“Food” – our verdict

Maureen: What did you think?

Anna: I loved this. As I predicted!

Maureen: While the recipes didn’t seem to reinvent the wheel, they were all pretty good. We didn’t have any disasters, and it had some really good options to try.  In fact some of the recipes were real winners. I’ve already made the courgette pasta dinner again, and the guacamole recipe is one I will definitely use again.

Anna: I ran out of time to try everything that I wanted to make. I will definitely be going back to some of the recipes I did, and also making some of the ones I didn’t.

Maureen: I have to say that our plan of being vegetarian did not go so smoothy. It was pretty short. In fact, it only lasted a day and a half, after we decided to go to Hawksmoor for lunch. Yes, I know the best steakhouse in London has vegetarian options, but I chose not to pursue those. It is genetically impossible for me to resist a steak. Yum!

Anna: I asked Peter if he was up for eating vegetarian for a week and I got a resounding ‘no’ in reply. But in the end we did eat about 80% vegetarian one week and he didn’t complain or even notice I think. Which is testament to this book. I didn’t miss meat at all, which I think is the McCartney veggie objective, so well done Mary.

Maureen: While my vegetarian experiement failed, the one thing this cookbook did do was it made me think more about the fruit and vegetables we do eat, and how we should eat more of them.

Anna: There were certainly more vegetables in our fridge this month than usual, and we’re not shy of a vegetable or two. This book was fab.

“Food” by Mary McCarthy: Our Conculsion

  • Overall Grade (A- F): B. A great vegetarian cookbook for everyday with very nice photographs.
  • Best recipes: Lemon and Courgette Spaghetti. (Maureen) Mexican Bean Tortilla (Anna)
  • Grade for Photography (A-F): A. Beautiful photography. Kirstin gave her additional points for the fact that she uses film, not digital.
  • Any disasters? No.
  • Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf.
“Food” – our verdict

“Pan-Fried Tortilla Sandwich” from “Food”

Anna: I made this for my lunch the other day, as a treat. It was very very good, though perhaps a little indulgent. Indulgent was what I was looking for… it was one of those days. So this did the trick.

A quesadilla by any other name, the combination of avocado, spring onion, chilli and lots and lots of cheese was gorgeous. And usually I shy away from anything that involves warm avocado, but this worked. I kid myself that the avocado made it a little healthy but that is probably a bit of a stretch. What I would say is that it totally filled me up and I had that nice warm feeling you get when you’re eating something cheesey and yummy. I will definitely be having this again, when I can find a good enough excuse……



“Spinach, Leek and Courgette Frittata” from “Food”

Anna: This is a man-sized frittata. Proper portions, that’s what we like in the this household.

Peter: Definitely a proper lunch this.

Anna: That will be the 5 eggs and loads of veg. And lots of feta too! Yum yum. As Maureen would agree, anything with feta is delicious.

Peter: And you’re telling me that it’s healthy too, because of the vegetables?

Anna: Yes, the veg cancels out all the fat from the eggs and cheese. Win win!

Peter: Let’s have this again please.

Anna: You’re on.



“Spinach, Leek and Courgette Frittata” from “Food”

“Courgette and Lemon Spaghetti” from “Food”

If you’d like to make this yourself– and I recommend that you do– there’s a recipe from the Telegraph if you click on this link.

This one is a resounding winner. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s healthy. Win. Win. Win.

However, I need to add a caveat: I did alter the recipe a bit. Usually, I don’t do that, because obviously the idea of testing recipes in our cookbooks is to do them exactly as they say. It’s the only way you’re going to be able to see if they work or not.

But in this case, I didn’t think that Mary McCartney would mind. As she says in the introduction, she came up with this recipe when she was hunting through her cupboard for something to eat. The reason I altered it was by the time I had settled on making it for dinner, our excellent greengrocer The Creaky Shed was already shut for the day, so I couldn’t get my hands on the fresh sage and the rosemary that it called for. So instead I used fresh parsley and dried rosemary. It worked fine.

The other thing I altered about the recipe was the type of pasta I used. I know it says spaghetti, and why in the world would I need to deviate from that? But the fact is that Tim, my husband, hates spaghetti (he’s odd like that), so he politely requested that we get some other shape. So we did. Again, I don’t think Mary would mind.

One good thing about this recipe is that it truly is one that vegans can use, because the feta that you add is optional. Hooray for that. Given my profound love of cheese, obviously I’ll never be a vegan, but for my vegan friends out there, this one is for you.

Would I make this again? Absolutely. I may even put this in our regular rotation. It’s a great weeknight meal– delicious, healthy, quick and easy. I consider those three things the holy grail of a successful weeknight dinner.

“Courgette and Lemon Spaghetti” from “Food”

“Lightening Lentil Soup” from “Food”

Anna: As the name suggests, this is described as a very quick soup to make.

