Our Verdict: Together: Our Community Cookbook

Kirstin: I liked it!

Maureen: I did too. It wasn’t long or comprehensive, but it was a lovely book full of recipes that I wouldn’t ordinarily make.

Kirstin: Yes

Maureen: It was like a very expensively produced Women’s Institute or Junior League community cookbook on shiny paper…

Kirstin: ….WIth a duchess thrown in there for good measure…

Maureen: …And with much better photography than you’d get in your standard community cookbook.

Kirstin: You know what I’d like? Guidance at the top on how long it’s going to take to make each recipe because some of the recipes were quite long. I usually try to not cook food that takes longer than an hour.

Maureen: Certianly not on a weeknight. Who has the time? Saying that, I’ll occasionally make something that takes a few hours on a weekday, but I have to be super organised to do that and it’s one of the perks of working from home.

Kirstin: Sometimes, I found it quite frustrating how the steps of the recipe were organised.

Maureen: I don’t know, but maybe I’ve been testing these cookbooks wrong all this time, but I always read a recipe and then do it in whatever way makes the most sense to me.

Kirstin: I completely agree with you and I do that too, but I just wish they had done written some of the recipes differently. Maybe it’s just me. Like with curry, I like to get everything chopped and ready in advance, and then clean up as I go along.

Maureen: [Laughing] I never clean up as I go along. That’s my life philosophy. Just ask Tim.

Kirstin: I was trying to give you the benefit the doubt. But I loved the curry recipes because we don’t do a lot of cookbooks with good curry recipes in it.

Maureen: I loved the different regions they had on offer. I don’t often get to see recipes from Persia or Ethiopia, so I liked giving those a try. I wonder if there’s going to sequel to this. They’ve made loads of money for the Hubb Community Kitchen for this, which is such a great thing.

Kirstin: We’ll wait and see.

 

“Together: Our Community Cookbook”
Overall Grade (A- F):  B* (Maureen) B (Kirstin) (*Maureen included the caveat, “For a community cookbook, it’s an A, for a professional cookbook compared against others, it’s a B.)
Best recipes: Maureen: Green rice. Kirstin: Coconut Chicken Curry.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A It’s got slightly weird toning, but all the smiles made up for it.
Any disasters? Kirstin: I didn’t have any disasters, but the aubergine takes way too long. Maureen: No. It was all good.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Low-rotation bookshelf.                                                                      Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: It would have to be the right friend, but yes.

Our Verdict: Together: Our Community Cookbook

“Green Chilli & Avocado Dip” and “Cole Slaw” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Green Chilli & Avocado Dip

This recipe was one of the main reasons why I bought the cookbook in the first place. I love avocados. I love dips. It was cited as one of the favourites of the Duchess of Sussex. [Who is also a former Northwestern Wildcat– just like me! We have SO MUCH in common. Meghan: If you’re reading this and you’d like some tips about how to file your US taxes and/or otherwise survive as an American expat in London, hit me up.]

This is sort of like a very creamy, slightly different guacamole. Obviously, I love guacamole so this definitely worked for me. This is yet another super easy recipe because all you have to do is throw all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz away. If you had the ingredients to hand, you could definitely throw this together if unexpected guests showed up on your doorstep. [Does that even happen any more? Probably not. But it’s nice to think about. Maybe Meghan makes it when Wills and Kate pop in for cocktails. Who can say.]

I will definitely be making this again and again. Highly recommended.

If you’d like to try it yourself, click through here to see the recipe on MSN.com.

Cole Slaw

Cole slaw is practically its own food group in America, particularly in the summer. It’s impossible to go to any barbeque or outdoor party and not have it feature. Consequently, a conservative estimate is that I’ve eaten cole slaw approximately 769,351 times. I could be off by one or two.

Every time we have cole slaw, I look anew for a better recipe because inevitably it is disappointing. There’s only so many ways you can change it, because the premise remains the same: cabbage, carrots, mayonnaise. The American recipes tend to feature a LOT of mayonnaise, which I don’t really like.

But I believe, my friends, that I have found the perfect cole slaw recipe. How perfect is it? It’s so good that I’ve already made it three times. It’s delicious and easy.

Aside from the building blocks of cabbage, carrots and mayonnaise, this version makes three key additions which truly elevate it to the sublime: chilli flakes, coriander and chopped red pepper. Suddenly cole slaw was a lot more interesting and fresh than all the previous iterations.

I’ll definitely be making this again and again and again.

“Green Chilli & Avocado Dip” and “Cole Slaw” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Baked Fish with Tahini & Pomegranate” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Fish Friday!

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: the best thing about cooking fish for dinner– on Friday or any other night of the week– is how quickly it cooks. Remember the disaster that was Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals? Actually, let’s not. We’ll get indigestion. But my point is that most fish truly is a 15 minute meal. Anyone who’s ever been hangry after a full day of working can appreciate how that’s such a good thing to know.

This is a very, very simple dish. The author, Leila Hejem, says in the introduction, “This is a recipe from my Algerian Dad– and it’s so easy I’m almost embarrassed to call it a recipe!” And that’s true– I could easily distill it down to three sentences– but it’s also delicious.

[For those wondering, those three sentences would be:

  1. Bake four fillets of fish (cod or anything else) that have been drizzled with oil and seasonings at 180C for 10-12 minutes.
  2. Make a tahini sauce
  3. Take out of oven, drizzle sauce over the fish and then sprinkle over parsley, pomegranate seeds and pine needs to garnish.

See? Easy.]

This would be a decent recipe to keep in mind on those nights, maybe even Fish Friday nights, when you’re not sure what you want to make and you don’t have much time or energy. This also applies many times to dinner made when on holiday, it has to be said. When I make this again, I might add some sumac and perhaps not use the pomegranate seeds, but that’s down to personal preference. But I’ll definitely cook this again.

“Baked Fish with Tahini & Pomegranate” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Coconut chicken curry” from “Together: Our community cookbook”

Kirstin: YUM! More curry! Which is just about perfect for this time of the year. That said, I had several issues with this recipe, which I cooked on Blue Monday. I could not find a ripe tomato for love nor money in deepest darkest January. I used half a can of tomatoes instead. I also did not add any boiled eggs because I am the only who likes eggs in our home. Finally I could not find serrano chillies so used jalapeno. But even with all of those changes, this was still a wonderful recipe.
It took a while to cook, as all good curries do. I listened to this podcast as I simmered the paste because I have always been intrigued by Jennifer Aniston. Would I make this again? Yes, very probably. There is nothing quite as warming as making a curry on a cold night.

“Coconut chicken curry” from “Together: Our community cookbook”

“Kofta Kebabs with Onion & Sumac Pickle” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Yum. Koftas. I think I started to make koftas after trying Ottolenghi’s version in Jerusalem. They are a firm family favourite, so I figured I definitely should give these a try. 

We were not disappointed. They were delicious. The onion and sumac pickle added very much of a “delicious street food” vibe.

The recipe also seemed to be much easier to make than the Ottolenghi version, but I just had a look at his recipe and his had roughly an equal amount of ingredients. Perhaps I thought this was easier and quicker because it was– it included the genius suggestion of pulsing the onion, garlic and parsley in the food processor before adding the rest of the ingredients and pulsing again. This made mixing up the koftas so much easier to do.

As per the instructions, I did mould each portion around a wooden skewer, but I’m not sure that was necessary. I would have been able to fit all 12 koftas in my grill pan if I didn’t have to work around the skewers, and we didn’t use them to eat them anyway, so I’ll probably skip that step the next time.

The one thing I did steal from Ottolenghi, though, was the tahini sauce (see in picture above), which he included in his own kofta recipe. That added the perfect finishing touch to an already delicious dinner.

Thumbs up all around the table.

 

“Kofta Kebabs with Onion & Sumac Pickle” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Chocolate Cake” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

In my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, the one my mother sent me off to adulthood when I would have to cook for myself, there is the most glorious recipe: Busy Day Cake. I don’t know when this recipe was first included in the cookbook, which was first published in 1933. But it calls to mind a more simple time, say the 1950s, when people (and when I say people, I mean women because let’s face it, they were the ones who were doing most of the cooking) would make the effort to make cake all the time, even on busy days.

(Click through here for the recipe for Busy Day Cake, if you’d like to try it for yourself.)

I thought of Busy Day Cake when I made this chocolate cake because on that day I myself was having a busy day, but this cake was so simple to make that I could fit it in around all the other things I had to do that day. Full disclosure: my busy day involved watching my beloved Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball team. I made this cake during the half-time break. Priorities.

