Yum. Berries, lemon and crumble: it’s a classic combination, and classic for a reason.
This was yet another cake that I brought to a meeting, and it was yet another cake that proved to be very popular. (People always seem very happy to see me. I think all the cake might be the reason for that.)
This was a very straightforward cake. It was another one that I baked in the morning and brought to the meeting a few hours later.
My only complaint, and Tim agreed, was that there wasn’t enough crumble on the top. This might have more to do with the fact that we both grew up on the East Coast, where crumble cake is taken very, very seriously, and East Coast crumble is at least 2 centimetres deep on top of a cake. This crumble didn’t really cover the top of all the cake. So while it was adequate, it wasn’t exactly generous. So when I make this again– and there will be a next time– I’ll probably double the crumble to put on the top.
Other than that, another winning cake to make the most popular person at our meeting.
Want to know the easiest way to be the most popular person at your next meeting? Bring cake.
When I brought this chocolate-orange olive oil cake to my last meeting, it was met with pure glee. This is a nice addition to any meeting that has the potential to be stressful, long or both.
Now I say I brought chocolate-orange olive oil cake, but in the spirit of full disclosure, it didn’t have any orange zest in it because I accidentally left the orange at the self-serve till and by the time I discovered the mistake (I was finishing up preparing the batter), I didn’t have enough time to run back and rescue it. So chocolate olive oil cake it is. EXCEPT, again in the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t use all the olive oil called for in the recipe either. I don’t know if it’s because this is an American book and perhaps the olive oil over there isn’t as peppery as the ones we get over here, but I made the mistake of using all olive oil in another cake once and the peppery aftertaste was so overwhelming that it ruined the cake. I try not to make the same mistake twice, so for this recipe, I used half olive oil and half sunflower oil. It worked a treat.
So yes, this was a great success, despite the fact that it didn’t have the requisite orange or olive oil in it. But one of the philosophies of the book is to try to mix it up and be creative when making cakes, which I certainly did here, so I think it works just the same.
In honour of Fish Friday, here’s another fish recipe from Half Baked Harvest. While Kirstin has had good luck with her salmon recipes, I can’t say we had the same experience with this one.
I always love a tray baked dinner. Nigella excels at them. There’s minimal intervention needed once everything gets on the tray, and there’s minimal cleanup once it’s all cooked too. All in all, a win-win for a weeknight dinner.
This one starts out perfectly– you start by roasting the new potatoes, which have been tossed in olive oil. Once they’ve had their head start, you add the asparagus (now in season! huzzah!), toss them in olive oil and then scatter grated parmesan over the top, which truly is a genius move and one that I’ll be doing again.
Where things go terribly wrong is with the salmon. For this recipe, she has you make a spice mixture with honey and an array of spices (everything from basil to smoked paprika) to smother on top of the salmon when you put it in the oven to roast. I’m here to tell you that if you’re roasting fresh salmon, you honestly don’t need any of that stuff on top to begin with, but also, this particular mixture just doesn’t work and is, frankly, not tasty. Nicholas (15) really hated it and ended up scraping it off his salmon, which he then happily ate. It was just a bit yuck and unfortunately made what would have been a delicious dinner a not-particularly-appetizing one.
So while I will be roasting new potatoes and asparagus tossed in parmesan along with some fish again, there’s no way I’ll ruin it by doing this spice mixture again. Lesson learned.
I’d recommend this recipe but without the spice mixture on top of the fish. Click through this paragraph to see it for yourself on Half Baked Harvest.
When I was growing up in suburban New Jersey, I honestly thought that fried chicken was chicken dipped in butter and then coated in broken potato chips. I know. I know. But this was how my mom always made it, and frankly, when your age is in the single digits, you’re just going to believe what people tell you. So when she said it was fried chicken, I took it as gospel.
I got older and wiser, discovered KFC (my mom was not a big fan of fast food, which is why it took me so longer to find out about it) and I learned to appreciate good fried chicken. Yum. But potato chip fried chicken still has a special place in my heart only because I have such fond childhood memories of it.
