“Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheddar” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Meat Free Monday!

Tomato soup is one of my favourites, so I was happy to give this one a go. In fact, five years ago on this very blog, I shared my easy you-could-do-it-in-your-sleep tomato soup recipe, which I’ve copied and pasted below. I still make it all the time, and love it.

The trick to this one, like the Gwyneth Paltrow recipe I reviewed five years ago, is to roast the tomatoes ahead of time. However, Gwynnie had us roasting the tomatoes for five hours (FIVE HOURS! Not a typo), whereas with this one, you only roast them for half an hour, which is far more reasonable. Consequently, the roasted tomatoes take on much more flavour than just using chopped tomatoes. Even Tim, who is not a fan of tomato soup, said he liked this one. So in the future, I definitely will roast some tomatoes if I have the time.

The other thing that I cheated on for this recipe was you were supposed to pour the soup into mugs, and then broil a grilled-cheese lid. I’m very wary of doing this, as I once had a bowl shatter that I thought could take the heat of the broiler but could not. So what I ended up doing was making the grilled cheese toasts under the broiler, and then popping them on the top of the soup once they were done. I also threw some extra cheddar cheese on to the top of the soup, just for good measure. I mean, what can’t be improved by the addition of more cheese?

As far as I was concerned, this was a winner.

Quick Tomato Soup, for when you’re starving and time is of the essence: Chop up one small red onion, either by hand or if you’re really hungry and want to eat ASAP, in your food processor. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of garlic olive oil, add onion. Once the onion is soft and fragrant, add one can of chopped tomatoes. Depending on how thick you like your soup, add either 1/2 can or 1 can of water, vegetable stock or milk. (I went milk. Yum.) Add one teaspoon each of oregano and basil. Boil until thick. You can either puree soup or keep it chunky, depending on your preference. Done. Time taken? (including set up) 7 minutes. Even Jamie Oliver would approve. 

“Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheddar” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“My Go-To Garlic Bread” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Yet ANOTHER recipe for garlic bread. This is a total cop out on my part, because obviously I know how to make garlic bread. But I also know that my family loves it in all of its guises, so I took this opportunity to make it again. After all, I’ve tested out several recipes on this blog, most recently Nigella Lawson’s cheesy garlic bread in November, so I’m happy to do it one more time.

So was this good? Let me answer that question with a fact: it uses 4 ounces of butter for one baguette. That is a very robust butter-to-bread ratio, and in this family at least, we approved. It’s very good, but again, I’m not sure my simple garlic bread recipe can be improved upon, where I just make garlic butter, slather it onto some bread, and then bang it under the broiler. In this version, you melt all the butter, add garlic and other seasonings to it, and then spoon it over the bread. I’m not convinced that melting the butter is going to make it substantially better. At the end of the day, garlic bread is garlic bread, isn’t it?

But still, everyone liked it. We’ll call it a win.

“My Go-To Garlic Bread” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Everyone should have liked this. It’s pretty much a risotto-adjacent dish, though you use farro instead of arborio rice. However, please note the use of the term, “should” because while I thought everyone would and should like this, not everyone did. And when I say, “not everyone” what I really mean is the teenagers.

I’m not really sure why they didn’t like it. It really was sort of like a risotto, and they love risotto, both traditional and Nigella’s fake (which is on permanent rotation in this house). But for whatever reason, the teens weren’t buying it. They didn’t like it and didn’t eat it. And anyone who’s met a hungry teenager will know that not eating when hungry is a very rare occurrence indeed.

The adults liked it, though. But I’m hardly going to make something again if half the house didn’t like it and wouldn’t eat it, so I don’t see this making a return to our dinner table any time soon.

You win some. You lose some.

“One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Let’s start this cookbook off with a bang. I mean, come on! Look at this picture! If you’re not salivating over this, please check yourself for a pulse. Even the penguins seem envious.

The genius idea behind this recipe is to find a new use for your waffle maker. In this case, rather than making bog standard breakfast waffles– which frankly are always delicious– you can kick it up to 11 by making brownie waffles. It’s such a genius idea I’m sorry I didn’t think of it first.

When I made this as an afternoon snack on a recent wintery afternoon, both sons were making very appreciative noises as they hoovered it down. I turned to Andrew, who will be leaving for university in September, and said, “Please remember this after-school snack of deliciousness when you’re digging into your pot noodle after a hard day of classes. Then, I want you to pick up the phone, call me and say, ‘I miss you, Mom.’ ”

{He promised he would. We’ll see.}

While delicious, the thing to bear in mind about this particular snack is it is very, very rich. The recipe includes instructions on how to make not only the brownie waffles, which would be good just on their own, but also the chocolate sauce that you pour over both the ice cream and the whipped cream. It’s a lot of yumminess, so be prepared. But it is so, so good.

