"Quick Chicken, Leek & Chorizo Pie" from "The Quick Roasting Tin"

I believe I have written here, on many occasions, how much my husband loves chicken pot pie. He loves it so much he ordered it on the day of the hottest record temperatures in Chicago’s history. Maybe that’s been broken since, as this was in 1995, but the anecdote still holds: it was very, very, very hot that day and yet, he still ordered pie. It’s a telling detail, isn’t it?

I was quite happy to see this very simple pie that I could throw together pretty quickly, and on a weeknight. Look above! I even had time to cut out decorative stars in the puff pastry! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

The method for this is solid and results in something tasty, though perhaps not *quite* as good as a traditional chicken pot pie with a few more steps. However, I need to pass along one important caveat: be sure to use full-fat creme fraiche. This is very important. I used the only type that was available at our local shop– low fat– but that made the sauce very, very watery and a little bit grainy, which probably was the result of the creme fraiche roasting. So learn something from me: don’t do that.

Otherwise, this is another highly recommended recipe.

"Quick Chicken, Leek & Chorizo Pie" from "The Quick Roasting Tin"

"Roasted Broccoli & Bacon Conchiglie Bake" from "The Quick Roasting Tin"

To give this recipe its full due, it’s actually, “Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Conchiglie Bake with Lemon Creme Fraiche” , or, as I described it to Nicholas when he arrived in the kitchen and asked what was for dinner, “A Broccoli, Bacon and Pasta Bake.”

I chose this recipe not only because this family loves roasted broccoli, but also because we still had some leftover holiday stilton and unused pancetta sitting in the refrigerator, and this was the perfect vehicle for them both. (An aside: The quandary of using leftover holiday stilton is not limited to just our family, since I was discussing this very recipe with a friend who had the same problem. Ah, January.)

The eagle-eyed among you may notice that I did not actually use conchiglie here. I decided to use this fun swirly shape instead (apologies for not noting the technical name) because this pasta is much better than Sainsbury’s own-brand, which has an overwhelming tang of nutmeg that none of us are fond of. Given the pasta was such a main component of the dish, we pushed the boat out and got the fancy kind.

Like many recipes in this book, this is very straightforward. Roast the broccoli and the pancetta while the pasta is cooking on the stovetop. Once the pasta is done, mix it in, along with a few handfuls of spinach and the lemon creme fraiche. Finish the whole thing off with some breadcrumbs and the aforementioned stilton on the top.

The recipe calls for parmesan but she says in the notes that stilton and cheddar would work equally well. But I’m here to argue that I think using stilton is actually a little better, because it makes the whole thing more interesting that bog-standard parmesan. (Sorry, parmesan, but it’s true. Ya Basic.)

We all loved this. It was the perfect cheery meal for a grey January night. The fact that it was so easy was a brilliant bonus.

"Roasted Broccoli & Bacon Conchiglie Bake" from "The Quick Roasting Tin"

"Salted Chocolate Peanut Brownies" from "The Quick Roasting Tin"

For what it’s worth, it’s hard to screw up brownies. They are always good. Especially when you add some peanut butter and peanuts to them. I know for some this would be an abomination, but for those of us whose elixir for happiness is Peanut Butter Cups, this is a combination that brings us life.

When I went back to find the photos I took of these delicious brownies (spoiler alert: I just told you they’re delicious), I found that I had only one photo. This tells you everything you need to know about this recipe: they were so good that there were only four left by the next morning, and even those were gone a few hours later.

However, I do have some notes on this recipe (see above for my specialist subject: peanut butter and chocolate). While the brownies were great, I definitely would have used more peanut butter for the top. It just wasn’t quite enough. The next time I try this recipe, I might double the amount of peanut butter and see what that produces. There just wasn’t enough on the top for my (or our) liking.

The second note I have is about her use of olive oil. I only had extra-virgin on hand, which I know from bitter experience is too peppery to use for baked sweet things. Instead, I substituted in some sunflower oil– the most neutral oil imaginable– and it worked a treat.

All in all, this experience can be summed up in one word: Yum.

"Salted Chocolate Peanut Brownies" from "The Quick Roasting Tin"

Cookbook of the Month, December 2019, All the Cookbooks

In past years, we have attempted to review a cookbook in December. The emphasis in that last sentence should be on *attempted*. We have tried and failed and tried and failed again to get any sort of inertia going in December to cook and review from a book, but it never works out because we’re so busy in the run-up to Christmas.

So what we’ve done in the past, and we’re repeating again here, is to reprise some of The Greatest Hits of things we’ve made and we return to again and again. It makes sense. We all have to eat in December, but chances are good that we will be eating recipes that we know we love, we know they work, and we know will be easy, given our frenetic schedules.

