Cookbook of the Month, December 2018: All of our Favourites

Kirstin: This is becoming an annual tradition.

Maureen: Oh yes! But it’s a good one!

Kirstin: It is! It is! I love going through my favourite cookbooks of the year and seeing what I might want to cook at different times of the year.

Maureen: It’s also a way to highlight the recipes that have really worked and have become firm favourites. Do you  have any recipes in mind?

Kirstin: I’m always on the prowl for new recipes.

Maureen: And I cook so differently in the winter months.

Kirstin: Me too!

Maureen: Merry, Merry!

Kirstin: And to you too!

Cookbook of the Month, December 2018: All of our Favourites

Our Verdict: How to Eat

Kirstin: Apologies for the delay in our verdict post for this book. I always forget how hectic things get towards the end of November.

Maureen: Me too! There’s birthdays. And Thanksgiving. And then of course I do the whole Advent Window thing.

Kirstin: I can not even begin to imagine how much of your time that all takes up. And your Thanksgiving Extravaganza too. You are a phenomenon.

Maureen: Ah, but it’s worth it.

Kirstin: It is! The windows look completely fabulous this year as they do every year. Bravo! So what did you think of this book?

Maureen: It’s like meeting an old friend for a chat and realising that you have so much to talk to them about that you have to make another date.

Kirstin: Right! And not leave it so long next time. I have truly loved delving back into this book.

Maureen: It’s back on high rotation in our home.

Kirstin: Mine too.

“How to Eat”
Overall Grade (A- F):  A (Maureen) A (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Where to start? Maureen: Exactly!
Grade for Photography (A-F): No pics in this book!
Any disasters? Kirstin: None. Maureen: No!
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Reassigned to heavy rotation bookshelf again.                                                                   
Would You Give This Would you give this Book to a Friend?: Kirstin: I’ve given several copies over the years to others. And will continue to do so. Maureen: Absolutely

Our Verdict: How to Eat

“Salmon marinated in den miso” from “How to Eat”

Kirstin: Miso on a cold and rainy Monday sounded like a good idea. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to find miso back when this book was written. It would probably have required a trip to Chinatown, but now it’s easily obtained. The miso is cooked with a little sugar, sake and mirin. And then the fish is grilled in the yummy miso bake. I served it with rice and a crispy green salad which afterwards, I wish I had added avocado to. But hey ho.

Everyone loved this. Even the cats. It uses a whole packet of miso which is great as I always feel bad when I have leftover miso. I’ll be adding this to my list of yummy salmon recipes, for sure!

“Salmon marinated in den miso” from “How to Eat”

“Cod wrapped in Ham” from “How to Eat”

Kirstin: I hadn’t made this recipe for many years, I have to admit. It’s a classic, cod wrapped with ham. And of course back in the day, it was soooo much more difficult to get parma ham than it is now. But here’s the thing. While it is an old recipe and while I haven’t made it in a while, it’s been such a success that I’ve made it TWICE this month already. So that is definitely a thing. I’ve served it with heated up new potatoes on one occasion. And rice on another. Both times, Miles has asked for it again.

Oh and yes I did forget to take any pictures of this recipe. But you can take it as me being inspired by the book which also has no photos.

“Cod wrapped in Ham” from “How to Eat”

Sunday Lunch, Roast Beef Edition from “How to Eat”

Do you have a fail-safe system that you use all the time? (Me: Yes.) Do you question its origins? (Me: No.)

For me, my fail-safe system for Sunday lunch– or any big feast– is to create a menu and then make timetable for cooking all the different dishes. Obviously you work backward from when you want to sit down and eat and then plan accordingly. I never really thought about when I started using this method, or why, it just seems like it’s always been that way.

Until now. As I turned to the gravy-splattered pages covering Sunday Lunch in How to Eat, I read this sentence: “I’m sorry to sound bossy, but Sunday lunch, as I’ve said, has to be run like a military campaign. I find it easier to decide when I want to eat and then work backwards, writing every move down on a pad which I keep in a fixed place in the kitchen.”

There it is. My origin story for how to make Sunday lunch.

Nigella is right, of course. Not only do I write the schedule down, but I keep plans and schedules from big legendary feasts so that if I want to do it again, I’ll know how it went. For Thanksgiving, which is this week (huzzah!) I have a whole file folder devoted to previous schedules, recipes, menu plans, notes about didn’t work, dating back to 2001. We’ve never started eating the Thanksgiving year at the same time twice, but I find it very comforting to find these old notes when I’m planning our Thanksgiving extravaganza.

The grease stains and gravy spots in my copy of “How to Eat” will tell you that I’ve used Nigella’s recipes for a roast beef Sunday lunch countless times. The roast beef instructions are clear and work every time. The gravy is delicious and never fails. Controversially, she directs you to make one big Yorkshire pudding rather than four or eight smaller ones, but that’s good too.

Even looking at the photo again is making my mouth water. Once again: Nigella For The Win.

Sunday Lunch, Roast Beef Edition from “How to Eat”

“Couscous” from “How to Eat”

“How to Eat” has been with me for 19 years. I got it on my first birthday in London in 1999. I had a newborn son and I was still trying to find my feet both as a Londoner and as a mother. My husband gave it to me purely because there was a whole section in the back devoted to how to feed children. Little did I know then how important this cookbook would be to me, 19 years later. It would definitely be one of my Desert Island Cookbooks.

I can’t possible recall when I first made the recipe for couscous, but I do know that once I started making it, I never stopped.

I’ve made this recipe so often now that I know it by heart. 100 grams of couscous to 150 millilitres of stock, and for our family, 300 grams of couscous to 450 millilitres of stock is a good amount. Put the two together, pop a lid on it, wait 10 minutes (or thereabouts), add some olive oil or butter, fluff it up, and it’s done.

In the ensuing years, I’ve adapted and changed this recipe countless times. Some popular variations include: adding roasted vegetables, adding feta, adding chopped flat-leaf parsley, sometimes doing all three. In the above photo, I added a new Waitrose frozen roasted vegetable assortment, which worked a treat.

Couscous carried my boys through their childhood and beyond. Soon after I started making this regularly, a new British friend (who is now an old British friend) said to me, “This couscous is perfect. It’s just the way it should be.” High praise indeed.

Once again, thanks Nigella.

“Couscous” from “How to Eat”

“Chicken pie” from “How to Eat”

Kirstin: You know when you’ve made a recipe for so many years, it becomes a thing of its own. This is that recipe. I’ve been making it for 13 years. I know that because I was pregnant with Miles when I first started making it. And I know all my shortcuts too. The recipe place is held with ribbon in the book. I don’t make the pastry. I use frozen peas. I often buy the cooked chicken rather than making my own. Sometimes I make the white sauce the way Nigella says. Sometimes I make it my own way. But back in the noughties when pies were a thing, I made this many, many times. I even had smaller individual pie dishes for our children. And it’s still a winner. Miles and I managed to share one pie and then he moved onto the other pie.

I must try and remember to make it more often. Because pies are always so satisfying to make.

“Chicken pie” from “How to Eat”