Our Verdict – A Modern Way to Cook

Kirstin: This month has been sensational.

Maureen: It’s been a good month, but I think her first book was better.

Kirstin: I think I like this book more than her last one. And that is saying a lot.

Maureen: Why did you like this one better than the first one?

Kirstin: I liked the way it was organised by time.

Maureen: Argh! No! That’s the one thing I didn’t like. Because it was organised by the time it took to make recipes, I found it really hard to find the recipes i wanted to make. You had to browse through the whole book every time if you weren’t sure what you wanted to make that night.

Kirstin: I can see what you mean. But if I was going to cook on a weekday, I knew that I’m only going to put an hour into this, so I would look in those sections.

Maureen: I also think the time limits were setting me up to fail. I found it really frustrating when I couldn’t get it done in the time she said it would take.

Kirstin: I don’t think I was surprised that it took longer than she said it would. You just know it’s going to take longer because it’s vegetarian, and there’s a lot of peeling and chopping and prep with vegetarian meals.

Maureen: I was expecting to love this book, but I only liked it.

Kirstin:  I loved it. I thought it was more practical than the last book. The recipes were easier to do, I thought. There’s some really simple recipes in there that were great.

Maureen: We had a few winners, but none that absolutely spectacular.

Kirstin: I loved that pour over soup. And the one pot pasta one too.

Maureen: I’ve got to give that one pot pasta a go. That looked great.

Kirstin: I think it’s great that we both bought a julienne peeler to make courgette spaghetti following her advice.

Maureen: It was a top tip, for sure.

“A Modern Way Cook”
Overall Grade (A- F): A (Kirstin) B+ (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Pour over soup. And the one pot pasta recipe too.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A. Just gorgeous photos.
Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: The brownies.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: High-rotation bookshelf Maureen: I’ll keep this one for now, but it won’t be on the high-rotation bookshelf.

Our Verdict – A Modern Way to Cook

“Pistachio and Raspberry Brownies” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

IMG_7321DISASTER! A delicious disaster, but a disaster just the same.

I don’t want to bury the lede. I wish I could say this recipe worked and it was great, like all the other things I’ve tried in this book so far this month. As I was assembling the ingredients, I kept thinking to myself, “This is going to be fantastic.” As it was baking in the oven, everyone else in the family came into the kitchen and said, “Wow. That smells delicious.” Alas, it was not meant to be.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I did not use any of the healthier options for the ingredients. I went ahead and used unsalted butter rather than coconut oil, soft brown sugar instead of coconut sugar and eggs instead of chia seeds. I very much appreciated the suggestion in the introduction that said, “If coconut sugar is a bridge too far then soft brown sugar will work too.”

Indeed. Coconut sugar is a bridge too far for me when it comes to baking.

When I recounted the experience to Kirstin, she reminded me of the chocolate cake they made last year out of the first cookbook and that didn’t work either. 

I wish I could say this was down to operator error, but I just think the bake time was wrong. Perhaps it only takes 25-30 minutes if you use the alternative ingredients, but slightly longer if you use traditional ingredients.

After 30 minutes, I took them out of the oven, against my better judgment. Good brownies should wobble a bit when you take them out of the oven, then they’ll continue to set while they cool on the counter. In this case, there was quite a bit of wobble [are you enjoying this technical discussion?] but I figured the recipe said to bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, so I figured it would firm up later.

I was wrong. When I went to cut into them, two hours after they came out of the oven, the middle was still a gooey, liquid mess. We ended up eating the brownies that were on the sides, as the middle bit was just a pool of chocolate-raspberry-pistachio liquid.

There is a happy ending to the story, however. I put them into the refrigerator and by the next day, the centre had firmed up enough that I could cut them into squares. From a food safety perspective, I don’t know if the egg had been cooked enough to make the safe, but we like to live dangerously in this family. They were delicious.

Would I make this again? I’m tempted to, if only to see how much longer I really should have baked them (I’m guessing another 10 minutes). But the combination of pistachio and raspberries is highly recommended.

“Pistachio and Raspberry Brownies” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Frying-pan Turkish Flatbreads with Spoon Salad” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

IMG_7363As we are headed to Istanbul for a long weekend soon, I thought I would take this opportunity to make this recipe to get us in the mood. I was already looking forward to our romantic weekend away, but this got me even more excited (if that’s even possible).

