“Spaghetti Cake” from “Superfood Family Classics”

img_9483I read a lot. (This is germane to this post. Honest. Just stick with me.) For the last several years, it’s averaged out to at least a book a week. I’ve even kept a record of all the books I’ve read, which is either smart or sad, depending on how you feel about keeping track of things. Because I read so much and because I am nearly incapable of giving up on a book I’ve started, I have found myself “Hate Reading” books a few times a year.

Hate Reading is the literary equivalent of Hate Watching a television show. Hate watching is when you’ve devoted time to a series you love, which has taken a turn for the worse but you continue watching it to see how bad it can be. I’ve done the same with books, thus, Hate Reading.

Now I’ve done the same with this cookbook. But instead of Hate Watching or Hate Reading, I’m Hate Cooking from it. I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a cookbook on this blog that has forced me to Hate Cook from it. Several times in the past I’ve given up on a cookbook, but I’ve never persevered with one out of pure hate. Until now.

So today’s offering is “Spaghetti Cake.” We love spaghetti cake. I made it before from “Two Hungry Italians” but they called it the far more lyrical, “Frittata di Maccheroni.” We loved it. In fact, if I had to say one nice thing about this version, it’s that it reminded me how much we love Spaghetti Cake, so I will make another [good] version for Meat Free Monday very soon.

Since I was Hate Cooking from this cookbook, I also decided that I don’t have to follow the recipes to the letter anymore. Usually we are pretty strict with ourselves that we stick to the recipes as closely as possible for the cookbooks we’re testing, but given that I already hate this cookbook, there’s no point in giving it a proper test any more. In this case, I ignored Jamie’s entreaties to get wholewheat spaghetti (there’s just no way) and I also used some of the leftover 7-Veg Tomato Sauce rather than making the spaghetti sauce from scratch, as called for in the recipe. But I don’t think following his instructions to the letter would have made it any better.

How was it? It will surprise no regular readers of this blog to find out that it was disappointing. Like I said, we already made a better version once before, but this one definitely fell short. It wasn’t nearly as interesting or fun as the previous version from the two Italians. It seemed that there weren’t nearly enough eggs added to bind it as a cake. It tasted more like reheated spaghetti than a proper spaghetti cake.

Even the photo in the cookbook didn’t do it any favours, because it appears that the food stylist just threw a bunch of rocket on top so people wouldn’t notice how badly it was burned on the underside. No. Just no.

I wish Jamie had given Spaghetti Cake a proper chance, rather than trying to make it all healthy, which just ruined a perfectly good dish.

Thank god this month is nearly over. I should have known better. I was Hate Cooking, after all.

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“Spaghetti Cake” from “Superfood Family Classics”

“Sausage and wild garlic Linguine” from “Stirring Slowly”

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Kirstin: Oh this is so very yum!

Ella: I like this too. Even the bits with visible bits of broccoli.

Kirstin: That’s not broccoli! Really?!? That’s pesto with spinach, you noodle! Tom, you’re doing that thing again where you just eat!

Tom: It’s delicious! Is it from the new book.

Kirstin: It is! Would you like some more pecorino?

Miles: Can I finish off the pecorino?

Ella: Miles, you have parmesan to finish it all!

Kirstin: REALLY?!? That joke’s a bit cheesey.

Tom: I hope you’re making this again.

Kirstin: Totally. I’ll get Italian sausages next time. For sure. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

“Sausage and wild garlic Linguine” from “Stirring Slowly”

“Carbonara” from “It’s All Easy”

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Kirstin: Of course, for the ultimate carbonara recipe, you have to use the one from the Zuni cookbook, which has two kinds of cheese.

Tom: And broad beans.

Kirstin: We used to have it in San Francisco when it was broad bean season and we could buy them from Preston!

Tom: Yum!

Kirstin: Indeed. I’ve never had a bad carbonara. Have you?

Tom: Oh yes you can. It can be swimming in watery cheesey goo. This is a proper sauce. You would stick it to the wall if you threw it.

Ella: Anything you threw at a wall would stick if you threw it hard enough.

Kirstin: And what do you think of this Ella?

Ella: Edible. Kind of nice actually. You know when you eat food and it makes you feel like wow, I ate food and it made me feel full.

Tom: It is quite substantial. And probably very good food for you in the middle of the exams, no?

Ella: Also it’s CARB-onara.

Kirstin: Niiiiiice!

Tom: I like that you add the pasta water a little bit at a time.

