“Flank Steak with Salsa Verde” from “Repertoire”

That’s a lot of steak for three people. I make no apologies for my over catering.

Want to know a secret? If you’re ever short on time and you want a meal that truly can be done in 15 minutes (I’m looking at you, Jamie Oliver), grill a steak. It truly is the quickest of quick meals.

But before you take the not-even-10-minutes you’ll need to grill the steak, make this salsa verde. It couldn’t be easier. It literally is a matter of throwing herbs, olive oil, seasoning and a bit of vinegar into your food processor. It is delicious. It looks impressive. It even keeps if you have leftovers. Win. Win. Win.

If you have an additional 10 minutes, you might as well roast some new potatoes in olive oil and garlic, like I did here. The thing that will take the most time is cutting each potato in half so you’ll have more crunchy bits by the time you’re finished. In my experience, everyone loves crunchy bits.

Sure, it was a bit of a cheat to “test” this recipe, given the amount of times I’ve made steak for dinner. But I’ve never had any complaints here when I’ve informed the family that we’re having steak for dinner.

But one final note, especially on a day where there’s been demonstrations around the world about our current climate crisis. I am very cognizant that the farming of beef, and specifically the farting of cows, contributes to our climate crisis. For that reason, steak is very much a special occasion treat. I’m trying hard to moderate our diet to include more vegetarian nights beyond Meat Free Monday, and more fish nights beyond Fish Friday. We can all do our part, and every little bit helps.

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“Flank Steak with Salsa Verde” from “Repertoire”

“Garlic-Butter Roast Chicken” from “Repertoire”

Having a roast chicken on a weeknight always seems like such an indulgence. It seems like the sort of dish that should be reserved for a lazy Sunday afternoon, when you also have time to make all the trimmings, along with some sort of dessert.

But why not have it on a weeknight? I mean, we live in very uncertain times here in the U.K. (understatement of the century), so why not reward ourselves on a random day for having survived another day of dire headlines? So roast chicken it was.

In the introduction, Jessica admits, “There are an astonishing number of recipes for roast chicken in the world.” It’s true, there are. She goes on to say that we should just use this one, though, which I think would be a mistake. With so many delicious ways to eat a a bird, why restrict ourselves to just one type?

However, this was a good one to have on the aforementioned weeknight, because it is spatchcocked, which meant it cooked quicker and more evenly. Pouring the melted garlic butter over the top of it was, obviously, fantastic. Has melted butter ever been a bad idea? The cardiologists of the world would disagree with me, and they might be on to something, but still…

So, yes, this was delicious. It cheered us all up on a random weeknight when we had our fill our political shenanigans, on both sides of the Atlantic. Was it vastly better than the hundreds of other types of roast chicken I’ve made? Well, no. But who cares. It was still delicious.

“Garlic-Butter Roast Chicken” from “Repertoire”

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”

One of the things that Jessica Battilana encourages people to do in this cookbook is not to be afraid to alter the recipes to fit their needs. The whole point of “Repertoire” is to create your own dishes for your own repertoire that will work for your family. For this recipe, I followed her advice, partly because I altered the recipe to make it what our family would like, and partly because our local supermarket didn’t have the ingredients I needed when I went shopping at 6:30 pm for dinner that night. Life is all about being adaptable.

In the first instance, I changed the recipe a little bit to fit what we would like. I was fairly sure that the rest of the pack would not be keen on mint in their pasta, no matter how good it might be. So I subbed out mint and replaced it with basil. (This is in the spirit of full disclosure, since you’d never be able to tell either way in the picture above.) I also didn’t have rigatoni, but I figured this pasta was just as good, so that’s what happened there.

Now on to the 6:30 pm supermarket sweep. Usually, I can count on our local Sainsbury’s to have ricotta, but alas, on this night it did not. I didn’t have time to get to the other local supermarkets since it was already so late, so I decided to sub in a mild goat’s cheese for the ricotta. I’ve got to say, that was a result. I’m sure the ricotta would have been good too, but this was delicious. Add to the fact that she recommends you warm it up a bit in the oven, and it really was spectacular.

One final suggestion that she made that I will definitely do again: presenting it all on a big platter. Usually for pasta dinners on Meat Free Monday, I’ll just load up the food on to each individual plate. But by putting it on the big platter and allowing everyone to dig in, it really made dinner more convivial and communal.

All in all, it was an excellent Meat Free Monday.

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”

“Beginner’s Chicken Curry, For Harry” from “Midnight Chicken”

We love a curry in this house. Pressure Cooker Butter Chicken is on regular rotation and though we don’t often order takeaway, when we do, more often than not it’s a curry from our local curry house.

One of the reasons why I love this book is that Ella is a beautiful writer. In the introduction to this recipe, she tells the story about how it came about, but also she freely admits that there are more genuine curry recipes out there but this is hers. I’ve got to give her props for honesty.

There may be more genuine curry recipes out there, but this is utterly delicious. We all loved it. We loved it so much that at the end of the meal, Andrew (who will soon be leaving for his second year of university) asked for the recipe so he could make it when he returns to school. I told him it would also be great to make for a crowd, which is sure to make him popular.