This is a good-quality chocolate cake. It’s not reinventing the wheel and it won’t win any beauty contests, mind you, but sometimes all you want is a nice cake you can keep on the counter through the week as you try to battle your way through January. This is that cake. Easy to make and good to eat. Most excellent.

If I’ve got another busy day and I want some cake, this will be the one that I make.

 

“Chocolate Cake” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Beef and Aubergine Casserole” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Kirstin: This was a real labour of love. So many frying of different ingredients before finally putting the whole thing together. But the thing is, I don’t think it was actually worth it.

Tom: I liked it.

Kirstin: I did too. But honestly, there was an hour of faffing beforehand. And that as before it even went in the oven for another hour.

Tom: Oooohhhhhh.

Kirstin: Exactly. So while I enjoyed it, it’s not going to be made again. Sadly. I say sadly because I do love fried aubergine. But there is a silver lining. I’m going to take the leftovers in to work tomorrow!

“Beef and Aubergine Casserole” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Green Rice” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

When I first bought this book and brought it back home in September, my husband Tim was skeptical. “Another cookbook?” he asked, reasonably, motioning at the more than 100 cookbooks I have on our bookshelves. “Really? I assume it’s for the blog, then?”

I explained that actually, no, it wasn’t for the blog. At least it wasn’t at that point. I just bought it mostly because I wanted to support the work of The Hubb Community Kitchen, which was opened after the horrific Grenfell Fire tragedy as a kitchen for displaced people to use. Proceeds from the cookbook are used to help fund the kitchen, and they’ve already been able to refurbish the space and to be open for seven days a week (up from two days a week before the cookbook), so it worked. There are, to be sure, some recipes in here that I can find elsewhere in my cookbook collection. But that’s not the point.

Green Rice was the first thing I cooked out of this book when I first bought it. The author of the recipe is from Iraq, and she writes it’s a version of a traditional dish from there, making this the first time I’ve ever cooked from an Iraqi recipe. It was delicious.

I’ve since made it subsequent times, and it’s been a hit every time. I made it again when Andrew was home from university over Christmas, and he loved it too. It does require a bit of forward planning, because the lamb has to simmer for an hour before you get on with the rest of the recipe, but it is easy. Most surprising of all, even though it’s got a fair amount of dill in it, even Tim, who hates dill with a passion, liked it. When I expressed surprise, he said there were enough other flavours in it that you didn’t notice the dill as much.

Just writing about it again is making my mouth water for it. Highly recommended.

“Green Rice” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Jeera Chicken” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Kirstin: And finally, we are back in the game! It’s not like I haven’t been cooking for the last few weeks. If anything cooking has taken up a significant part of my time over the Christmas period. But blogging hasn’t. Anyway, I digress. This is from the Duchess’s cookbook.

Tate (previously known as Ella): You know how I feel about the monarchy.

Kirstin: Yes. Yes, I do. But hear me out. This book is written by the members of the Grenfell Tower community. The community that got together after the fire in the tower and cooked meals for those who had survived.

Tate: That is completely valid.

Miles: And I really like the curry too.

Kirstin: I do too. Except for the part where I accidentally stuck my covered-in-chilli-finger into my eye. That was a huge fail part of the meal.

Tate: It smelled lovely while you were cooking it.

Kirstin: Why thank you. I do like to have all the ingredients ready before I start to make a curry, so I had to faff a bit at the beginning, figuring what I needed. But it was worth it. And I have leftovers for work tomorrow too.

“Jeera Chicken” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Cookbook of the Month, January 2019: Together, Our Community Cookbook

Kirstin: So we haven’t posted anything during December.

Maureen: I don’t know about you, but we were very busy over Christmas.

Kirstin: We were too. Busy cooking, cooking, cooking. In fact, all cooking and no blogging.

Maureen: Same here!

Kirstin: And when we talked about which book to do next, you suggested this one!

Maureen: I did. It’s a small book but it has some interesting recipes. And it’s all for a good cause too.

Kirstin: With photography by one of my favourite photographers, Jenny Zarins. Gah! I love her work!

Maureen: I’ve already cooked a few of the recipes and they’ve been great.

Kirstin: Let’s get to it! And a Happy New Year! When did it get to be 2019?!?

Cookbook of the Month, January 2019: Together, Our Community Cookbook