Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge: April

I gave The Husband the choice for this month's book, and he went for the other James Martin book I have "borrowed" from my mum, My Kitchen. Although I was a little reluctant at first, having used a James Martin book for the challenge last month too, I remembered cooking some recipes from this book when I took part last year, and finding lots in there that appealed, so I let the choice stand! I like that this book is arranged seasonally, so I went with summer recipes again, and having realised, thanks to Christina, that it was perfectly acceptable to cook more than two recipes (it would never have occurred to me otherwise, being such a stickler for following rules resolutely!), I actually made three this month, as so many were tempting.

The first dish is the one I cooked most recently, and although I did make it, and did take pictures, I have alas not found a way to make koftas look in anyway photogenic or appetising on the plate, so I thought I would give you a glimpse of the book, and the much more successful photography within. These were simple to make, and were a nice alternative use for mince, that I would definitely try again. I did find this recipe a bit bland, but that may be because I used chopped fresh fennel rather than ground fennel, and some subsequent internet searching suggests that this may have resulted in a much milder flavour. I found they took a lot longer to cook through than the recipe suggested, though perhaps I made them thicker as I didn't mould them around skewers, just into small sausage shapes. I served them with pitta, homemade tzatziki, and the corn. I think the recipe is quite small in terms of portion sizes, it definitely needed the additional accompaniments to make a meal, but as one dish for a barbecue, which I guess was the intention, it would be a definite success.

The next dish was lemon and rosemary lamb with tahini aubergines, Again, I think it was designed as a barbeque dish, and so I added some garlic crushed potatoes to make it into a full meal. We don't usually eat lamb, I find it quite a fatty meat, and it can be expensive for small cuts, but I do enjoy the flavour and will often order it when eating out. The flavour of the lamb was beautiful, though again, it required longer cooking times than the book suggested, but this was likely due to our cutlets being quite thickly cut, as I bought a rack of lamb and carved them from that. The aubergines were a little overpowered by the lemon I thought, and the specially bought tahini paste got a little lost (any tahini suggestions welcome!). I will forever love this dish though, as it was the first time The Husband had tried aubergine, one of my favourite vegetables, that he has resisted up until now. T also tucked into a piece with gusto! Alas, I wouldn't say it was aubergine at its best, but I have bought another one, in the hope that an aubergine parmigiana might be an acceptable offering!

The first dish I made from the book was by far the most successful, despite inauspicious beginnings. Having bought all of the ingredients, the night when I had planned to make the tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza came round, and I was absolutely not feeling in the mood for making dough. I persisted though, and am so glad I did, it was declared an outright success by my pizza fiend of a husband, and I know for a fact we will be making this regularly. We eat pizza pretty often, it is such a quick meal, and with salad and sweet potato wedges it is a staple of our weekly meal plans, but I know shop bought pizza is not the healthiest option usually. This was so much better, and tasted so much more flavoursome, that I shall be rustling them up again very soon.

Next month, I will be using Rick Stein's Long Weekend, which I took out from the library on Friday as it sounded particularly apt as I browsed the shelves with T. I expect this might be another month where I make more than two recipes as just a quick flick through has revealed loads I want to try! I have made a few dishes from the internet this month too, and a particular success was the cauliflower pizzaiola, which used up a few ingredients that were languishing in the fridge, and provided a hearty meat free meal too.

The Cookery Calendar Challenge is the wonderful creation of Penny at The Homemade Heart, do use the button below to check out the other bloggers taking part and see what recipe books people have been dusting off this month.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

wonderful wednesday #8

I'm back with a wonderful Wednesday round up after a few weeks away, and trying to rattle this out while the baby naps so we shall see how far we get. I'm not sure why I've been absent from this space, there has been plenty of wonderful around these parts, and even though I haven't been writing about it, I do think having done just a few of these posts has already made me better at spotting the good stuff as it happens!

Early Mornings: Yes. I, the lifelong night owl have gone over to the dark side (should that be light side), and rather than fight the baby-inflicted early starts, have learnt to relish them. Sunday found us wandering through the park with the dog and the baby at half eight in the morning, admittedly when I suggested getting out and going for a walk, The Husband's first response was "do you mean [insert incredulous tone] before breakfast?", but even he agreed after we got back, and breakfast was being consumed, that it had been a good idea. Admittedly, early starts are all the easier after some sleep, which brings me nicely to....

Sleep: Not exactly sure how it happened, or how long it will last, so while I can I'm celebrating the fact that at the moment T seems to be enjoying sleeping overnight. It has made such a difference, from really struggling a few months ago with lack of sleep, and him not really eating, we now have a baby who eats anything and sleeps well. I know all of these things are likely temporary, and I know how hard it feels when those things aren't happening, so I'm not bragging, just celebrating my own little victories when they come around!

