Our Verdict: Midnight’s Chicken

Maureen: I loved this book. Just the way it was written was beautiful– it reminded me of Nigella Lawson’s early books. And such interesting stories too. It had a lot of good simple recipes, so it’ll be a good one to pass on to Andrew as he attempts to cook in his second year of uni. We’ll see.

Kirstin: I loved it too. A little wordy for my liking, but still delicious to read.

Maureen: Did you like any of the recipes?

Kirstin: I did, I did! But it felt like a starter book.

Maureen: It definitely did feel like a starter book, which makes sense, since these are all the things she was making when she was learning to cook. But we did like all the things I made, even if some of them were pretty simple.I am expecting great things from Ella.

Kirstin: Me too. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. Although while I loved the illustrations, I do like the odd photo too.

“Midnight’s Chicken”
Overall Grade (A- F):   B (Kirstin) B (Maureen)
Grade for Photography (A-F): There was no photography in this book.                                                                   Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Medium rotation bookshelf. Maureen: Handed off to Andrew at uni after copying some of the recipes down, so, neither.

Our Verdict: Midnight’s Chicken

“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”

“Stuck in A Bookshop Salmon and Sticky Rice” from “ Midnight Chicken”

Kirstin: I was intrigued by the title of this recipe, I have to admit. Also salmon. Because you know. It’s an interesting way to make rice (Thai black rice at that) by cooking it in stock and coconut milk, infused with ginger and chilli. And oh how Ella writes about this beautifully. Not so much about the way she writes about alchemy which we had huge doubts about. Nothing was actually changed in the process of cooking this recipe, so maybe alchemy was not the right word to use. Anyway, this recipe is fabulous. Glorious, sticky, full of wonderful flavours despite the unappetising black colour (no I don’t ever cook black pasta either for the same reason).

And I loved Maureen’s post the other day about cooking her first risotto. Because I remember my first experience of cooking a risotto (for the record I still print out recipes AND have a Pinterest page for recipes I find along the way). My first risotto was a Nigel Slater recipe, during a power cut for extra excitement. This recipe felt a little reminiscent as it took a while to find the right kind of rice. And then because there are no actual pictures in the book, I didn’t quite know what to aim for with the rice. A bit like my first risotto.

But. Just like my first risotto, it was an adventure. And definitely worth trying.

“Stuck in A Bookshop Salmon and Sticky Rice” 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”

“Trashy Ginger Beer Chicken” from “Midnight Chicken”

Kirstin: Ella had me at the “hands, covering everything with they touch with their gloriously unpretentious sauce”. And we have so missed Asian flavours after a few weeks in Sicily. Also our daughter, Tate is going to have to cook for herself at University, so I’ve been searching for recipes she can take with her. This has already been added to the list. The marinade is filled with yummy things; ginger beer, miso paste, ginger, garlic and chilli flakes. It is a thing of wonder. And I do so love the way Ella suggests you put the oven on an hour before you want to eat.

Then it just goes in the oven, Turned over a few times with marinade. And that’s it. I served it with rice and a crunchy cucumber coriander salad.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

“Trashy Ginger Beer Chicken” from “Midnight Chicken”

Cookbook of the Month, August 2019: Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger

Maureen: We are in the Dead Zone of cookbook releases until they start pushing out the Christmas Gifts in the autumn.

Kirstin: I know what you mean. I couldn’t find any new releases and almost suggested we do a couple of Italian books.

Maureen: I wonder why!

Kirstin: Truth. I have just got back from a lovely trip to Italy, complete with many wonderful meals. But actually I am missing Asian flavours and couldn’t find any books.

Maureen: There’s a Jamie book coming out soon called “Veg”, but it’s not out yet. Something to look forward to? (Laughs.)

Kirstin: Ugh.

Kirstin: And then I found this little gem of a book.

Maureen: And she’s local too, right?

Kirstin: She’s based in London. And started as a blogger.

Maureen: The reviews look incredible.

Kirstin: As do the illustrations in the book.

Maureen: There’s a bit of a backstory with the book though.

Kirstin: Do tell.

Maureen: Well I don’t want to give any out any spoilers. But let’s just say she has a life philosophy that aligns with ours: food can make everything better.

Kirstin: Ok then. I’d best start reading…

Cookbook of the Month, August 2019: Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger