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”

Our Verdict – “A Year of Good Eating: Kitchen Diaries III”

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Kirstin: This is one of my Nigel favourite books for awhile.

Maureen: I agree

Kirstin: I can’t see what’s different about this one that makes me like it.

Maureen: We both have the first Kitchen Diaries, but that’s from several years ago, even before we started this blog. That was OK, but not as good as “Real Cooking,” which I still have on my high rotation cookbook shelf.

Kirstin: We reviewed “Eat,” which I really wanted to like, and that was rubbish.

Maureen: “Eat” was so disappointing because it seemed to promise so much and didn’t deliver it at all.

Kirstin: But this cookbook was a return to form. I don’t know if I liked this so much because we’ve done so many healthy eating books.

Maureen: This was good because it was different enough to be interesting, but not so different as to be weird.

Kirstin: The one thing that bugged me was how the seasonal eats section was hidden.  I found them by chance, and they were really good.

Maureen: I made a few things from there and they were all good. The thing that bugged me was how the cookbook was organised. It felt more like a book that needed to be read from start to finish, rather than a cookbook that you would dip in and out of. It needs a better index. It would have been nice to have a list of types of food grouped together so you could easily find a vegetarian dish or a fish dish, rather than having to wade through the whole book.

Kirstin: This is a good book to give people. It’s much more like his older things.

Maureen: Maybe that’s why we liked it so much because it was a return to form.

“A Year of Good Eating: Kitchen Diaries III”
Overall Grade (A- F): B (Kirstin) B+ (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Pork Chop with Mushrooms Maureen: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A
Any disasters? No
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf  Maureen: Bookshelf

 

Our Verdict – “A Year of Good Eating: Kitchen Diaries III”

“Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake” from “A Year of Good Eating”

IMG_8147As soon as I read the title of this recipe, I knew I would be eating this in January.

What better way to cheer up a drab month with atrocious weather, grey skies and no holidays to celebrate? For what it’s worth, I’ve dubbed this month my Not Dry January. Unlike the legions of others who’ve decided that this will be the month they give their liver a rest and try to eat more healthy, I’m doing the opposite.

An American by birth– though not by location at the moment– I absolutely love the ambrosia that is the chocolate-peanut butter combination. After all, I was raised thinking that when it came to candy, there was nothing better than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. In fact, I still think that.

I made this for a dinner party where we would be joined by fellow expat Americans (and a few random Brits). I made it the afternoon before, as per the instructions, as it needs an overnighter in the refrigerator to set.

It did not disappoint. In fact, the only disappointing thing about the experience was because I wanted to be a polite and thoughtful guest, I left behind the remaining 1/4 of the cheesecake to my hosts. But I certainly missed not being able to have seconds the next day.

Yum.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find the original recipe in The Guardian.

“Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Spiced Chicken and Noodle Soup” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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Peter: Well this has a bit of tickle.

Anna: Pretty spicy for sure. This is great.

Peter: You can make this again.

Anna: Why thank you. I definitely plan to. It would have been quick too, had I not had that purge of the spice cupboard at Christmas. Thank you for the emergency dash to the Coop for tumeric, by the way.

Peter: So are we thinking this is Thai?

Anna: I would say so. Coconut milk, lemongrass, chilli, lime, fish sauce… seems pretty Thai to me. It would be good with leftover roast chicken too.

Peter: So when are we having this again?

“Spiced Chicken and Noodle Soup” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Pork Chops with Mushrooms” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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So it turns out that when you’re choosing a recipe to cook from this book, there are these extra colour insert sections that you also need to have a look at before making your decision. This particular recipe was chosen from the Autumn Eats section. I rather like these sections as the pictures are all in glossy colour and there is less rambling about the recipe, and more getting straight to the details.
Anyway, let me get back to the recipe. I made this on a cold night, just for me. Frying the pork chop in butter gave it a wonderful slightly nutty taste. And the mushrooms and shallots were delicious (I’d use less anchovies than he said to be honest though). I used thyme instead of flat leaf parsley because I’m a rebel like that. And I opened a bottle of red wine because it would have been rude not to have a glass to go with the food. Perfect cold weather fare. Cheers Nigel!

“Pork Chops with Mushrooms” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Lamb Stuffed Sweet Potato” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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Anna: Well this was perfect for a freezing cold Sunday night in January. Proper comfort food. Pretty easy, though I was a bit suspicious of the additional step required of mixing the cooked potato with the lamb and then popping back in the oven for half an hour or so. But it was really worth it. The potato lid goes crunchy. Parts of the lamb and potato go sticky and caramelised. Which elevates the whole thing. I didn’t entirely follow the recipe to the letter however. Nigel left out a key ingredient. What goes better with lamb and the sweetness of sweet potato then salty feta? You think Nigel would have worked that one out himself! So I recommend you try this recipe. With my secret ingredient.