Television: We've never really been into tv in a big way, with the exception of Bake Off in my case, but we seem to have found a few programmes at the moment that we really enjoy. Line of Duty, which is usually in the realm of the too dark and grim for my liking, has got me hooked this season, after half listening while The Husband watched the last series. We've also been enjoying Masterchef, but my goodness, how much of a time commitment is that programme?? Just when I've caught up there's another three episodes waiting to be watched.

Sunshine: So it's still absolutely freezing, as I discovered at dog class with Millie on Monday, when my hands actually wouldn't move when I came to drive home, and there are still occasional downpours, which I experienced on the walk to the library on Monday, managing to get rained on and then dried off in the same half a mile walk (Monday was not a great weather day it seems!). But, despite all of that, more often than not I'm waking up to bright blue skies, and sunshine, and that just makes life cheerier. It makes it more tempting to leave the house, and it's generally good for the soul.

Work: Well, not actual doing of work, but getting in touch with my supevisors, and starting to make small steps to having plans for my return. Happily it is a long way off still, but it felt good to make contact, and being reassured that I hadn't been completely forgotten. I also took T to my old workplace on Friday, (I will be starting a different placement when I return) and it was lovely to see my boss there who I get on brilliantly with, and for her to get cuddles with T.

So, I'm quitting while I'm ahead as there are definitely sounds of a baby starting to stir, if you want even more wonderfulness,  then Sally is the originator of the idea, you can search for #wonderfulwednesday and these lovely folks all post too:
 JoHelenMichelleSarahKateCatSamEl , KerriMimmiMartinaIsabelle. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge: March

This month I cooked two recipes from James Martin's Masterclass, which is one of the many books I have on, ahem, extended loan from my mum! First up was polenta with wild mushrooms and parmesan. I chose this as I have been keen to try polenta, and also wanting to try and incorporate a few more meat-free dishes into our diet. Unfortunately, I overlooked the fact that I'm not a great fan of mushrooms, and so perhaps this wasn't a wise choice!

I also didn't realise that the cooling time required for the polenta was a lot longer than the cooking time for the mushrooms, as the recipe wasn't clear on how long to cool it for. Having already ended up making it on a night when I just wanted a quick dinner, because the mushrooms needed using, I'm afraid impatience got the better of me and I forged ahead with the frying of the polenta "squares" despite the fact that they were clearly collapsing as I tried to cut them. So, it was not a successful dish but more down to user error than anything wrong with the recipe! The Husband raved about it, and I must admit whilst texturally dubious, the polenta tasted delicious, although I think anything with that much butter and cheese in it would! I want to try and use the polenta again, with proper cooling time, and as there is plenty left in the bag, I may well do!

Next up was tandoori cod steaks. The fillets I got weren't as thick cut as I'd expected, I think cod loin would have been better, but this was a brilliant dish. The spice mixture was easy to make, and I had all of the various ingredients in the cupboard from previous curry recipes. After marinating the fish for a few hours, it cooked under the grill in ten minutes, and was full of flavour. I always enjoy curried fish when I choose it from a menu, and it was great to be able to recreate that style of dish at home. A great way to incorporate more fish into our diets, and a recipe I'll definitely be returning to again.

In a bid to use up some of the polenta, I tried to make these sweet potato fries from the BBC Good Food website this week. Alas, mine turned out dusty, rather than crunchy, so I continue on the hunt for a way to make my home-cooked sweet potato fries taste like the crispy coated ones I have eaten elsewhere! Any suggestions welcome!

The Cookery Calendar Challenge is the wonderful creation of Penny at The Homemade Heart, do use the button below to check out the other posts and see what recipe books people have been dusting off this month.

first things first

The first of April.

Last month was the first month since October when I didn't complete the running challenge I signed up for. Whatever bug I've had seems to have really wiped me out this time, and I decided to stop trying to push myself to carry on with it when my body seems to be in need of some rest. I'm hoping to get back out soon, especially now the weather is nicer, as I always feel good when I've been for a run, but for now I'll try and get back to full health first.

Monday marks The Husband's first day in his new job, having finished at his previous role on Friday. It will be big changes for him, travelling by train, working in a new organisation, taking on a more senior role. It is very exciting but having been in his last job for several years it feels like a major transition. 

For me, life has hit a gentle lull of routine. T and I pass our weeks with regular trips to the library, the swimming pool, walks to the park and visits to my parents and Grandad. Time is flying by and he is looking more and more like a little boy rather than a baby. It's easy to feel that there is nothing new happening, but every week brings changes, a myriad of tiny firsts, that are so small, and happen so quickly, I barely notice them. Then suddenly, I look back, and realise that he is doing so much more, and growing up before my eyes! Here's to noticing the little firsts that April brings, as well as the big ones, and savouring the smallest moments.