Kirstin: Yes, I’ve had thirds. I should make this again. But not too often…

“Carbonara” from “It’s All Easy”

“Herbed Fresh Pasta” from “My Paris Kitchen”

IMG_2564I’m not really sure what fresh pasta has to do with a Paris kitchen, but David Lebovitz says in the introduction that he can’t say the French word for noodles (nouilles) so he skirts around the issue by making fresh pasta. It seems to me that he’s going to a lot of trouble to not say one word, but I can also appreciate how some French words are tricky to say, so I guess I can understand.

We have made fresh pasta before– we’ve even got the pasta maker (see photo above)– but it’s been a while. It’s been so long since we made it that I had to excavate it from the back of little-used cabinet. I couldn’t even guess when the fresh pasta making occurred, but my memory of past episodes was that it took an entire afternoon and it was a real pain to do. It’s hard to justify spending hours making something when you can get pretty decent pasta in your local shop, so that’s probably why we haven’t done it in a long time.

But we were pleasantly surprised at how straightforward this was. The drying of pasta step, which used to stymie us in the past, is skipped, so that may have made it that much easier. Also, the first mix of flour, semolina and eggs was done in the food processor, rather than by hand, which also made it a bit easier. The second kneading step, though, was done by hand.

The semolina we used was a bit dry, so we had to use more water so the dough wouldn’t be dry. You’re warned that might be the case, so we didn’t panic. For the herbs, we used a mix of parsley and thyme, which worked a treat when we paired it with the chicken piccata we had as a main.

Would we make this again? Absolutely. We’ve even moved the pasta maker into a more accessible location so we can do it again soon.

“Herbed Fresh Pasta” from “My Paris Kitchen”

“Gnocchi Dolcelatte” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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The photo may be rubbish, but the dish is anything but.

I made this for Meat Free Monday. It is far from healthy– there’s double cream, gorgonzola and the gnocchi– but it is delicious. It’s also easy, which is helpful when you’re trying to get back into the swing of things following the Christmas break. In this house, we are doing neither Dry January NOR a detox month, so this was just the ticket for a cold January night.

The original recipe calls for spinach, but Nigel helpfully offers up alternatives of purple sprouting broccoli or lightly cooked brussels sprouts. I used tenderstem broccoli, which isn’t purple, but it’s close enough. Three-quarters of this family like spinach, but the remaining one-quarter is a very vocal dissenter in fondness for spinach, and it’s not worth the fight sometimes.

The broccoli went a long way to breaking up the richness of the cheese, double cream and pasta. However, after a few bites the younger set found this dish too rich. But the adults loved it regardless.

Would I make it again? Most definitely.

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

 

“Gnocchi Dolcelatte” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Pasta Snails with Garlic Butter” from “Simply Nigella”

IMG_7879Maureen: Meat free Monday! Featuring a dish from the new cookbook.

Tim: What is it?

Maureen: She calls it Pasta Snails with Garlic Butter.

Andrew (16): Why pasta snails?

Maureen: Look at the shape of the pasta.

Andrew: Got it.

Maureen: Nicholas, this might remind you of the escargot you tried when we went to Paris.

Andrew & Tim: Nicholas tried escargot?

Maureen: He did. [Nicholas makes gagging noises.] To be fair, the escargot was not the best I’d ever had. The restaurant was highly rated on Trip Advisor, but it was rubbish. The waiter literally raised his eyebrows in surprise when I ordered the escargot. Either he wasn’t used to tourists ordering escargot, or it was a subtle warning to stay away. We’ll never know. What do you think of this?

Nicholas (12): Unlike the snails, I like this.

Andrew: Me too. I would happily eat this again.

Tim: So would I. What’s not to like? There’s loads of garlic butter in here.

Maureen: I’m not even going to tell you how much butter each person was apportioned [Editor’s Note: 25 grams per person. That strikes me as a lot.], but I think that’s why it was so good. This is a great meal for when you’re short on time. Easy to prepare, no exotic ingredients, delicious. I will definitely be making this again.

Nicholas: Unlike escargot, which I’m not in any hurry to try again.

“Pasta Snails with Garlic Butter” from “Simply Nigella”

“Happiness Pasta, Sweet Tomato, Aubergine and Ricotta” from “Everyday Superfood”

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Kirstin: So Ella and Miles, you’re not so convinced about this happiness pasta, I can tell.

Ella: I’m not very keen on the texture.

Miles: Me neither.

Tom: It just feels too worthy. And the ingredients do not come together as a whole.

Kirstin: I know what you mean. That said, I like the addition of the ricotta and you know how much I love aubergine!

Tom: It’s just not doing it for me, I’m afraid to say.

“Happiness Pasta, Sweet Tomato, Aubergine and Ricotta” from “Everyday Superfood”