When I saw this recipe in the cookbook, I was ready to jump back into the warm waters of childhood nostalgia and make it. As it happens, my husband Tim’s mom used to also make potato chip chicken so he was happy to have it too. [Do we need to take a moment to consider the culinary wasteland that was suburban America in the 1970s? Let’s not.]
Was it as good as we remembered? The aphorism, “You never can go home again,” is true. Maybe our memories are faulty, but it just wasn’t as good as we remembered it. Nicholas (15) had no such exposure to potato chip chicken, so while he liked it, he didn’t love it. We all agreed that it wasn’t an improvement on standard breaded chicken using breadcrumbs or panko. We also thought it was a shame to crush an entire bag of potato chips for this purpose when we could just snack on them instead.
If you’d like to try this yourself, click through here to see the recipe on the Thanksgiving & Co. website.
Meat Free Monday!
I was really looking forward to this, not least because it features some of my favourite things: broccoli, cheddar cheese, biscuits. Yum. I’m sure I’ve written here before about my love of broccoli-cheddar pizza, which is a specialty from Tim’s hometown and I have grown to love too. (I know it sounds odd. Trust me. Broccoli-cheddar pizza is delicious.)
Surely there’s got to be some sort of word or phrase that encapsulates the feeling of being overly excited by a particular recipe only to be disappointed by it? Well, if that word exists, I would use it here. This recipe over promised and under delivered.
In theory, it should have been delicious, but it wasn’t. The cobbler, which I expected to be thick and creamy, was thin and uninspiring. The biscuits, which I expected to be light and fluffy, were dense and chewy. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but neither did it meet expectations, so it was disappointing.
In the introduction, Tieghan says this was a new version of a previous broccoli cobbler she made where she used one can of cream of chicken soup and one can of cream of mushroom soup. Having grown up in the US, I can tell you that these are legit ingredients to use (God Bless the USA). So this next version of the recipe is definitely better than that one, but still isn’t great. We won’t be having it again.
If you’d like to try it yourself, though you can tell by the commentary above that I wouldn’t recommend it, click through here to read the recipe on the Half Baked blog.
What I should have done, I realise now, was to take an action shot of this mac and cheese. In the cookbook, the spoon hovers just over the dish, with pasta heaped on top and loads of cheese cascading down. My picture above does not show any of this, and I apologise. But believe me when I tell you that this dish, like many others in this cookbook, contains oodles (I’m sure that’s the technical term) of cheese.
As regular readers of this blog know, our family already has a Desert Island Mac and Cheese, this one from the New York Times. I’ve been making it since it was first published in January 2006, which tells you all you need to know about its staying power.
So was this version better? No, though I’m beginning to think that no version is going to be an improvement on the one we love so much. But was this version at least as good? Again, no.The inclusion of crushed Ritz crackers on the top was an intriguing addition, but it wasn’t enough for us to fall in love with it. It tasted good, it was quicker to make and it wasn’t a disaster, but I couldn’t in good conscience say that it was as good as our beloved favourite.
The oodles of cheese were good, though.
If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find it on the Half Baked Harvest blog.
Tieghan Gerard, the author of “Half-Baked Harvest” is a big lover of cheese. It seems as though many of her recipes include a heaping amount of cheese, which does not trouble me in the least. I’m always happy to have more cheese in my life. After all, one of the main reasons we decided to move to Greenwich when we moved to London was the presence of one of the city’s best cheesemongers, The Cheeseboard.
This recipe is no exception to the “More Cheese Is No Bad Thing” school of thought. The combination of wild rice, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach and a whole load of cheese (2 cups or 250 grams worth), makes for a good winter warming recipe that goes down a treat.
The only downside to this recipe is that it takes a long time and there is no way to speed up the process– believe me, I tried. Wild rice needs time and space to cook through and become soft. Even cranking up the heat to high is not going to make a load of difference. It takes 45 minutes, that’s all there is to it. In the introduction Tieghan recommends pouring yourself a holiday cocktail (this was published in December) and relaxing. I wish I had listened to her.
Would I make this again? Most definitely yes. I thought it was delicious and it was even better the next day when I reheated the leftovers for lunch.
This recipe came from the Half-Baked Harvest website, so if you’d like to try it yourself, click through here to see the recipe.