The eagle-eyed among you may also notice the inclusion of brightly coloured sprinkles, which are unavailable over here in Europe and the United Kingdom due to the massive amount of E numbers required to make the fun colours. Readers, I have friends and family bring me large tubs of these whenever they’re visiting from the U.S. so we always will have sufficient amounts of fun sprinkles. Life is too short to be eating dull sprinkles.

Will we be eating this again? Yes. Yes. Yes. Maybe next time I’ll make some for the penguins too.

“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Cookbook of the Month, February 2018: Smitten Kitchen Every Day

Maureen: Looking through, I wouldn’t call it unfussy because they do require a lot of bowls.

Kirstin: She lies!

Maureen: Hopefully the dishes are still triumphant, though, like it says on the cover.

Kirstin: Looking through, there wasn’t much that I was desperate to make. It all seemed a bit fussy to me.

Maureen: The desserts do look good, but some require two days to complete, which truly is a weekend project. She’s just as chatty this time around, which we complained about the last time.

Kirstin: The long introductions meant we had to do a lot of flipping of pages.

Maureen: That’s never ideal.

Kirstin: But I will give it a go.

Maureen: We did like her first book, so hopefully she won’t suffer from second-book-itis.

Cookbook of the Month, February 2018: Smitten Kitchen Every Day

Our Verdict: Dinner in an Instant

Maureen: I was really happy to find another cookbook for my pressure cooker since the instructions are in French. What did you think of this cookbook, since you have an instant pot?

Kirstin: I thought it was good, but I thought some of the recipes could have been better written. The yogurt recipe, for example, was a complete disaster the first time, but now I am victorious.

Maureen: But only after you had to do additional research on the Internet.

Kirstin: Yes, I found a new recipe for yogurt with much better instructions and then it worked great. I’ve made it once a week since.

Maureen: I feel like this was a little bit rushed and maybe the the recipes weren’t as thoroughly tested as in her last book.

Kirstin: I totally agree.

Maureen: And as I said on our Facebook page, it wouldn’t have killed her to just have a page explaining how an instant pot is different from a pressure cooker, but how you could adapt the recipes to use with your pressure cooker. Instead, she just insults pressure cookers in the introduction, which was unnecessary. I mean, some people, like me, still use them and like them.

Kirstin: I’m glad I bought the Instant Pot. The salmon I made is now our new favourite fish recipe. I make it every week. Would I be using my Instant Pot in the summer? Probably not, unless it’s for yogurt. Will I be using it next winter? Absolutely.

Maureen: So you’re pleased you purchased an Instant Pot?

Kirstin: Yes.

Maureen: Are you enjoying your ride on the wave of the zeitgeist?

Kirstin: I am. It’s been a revelation.

Maureen: I am pleased that I used my pressure cooker more. So all in all, it’s been a mostly successful month.

“Dinner in an Instant”
Overall Grade (A- F): B (Kirstin)  B (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Vietnamese Caramel Salmon. Maureen: Garlicky Cuban Pork.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  B.
Any disasters? Kirstin: Yogurt, but I fixed it. Maureen: Macaroni and cheese. What a disaster. Never again.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: High-rotation Bookshelf. There’s still more I want to investigate. Maureen: Low-rotation bookshelf. There’s some good stuff in there, but I can’t see any of it getting into the regular rotation.                                                             Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Yes, if they had an instant cooker or a pressure cooker. I suspect it’s one of the better books on the subject.

Our Verdict: Dinner in an Instant

“Indian Butter Shrimp” from “Dinner in an Instant”

One of the places where pressure cookers, and by extension, instant pots, excel is when making curries. Pressure cookers are apparently standard kitchen kit in Indian kitchens, because it enables you to make a curry much faster.

Even the New Yorker(!), of all publications, earlier this month published a profile of Urvashi Pitre, the “Butter-Chicken Lady”, who found her fame and fortune by originally posting a recipe for butter chicken on a Facebook group for Instant Pot fans. The article went on to be the most popular ever in the group, which led to her getting a publishing deal. Her cookbook, “Indian Instant Pot Cookbook,” published in September 2017, has already sold more than 100,000 copies. You can read the New Yorker profile here.

But still I approached this recipe with some trepidation. You see, it’s not that our family doesn’t love curry. We absolutely do. The problem was that we had our fair share of curry in 2017, what with Tim working in India for three months in the autumn, and the rest of us visiting him there for two weeks in October. We all returned home vowing to not eat another curry for a fair few months.

I shouldn’t have worried about making this. The delicious curry sauce overrode any qualms we may have had about eating curry again. The dish may have been boosted by the couldn’t-be-more-legit garam masala spice that Tim bought at an Indian supermarket and brought back for us. Also, since we were eating prawns/shrimp rather than chicken, this was a super-fast dish to make. Not Jamie Oliver 15 minutes fast, mind you, but still pretty quick.

Needless to say, our family is back on curries again. Next up? Butter chicken, from the Butter-Chicken Lady herself. (The New Yorker helpfully included the recipe at the end of the article. Check it out here.)

“Indian Butter Shrimp” from “Dinner in an Instant”