This probably would have been quicker in a pressure cooker, but I’m going to have to sit down and figure out the timings. If it’s good enough for butter chicken, it’s good enough for this.

Curry for the win.

“Beginner’s Chicken Curry, For Harry” from “Midnight Chicken”

“Lazy Sunday Pastries” from “Midnight Chicken”

Sure, they look wonky. Do I care? I do not. The important thing is they tasted delicious.

We have had a flurry of houseguests this summer. This is hardly news, because having lived in London for more than 20 years, we typically have at least a dozen different guests every  year who come to visit. (A post for a later date: How to be the Perfect Houseguest. I have *thoughts*.) Needless to say, I’ve got weekend hosting duties down to a science: make sure we’ve got plenty of coffee and orange juice, make a fresh pastry run in the morning, and some bonus fruit is always welcome too.

But this idea intrigued me for the house guest we had this past weekend. It was a very easy way to have warm pastries on hand first thing in the morning, but crucially, it looked as though it didn’t require two-cups-of-coffee effort. House guests are stressful enough, I don’t need to add to it by making something very elaborate first thing on Sunday morning that requires more than my usual amount of coffee.

In Ella’s version, you roll chocolate into the puff pastry, though she also encourages you to try variations, like jam or nutella. Emboldened by the encouragement, I made a cinnamon bun filling (brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter), and put that in the middle instead. To be fair, it’s a variation on the savoury puffs that I made out of Sirocco, though those are delicious and highly recommended too.

While they ended up a bit wonky, it didn’t matter. The house smelled utterly delicious with a minimal amount of effort. The family and our guest hoovered the lot in less than 10 minutes. We’ve got a different house guest arriving on Friday for a six-day stay. Do you think I’ll be making these again? You’d better believe that I will.

“Lazy Sunday Pastries” from “Midnight Chicken”

“Emergency Risotto” from “Midnight Chicken”

The following paragraph has four facts that will date me terribly. I don’t care.

The first time I made risotto, I was a newlywed trying to impress my husband in our two-bedroom Chicago apartment. I found the recipe I wanted to make by reading on paper* the Chicago Tribune’s Food section, which I duly saved.* The recipe was for “Bill Clinton*’s Favourite White House Risotto.” I had to go to Treasure Island, our local supermarket* that was known for having more unusual ingredients, in this case, arborio rice, which I had never used before. We ate it, we loved it, and we’ve been making it ever since.

  • Fact One: Who reads a newspaper on paper anymore? In this house, it’s a special occasion reserved for the weekends.
  • Fact Two: I cut the recipe out and then saved it on a laminated sheet in a photo album so I could make it again. Who does that now? It’s such a sweet memory it makes my heart swell with nostalgia.
  • Fact Three: Ah, the Bill Clinton years. This was in the halcyon early years, pre-Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment hearings. For those of you in the back not paying attention, he was U.S. President in the last century, from 1993 to 2001.
  • Fact Four: Remember the bad old days when a recipe called for an ingredient you had never heard of and then you had to go on an actual hunt in actual stores for it? I think we don’t give Google/the Internet the credit it deserves for making our life so much easier.

So yes. I’m old. Or at least middle aged. (I read once on a throw pillow that you’re only as old as you feel. If that’s the case, I feel like I’m in my early 30s.)

But back to risotto. We love it. I’ve tried probably thousands of variations over the years. Once you know the drill– fry onions, fry the rice, add wine, slowly add stock, finish with whatever fun stuff you want– it’s a dinner that can get done in 20 minutes. Ella, similarly, extolls the beauty of a great risotto and gives tips on good ones to make depending on the season.

I took her advice to heart and did a prawn and pea risotto. It wasn’t in the guidelines she printed, but I thought she would approve. Was this recipe good? It was. It was a bit heavy on the garlic for our taste, but that’s a minor quibble.

Risotto, always, for the win. Even those that were printed last century.

“Emergency Risotto” from “Midnight Chicken”

Roll On July & “Greenfeast”

Regular readers of “Cookbook a Month” know that we do things a bit differently in the summer. Visitors, planned holidays and just-enjoying-the-sunshine days conspire against us to make regular posting a challenge.

Since we didn’t get to cover all of the recipes from “Greenfeast” that we wanted to in June, we’ve decided to extend our reviews– and cooking– of the book into July.

So that will be more Nigel, then, and hopefully, more days to enjoy the sunshine and all the joys that summer bring.

Please Note: The photo above has nothing to do with Nigel Slater’s “Greenfeast” and everything to do with Enjoying Your Summer, 2019 Edition. It shows one of the many amazing glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly on display at Kew Gardens this summer (it’s on until the end of October). If you’re in London, you definitely need to add this to your Things To Do List. We had a most delightful day of wandering around Kew Gardens and admiring sculptures like this. Click through this sentence for more information about it from Kew Gardens. 

Roll On July & “Greenfeast”