“Spaghetti with clams” from “River Cafe Book Two”

Kirstin: So I knew we would be passing a fishmonger on the way to checking in on my mother during lockdown. I called them the night before and checked that they were still getting clams and yes. Yes, yes they were! So this meant that we could literally pop in on the way. And while we were there, I also picked up 6 oysters (from Orford) because never miss an opportunity. This recipe is tried and tested over SO MANY YEARS. And now our children like clams we can all share this meal on a Friday night. Also, while looking for an online version of this recipe to link to, I see that the River Cafe has now adapted the recipe and added BUTTER to make the sauce thicker. Which I shall have to try next time!

“Spaghetti with clams” from “River Cafe Book Two”

Lockdown 2020

Maureen: The world is in lockdown, but we’re still going to cook. Because we can’t do much, but we can feed our families.

Kirstin: Exactly.

Maureen: It seems like an odd time to be reviewing cookbooks, so we decided to take off for the forseeable future and just highlight recipes we love or that we’re cooking right now. It seems a little bit frivolous.

Kirstin: At the same time, cooking is such a huge thing.

Maureen: It certainly is one way to keep us all sane.

Kirstin: I keep getting distracted while I cook, but I know I will get there.

Maureen: But we’re all going to have to figure out how to cook without being able to nip out to shop and get certain ingredients. Or if we’re running low on stuff. This is going to be hard, especially since that’s how I cook– deciding on the day and then hitting the shops for what I need.

Kirstin: It’s like playing music. I can’t just sit at the piano and make it up. I need the sheet of music in front of me.

Maureen: The plan this month is to post stuff that’s getting us through this, from cookbooks we’ve already done. Whatever is going to get us through all of this. Who knows how long it will last, so Lockdown 2020 might (or probably will) be longer than one month long.

Kirstin: We have plenty of cookbooks in our house, so we might find new classics, too. Let’s get through this together.

Maureen: Stay healthy! Stay safe!

Lockdown 2020

Our Verdict: Quick and Delicious by Gordon Ramsay

Maureen: This was actually quite a good book, much to my surprise.

Kirstin: It was a solid book.

Maureen: These recipes were exactly what I like to cook. We had a lot of good meals this month, and I didn’t even post everything that I cooked, which is always the sign of a good book.

Kirstin: One recipe I’ve already made twice was Korean-style Prawn Fried Rice. It was excellent.

Maureen: I very much appreciated that he said they would take 30 minutes to cook and for the most part they were 30 minutes.

Kirstin: I didn’t like the ordering in some of the recipes. He didn’t do it in the order that I would do it, and that was confusing at times. If it’s going to be a 30 minute recipe, it should be well thought out.

Maureen: I liked how he used a lot of cheese and butter. That really hit our sweet spot.

Kirstin: It’s quite retro, isn’t it? It felt like a book written by someone who learned to cook in the 1980s, I don’t know if that was Gordon or not, but that’s what it felt like.

Maureen: He did learn to cook in the 1980s! Or maybe it was the 1990s. I didn’t quite get the retro vibe, but I think I liked it more than you did.

Kirstin: The tips were good. The pasta tips were really solid, like cooking pasta with slightly less water so it gets startchier. And now I’m using tongs all the time, like a real chef.

Maureen: I agree. The tips were excellent. Even if we had to live with all these scary headlines, at least we ate well this month.

“Quick and Delicious”
Overall Grade (A- F): A (Kirstin) A (Maureen)
Grade for Photography (A-F): B                                                                             Favourite Recipes: Korean-style Prawn Fried Rice. (Kirstin) Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Dressing. We’ve already had it twice. (Maureen)                                                                                           Any Disasters? No.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf. Maureen: Might actually be a high rotation bookshelf, but only if I find myself making things again and again. Watch this space.

