“Semolina Teardrop Dumplings” and “Nonna Merdedes’ Fonduta” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

This dinner was very much a team effort. It had to be, because when Tim told me what he wanted to make, I said, with all the loving support you can imagine, “I don’t think that’s going to work.”

He had decided upon making the dumplings, which looked intriguing but seemed to require either special Italian equipment or a colander with 1/2 centimetre holes, neither of which we had. But what we do have (in abundance) is piping bags, so Tim decided he’d use one of them, and after considering all the available tips I had, he went with a star one. This was why I was skeptical.

But guess what? I was wrong! It worked! I’m not sure if Jamie would approve, but using the star tip to make small pasta tubes worked fine. The pasta was undoubtedly bigger, but it still tasted good. The cheesy fontina sauce that went with it was also a hit, and a nice reminder of fondue season, which will soon be upon us. (HUZZAH)

Would we make it again? Maybe on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But it was definitely delicious.

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“Semolina Teardrop Dumplings” and “Nonna Merdedes’ Fonduta” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

When we saw the name of this dish– Carnival Lasagna– it seemed the perfect thing to make as we head into the final weeks/days/hours of Andrew being at home before he heads off to the great adventure that is university life. Who doesn’t love a carnival? And indeed, this dish seems perfect for a big family gathering or a party. More pertinently, a carnival might also be just what we need as we all get a bit wistful about his departure.

We set aside a Sunday afternoon to get this done. You could just tell by looking at the three pages of photographs and one full page of instructions this was going to be a PROJECT. We were fine with that, because after all, isn’t that what Sunday afternoons are for?

It was a team effort. You have to make pasta dough for the lattice on the top, which Tim made. You also have to make meatballs and tomato sauce to layer in, which I made. We both kept an eye on the kilo of spaghetti we had to cook to put inside. Assembly was also largely a team effort.

You can imagine the relief we felt when it was finally time to eat. We figured it would be good, and we also figured that everyone would love it, given the ingredients.

The verdict? “This is just basically just spaghetti and meatballs, in pie form,” Andrew said after one bite. That’s really not the reaction we were hoping for after hours of cooking. But he was right. Even so, it was delicious, and it was even better as leftovers for lunch the next day.

This truly would be the perfect meal for a huge gathering of people. You could make it ahead of time, and put it in the oven when the guests arrive. Then once it’s time to eat, all you have to do is bake it and slice it. The picture above doesn’t really do it justice, but trust me, it’s a dramatic dish.

But when I make it again, I’ll modify some of the more fiddly bits. The meatballs, which are fried and then poached in the tomato sauce, were really good, but it took an age to fish them out of the tomato sauce. So the next time, I’ll just roast the meatballs like I always do, and then toss them in a bit of tomato sauce before layering them in– that will be much easier. Although the pie would be fine without the lattice on the top, it does add something extra to the dish, so I guess I would do that again. The next time I’d also add more prosciutto and cheese to the dish, but that’s just down to personal preference.

All in all, it was an excellent way to kick off a month of Italian eating with Jamie Oliver.

“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

A Summer Sunday Lunch from “How to Eat a Peach”

That’s not what the lovely Diana Henry called it, but that’s what I’m calling it because that’s what it was. On this particular Sunday, I made “Crostini with Crushed Broad Beans & Nduja” along with “Roast Sea Bass with Fennl & Anise Aïoli” and “Tomatoes Provençales aux Anchois.”

It’s been an unusually hot summer here in London, which has been lovely, for the most part. I mean, it did start to get a bit old when all of our grass died and I had to wake up every morning at 7 a.m. to walk our dog before the heat of the day set in. But by and large, it’s been nice. However, living in such unusual heat did have its fair share of cooking challenges because often I just couldn’t face cooking because that would only make me hotter.

As Kirstin said before, this cookbook is unusual in that it’s organised by menu rather than courses. This does make it difficult to find something to make for, say, a hot Wednesday night. But if you’re planning on spending some time on a meal, which is often the case for me on Sundays, this would be a good book for that. She also helpfully organises the book by “Spring and Summer” and “Autumn and Winter,” which meant I kept to the first half of the book this time of year.

Roasting a whole sea bass is certainly a treat because it’s definitely more expensive than our usual meals. But it looks impressive when you bring it to the table, and once it’s all said and done, it’s a pretty easy dish to make, which would be perfect for a dinner party. We loved the fish.

Half of the family liked the the tomatoes provençales– the half of the family that loves tomatoes. The other half wasn’t so keen, but I don’t think that was a failure of the recipe, but instead a failure of their taste buds (I am in the half of the family that LOVES tomatoes). For what it’s worth, I cut up one of the leftover ones and added it to scrambled eggs the next morning for breakfast and it was delicious too.