“Lamb Stuffed Sweet Potato” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Carrot and Cardamom Soup with Ricotta Dumplings” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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One of the many good things* about Meat Free Monday is it forces us to try different things.

While I do love a good hearty soup while we’re in the throes of winter (Editor’s Note: This was a week ago, when London really was winter-like. Now, not so much.) This soup has the added twist of dumplings in it, made by combining flour, fine oatmeal, ricotta, parsley and butter. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought it would be a bit different from our usual throes of winter soup fare, so I was willing to give it a go.

We all loved it. Andrew, 16, even requested that it go into the regular rotation of Meat Free Monday dishes, he liked it so much. Tim was surprised at how filling it was. Nicholas liked the dumplings. Having eaten the leftovers for lunch, I can tell you that it’s fantastic warmed up a few days later, too.

Yum. Yum. Yum. Another winner from Nigel.

*Some of the good things: Good for us. Good for our planet. Forces us, at least one day a week, to not look to meat as the starring player in our dinner. Did I say Good for Us? It bears repeating: Good for us.

Want to make this yourself? Find the original recipe from The Guardian, found by clicking on this link.

“Carrot and Cardamom Soup with Ricotta Dumplings” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Salmon with Macaroni” from “A Year of Good Eating”

IMG_8101Fish Friday!

I have to say upfront that I made this dish with a fair amount of trepidation, since I made something similar (Crab Mac and Cheese*) from the last book and it was– not to put too fine a point on it– GROSS.

Things change, tastes evolve and people mature. Perhaps that’s what happened in this case, because believe it or not, we liked it.

Maybe it was the generous amount of double cream used. Maybe it was the salmon. Maybe it was because it was a cold winter’s night and we needed the stodge. Whatever the reason, it was a hit.

Easy. Yummy. Popular. I’m sure we’ll have this on Fish Friday again.

If you’d like to give a try yourself, click through this sentence to find the original recipe in The Guardian.

*If you go back and look at that post, you’ll see that I used the exact same serving dish.

“Salmon with Macaroni” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Pork Belly with Apple and Thyme Batter Pudding” from “A Year of Good Eating”

IMG_2462Nicholas (12): Pork belly! My favourite!

Tim: You would have pork belly every Sunday if we agreed to it.

Nicholas: That’s true. I would.

Maureen: What do you think of this? This pork belly is actually what Nigel served for his Christmas dinner. It’s the 25 December entry.

Nicholas: Pork belly for Christmas sounds good to me.

Maureen: While this looks good, I have to say that it doesn’t scream Christmas dinner to me.

Tim: Why?

Maureen:  When I think of Christmas dinner, I think of dozens of dishes jostling for space on the table. The pork belly is good, but there doesn’t seem to be an overabundance here. That said, it’s perfect for Sunday dinner. Roasting the potatoes within the pork belly is absolute genius.

Nicholas: I like it.

Andrew (16): Of course you do.

Maureen: I think this is good, mainly because I think pork belly is always good. But I feel as though we’ve had better.

Andrew: I don’t like the pancake thing.

Nicholas: Me neither.

Tim: What you have to do is take what you call the pancake thing, which is actually a variation on Yorkshire Pudding, and put some on your fork at the same time you have some pork on there too.

Maureen: (Following his suggestion): Oh. You’re right. It is yummy when you do that. I was unconvinced.

Nicholas: Pork Belly FTW!

To make this recipe yourself, click through this sentence to find the original recipe that was in the Observer.

“Pork Belly with Apple and Thyme Batter Pudding” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Minced Turkey Chilli” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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Anna: This was as advertised: fast, easy and tasted, well, kind of like a chilli. I say that because it was hot (“It has some tickle”, said Peter) though the spice combination isn’t what I’d usually choose for a chilli. Interestingly the recipe calls for curry powder. I was doubtful. Frankly it reads like something out of the 70s. Like a chilli recipe written by someone who has just discovered the concept and decides to sexy up their usual mince recipe. But I went with it. That’s what I’m here for. And do you know what? The spicing wasn’t the issue in the end. It was the sauce, or lack of it. I was so convinced there was a typo in the recipe that I searched online but could find no correction. How you can be expected to ‘simmer’ something that is made up of fried-off mince and drained beans I don’t know. So I added chicken stock. Which is what I would recommend you do too. Served with a baked sweet potato it was a decent mid-week meal. Just don’t forget the chicken stock.

 

“Minced Turkey Chilli” from “A Year of Good Eating”