“Easy” – our verdict

Anna: Oh my word.

Kirstin: I don’t know where to start.

Anna: This has not been “Easy”, to be fair. It might be easy compared with the way Tom Aikens normally cooks, but in relation to the way I cook, it’s been quite a… dare I use the f word?… faff.

Kirstin: I would call this book “Oily”. It’s been swimming in oil. Do you think he wrote these recipes himself?

Anna: I don’t know.

Kirstin: Are we missing something? I was so excited about this book…

Anna: The timings have all been wrong. And I think some of the quantities appear to be wrong, too. Maureen had the issue with the beef salad. I had the problem with the eggs not being in the oven long enough.

Kirstin: I had all sorts of problems. I was really disappointed by this book. I was so excited!

Anna: You were. Do you think you’ll make anything from this book again?

Kirstin: No. Though we did like the poussin recipe.

Tom: Oh, yes. That was good. It was the first recipe we did, wasn’t it? But it got the timings wrong.

Anna: Didn’t the chicken with lemon work for you?

Kirstin: It just wasn’t all that.

Anna: What about the lamb and couscous?

Kirstin: No, I have better lamb recipes than that.

Anna: So, we’re looking forward to moving on to another book. We tried.

Kirstin: That’s one way of putting it. Sadly.

“Easy” – our verdict

“Casserole of Roast Chicken with Herbs” from “Easy”

Maureen: Hooray. This is our last recipe from “Easy,” which has been a disappointment from start to finish. This recipe had its share of problems too.

Andrew (11): What’s in here?

Maureen: Leftover chicken from the other night, mushrooms, carrots, onions, garlic, celery, tomatoes and a bunch of herbs. What do you think?

Andrew: It’s alright. It’s not brilliant, but it’s alright.

Nicholas (8): I agree.

Tim: I like it, but I’m inclined to like meals like this because it’s like a stew.

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“Casserole of Roast Chicken with Herbs” from “Easy”

“Chicken Marinated in Yoghurt and Mint with Lime Rice” from “Easy”

Maureen: Look at that! Yours has disappeared from your plate in no time. You must have liked it.

Tim: No, I don’t like it at all. It’s gross.

Maureen: The rice is nice, at least. But I had to simmer the lime juice and zest separately from the rice for it, and I’m not sure that was necessary. I think it made both of them bitter, which surely couldn’t have been what he was trying to do.

Tim: I’m only eating the chicken because I’m starving.

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“Chicken Marinated in Yoghurt and Mint with Lime Rice” from “Easy”

“Blueberry and Buttermilk American Pancakes” from “Easy”

Peter: I see you’ve presented me with a large cookie.

Anna: It does rather look that way, doesn’t it?

Peter: It tastes sweet and salty at the same time.  Surely you would like this?

Anna: That saltiness comes from the fact that I made it in the same frying pan that I’d fried the bacon in.  Tom Aitkens can have that tip for free.  But really, this recipe is a bit of a nonsense I’m sorry to say.

Peter: This looks like a bit of a cake, and it took you roughly three times as long to make as your usual pancakes. So I’m not sure I would say this is an improvement.

Anna: The photo in the book makes it look like you are making one large pancake. The recipe calls for you to add spoonfuls to a greased frying pan before putting in the oven. Implying individual pancakes. But because the frying pan isn’t pre-heated the individual spoonfuls blend into one slightly deformed large cake. Perhaps that’s the point.

Peter: It actually tasted a bit like cake, rather than pancake.

Anna: Weirdly the recipe called for lots of sugar. And vanilla extract and almond extract. Which gave it a different type of flavour but you’re right, not really very pancake-y, American or otherwise.  And the baking thing was a total red herring. As usual they took longer than the recipe called for and it took longer than doing them on the stove. Worst of all they didn’t have that lovely golden brown colour only griddling/frying can give.  Very disappointing!

“Blueberry and Buttermilk American Pancakes” from “Easy”

“Lamb provencal with Five Herbs” from “Easy”

Anna: I am so glad this meal is over. I couldn’t be bothered to even eat it. But I think I lost weight preparing it.

Kirstin: It took an hour an a half to chop and fry all those vegetables.

Anna: And that was with two people doing it! Think how long it would have taken one of us on our own. I don’t think it was very Provencale, either.

Kirstin: There’s no coriander in Provencale food.

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“Lamb provencal with Five Herbs” from “Easy”

“Beef Salad with Red Onions and Balsamic Vinegar” from “Easy”

Julia: Visually, it’s… (pause for serious consideration for the right adjective) appealing. The flavours are really super.

Tom: I thought it was very tasty with a good mix of flavours.

Julia: What’s it called?

Maureen: Beef salad with red onions and balsamic vinegar.

Julia: It should have a fancier name than that!

