At the start of the year, the lovely Penny, of The Homemade Heart, announced that she would be doing a Cookery Calendar Challenge. The idea is beautifully simple, to pick a recipe book each month, and cook two new recipes from it. With kitchen shelves filled with much-loved but under-used recipe books, it sounded like a great challenge, with just the right amount of effort required. Particularly having decided this year to sign up for a weekly shopping delivery, which I order mid-week, saving us a few hours around the supermarket at the weekend (though I do miss wandering the aisles a little!), it has been really straightforward to sit with the book and add the required ingredients to the list.
So for this month I chose Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook. It has a great range of recipes, some really useful sections on basic techniques, and also introduces each chapter with an index of few of the recipes sorted by cooking time, a helpful feature I haven't seen in other books.
I usually turn to recipe books for baking, so I thought I would use this challenge to try a few new savoury recipes. The first recipe, pork with chilli and coconut, has been quickly added to the household favourite list. It was very simple, and didn't require many ingredients, yet tasted really good, full of authentic Thai flavours. The meat does need marinating for 2 hours before cooking, so this was good to make at the weekend, and there were plenty of leftovers for a spare portion for the freezer.
I bought jasmine rice to serve with the dish, and it all worked together really well. I don't normally make dishes with these flavours, even though I love them, and it was the first time I had used creamed coconut. Luckily there were multiple sachets in the pack so I will definitely be making the recipe again! It even earned a high-five from The Husband, so the challenge got off to an auspicious start.
With an abundance of mince in the freezer, I decided to find a recipe to use some up, and opted for beef florentine. The recipe in my book is slightly different from that I have linked to, both are by Mary Berry, but the one I made included Gruyere, and didn't have mushrooms. In effect, it is minced beef in a tomato and garlic sauce, topped with a layer of cooked spinach, cheese and eggs, and then with a filo pastry lid.
I wasn't convinced all of the flavours would work together, there seemed to be a ridiculous amount of spinach, and cooking the beef in butter produced a very oily meat sauce as you can see above. However, I should have had more faith in Mary, it was really good, and I enjoyed it far more than I expected. It also proved to be really filling, serving us as dinner for two, lunch the next day, and dinner again the next night (plus a few bits of pastry off the top for Grandad when he came to visit), and I was still looking forward to it for the third meal! I did inadvertently add a big spoonful of ginger as I mistook it for the jar of garlic from the fridge, but luckily it didn't overpower it. I'd leave it out next time though! The only thing I'd change about this recipe was the fact that I tried to cook it after work, and it took a good hour and a half, which felt a bit involved for a week night.
So, the first month has been a resounding success, many thanks to Penny for such a brilliant idea for a challenge. I haven't decided for definite on next month's book, but I was very excited to get Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals and 30 minute meals years ago and haven't ever gone beyond flicking through them, so they are looking high on the list. Really looking forward to seeing what other people have done this month, do feel free to join in over on Penny's blog.