The Guardian’s ‘Start Happy’ series – Quick and Healthy Breakfasts

Anna: So there I was yesterday, reading the paper and out falls this little book of Quick and Healthy Breakfasts.  Brilliant!  Quick AND healthy.  Then I looked a bit more closely.  These were quick and healthy breakfast recipes from….. Mr Faffolenghi!  Ugh.

Any recipe that requires two different frying pans and approximately 40 minutes of cooking time (“Braised eggs with tomato, spinach and yoghurt“) does not equal quick in my vocabulary, however ‘healthy’ it may be.  Even a dish of ricotta on sourdough (so far, so Australian) needs a bloody food processor.  A food processor? In the morning? I can barely manage porridge these days.  Correct that: I can’t even manage porridge these days.  Porridge takes 5 minutes longer than my allocated breakfast preparation minutes (which is around 2, if you were wondering).

Thank you Guardian, for providing a booklet of Mr Ottolenghi’s usual indulgent but unrealistic recipes.  I’m glad to see that he doesn’t confine himself to dinners and lunches! If you missed out, click on the image below.

The Guardian’s ‘Start Happy’ series – Quick and Healthy Breakfasts

Observer Food Monthly’s “50 Best Cookbooks Of All Time” — our response

Anna: Last Sunday, the Observer Food Monthly had a special edition where they listed their top 50 cookbooks of all time. As cookbooks are our business, it’s only right that we let our viewing public know what we thought.  Isn’t that so Kirstin?

Kirstin: I loved Rachel Cooke’s introduction about all her cookbooks.  She nailed it perfectly, why we have cookbooks. Did you think so too?

Anna: I did, except that by her own admission she doesn’t cook from any of them.

Kirstin: She doesn’t cook from Sophie Grigson because she doesn’t like her earrings.  I remembered that.

Anna: Wise words.  However, I find it a bit rich that she is judging and deciding on the top 50 cookbooks of all time and she doesn’t actually use any of them.

Kirstin: Who is she anyway?

Anna: A food journo.

Kirstin: So she’s not a cook.

Anna: She’s looking at them from an aesthetic point of view then maybe?  And the writing.  But not necessarily the quality and clarity of the recipes themselves.

Kirstin: I have more cookbooks than her.  Who’s that woman with the bike?  What sort of shoes is she wearing?  They aren’t practical for cycling in.

Anna: That’s Thomasina Miers.  It says they are Laboutins.

Kirstin: She’s just going to end up in front of a bus with her organic produce she’s bought in Spitalfields!

Anna: So, back to the list then. Continue reading “Observer Food Monthly’s “50 Best Cookbooks Of All Time” — our response”

Observer Food Monthly’s “50 Best Cookbooks Of All Time” — our response

“Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi – our verdict


Anna: Well, we really, really wanted to love this book.

Kirstin: Because it had a padded cover…

Anna: …and the photography was so beautiful. I remember when you got the book — you were so ecstatic, you couldn’t wait to cook things from it… and then we started cooking.

Kirstin: And cooking…

Anna: And we came down to earth with a huge bump. Ottloenghi? Faff-alenghi, more like. I’m hoping the next book won’t require me to use the word “faff” 15 times in each post. I’m getting bored of using that word. If you Google the word faff, I bet we’re number one!

Tom: I’ll try it! Hang on… Yes! If you Google “faff cookbook” you guys are the top hit!

Anna: No! You’re serious? Wow! That’s made my week! We have had some successes, though.

Kirstin: The mozzarella is actually astounding.

Anna: I loved the gorgonzola lentil thing.

Kirstin: I had nightmares after that!

Anna: That’s just you. I’d make that as a starter.

Kirstin: I liked the multi-vegetable paella.

Anna: Did it taste nice? Was it worth the effort? Be honest.

Kirstin (after long pause): Yeah. And we liked the watermelon salad.

Tom: That was fantastic.

Kirstin: So we liked a lot of things. What will be make again?

Anna: The marinated mozzarella — I’ve made that again already. And if I was having a lardy day I’d make the smoky fritatta again. I’d make the Vampire Pie if I had someone to peel the garlic for me.

Kirstin: I’ll do that for you!

Anna: But you have things to do, like work, and be a mother and a wife.

Kirstin: And take photos! I’d cook the mozzarella again. And the watermelon and feta.

Oscar the cat: Mwaooaoooh! Waooh!

Tom: Overall verdict for the book, then?

Kirstin: I give the photos in the book 12/10. Sadly, the recipes get 6/10.

Anna: I give it 4/10. I didn’t buy the book for the photos. I’m so glad this month is over! But Peter is more glad.

Kirstin: Did you not like the padded cover? It’s like being in a asylum!

Anna: There’s a reason why it’s padded. After a month of vegetarian food I was expecting to feel much better. Instead I can’t believe how much time I’ve spent just peeling stuff.

“Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi – our verdict

“Quesadillas” from “Plenty”

Anna: We decided to try this as both of us do Bill’s quesadillas as a weeknight staple. Don’t we Kirstin?

Kirstin: Yes, we do.

Anna: So, it’s a Thursday night Quesadilla-off!  Though technically we’re only making the Ottolenghi recipe.  It’s been a bit of a faff to make, it’s fair to say.

Kirstin: Yep, Bill wins for simplicity.  Easily.  But his salsa is crap. We sound like we compare everything to Bill.

