“Cheater’s Tortilla Española” from “Repertoire”

It had been a long day. It was Monday. We’d just come off having two (unrelated) guests for the weekend, who were the last of 12 guests who’d stayed with us this summer. I spent six hours on the train for a round trip to Sheffield to transport Andrew, our oldest son, back to university for the year. I had to shop, unpack and help organise him once we got up there. Then I had to sadly leave him behind, which made me more emotional than I expected. When I got to London Bridge at 9 p.m.– the final leg of my journey home– it was crammed with irate people because many of the trains weren’t running.

Needless to say, when I collapsed on the sofa once I returned home, I was pretty tired. And hungry. My plan was to rustle up some scrambled eggs, chopped spinach, feta and sriracha sauce (my Go To Meal when I don’t know what to cook). But those plans quickly changed when my lovely husband told me he’d made this for dinner, even took photos for the blog, and there was plenty left over for me to enjoy.

If that’s not true love, then I don’t know what is.

He did go into a detailed explanation of how he cooked this meal, but I’ve got to be honest– after the aforementioned day I can’t remember now what he said. I do recall that he said it was relatively easy, and that the most notable part of the recipe was the fact that it took 10 eggs. (Luckily, we had eggs to hand. See above.)

The introduction said that this dish is good hot or cold, and I can confirm that’s true. I put some warmish tortilla straight in my gob when I realised what good food awaited me in the kitchen, but I also reheated some in the microwave. It was delicious both times.

This is an excellent addition to our Meat Free Monday rota.

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“Cheater’s Tortilla Española” from “Repertoire”

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”

One of the things that Jessica Battilana encourages people to do in this cookbook is not to be afraid to alter the recipes to fit their needs. The whole point of “Repertoire” is to create your own dishes for your own repertoire that will work for your family. For this recipe, I followed her advice, partly because I altered the recipe to make it what our family would like, and partly because our local supermarket didn’t have the ingredients I needed when I went shopping at 6:30 pm for dinner that night. Life is all about being adaptable.

In the first instance, I changed the recipe a little bit to fit what we would like. I was fairly sure that the rest of the pack would not be keen on mint in their pasta, no matter how good it might be. So I subbed out mint and replaced it with basil. (This is in the spirit of full disclosure, since you’d never be able to tell either way in the picture above.) I also didn’t have rigatoni, but I figured this pasta was just as good, so that’s what happened there.

Now on to the 6:30 pm supermarket sweep. Usually, I can count on our local Sainsbury’s to have ricotta, but alas, on this night it did not. I didn’t have time to get to the other local supermarkets since it was already so late, so I decided to sub in a mild goat’s cheese for the ricotta. I’ve got to say, that was a result. I’m sure the ricotta would have been good too, but this was delicious. Add to the fact that she recommends you warm it up a bit in the oven, and it really was spectacular.

One final suggestion that she made that I will definitely do again: presenting it all on a big platter. Usually for pasta dinners on Meat Free Monday, I’ll just load up the food on to each individual plate. But by putting it on the big platter and allowing everyone to dig in, it really made dinner more convivial and communal.

All in all, it was an excellent Meat Free Monday.

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”

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.

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”