Our Verdict: Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours

Maureen: I liked this book, almost everything we tried was good, but I feel bad that I didn’t have a chance to try more recipes.

Kirstin: Me too.

Maureen: The thing I liked about this cookbook is there were a lot of good dinners that could be made on a weeknight that were delicious but didn’t require a lot of effort. I can see going back to this book again and again.

Kirstin: She’s like the modern-day equivalent of Nigel Slater.

Maureen: I agree.

Kirstin:  I hate to say this, but I liked her other books more. This one had a lot of fruit with savory dishes, which I don’t like. That’s just me, but that also means there were a lot of recipes that didn’t interest me.

Maureen: I can see what you mean. I think I liked it better than you did, but I still don’t think it’s flawless.

Kirstin: I would like for her to do a fish book. That would be amazing.

Maureen: If she did a fish book, that would make Fish Fridays that much easier. We had lots of good fish out of this book. The salmon, in particular, was great.

Kirstin: I’m looking forward to her next book. She’s always a treat.

Maureen: Nigella said, “This is everything I want from a cookbook,” and I have to agree.

 

Overall Grade (A- F): A (Maureen) B (Kirstin)
Best recipes: (Maureen) Flourless chocolate cake.
Grade for Photography (A-F): B
Any disasters? (Kirstin) Goan fish curry. (Maureen) Orzo with lemon and parsley
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf.
Would you give this to a friend? Yes. It’s got a good variety of recipes and they (mostly) all worked.

Our Verdict: Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours

“Salmon with Tomatoes, Pea and Basil Puree” from “Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours”

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Maureen: FISH FRIDAY!

Andrew (17): This is absolutely delicious.

Nicholas (13): Yum.

Andrew: This is the best fish you’ve made in a long time.

Nicholas: I agree.

Maureen: I’m surprised you like it so much. I agree it’s great, but I don’t think it’s radically different from other fish I’ve done.

Andrew: I don’t know. It’s just really good.

Maureen: Well, one for the books then. We should definitely have this again if you like it so much.

Andrew: Yes. We definitely should.

If you’d like to make this yourself, the recipe can be found on Google Books by clicking through this sentence.

“Salmon with Tomatoes, Pea and Basil Puree” from “Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours”

“Tim’s Parmesan Chicken” from “Simple”

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t adequately express how important chicken parmesan is to this family. It is, far and away, our favourite meal.

Something to celebrate? Let’s have chicken parm. Something to bemoan? Chicken parm. Special visitors? Chicken parm. Friends we haven’t seen in years? Chicken parm. Special requests by houseguest? Chicken parm. General “I can’t think of what to make for dinner”? Chicken parm.

[True Fact: Every time we see our Chicago neighbours who lived across the street from us 18 years ago, they ask me to make chicken parm. It doesn’t matter where we are: London, Chicago, wherever, the request is always the same. And I always make it. Yum.]

So when I saw this recipe, I was very intrigued. Surely it wouldn’t be as beloved as our own chicken parm, but it would be worth trying it out. Also, it’s by a guy called Tim, so it’s BOUND to be good.

Alas, it wasn’t as good as the one I’ve always made, but it still was delicious. I would have been incredibly surprised if it had surpassed our love of our usual version, given that our version is slathered in homemade tomato sauce and mountains of mozzarella cheese.

In this version, you bread the chicken thighs and cover them in parmesan, but then bake– rather than fry and bake– them. Tim (our Tim, not the author of the recipe) liked that the chicken’s crust was drier than it is when I fry and then bake it. The rest of us weren’t as convinced, but we were always going to be tough customers when it came to this recipe.

Would it make this recipe again? Probably not. Would I make chicken parm again? Until the end of days. Obviously.

Like to try Tim’s Chicken Parmesan? Click on this paragraph to find the recipe in the paragraph.

Want to try our most favourite dish ever? Let me know in the comments and I’ll post it here.

“Tim’s Parmesan Chicken” from “Simple”

“Roast Citrus, Ginger and Honey Chicken” from “Simple”

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Tom: This looks totally epic. The sauce is wonderfully dark; it almost looks like a duck sauce!

Kirstin: I know what you mean.