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“Beef Salad with Red Onions and Balsamic Vinegar” from “Easy”

“New York Cheesecake” from “Easy”

Maureen: Tonight we’re having New York Cheesecake. I figured it was the perfect time to do it, since we have a born-and-bred New Yorker (The Bronx, since you asked) to test it. What do you think, New Yorker?

Tom: I think it’s absolutely good.

Maureen: I’m not convinced by the crust. It’s not a traditional New York cheesecake crust. This is a cake layer, whereas all the other New York cheesecakes I’ve had in the past had a more crumbly layer, made out of graham crackers. Of course, you can’t get graham crackers here, so you have to use digestives. But they’re an excellent substitute.

Tom: Yes, this is a different kind of crust, but it’s good. It’s got a nice chocolate flavour.

Maureen: But it’s not what you would expect to have when having New York cheesecake, or indeed, cheesecake in New York.

Tom: No, but it’s good.

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“New York Cheesecake” from “Easy”

“Chicken with lemon, rosemary and garlic” from “Easy” with guest contributors in Cape Town, South Africa.

Kirstin: I gave this book to Kathryn last Friday when they were visiting and we thought it might be interesting to try and cook a few of the meals at the same time and compare notes.

Tom: That’s a good idea! Let’s start!

Kirstin: Oops. Looks like I forgot the garlic. And I burnt the bread. Clearly I was having one of those evenings…but our guests have something to say about the garlic, so maybe it was no bad thing.

Miles: I love this! Please can we have this again?

Ella: It’s a little lemony, but I like it anyway. This bread is yummy.

Kirstin: This was Tamsin’s bread recipe suggestion. It was rather fun!

Tom: And we had lettuce from the garden, with some unexpected insect guests. Did you have to bash the chicken with a hammer?

Kirstin: Yes, between parchment paper. But I’m not sure about the 200ml of olive oil. 100ml would have sufficed.

Meanwhile, in Cape Town:

Sophie (aged 7, pointing to the lemony sauce): I did that.

Ingrid: Did you flatten the chicken? Mm … it’s very lemony.

Tom: Yes, it’s the South African take on things – it’s flattened because it’s township road kill.

Continue reading ““Chicken with lemon, rosemary and garlic” from “Easy” with guest contributors in Cape Town, South Africa.”

“Chicken with lemon, rosemary and garlic” from “Easy” with guest contributors in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Baked Eggs with Ham and Parmesan” from “Easy”

Peter: I do like a baked egg.

Anna: So do I. I’m always drawn to recipes for baked eggs. I don’t actually make them that often though. Now I remember why.

Peter: You got a bit frustrated trying to get them cooked properly didn’t you?

Anna: Just a little. It seems to be a nirvana, the baked egg that has a wobbly yolk but properly cooked whites. Instead the yolk got over-cooked but we’ve still got yucky uncooked bits of white floating around.

Peter: How long were they supposed to be in the oven for?

Anna: The recipe says 10 minutes. But after that amount of time they were definitely not cooked. After 5 more minutes I think they would have been fine for you but mine needed at least another five, and still there they were, the globs of white.

Peter: I liked them a lot though.

Anna: Yes, they are delicious.

Peter: Do they have lemon in them?

Anna: It’s the creme fraiche. It gives a lovely contrast to the saltiness of the parma ham. Cream would have been too rich.

Peter: They do feel very indulgent. Is it wrong that I’ve had two?

Anna: It’s Sunday, you’re allowed to indulge yourself.

“Baked Eggs with Ham and Parmesan” from “Easy”

“Lamb fillet or rump with spicy couscous” from Easy

Kirstin (while Tom slices it up): Is it rare inside?

Tom: Er, no. Although I have to say I’ve never been a fan of raw lamb.

Kirstin: Damn! I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be rare inside. He said to colour the meat at a medium heat. I had a feeling that wasn’t going to work. So when it didn’t I had to increase the heat to brown it properly which of course meant more cooking for the inside. And that was before I had to stick it in the oven.

Tom: The outside is done beautifully though.

Kirstin: So I need to cross out that crucial word in the book and change it so that I sear the meat rather than brown it next time at  a  higher heat for a shorter period of time.

Tom: Will there be a next time?

Kirstin: Actually, yes because the couscous was lovely. And thank you Drings for the lovely lamb. And the cheeses from the cheeseboard. Good choices, all. Yum and thank you!

Tom: You know me, I love couscous and lamb.

Kirstin: And it all went well together. I have to admit I left out the raisins and sultanas. because you all know my longstanding feelings on the matter. I don’t think we missed anything, do you Tom?

Tom: No.

Kirstin: To be fair, I needed a recipe tonight which would be quick and easy after a long day at work. But also one that would impress. This almost fitted the bill and I would definitely use it again, with that slight adjustment. So thus far, a great book that just needs a few notes added to each recipe….

“Lamb fillet or rump with spicy couscous” from Easy