Peter: And was it?

Anna: Well I managed to rustle it up in the last 10 minutes of Louis’s nap time so yes, I’d say this is a fair descriptor. I’m not sure I’m overly thrilled with it though.

Peter: I think it’s nice. It’s not as worthy as some lentil soups can be. It has a nice sweetness to it.

Anna: I just don’t think it’s filling enough. You expect lentil soup to be filling. The minestrone was a much more satisfying bowl of soup. I expect it’s because there isn’t enough lentils. One tin for a recipe that serves 4 doesn’t seem enough to me.

Peter: So does speed triumph over satisfaction?

Anna: In soup, as generally in life, no.

“Lightening Lentil Soup” from “Food”

“Butter Bean Gravy Stew” from “Food”

Anna: This is a bit dirty. If you can count a vegetarian dish as dirty.

Peter: The stuffed jalepenos that you love so much are dirty and they don’t have any meat in them.

Anna: You’re right! Of course you wouldn’t find this meal in Iceland, though it does feel a bit reminiscent of a Spar ready-meal circa. 1981. It feels wrong but it tastes very nice.

Peter: It’s certainly stewy. And the butterbeans are a bit like dumplings. But it would be improved enormously by the addition of some meat.

Anna: It has a veggie burger in it. Did you notice?

Peter: No. That explains the mystery of the Quorn burgers arriving in the shop.

Anna: Well I would consider having this again. And I didn’t think I’d say that.

“Butter Bean Gravy Stew” from “Food”

“Leek and Pea Risotto” from “Food”

Maureen: Ah. Another risotto. We could become a risotto test kitchen. I think we’ve got the experience. [Note: We’ve tested risotto in January 2011, May 2011, August 2011, February 2012 and July 2012.]   What do you think?

Tim: It’s fine.

Andrew (12): It’s OK, but it’s not as good as our usual risotto.

Maureen: Do you mean the one with lashings of butter and cheese?

Andrew: Yes, that’s the one.

Nicholas (9): I agree with Andrew. The other one is better.

Maureen: This one is much healthier, though. There’s not nearly as much butter and cheese as I usually put in. In fact, if you were a vegan, you could probably take out the butter and the cheese and it wouldn’t taste hugely different from this.

Tim: Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe for a good risotto you need butter and cheese.

Maureen: Could be. So should I make this version again?

Andrew: No. Please make the one you usually do.

Nicholas: I’m with Andrew on this one.

Maureen: It seems to me that we still haven’t found a risotto recipe that is better than the Giorgio Locatelli one. But we will keep trying!

Cook’s Notes: Sorry, this recipe can’t be found on the Internet anywhere, but that’s OK, because I think there’s better risotto recipes out there. The biggest problem was the amount of rice it called for– only a measly 250 grams– which she said would serve four people. Let me assure you that 62.5 grams of risotto per person wouldn’t do it in this house. So I increased it to 400 grams, which was sufficient. Beyond that, there’s not much to distinguish this recipe from any other risotto recipe, other than the reduced amount of cheese and butter used. Like I said, it would be a good recipe for a vegan, because I think they could omit them and it would still be fine. But for this family, we won’t be using this recipe again.

“Leek and Pea Risotto” from “Food”

“Mexican Bean Tortilla” from “Feast”

Anna: I thought these would need cheese but they are lush just as they are. And I don’t use the word ‘lush’. Ever.

Peter: They were very different to the regular quesadilla we have. They are a bit like a soft-based pizza.

Anna: I would say these are like tostadas. But without the meat and the cheese. One was definitely enough for me… they are filling little buggers.

Peter: They were definitely more filling than they looked. I liked the combination of the lime juice and the salt. I think the beans could have been a bit cloying without the lime juice kick.

Anna: So would you be happy to have these again instead of our usual quesadillas?

Peter: Well these seem more like a proper meal. So yes, I would.

“Mexican Bean Tortilla” from “Feast”

“Lip-smacking Minestrone” from “Food”

Peter: This reminds me of the soup your mother makes that you like, pasta and thingy.

Anna: Pasta e fagioli. It does have pasta in it. But that’s about where the similarities end. My mother makes a mean minestrone too, and I think this recipe could rival it.

Peter: It’s quite filling. You could eat it for dinner if you had a big enough bowlful.

Anna: High praise indeed! It certainly goes a long way. We’ll be having our third day’s lunch on it tomorrow. I added some of the yellow courgette we had left from France to it today. That’s what’s so nice about minestrone, you can just keep topping it up with whatever veg you’ve got kicking around.

Peter: Is it healthy? It seems to have a lot of greens in it.

Anna: Very. I used my mother’s secret ingredient though, adding a parmesan rind to the pot. It makes it a little less healthy but adds a yumminess that’s more than worth it!

“Lip-smacking Minestrone” from “Food”