Artichoke, Tagliatellle from “Greenfeast”

Nigel would like us all to eat more vegetables, thus this book. But this edition, “Spring, Summer,” is just part one of “Greenfeast,” with part two “Autumn, Winter” hitting your local bookstore on Oct. 3.

This seemed like the perfect Meat Free Monday feast: relatively easy, quick and interesting. It was all of those things, but unfortunately, it was also a fourth: bland.

What you do for this recipe is essentially you make a pesto-type sauce with the artichokes, basil and garlic. So far, so good. (Though a caveat: this step can get a bit greasy, given that all those artichokes are swimming in oil. Not a dealbreaker, but good to know that you should keep some kitchen roll to hand.) You toss it in some fresh pasta. Again, fantastic.

The problem was that the artichoke-pesto, as I decided to call it, was a bit on the bland side. We quickly solved this problem with a scattering of chilli flakes over the top, which did the trick.

Would I make this again? I probably would. I just would have kitchen roll and chilli flakes to hand.

Editor’s Note: Apologies for my lack of posts of late. We were in GCSE hell and I also had a literary festival to help run, so things have been a bit busy over here. Normal service has now resumed.

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Artichoke, Tagliatellle from “Greenfeast”

“Homemade Broccoli Cheddar Cobbler” from “Half Baked Harvest”

Meat Free Monday!

I was really looking forward to this, not least because it features some of my favourite things: broccoli, cheddar cheese, biscuits. Yum. I’m sure I’ve written here before about my love of broccoli-cheddar pizza, which is a specialty from Tim’s hometown and I have grown to love too. (I know it sounds odd. Trust me. Broccoli-cheddar pizza is delicious.)

Surely there’s got to be some sort of  word or phrase that encapsulates the feeling of being overly excited by a particular recipe only to be disappointed by it? Well, if that word exists, I would use it here. This recipe over promised and under delivered.

In theory, it should have been delicious, but it wasn’t. The cobbler, which I expected to be thick and creamy, was thin and uninspiring. The biscuits, which I expected to be light and fluffy, were dense and chewy. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but neither did it meet expectations, so it was disappointing.

In the introduction, Tieghan says this was a new version of a previous broccoli cobbler she made where she used one can of cream of chicken soup and one can of cream of mushroom soup. Having grown up in the US, I can tell you that these are legit ingredients to use (God Bless the USA). So this next version of the recipe is definitely better than that one, but still isn’t great. We won’t be having it again.

If you’d like to try it yourself, though you can tell by the commentary above that I wouldn’t recommend it, click through here to read the recipe on the Half Baked blog.

 

“Homemade Broccoli Cheddar Cobbler” from “Half Baked Harvest”

“The Cheese-Maker’s Mac and Cheese” from “Half Baked Harvest”

What I should have done, I realise now, was to take an action shot of this mac and cheese. In the cookbook, the spoon hovers just over the dish, with pasta heaped on top and loads of cheese cascading down. My picture above does not show any of this, and I apologise. But believe me when I tell you that this dish, like many others in this cookbook, contains oodles (I’m sure that’s the technical term) of cheese.

As regular readers of this blog know, our family already has a Desert Island Mac and Cheese, this one from the New York Times. I’ve been making it since it was first published in January 2006, which tells you all you need to know about its staying power.

So was this version better? No, though I’m beginning to think that no version is going to be an improvement on the one we love so much. But was this version at least as good? Again, no.The inclusion of crushed Ritz crackers on the top was an intriguing addition, but it wasn’t enough for us to fall in love with it. It tasted good, it was quicker to make and it wasn’t a disaster, but I couldn’t in good conscience say that it was as good as our beloved favourite.

The oodles of cheese were good, though.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find it on the Half Baked Harvest blog.

 

“The Cheese-Maker’s Mac and Cheese” from “Half Baked Harvest”

“Broccoli Cheese Wild Rice Casserole” from “Half-Baked Harvest”


Tieghan Gerard, the author of “Half-Baked Harvest” is a big lover of cheese. It seems as though many of her recipes include a heaping amount of cheese, which does not trouble me in the least. I’m always happy to have more cheese in my life. After all, one of the main reasons we decided to move to Greenwich when we moved to London was the presence of one of the city’s best cheesemongers, The Cheeseboard.

This recipe is no exception to the “More Cheese Is No Bad Thing” school of thought. The combination of wild rice, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach and a whole load of cheese (2 cups or 250 grams worth), makes for a good winter warming recipe that goes down a treat.