We all liked the fact that it was like a Turkish version of a burrito. Andrew (age 15) even rolled his up so it would be exactly that. I’m not sure that’s the way it’s supposed to be eaten, but he enjoyed it.

The topping (peppers and onions fried in olive oil) and the salad (onion, tomatoes, parsley and spices) were a nice combination on top of the warm, freshly made Turkish bread. We also put feta on top, as per the recommendation in the introduction, as I have found there isn’t any food in this world that can’t be improved upon by adding cheese.

I also need the record to show that this recipe took only slightly longer than the predicted time– about 55 minutes to the predicted 40– which was an improvement in the right direction.

The bread, which I had to cook individually, got better each time as I got more skilled at figuring out what was needed. I predict the next time I make this, it will be even better.

Would I make this again? Probably. I’m not sure it will make it into the high rotation list of our Meat Free Monday, but it was pretty good. I predict that it will take even less time the next time I make it, so it would be worth giving it a try for that reason alone.

If you find you’re also in the mood for some yummy Turkish food and would like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find the recipe on The Guardian.

“Frying-pan Turkish Flatbreads with Spoon Salad” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Buddha Bowls” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

IMG_7334I could relabel this post as, “Searching for Massaman Curry Paste.” (Spoiler alert: I found it. Eventually.)

As loyal readers of this blog will know, if I can’t find an ingredient in any of my local shops, it’s not worth making. I say this because we’ve got an amazing butcher, greengrocer, fishmonger, cheesemonger, health food shop and  three major supermarkets (Waitrose, Co-Op and Sainsbury’s Express), all within walking distance of the house.

In this case, I was fairly sure that Waitrose would have the massaman curry paste. Where I went wrong was searching high and low for it in the Indian section, forgetting that massman is actually a Thai curry. Once I was in the appropriate international section– Thai– I did eventually find it, and breathed a sigh of relief because I meant I didn’t have to make my own paste.

The Buddha Bowl is a nice assortment of potatoes, green beans, peanuts, rice, carrots, tofu and the aforementioned massaman curry paste. The adults rather enjoyed it, though we both thought it could have used more sauce. However, that might be down to operator error as I may have boiled it down too much in my pursuit of a thick sauce. The children were less impressed, though they did empty their bowls.

This was the first time I’ve ever used tofu, despite having enjoyed our Meat Free Monday for several years now. I am obliged to report that the boys were not impressed. At first I tried to pass it off as, “a type of vegan cheese,” but they weren’t buying it and guessed it was tofu. They didn’t like it. For me, I didn’t mind it, but I”m not sure it added much to the dish, if I’m honest.

As we’re marching ever closer to the end of the month, I feel that now is the time to express my frustration of the time estimates included in the book to get a recipe cooked. I consider myself somewhat skilled in the kitchen, so I figured I would be able to knock these recipes out in the time estimated. I’ve yet to do so. Even tonight’s dish, when I took the shortcut of using the curry paste rather than making my own, took about an hour and 15 minutes to finish (30 minutes more than the estimate).

On the one hand, I can understand why Anna did it this way. She probably wanted to show that vegetarian cooking can be done in a reasonable amount of time, despite all of the prep a typical vegetarian recipe takes. But for me it’s a source of constant frustration and I feel as though she’s setting me up to fail. The time estimates bum me out, and probably will continue to do so whenever I cook from this book.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this paragraph to find the recipe in the Guardian. 

“Buddha Bowls” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Pour-Over Soup” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

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Kirstin: So it’s just me for lunch and the perfect time to make this pour-over soup. Super easy to make, super delicious to eat and very, very good. I’ve been looking for something easy to take to work and this totally fits the bill. I love that I can transport it in a jar. I made something very similar to this from Jamie’s Comfort book and while I am aware it’s not vegetarian of me I think I might add the odd prawn for variety here.

“Pour-Over Soup” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Kale, Tomato and Lemon Magic One-Pot Spaghetti” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

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Kirstin: I saw this recipe on Anna’s Insta stream and knew I needed to try it out.

Tom: Was it easy as it looked on her video?

Kirstin: It really is a super little recipe. One that you could take all over the world and cook for lunch or dinner.

Miles: I liked the spinach!

Kirstin: Definitely making this one again. And possibly adapting it too, which is always a good sign.

“Kale, Tomato and Lemon Magic One-Pot Spaghetti” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Courgetti with Pistachio, Green Herbs and Ricotta” from “A Modern Way to Cook”


I know! It looks JUST LIKE spaghetti but it’s actually courgettes! It’s like magic!

