It is great to be joining back in with Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge this year. For January, I decided to revisit the same book I started with last time, Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook. However, this time I decided to go back to basics, and cook some dishes that I am familiar with. I thought it would be interesting to follow a recipe for dishes that I would normally cook without much thought and see if I learnt anything new. As a result, I must apologise, as none of these dishes are particularly inventive, or aesthetically pleasing, but I had fun even so!
First up was spaghetti carbonara, partly because I was already planning to make it so I thought I would lift out the recipe book. I know it is traditionally made with egg, but I usually avoid this and just do a bacon, cream and cheese sauce, because previous attempts have ended up liked scrambled egg pasta. Mary's recipe called for the traditional egg though, and it worked really well. I would not usually put parsley in either, assuming oregano would be the way to go, but it added a nice freshness that stopped it being too rich. A definite winner.
Next up, and I did warn that these dishes were lacking in attractiveness, was shepherd's pie. I would usually make cottage pie, so it was a nice change to use lamb mince, and the addition of Worcestershire sauce was a new one for me. The recipe also recommended discarding the fat once the lamb had browned, which I would not have thought to do, and really helped prevent the dish becoming too oily. This made a lovely Sunday dinner, and received plenty of compliments from Grandad and The Husband.
I actually made a third recipe from the book this month, though I have spared you the picture as I tried and failed to make lasagne look anything other than a sloppy mess. The end result was delicious, but the recipe was the source of much debate. I was surprised that it included celery, and that there were no mushrooms. I also tend to put the pasta on top of the ragu and then top with bechamel, and only put cheese on the very top, but this suggested ragu, then bechamel, then cheese, then pasta for each layer. The Husband was horrified that the top layer was ragu, bechamel and cheese, but without a final layer of pasta, as that is his favourite part. Considering the dish served eight though, I'm sure he had plenty of pasta to be going on with. I noticed that the recipe on the packet of lasagne sheets was very similar, and included celery, and layered the dish in the same way, so I considered this a lesson in the art of a traditional lasagne! The dijon mustard in the bechamel was a new one to me aswell, but it was one of my more successful attempts at white sauce (by which I mean it didn't require a sieve) so I shall again bow to Mary's superior knowledge.
Finally, I thought I might include a link each month to a recipe I have made from the bbc food website. This is always my first port of call when I'm looking for recipes, and so I thought it would be nice to include it here too (I hope Penny doesn't mind me expanding the scope slightly!). This idea has mostly arisen because today I had one of those fortuitous cooking sessions where I found a recipe that made use of all of the bits and pieces I had languishing in the bottom of the fridge. It started as a recipe for sausages and cabbage, but happily made use of the two carrots, soggy celery, leftover parsley and half peeled lemon into the bargain, aswell as the last few crusts from last week's loaf. It was an incredibly flavoursome sausage casserole, with a cabbage pesto (better than it sounds!) and breadcrumbs, and I can heartily recommend it.