The only downside to this recipe is that it takes a long time and there is no way to speed up the process– believe me, I tried. Wild rice needs time and space to cook through and become soft. Even cranking up the heat to high is not going to make a load of difference. It takes 45 minutes, that’s all there is to it. In the introduction Tieghan recommends pouring yourself a holiday cocktail (this was published in December) and relaxing. I wish I had listened to her.

Would I make this again? Most definitely yes. I thought it was delicious and it was even better the next day when I reheated the leftovers for lunch.

This recipe came from the Half-Baked Harvest website, so if you’d like to try it yourself, click through here to see the recipe.

“Broccoli Cheese Wild Rice Casserole” from “Half-Baked Harvest”

“Spiced Sweetcorn and Lime Soup” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

Time for some Real Truth about this cookbook: The way it is organised is maddening.

I know we’re only 11 days in the month, and maybe we just got off on the wrong foot, but it’s just a really frustrating cookbook to use. It is organised by the title: with one section each for sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. OK, fine, I can work with that. But only if the index is robust. It is not. Alternatively, there is a list in the front of all the sections with the recipes therein, but finding out what those are means paging through to those specific pages.

Needless to say, it takes a fair amount of time to find specific recipes. So when we want to celebrate Meat Free Monday, for example, it’s a long slog through the index or flipping back and forth to the front of each section. It is frustrating to see the least.

So this is what I finally decided to make. I thought it would go well with the Green Chilli & Avocado Dip from “Together” (it did) along with some Doritos, which everyone loves. Unfortunately, my two dining companions– Nicholas, the teenager, and Tim, the husband, filled up on all the fun stuff and thought the corn soup was just Meh.

I liked it, despite the fact that it doesn’t photograph well (pureed corn soup always looks like sick, no matter what you do), but if the other two-thirds of the family didn’t like it, I don’t see making this again any time soon.

Now don’t mind me. I’ll be over here in a corner for a few hours trying to figure out what to make next.

“Spiced Sweetcorn and Lime Soup” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Minestrone” from “How to Eat”

The air was autumnal, the sky was grey and we had just returned from a week of eating all sorts of goodness in the US (read: fried chicken, pizza, cheesesteaks), so there was only one thing for it– a bowl of healthy soup. Minestrone fit the bill perfectly.

Once again, Nigella did not disappoint. As with all vegetable-centric dishes, the prep– chopping, peeling and the like– is what takes up so much time. But Nigella soothingly tells us in the introduction that you can chop one set of vegetables, throw it in at a low heat, and then move on to prepare the next one. It makes sense.

She does note that the soup does turn out to be “an undeniable khaki,” and that’s true. See above. This is one recipe where it probably is a good thing that there’s no photos in this book.

The one thing that tripped me up was Nigella’s recommendation to use Ligurian olive oil. I spent a fair amount of time in my local Waitrose trying, and failing, to find Ligurian olive oil. I went for the Tuscan olive oil instead, reasoning that it was the next region over, so close enough (though she says the Tuscan stuff is more peppery). But funnily enough, that night we finally sat down to watch “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” on Netflixa cookbook we reviewed earlier this year— and Samin Nosrat goes to Liguria to see them make olive oil. Coincidental or poetic? You decide.

We had loads of leftovers, but I’ve got to say that the soup is even better the next day. Once again, Nigella for the win.

“Minestrone” from “How to Eat”

“Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini” from “Dining In”

I have three go-to tomato sauce recipes that I use. The first, for when I have done a bit of forward planning, is the tomato sauce from Polpo and requires 90 minutes cooking. The second, from Food52’s Genius Recipes, requires 60 minutes cooking. The third, a recipe of my own design, requires maybe 10 minutes (if that) to make. So I feel as though we’ve got tomato sauce covered over here.

But now I’ve got a fourth recipe to add to my repertoire. What Alison Roman wants you to do is to roast bog-standard tomatoes for 3 or 4 hours. Following that you do the usual routine: sweat an onion, add some spices and then add some anchovies for saltiness. Then you tumble in the now sweetened, softened tomatoes. You have to gently break them down and then you have the most glorious thick tomato sauce. You can thin it to your heart’s desire using some of the pasta water you’re making alongside it.

While, yes, this method does require more forward planning than I usually deploy, the result is absolutely worth it. Delicious and highly recommended.

(The picture doesn’t do it it justice, but trust me. Yum.)

“Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini” from “Dining In”