Our Verdict: Quick and Delicious by Gordon Ramsay

“Chicken Ramen” from “Quick and Delicious”

Kirstin: Some of us are missing ramen. Some of us ARE REALLY MISSING RAMEN. So when I found this recipe I was very excited to be able to tell the other members of my family that I had sourced a solution to The Ramen Problem. Indeed, it was a lovely thing to look forward to all day. Also, I have a cupboard full of strange Asian ingredients and was able to find both dashi powder AND furikake seasoning. I seem to have stocked up on miso paste and have buckets of it, so if anyone wants to swap a jar for some Parma ham, just let me know!
This recipe was fabulous. It’s FOR TWO people, so double it for 4. Obviously. And I would probably add some mushrooms to the broth for depth of flavour. I also used my new kitchen friends, the tongs for serving the noodles. I might just be a bit obsessed.
ALSO. It turns out that I have enough ingredients in the house to make this again. And that has made my family very happy indeed.

“Chicken Ramen” from “Quick and Delicious”

“Cacio e Pepe with Parmesan crisps” from “ Quick and Delicious”

Kirstin: Day one of the first weekend under lockdown. And we are all about the pasta. Also because Tate and Tom had originally planned to go to Rome this weekend to see an exhibition about Carthage which they had to cancel. Obviously.
I know lots of people are really enjoying cooking at the moment. But I am really struggling. I like to plan recipes ahead of time. That’s a bit difficult when you don’t have all the ingredients. I’m also struggling because I can’t concentrate ON ANYTHING. So I’ll be halfway through a recipe and realise I’ve added the wrong thing to the wrong pan. But this is only week one. I’m sure it will pass. I am on this.
One of the benefits of lockdown however is that we are eating more meals together. And I am also trying out recipes on them that I wouldn’t have dared to before. This is one of those.
Tate claims not to like cheese. At all. They asked as they walked into the kitchen (as I was adding the pecorino) if it was cheese. I said of course not. I know them. Cheese is not their thing. Cheese is evil. But I am obsessed with the Cacio e Pepe from Padella. I would eat it day and night if I could. So cooking this for dinner was a bit risky. And indeed as I was rustling it up, putting all the wrong things in the wrong pans, I did worry. That they weren’t going to eat ANY of it. And then what? Did we have something else they could eat instead?
I should also mention how wonderful this recipe is. There are so many incredible little tips. He tells us to use only enough water to cover the pasta to make the pasta water starchier and therefore better for making sauces with. He tells us to use tongs to remove the pasta from the water (I felt like a chef when I did!). Annoyingly though, the recipe is just for 2. Some of the recipes are for 4. You really do have to check with each recipe how many people it is for which is just a tad unnecessary. I mean, really. Interestingly I compared this recipe with the Padella one and I wonder if this one might just be sexier, with the Parmesan crisps, the toasted peppercorns, all that starchy pasta water and two kinds of cheese. I will have to try it out!

Also. They ate it. Pretty much of all of it. Apparently not all cheese is evil.

“Cacio e Pepe with Parmesan crisps” from “ Quick and Delicious”

“Rib-Eye Steaks with Peppercorn Sauce”

I have quickly concluded that the only way we’re going to survive this global crisis is by making the best dinners I can for my family. I may not be able to make sense of this global pandemic, but by god, I can cook. And cook I will.

Using that rationale, I decided that it would be Steak Night at our house. Regular readers of this blog know that we love a good steak here, and that hasn’t changed amid all of this either. So I turned to Gordon, who had a most excellent recipe for rib-eye steaks with peppercorn sauce.

Reader, it was delicious.

(This photo does not do this dinner justice. It looks a bit like a picture you’d see on a laminated menu of a dodgy restaurant. I can assure you that it was utterly delicious. Maybe it’s the green plate…)

Our family dinners have become the highlight of everyone’s day here, and this was no exception. May the good dinners continue for as long as we can continue to get good food supplies in.

“Rib-Eye Steaks with Peppercorn Sauce”

Quick butternut and chickpea curry” from “Quick and delicious”

Kirstin: Tate was not at all impressed that I had put two of her least favourite food things together to make this meatless curry. But she came around. She’s even decided that chickpeas aren’t that bad! Because this was delicious. And quick. And thankfully there’s a little left for lunch today too. I would love to make it again; there is nothing quite like the smell of spices and onions frying together.

Quick butternut and chickpea curry” from “Quick and delicious”