Tom: And the sauce is a little spicy too. What’s in it?

Kirstin: She says to add some hot sauce. So I added some sriracha. Along with the ginger and other goodies.

Tom: It’s brilliant!

Kirstin: It’s almost like a hot sweet and sour, right?

Tom: I think it’s like having Peking duck as chicken.

Ella: I’m glad we’re chicken it out.

Kirstin: GAH!

“Roast Citrus, Ginger and Honey Chicken” from “Simple”

“Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream” from “Simple”

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Book club night!

I love being able to try out new recipes from our tester cookbooks for book club, but they also love to be the guinea pigs, so I call that a win-win situation.

Tonight it was time to try another flourless chocolate cake. I’ve tested quite a few on this blog. I think my favourite– or at least the one I turn to repeatedly– is the one by Angela Hartnett in “A Taste of Home”.

This one was much like the others. I’m thrilled to say that it didn’t collapse, but as I’ve written previously, I know to beat the egg whites in utter submission in order for the cake to stay firm after baking.

The new addition to this particular version of flourless chocolate cake was the making of coffee cream to go with it, where you whip up double cream, a coffee paste and some alcohol. Diana Henry wanted me to add whiskey to it, but given just the smell of whiskey makes me nauseous, I decided to add amaretto instead. Tim suggested if I make the cream again I use Bailey’s Irish Cream, which I thought was a stellar suggestion, so I will do that.

The book club loved it. We were busy disagreeing on our opinion of the book* [see below], but we could agree on loving this cake. It was another winning recipe.

*If you’re curious what we read, it was “The Reader on the 6.27” by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, and translated by Ros Schwartz. I loved it, but the club was split on its option. Five of us loved it, four of us hated it. I would urge you to read it, but four of my friends would not. For what it’s worth.

This recipe, which I definitely recommend, can be found on the Telegraph website. You can read it by clicking through this paragraph.

“Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream” from “Simple”

“Portuguese Baked Hake and Potatoes” from “Simple”

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Maureen: Fish Friday!

Nicholas (13): What fish is this?

Maureen: It’s hake. You should see the mouth on a hake! It’s really something. I asked the nice fishmonger if I could have the head too, but then she warned me that we would have to be extra-careful with it because the teeth have anticoagulants in them. So no fun with fish heads tonight.

Andrew (Now 17! Happy birthday!): I’m not so sure about the hake.

Maureen: What do you mean?

Andrew: I like the potatoes, but I don’t like the taste of the hake.

Nicholas: I agree with Andrew.

Maureen: Well, that might be a first. But I’m not sure I understand why you dislike the hake. I don’t think the hake tastes overly fishy. It’s just a plain white fish.

Tim: I agree with Mom. I don’t see the problem either.

Maureen: Well, we seem to be divided on this one. Maybe when I make it again, I’ll just make it for me and dad and the two of you can have fish fingers or something. That’ll show you. I think this is delicious.

As I said above, the adults really liked this. I honestly don’t know why the boys didn’t like it more. Sometimes Often, children’s tastes are a mystery. But if you want to try it for yourself, click through this sentence to find the recipe in the Telegraph.

“Portuguese Baked Hake and Potatoes” from “Simple”

“Parmesan Roast Chicken with Cauliflower and Thyme” from “Simple”

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If I ever had to pick a perfect supper, this would certainly make the list.

  • Tray bake? Check.
  • Chicken? Check.
  • Cauliflower? Check.
  • Cheese? Check.
  • Easy? Check.
  • Delicious? Check.
  • Everyone likes it? Check.

See what I mean? The perfect supper.

This is not to say that I haven’t made a variation of this a million times before. But the reason I’ve made something similar a million times before is because of all the points listed above. It’s a good time of year to have this, as well (though it’s good any time of year, to be honest), as the days become shorter and cold weather begins to descend.

We followed the alternative directions and used gruyere instead of parmesan, but that made it seem all the more like cauliflower cheese, another winning dish.

Would I make this again? Obviously. Why mess with success?

If you’d like to make this yourself, here’s the recipe, as it first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

“Parmesan Roast Chicken with Cauliflower and Thyme” from “Simple”