“Caramelized Onion and Beef Stew” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

I have never been a fan of beef stew. Never, ever, ever. Every year on our birthdays, my mom would let us pick our favourite meal. Every year my brother Tom always picked stew. I always thought he was wasting his choice, because to my mind beef stew was disgusting and shouldn’t been consumed on any day of the year, let alone your birthday. (My choice, if you’re wondering, was lasagna. Yum.)

Fast forward a few decades. Needless to say, my palate and food choices have become much wider. I’ve eaten things I would have never dreamed possible in suburban New Jersey in the 1980s. Since I got married, my husband, who likes stew, kept telling me I would like it. I’d look at the component parts in the recipe and figured I’d give it another go. Given that I didn’t mind the component parts, surely as an older and wiser woman I would like beef stew.

As I’ve tried a variety of recipes, both here on Cookbook A Month and on my own, the results have been mixed. While I certainly have moved away from the “I Hate All Beef Stew” opinion, it’s never a sure bet that I’ll like it.

I’ll spare you the suspense: I liked this one! It made the house smell nice on a cold February afternoon, it was from the long-and-slow school of cooking, which I love, and it was delicious. Kudos to the fine butchers at Dring’s who not only helped me pick out the correct beef, but also gave me the most excellent tip to make dumplings for the top, which were fantastic.

However– and there’s always a however to ruin the fun– while I liked it, the other two-thirds of my family did not. For this stew, you add some lemon peel for the slow cook. They thought the lemon taste was too overwhelming and didn’t fit in with beef stew. I disagreed, saying that it made the dish lighter and more interesting. Regardless, it was not a 100 percent success, so I don’t know if I’ll be making it again.

Too bad.

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“Caramelized Onion and Beef Stew” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Seared Tuna with Tomato, Bean and Avocado Relish” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

This dish comes from the “Appearance” section of the book, where she suggests how something looks influences how people taste. This theory held out when I brought this dish to the table, when all assembled gasped and said, “Wow– that looks delicious.”

I’m happy to report that this tasted as good as it looked.

There were lots of things to like about this dish, too. It was good for you (loads of vegetables), it was relatively easy to make (I’ll get to that in a minute) and it was super yummy (pretty sure that’s a technical term). I will definitely be making this again.

I’ve got a few notes, though. Sybil Kapoor wants you to peel all of the cherry tomatoes– all 1 pound of them. I’m not really sure it was worth the time, because that was definitely the most time-consuming part of the whole dish. Did all the effort make the dish substantially better? I’d say no. I would deseed the tomatoes, though, because it helped my tomato-hating husband like the dish even more.

One of the good things about this dish was that you don’t need a lot of tuna, since you slice the tuna steak and put it over the whole platter. I didn’t think I had enough tuna, but it turned out there was plenty for everyone. It’s a classic trip of making a little go a long way.

Finally, I think this relish would work with a lot of other fish too (like salmon or trout), so I can see this being a repeat guest star for our Fish Fridays.

This dish definitely was For The Win (FTW).

“Seared Tuna with Tomato, Bean and Avocado Relish” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Spiced Sweetcorn and Lime Soup” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

Time for some Real Truth about this cookbook: The way it is organised is maddening.

I know we’re only 11 days in the month, and maybe we just got off on the wrong foot, but it’s just a really frustrating cookbook to use. It is organised by the title: with one section each for sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. OK, fine, I can work with that. But only if the index is robust. It is not. Alternatively, there is a list in the front of all the sections with the recipes therein, but finding out what those are means paging through to those specific pages.

Needless to say, it takes a fair amount of time to find specific recipes. So when we want to celebrate Meat Free Monday, for example, it’s a long slog through the index or flipping back and forth to the front of each section. It is frustrating to see the least.

So this is what I finally decided to make. I thought it would go well with the Green Chilli & Avocado Dip from “Together” (it did) along with some Doritos, which everyone loves. Unfortunately, my two dining companions– Nicholas, the teenager, and Tim, the husband, filled up on all the fun stuff and thought the corn soup was just Meh.

I liked it, despite the fact that it doesn’t photograph well (pureed corn soup always looks like sick, no matter what you do), but if the other two-thirds of the family didn’t like it, I don’t see making this again any time soon.

Now don’t mind me. I’ll be over here in a corner for a few hours trying to figure out what to make next.

“Spiced Sweetcorn and Lime Soup” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Green Chilli & Avocado Dip” and “Cole Slaw” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Green Chilli & Avocado Dip

This recipe was one of the main reasons why I bought the cookbook in the first place. I love avocados. I love dips. It was cited as one of the favourites of the Duchess of Sussex. [Who is also a former Northwestern Wildcat– just like me! We have SO MUCH in common. Meghan: If you’re reading this and you’d like some tips about how to file your US taxes and/or otherwise survive as an American expat in London, hit me up.]

This is sort of like a very creamy, slightly different guacamole. Obviously, I love guacamole so this definitely worked for me. This is yet another super easy recipe because all you have to do is throw all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz away. If you had the ingredients to hand, you could definitely throw this together if unexpected guests showed up on your doorstep. [Does that even happen any more? Probably not. But it’s nice to think about. Maybe Meghan makes it when Wills and Kate pop in for cocktails. Who can say.]

