thought I would be most interested in the Spanish, French and Swedish chapters but I've actually made dishes from Morocco and Greece. I really enjoyed the TV series and getting a feel for the different areas he visted. I kept pausing the Stockholm episode as I'd only recently visited myself, shouting "oooo, we went there!" several times!

The photography is really beautiful in the book and there is an image for each recipe. Hurrah! You get a real sense of the different areas the recipes are from and there are nice photos from Jamie's travels, as much a travel guide as a cookery book. Well, as long as you're into food tourism! What I especially like are the photos of the essential ingredients from each country/area at the end of each chapter. Alas it wasn't crayfish season when we were in Sweden.

The first recipe I made was from the Moroccan chapter, Chicken, Olive and Preserved Lemon Tagine. We bought some preserved lemons in France last Easter, wanting to try a tagine for ages but they've only just been taken out of the cupboard. It was well worth the wait. I'm not mad keen on raisins or dried apricots in savoury dishes and I don't eat lamb so tagines have never been very high on my favourites list. This recipe seemed perfect. The only thing I left out was the fennel. It seems like I'm very picky with my food - I'm really not! But that's what's great about cooking, you make things for your taste and if you don't like a particular ingredient - just leave it out.

The spice rub was very simple to make ahead of time and added a great amount of flavour. It cooked for about an hour and a half. I don't have a tagine but in a large saute pan was fine. Instead of using a whole chicken I used chicken thighs as I was only making it for 2 people. I served it with bulgar wheat and cooked this in the dish itself so none of the lovely juices were wasted. The lemon was really nice, not as overpowering as I thought it would be. I probably put too many olives in there so I would put fewer in next time, but there will definitely be a next time. Gorgeous. There is also a recipe to make your own preserved lemons so will have a go at some point. To try the tagine yourself find it here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/article7088864.ece

The next was from Greece, the Mighty Meat Stifado. Another slow cooker after marinading the meat. It's mighty meat as it's a mixture of pork and beef, though I didn't actually see the point of having both meats so I'll choose one or the other next time I make it. I cooked it for 2 1/2 hours but the beef didn't melt quite as much I wanted but the pork was lovely. I used crimson raisins and they soaked up so much of the sauce they became full grapes again! I did say I wasn't a fan of raisins in savoury food but actually they did go really well with meat and added a delicious sweetness. The spices were really subtle but again added to the sweetness of the dish, and you can never go far wrong with red wine and chopped tomatoes in a stew! Had it with ciabatta the first day and had the leftovers the following day with mash. As with most stews it was nicer the next day so a great on to make at the weekend and leave for Monday or Tuesday. Yum.

So pretty good results from those 2 recipes. I hope it's a book I will return to quite regularly. I don't fancy the look of all the recipes, I doubt I'll ever make pickled herring, but the courgette gratin, souvlaki (made with something other than lamb) and all the tapas recipes look scrummy. I'm glad I own it. On a final note here is Jake the cat eyeing up my ostrich steak with Nigel Slater's winter roots and lemon roast. Needless to say he did get a bit of the meat! It was the first time I'd tried ostrich and did like it but it was surprisingly quite a strong game-like flavour. I was expecting a lighter flavour for some reason. Probably because most things inevitably taste like chicken, or so people say! It did cook well though and was quite juicy despite it being a lean meat. But what I was most impressed by was Nigel Slater's roast recipe from his last TV series. Roasted potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes with lemon. Sticky and fluffy and very tasty. We also had it the next day with some pan-fried fish. Here is the recipe to try out:

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Christmas lunch and things to make with ham!

Happy new year to everyone! Here is my delicious Christmas lunch (feels like weeks ago already). We had a three bird roast this year instead of goose, tasty but maybe I'd prefer just turkey or back to goose. Sausages and bacon are always a must and plenty of stuffing. I'm not keen on parsnips so they were left off my plate, cooked carrots are tolerated but at least they looked pretty.
But this year the prize for best vegetable went to the humble sprout! Who would have thought it! It was Heston Blumenthal's sprout recipe that did it for me, cooked with bacon and butter in slices rather than the whole sprout. Granted it is rather difficult to spot them on the plate as they were cooked to within an inch of their life - the preference of my brother! We did make them again and kept them green this time!! Delicious. http://www.waitrose.com/recipe/Heston's_Christmas_Trimmings_-_Brussels_sprouts.aspx

The best part of Christmas for me is the ham, both roasted and boiled. We had 2 big hams and still have 1 in the freezer for future use! Still not bored of it though and there's so much you can do with it. First of all there's slices of ham with nice bread, cornichons and chutney - heaven. Or ham and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Then of course warm ham with pineapple. And with the pineapple left over I made Thai Pineapple Rice from the book Thai Food by David Thompson. Instead of prawns I used ... chunks of ham of course! I'd only had this dish a couple of weeks earlier in Rice in Manchester and it was very tasty so thought I'd try and recreate it myself, with great success.

Had to make a classic pea and ham soup, I used half frozen peas and half frozen broad beans and made a stock from the ham bone of our roasted ham which nicely removed all the ham left. Healthy, simple and yummy.

And lastly a ham and pea risotto. I used the jellified juices of the roast ham diluted with some water because wow was it salty! It was still pretty salty but it gave the rice a delicious flavour.

Now, what else can I do with the next ham? Ham croquettes? A ploughman's lunch? Eggs benedict? Can't go wrong really whatever you choose.