Unfortunately, given that everything else was so good, the crostini was a total faff and definitely more trouble than it was worth. Cooking, podding and mashing the beans took a ridiculously long time. Crostini, which is just fancy toast, really is delicious but I’m not going to spend an hour getting the ingredient that goes on top ready. Next time I’ll follow her alternative suggestion and use peas instead and use the time I saved reading a good book.

But all in all, a delicious summer Sunday lunch.

 

A Summer Sunday Lunch from “How to Eat a Peach”

“Spatchcocked Chicken” from “How to Eat a Peach”

The full title to this should be, “Spatchcocked Chicken with Chilli, Garlic, Parsley and Almond Pangrattato.” In the introduction, Diana Henry admits that there’s nothing more to this than roast chicken with yummy stuff scattered over the top when it’s done roasting.

That’s absolutely true, but it’s also absolutely delicious. And frankly, what’s wrong with a roast chicken with chilli, garlic, parsley and almond pangrattato scattered over the top? Nothing at all.

Also, here’s a top tip from our friendly butcher at Dring’s: while it is relatively easy to spatchcock a chicken yourself, it’s better to get someone else to do it because it might ruin your knives if you do it. Good to know. (Also, I’m pretty lazy and when any task can be done by my butcher– deboning, deskinning, de-anything– I’ll have them do it.)

This one was a winner. We’ve been having an unusually scorching summer in London, so this was also a good one to make in the heat because I could bang the chicken in the oven, and then leave the hot kitchen to go read out back. But this would work any time of year, frankly.

“Spatchcocked Chicken” from “How to Eat a Peach”

“Paprika-Rubbed Sheet-Pan Chicken with Lemon” from “Dining In”

Yum. Yum. Yum.

The rub you make for this chicken has fennel seed, hot paprika, salt, smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic and olive oil. Basically, all good things. Alison says in the introduction that she smears this rub onto other meat too– pork chops, pork shoulders, chicken wings. I can see it working well on all of those things, and may try to do it myself.

The other different approach to this recipe is that you cook the chicken low and slow– a low temperature oven for a long time. This makes the chicken extra-moist and extra-juicy. It’s definitely an excellent way to do it if you’ve got the time.

You’ll see the roasted red peppers above, which I roasted for the last hour alongside the chicken, which I then tossed in the leftover juices and spices in the bottom of the sheet pan. Just like Alison told me to do. It was an excellent recommendation.

If you’re wondering if we enjoyed the chicken, I will answer the question with a fact: there was no chicken leftover. Not one shred. That tells you everything you need to know.

“Paprika-Rubbed Sheet-Pan Chicken with Lemon” from “Dining In”

July Book of the Month and a Return to Our Favourites

Attentive and loyal readers among you– of which there are legion, we’re sure– will notice that we have not yet announced a new book to review for July 2018.

We apologise for our tardiness but we have a good excuse. The reason we haven’t announced a new book is because we’ve decided we’re going to keep posting recipes from “Dining In.” We still have quite a few to post– always the sign of a good book– and we’ve enjoyed them so much that we didn’t want to miss any.

Once we’ve exhausted our supply of things to review, we’ll turn to our old favourites and repost them. We’ve often done that in the summer, as Wimbledon, sunshine and holidays all compete for our attention.

Thanks for reading!

 

July Book of the Month and a Return to Our Favourites

“Mom’s Trout with Herby Breadcrumbs” from “Dining In”

This post could also be called: “The Perennial Favourite of Fish Friday.”

When I first paged through this cookbook, I knew right away this dish was not only going to get made, but would be universally loved at the table. There’s so few times in life that you’re dead certain that you’ll be right, but this was one of the times. The reason I knew this was because I make a variation of this all the time.

The roots of this Fish Friday Favourite come from Gwyneth Paltrow’s second book, “It’s All Good,” which [GASP] I now know was FIVE years ago. Time flies. Anyhow, at the time, I sold the recipe to the boys by telling them it was from Pepper Potts, the character she plays in the Iron Man and Avengers films. This was so long ago that stating that fact was enough to sway them to try it. These days, I can tell you, citing Pepper Potts wouldn’t work, because as savvy teenage boys/young men (apply where appropriate), subterfuge with food is now nearly impossible to pull off.

This version from Alison Roman, in fact, is slightly better. It was easier to do, it was tastier and most of all, I didn’t have to feel guilty for using regular bread crumbs rather than the gluten free ones called for in Gwyneth’s original recipe. Trout is also a great fish as not only is it very tasty, but it’s also much more affordable [read: cheap] and sustainable than some other types of fish, which is why I like to buy it so much.

Will I make this again? Yes. Again and again and again. Because I already do.

Note: Unlike the previous post, I didn’t have a problem with the American spelling of Mom, since I use that all the time, still. Lifetime habits are hard to break.

“Mom’s Trout with Herby Breadcrumbs” from “Dining In”