Anna: That’s because we always cook from Bill’s books, so we inevitably compare.  It’s just the way it is.  I love the black bean paste, that’s an improvement on my usual quesadilla formula, though again it involves faff like having to wash up a blender.  Not something I’d do if I was cooking on my own on a weeknight.

Kirstin: We shouldn’t judge everything like that.

Anna: But we have to, because you’re not going to cook a quesadilla on Saturday are you?

Kirstin: You were very worried about the sour cream and avocado being warm.  It was really good.  But, I resent having to use a knife and fork to eat it.  A quesadilla quite frankly should be eaten with fingers, and there was all this drippy slop going all over the place.

Anna: I agree.  The sour cream and avocado should go on the side, not be cooked with the dish.  I say, let’s try the black bean paste and cheese, and then put the sour cream and salsa on the side for the next round.

Kirstin: Ooh, CONTROVERSIAL.  That would mean going off piste.  Shall we?  Yeah, lets. Continue reading ““Quesadillas” from “Plenty””

“Quesadillas” from “Plenty”

“Marinated buffalo mozzarella and tomato” from “Plenty”

Kirstin: Well, here’s the thing. I was desperate to do this recipe because it looked so fabulous in the book. Ever since I bought this book, I have been eyeing up this recipe. However, I could find no buffalo mozzarella today. Maybe being in South East London on the wrong day because I almost bought one at Carluccio’s earlier on but thought better of it. Anyways! The marinade itself was easy to prepare, smelled delicious….

Anna: Technically, I don’t think you can call this a marinade. It’s more a rub. Or maybe a sauce even. Whatever it is, it’s gorgeous.

Kirstin: And just think how amazing it would have been on buffalo mozzarella. Hmmm.

Anna: It reminds me of the picnic we had in Preston in 2003 and we bought the mozzarella from the Ferry Building in San Francisco and ate it with a lovely viognier.

Tom: God, that’s good. It’s amazing!

Anna: Tom likes it then.

Tom: Yum. Can we have this again?

Anna: It’s definitely a starter…

Tom: But it’s a good starter.

“Marinated buffalo mozzarella and tomato” from “Plenty”

Plenty of Ottolenghi food: a Friday Feast

Anna: We decided that we wanted to do a proper blow-out feast, after the many abortive midweek Ottolenghi meals that we’ve cooked.

Kirstin: We wanted to give it a full crack of the whip!

Anna: Luckily neither of us was working this afternoon, because it was potentially going to be a massive faff.

Tom: But was it?

Anna: If either of us had been doing it on our own, yes. With the two of us it was still a faff.

Zoe: But was it an enjoyable faff?

Kirstin: Yes, we watched wartime documentaries in between, while things were in the oven.

Anna: And we sang along to the Brandenberg double-violin concerto as we peeled five heads of garlic, clove by clove. Between the two of us it took 40 minutes. The two most annoying things were the cloves of garlic and the bloody cardamom pods.

Kirstin: But you have such good wrist action, Anna! (Zoe guffaws)

Anna: How do you know about my wrist action? It’s all those years of violin playing! With the cardamom pods I had to get Kirstin to open the window. Two tablespoons of cardamom pods, and you had to bash them all up, and take all the seeds out of all the pods! It was about 40 pods! It was like, Christ, take me now. I bashed my head with the pestle. Or was it the mortar? Anyway, we cooked the “Watermelon and feta” to start. I’m going to compare it against the Nigella recipe. Her recipe is watermelon, feta and black olive. She has olives, lime juice, mint and flat-leaf parsley, rather than basil. But everything else is the same. So we cooked that, and then “Caramelized Garlic Tart”.

Kirstin: We called it Vampire Pie.

Anna: And then “Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime and Green Chilli”. Continue reading “Plenty of Ottolenghi food: a Friday Feast”

Plenty of Ottolenghi food: a Friday Feast

‘Purple sprouting broccoli with rice noodles’ from ‘Plenty’

Anna: Here’s an easy recipe for a Wednesday night…..

Kirstin: Ho ho ho.  Though, to be fair we could have used bought green curry paste, it did say that we were allowed to.

Anna: But we didn’t think it would take that long.  And I guess that it didn’t, but when you add all the other steps it did take longer than I expected.  Of course we had to use three pans too, when probably two would have done.  Grrr.

Kirstin: Luckily you had palm sugar in your cupboard, not sure how easy that would have been to find.

Anna: And I forgot the shallot I said that I’d bring, so I had to cheat and use a couple of spring onions.  Sorry.  It was after we’d made the paste that I began to worry.

Kirstin: About what?

Anna: That there wasn’t enough of a salty element to the dish.  All very Thai with the paste and coconut milk and lime, but where’s the fish sauce?  Every self-respecting Thai-inspired recipe needs fish sauce!

Kirstin: Yeah, it tasted very sweet.  And good, but as you rightly pointed out it could have done with some chicken quite frankly.  Broccoli is nice, but it’s no substitute for a nice piece of meat.

Anna: This is what frustrated me about this recipe – I love broccoli, I love noodles, I love Thai food and yet I’m sitting here feeling slightly underwhelmed, and a little bit sick.

Kirstin: Yes!  I felt sick.  I will not be making this one again.

Peter: I’m looking forward to this meal…..

Anna: This is the second Ottolenghi recipe that’s left me feeling a little sick.  Is it the end of the month yet?

Kirstin: One week to go!!

‘Purple sprouting broccoli with rice noodles’ from ‘Plenty’