I will definitely be making this again and again. Highly recommended.

If you’d like to try it yourself, click through here to see the recipe on MSN.com.

Cole Slaw

Cole slaw is practically its own food group in America, particularly in the summer. It’s impossible to go to any barbeque or outdoor party and not have it feature. Consequently, a conservative estimate is that I’ve eaten cole slaw approximately 769,351 times. I could be off by one or two.

Every time we have cole slaw, I look anew for a better recipe because inevitably it is disappointing. There’s only so many ways you can change it, because the premise remains the same: cabbage, carrots, mayonnaise. The American recipes tend to feature a LOT of mayonnaise, which I don’t really like.

But I believe, my friends, that I have found the perfect cole slaw recipe. How perfect is it? It’s so good that I’ve already made it three times. It’s delicious and easy.

Aside from the building blocks of cabbage, carrots and mayonnaise, this version makes three key additions which truly elevate it to the sublime: chilli flakes, coriander and chopped red pepper. Suddenly cole slaw was a lot more interesting and fresh than all the previous iterations.

I’ll definitely be making this again and again and again.

“Green Chilli & Avocado Dip” and “Cole Slaw” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Baked Fish with Tahini & Pomegranate” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Fish Friday!

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: the best thing about cooking fish for dinner– on Friday or any other night of the week– is how quickly it cooks. Remember the disaster that was Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals? Actually, let’s not. We’ll get indigestion. But my point is that most fish truly is a 15 minute meal. Anyone who’s ever been hangry after a full day of working can appreciate how that’s such a good thing to know.

This is a very, very simple dish. The author, Leila Hejem, says in the introduction, “This is a recipe from my Algerian Dad– and it’s so easy I’m almost embarrassed to call it a recipe!” And that’s true– I could easily distill it down to three sentences– but it’s also delicious.

[For those wondering, those three sentences would be:

  1. Bake four fillets of fish (cod or anything else) that have been drizzled with oil and seasonings at 180C for 10-12 minutes.
  2. Make a tahini sauce
  3. Take out of oven, drizzle sauce over the fish and then sprinkle over parsley, pomegranate seeds and pine needs to garnish.

See? Easy.]

This would be a decent recipe to keep in mind on those nights, maybe even Fish Friday nights, when you’re not sure what you want to make and you don’t have much time or energy. This also applies many times to dinner made when on holiday, it has to be said. When I make this again, I might add some sumac and perhaps not use the pomegranate seeds, but that’s down to personal preference. But I’ll definitely cook this again.

“Baked Fish with Tahini & Pomegranate” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Kofta Kebabs with Onion & Sumac Pickle” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Yum. Koftas. I think I started to make koftas after trying Ottolenghi’s version in Jerusalem. They are a firm family favourite, so I figured I definitely should give these a try. 

We were not disappointed. They were delicious. The onion and sumac pickle added very much of a “delicious street food” vibe.

The recipe also seemed to be much easier to make than the Ottolenghi version, but I just had a look at his recipe and his had roughly an equal amount of ingredients. Perhaps I thought this was easier and quicker because it was– it included the genius suggestion of pulsing the onion, garlic and parsley in the food processor before adding the rest of the ingredients and pulsing again. This made mixing up the koftas so much easier to do.

As per the instructions, I did mould each portion around a wooden skewer, but I’m not sure that was necessary. I would have been able to fit all 12 koftas in my grill pan if I didn’t have to work around the skewers, and we didn’t use them to eat them anyway, so I’ll probably skip that step the next time.

The one thing I did steal from Ottolenghi, though, was the tahini sauce (see in picture above), which he included in his own kofta recipe. That added the perfect finishing touch to an already delicious dinner.

Thumbs up all around the table.

 

“Kofta Kebabs with Onion & Sumac Pickle” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Chocolate Cake” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

In my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, the one my mother sent me off to adulthood when I would have to cook for myself, there is the most glorious recipe: Busy Day Cake. I don’t know when this recipe was first included in the cookbook, which was first published in 1933. But it calls to mind a more simple time, say the 1950s, when people (and when I say people, I mean women because let’s face it, they were the ones who were doing most of the cooking) would make the effort to make cake all the time, even on busy days.

(Click through here for the recipe for Busy Day Cake, if you’d like to try it for yourself.)

I thought of Busy Day Cake when I made this chocolate cake because on that day I myself was having a busy day, but this cake was so simple to make that I could fit it in around all the other things I had to do that day. Full disclosure: my busy day involved watching my beloved Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball team. I made this cake during the half-time break. Priorities.

This is a good-quality chocolate cake. It’s not reinventing the wheel and it won’t win any beauty contests, mind you, but sometimes all you want is a nice cake you can keep on the counter through the week as you try to battle your way through January. This is that cake. Easy to make and good to eat. Most excellent.

If I’ve got another busy day and I want some cake, this will be the one that I make.

 

“Chocolate Cake” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”