Look at that! I’ve jumped on the culinary bandwagon and made courgetti. My 2015 is complete.

For those of you not paying attention or living under a rock, courgetti– spaghetti made out of courgettes– is all the rage these days. Several of the cookbooks we’ve featured in the past year, including the Hemsley sisters and Ella Woodward, have sung the praises of courgetti. I was skeptical, to say the least.

One of the main reasons I resisted is because the easiest way to make of courgetti is to buy spiralizer, a special kitchen gadget.  Believe me, I’m not one to shy away from new kitchen gadgets. I love them. In fact, at the moment, I’m trying to figure out a way to justify buying this amazing and beautiful walnut and maple ravioli rolling pin. (Suggestions welcome in the comments). But I just didn’t think a spiralizer would be worth the investment, given that they cost about £25,  would take up a good deal of room in my kitchen cabinets, and I wasn’t sure how often I would use it.

But then I read Anna Jones’s opening suggestion, where she told me you could buy a hand-held julienne peeler, which is much cheaper (£3.55 at Lakeland) and takes up much less space. When I found it at Lakeland,  I was so pleased about it I actually texted Anna and Kirstin from the store to tell them I had found a solution to my lack-of-spiralizer problem. It turns out that Kirstin did exactly the same thing.

Not surprisingly, making spaghetti out of courgettes did take some time, but I think it was time well spent, given how healthy courgetti is, especially when compared to the usual spaghetti.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that it was delicious, at least this version was. The boys agreed, saying that it was much better than they thought it would be (high praise, given their low expectations). The proof of everyone’s enjoyment could be found in the empty serving bowl at the end of dinner.

Would I make it again? I would indeed. Highly recommended.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this paragraph to find the recipe in Sainsbury’s Magazine.

“Courgetti with Pistachio, Green Herbs and Ricotta” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Honey and White Miso Aubergines” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

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Miles: Is this a kind of meat?

Tom: No, it’s a vegetable that can taste like meat if you cook it right.

Miles: But what is that crusty stuff on the top?

Kirstin: That’s the yummy, delicious part.

Tom: It’s fantastic. Give it a go! In this meal, there are carbs, the vegetables and the meat substitute. That’s my kind of meal.

Kirstin: I love the umami you get from this recipe. Oh yes, definitely cooking this one again!

“Honey and White Miso Aubergines” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Too Hot Salad” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

IMG_7302Looking at this picture reminds me again why I loved this salad: Isn’t just a gorgeous collection of colourful virtuousness?

It also was delicious.

A London summer is a mixed blessing of weather at best, and this summer is no different. But over the past weekend, we had a very hot day on Sunday, which begged for the “Too Hot Salad” to be made. Anna Jones said she makes it when it’s too hot to cook, and this was one of those days. (Indeed it was too hot to cook in the kitchen, but perfect weather for a barbeque in the garden, which is what we did.)

The Vietnamese influence is easy to taste: cold, fresh vegetables (especially carrots) coupled with a sweet soy sauce dressing. The leaves of coriander gave it a very nice kick. I was dubious about the inclusion of watermelon, but it worked. It’s also an excellent vegan recipe, which is always a good thing.

To be sure, making those beautiful vegetable ribbons takes some time. I wish I could be as quick as the estimate to make this (it took about double the time), but I do think it looks lovely, so perhaps the extra time was worth it. I’m also getting better at making vegetable ribbons, so perhaps that will come up in a job interview sometime and I can impress them with my unusual talent.

Would I make this again? I would indeed. And I might even do it on a day that’s not hot.


“Too Hot Salad” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Pan-roast Lime Feta and Chilli Greens Burrito” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

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Kirstin: So we’ve both been very quiet as we start to eat this. I think that’s because it’s so very delicious! Or it could be because it definitely took longer than half an hour and so we’re starving!

Tom: Oh there’s some crunchy kale there!

Kirstin: I couldn’t find any spring greens in the shops today. So I cheated! And the wholemeal tortillas are alright too. I was a bit worried they would be like sawdust, but they’re not!And I refuse to use coconut oil because I don’t need reminders about hair products from the 80s in my food.

Tom: And once again, a meal without meat in it and it tastes rather good!

Kirstin: It tastes alright, doesn’t it! This is supposed to make four, which is two each. But you’ve had three! That’s definitely a good sign!

“Pan-roast Lime Feta and Chilli Greens Burrito” from “A Modern Way to Cook”