“Home Made Summer” – Our Verdict

Summer is well and truly underway here in London. We’ve had a month full of sunny skies, warm temperatures and delightful days. This makes for a nice change from our spring, which was grey, cold, rainy and never ending, not to mention our usual summers of the past few years, which were also not very summer like.

This seems to be the perfect book for our July then. Unfortunately, given all of the above, we didn’t blog about what we made as much as we usually do because we were too busy enjoying our meals in the sunshine.

In addition to the recipes I posted, I did two others: sea bass fillets with crouton crust and a fennel salad and Italian rib eyes with garlic and herbs. Of the sea bass recipe, the fennel salad was good, if a bit bland, and the fish was a variation on the Gwyneth Paltrow one I made last month, which we all preferred. Of the steak recipe, marinading a steak is an interesting approach, but completely unnecessary when you have a delicious steak from Dring’s.

Overall, I thought the book was just OK. Restricting the book to just the summer season– with barbeques and cool drinks– means I probably wouldn’t use it throughout the year. In fact, being honest, I probably wouldn’t use it much for a typical British summer. Luckily, our summer has been anything but typical this year.

The photos and the illustrations, which were drawn by the author, were both beautiful. I would recommend this book if you have a summer house somewhere. But for a mere mortal like myself I can’t see this cookbook being of any regular use.

“Home Made Summer” 
Overall Grade (A- F): C. Beautiful photos and illustrations, but unfortunately, the recipes themselves didn’t keep pace.
Best recipes: The crab cakes. Yum.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A. Special mention for the beautiful illustrations, which also earn an A.
Any disasters? The tatin of eggplant wasn’t a disaster, per se, but it didn’t really work either.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? If I had a summer house, I would put it on its bookshelf, but as I don’t have a summer house, it’s off to the charity shop.

“Home Made Summer” – Our Verdict

“Tatin of Eggplant, Red Onion and Pine Nuts” from “Home Made Summer”

I made this yesterday for– you guessed it– Meat Free Monday!

Unfortunately, it was not a resounding success. I wanted to like it, I really did. I’m always looking for good new recipes that I can add to the Meat Free Monday rotation. But this will not be one of them.

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The recipe itself had a number of serious flaws. First, I don’t know if the springform pan I used was the right size, but I will never know for sure because the size wasn’t specified. In any case, I ended up with too much shortcrust dough, which meant that the tatin crust was way too thick in some places.

The instructions, too, for making the pastry also left something to be desired. I needed much more than “a few drops of water” to get the dough to the consistency it needed to be. It might have had something to do with the heat, but given this cookbook is designed to be used in the summer, if the heat was going to affect things, it should be noted in the instructions.

The tatin itself was fine, but a little on the bland side. A few more fresh herbs, in addition to the sage, would not have been amiss. Putting 2 tablespoons of sugar on the bottom to carmelize the vegetables was way too much. We ended up with big pockets of just sugar that was just plain gross. I think only 1 tablespoon of sugar would have done the trick.

Finally, even served with a side salad, I didn’t think this really worked as a main course. A starter, maybe– making the corrections noted above– but not as a main. Both boys said they were still hungry when it was all over.

In short, it was a disappointment. I won’t be making this again.

“Tatin of Eggplant, Red Onion and Pine Nuts” from “Home Made Summer”

“Crab Cakes with Fresh Citrus-Tomato Mayonnaise” from “Home Made Summer”

Hooray for Fish Friday!

First, a word about Fish Friday. We started this initiative almost a year ago because we always said we wanted to eat more fish, but we never did. We are lucky enough to have a fantastic fishmonger in our neighbourhood called– wait for it– The Fishmonger. Those happy readers living in London, especially southeast London, should buy all their fish from there because they’re great.

Fish Friday is now firmly in our dinner rotation. There is, of course, the odd week when we can’t do it for one reason or another, but for the most part, we do it. The other good thing about doing it every week is it forces you to expand your fish horizons, because really, who wants to eat salmon every week? Lucky for me, they couldn’t be more helpful at the fishmongers when it comes to selecting fish. Usually, I have to get something specific, but if they don’t have it, they recommend a good alternative. As a bonus, they also filet the fish for me because goodness knows I couldn’t do it.

So for this week’s Fish Friday, I decided to make crab cakes, a firm favourite whenever I’m near the coast in the U.S. Funnily enough, the inspiration for this recipe is American, so it must have been something in my Yankee DNA that inspired my choice. The fishmonger had fresh canned crab, which seems an oxymoron, but really does exist. (It’s fresh in that it’s imperative to keep the can in the refrigerator, even unopened.)

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Given that the crab meat had already been taken care of for me, this recipe was a breeze to make and highly recommended. Everyone loved them.

The mayonnaise didn’t work out nearly so well, but I’m pretty sure that was down to operator error. I should have stopped added the oil when I saw that the ingredients had emulsified in the food processor. Instead, I was so impressed with myself that I could make mayonnaise, I kept thinking, “Wow. I did this!” rather than taking a moment to realise it was done and stopping. It might also have been the heat, but I’m pretty sure it was me.

So two recommendations for me today: this recipe (found after the jump) and also to start a Fish Friday (or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday) in your house. Once you start, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Continue reading ““Crab Cakes with Fresh Citrus-Tomato Mayonnaise” from “Home Made Summer””

“Crab Cakes with Fresh Citrus-Tomato Mayonnaise” from “Home Made Summer”

“Strawberry Shortcake” from “Home Made Summer”

‘Tis the season to eat strawberries. We are making the most of strawberry season by eating them whenever possible.

This recipe seemed the perfect thing to make for a sunny hot day. But once I got started, I discovered while in theory it might have been perfect, in practice it was less so.

First, I should say it was delicious. There was not a morsel left on any of the dessert plates distributed.

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And yet, I wouldn’t call it an unqualified success.

First of all, if it’s a (very) hot summer day, the very last thing you want to do is put on an oven. This is why, I’ve deduced, we only had ice cream for dessert in the summer growing up. Why in the world would you want to heat up your (non-air conditioned) house even more by turning on the oven?

The shortcakes were good– easy to make and tasted delicious– but I still wasn’t hugely exited about putting the oven on. But that’s an environmental problem. On a cooler summer day, this would still be nice.

The second big problem was the strawberry shortcakes ended up a bit dry when it was all said and done. Again, this is a problem easily rectified. For the cream filling, she has you whipping only 125 ml of double cream. If I were to make this again, I would double it. This would provide more than enough cream for the four people this recipe serves.

Would I make this again? Maybe. But I certainly wouldn’t do it when the thermometer is hitting 30C.

“Strawberry Shortcake” from “Home Made Summer”