We will try this again this year. We don’t want to make too many promises, because sometimes in December we’re just too busy getting everything else done to get some blogging done too. But we will try our best.

Cookbook of the Month, December 2019, All the Cookbooks

“Chicken and Mushroom Skillet Pie with Greens and Tarragon” from “Nothing Fancy”

We’ve hit Chicken Pot Pie season, which means there were several happy people at the table when I carried this out for dinner on Opening Night of the season.

The recipe I frequently turn to is in Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (the bible of all American cooking). But chicken pot pie, by its very nature, is amenable to riffs and modifications, so I was looking forward to trying this version. The modifications in this version are: more herbs, more mushrooms, added greens (I used spinach) and lots of chicken stock and double cream.

The first three modifications worked a treat. I particularly liked having the extra greens in there. But unfortunately, the fourth modification didn’t work at all. The problem was that there was just too much of it, which created an almost souplike-filling (delicious, but still souplike), which made the whole thing too sloppy.

I was curious how Alison’s ratio of liquid to the rest of the recipe compared with others that I used and it turns out– no surprise here– she uses almost twice as much that I use in my standard recipe. Like I said, it was delicious, but it wasn’t what we’re used to when it comes to chicken pot pie.

However, I will be making this again, simply because the rest of it was so delicious. I’d just reduce the amount of stock and double cream that I used.

We’re looking forward to another happy Chicken Pot Pie season.

“Chicken and Mushroom Skillet Pie with Greens and Tarragon” from “Nothing Fancy”

“Halibut with Asparagus and Brown-Buttered Peas” from “Nothing Fancy”

Now the eagle-eyed among you, of which there are many, will notice that the distinct absence of asparagus from the roasting tray pictured. “But wait! Alison calls for it in the recipe!” you might say.

That’s right. She did. I’m a rebel like that. I didn’t get asparagus and I used broccoli instead.

“But why?” you might ask. “Asparagus is so delicious!”

And I agree. It is. But let’s take a moment to talk about something important: food miles. The fact is that it’s November in the Northern Hemisphere. Asparagus is a decidedly spring vegetable here, and it’s something that I love to cook, but only when it’s available locally.

Although our local supermarket did have asparagus, this little vegetable flew all the way from Peru. PERU! I mean, it’s a complete hemisphere and several continents away from us. It would be flying here several thousand miles just to be a side vegetable. At a time when we all need to be a little more conscious about the things we do every day that are adding to climate change, eating asparagus from Peru without giving it a second thought would be one of those things.

So I rejected the Frequent Flier Asparagus and decided to get another robust green vegetable that is good roasted, in this case, broccoli. Have you ever had roasted broccoli? It’s delicious. I recommend it. Alison seems lovely, so I’m sure she would agree that asparagus is not key to the success of this dish (and it wasn’t).

The halibut, simply roasted, was delicious. The peas, laden with butter and herbs, were divine. The off-the-bench sub of broccoli held its own. Highly recommended, and I will make it again when I can source some asparagus locally.

Food miles, people. Think about it. We can all do very small things– like rejecting asparagus from Peru– to do our part in the fight against climate change.

“Halibut with Asparagus and Brown-Buttered Peas” from “Nothing Fancy”

“Salmon with Soy and Citrusy Charred Spring Onion” from “Nothing Fancy”

Fish Friday!

We have a major divide in this house on Fish Friday: those who love salmon (me), those who like it fine (the boys), and those who merely tolerate it, which sometimes can descend into hostility toward it (Tim). This can be problematic for the cook (me) who loves it, but wants to please everyone (read: my husband). So when I do make it, I want to make sure it’s very good. I’m hoping to convince him eventually that salmon can be pretty delicious.

In the introduction, Alison Roman admits to the same feelings of ambivalence toward salmon as my husband. But then she tried the slow roasting technique described in this recipe. “That is the salmon that has mad me a person who not only tolerates the fish, but craves and makes it for herself. What a world!” she writes.

I thought this recipe might do the trick to convince Tim that salmon can be excellent. It’s very simple, but I’ve found the best fish dishes don’t over-complicate things. Once you slow roast the salmon, it sits on a delightful bed of charred spring onions in a mixture of soy sauce, orange juice, lemon juice and zest.

Great, right? Well, the reaction was once again slightly underwhelming. It looks like there’s more work to be done on the salmon front.

My only criticism is I thought the salmon was slightly underdone. (I say this with trepidation and also with the caveat that I love sushi, so uncooked fish does not trouble me.) I just thought it could have gone in the oven for a bit longer than she prescribed, and indeed I did add a bit of time to the 10-12 minutes she suggested and it was still a little too underdone for my taste.

However, I liked the rest of it so much that I will try this again. My quest to convince Tim of the wonders of salmon continues.

“Salmon with Soy and Citrusy Charred Spring Onion” from “Nothing Fancy”