“Mothership Sunday Roast Chicken” from “Save With Jamie”


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaureen: Sunday lunch starring roast chicken! My favourite!

Nicholas (10): I love roast chicken. I bagsy* one of the legs. (For those readers among us who are unfamiliar with this fantastic British word, it means “claim”.)

Tim: I get the other one.

Maureen: Fair enough. What does everyone think?

Andrew: I’m not sure about the carrots.

Maureen: When you say, “not sure,” do you really mean, “I don’t like.”

Andrew (14): Well, no. Before I wasn’t sure. But now that I’ve had a few bites, I now know I mean I don’t like them.

Nicholas: I don’t like them either, and you know how much I like carrots.

Maureen: What don’t you like about them. Is it all the orange zest?

Nicholas: I guess so. I just prefer the other type you always make.

Maureen: OK. I’ll go back to the usual way the next time. I’ve been making that version, with carrots and honey, for years. That’s a Jamie recipe too. (Important note: I spent a good amount of time following this Sunday lunch trying to find exactly what Jamie book our beloved carrot recipe  is from, but to no avail. So I’m pretty sure it’s a Jamie recipe, but now I have to proof to back it up. This is the problem with having more than 150 cookbooks. Things can get muddled over time.)

Tim: The chicken is good, but I can’t see how it’s much different from any other roast chicken we’ve had over the years.

Maureen: I think the ability to be creative with a roast chicken recipe is somewhat limited. This version is fine and it works. The good thing about it, particularly for less confident cooks, is it includes directions on all the side vegetables to have with it. That’s a nice touch.

Nicholas: Other than the carrots, which we already decided we didn’t like.

Maureen: Fair enough. (Looking at the nearly empty serving platter). There’s one problem with this recipe though: We’re supposed to get two meals out of it.

Tim: Ha! Well, we do have a teenage boy at the table, and we are greedy when it comes to roast chicken, so maybe that’s the difference.

Cook’s Notes: Once I followed Jamie’s instructions to the letter, I realised that amendments were going to have to be made, otherwise we were going to end up having a variation of brown water on top of our chicken. So after I added just plain water, and tasted the flavourless “gravy,” I added the necessary amount of chicken stock cubes. So if you do make this, don’t add 600 ml of boiling water, add 600ml of chicken stock. You can thank me later.)


“Mothership Sunday Roast Chicken” from “Save With Jamie”

“Alfredo Pasta with Sweet Peas” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaureen: Here’s another good dish for Meat Free Monday. What do you think?

Nicholas (10): I like it, but there’s a lot of peas.

Maureen: I agree. There are a lot of peas– the peas amounted to twice the weight of the pasta. And I didn’t even put in as many peas as called for in the recipe.

Andrew (13): I like it too. The amount of peas doesn’t bother me.

Maureen: But I notice that you left a lot of peas in the bottom of your bowl. Can you taste the difference? I used fresh peas instead of frozen.

Andrew: Nope. I can’t.

Maureen: I can’t either.

Nicholas: I can.

Maureen: You’re just being nice because you know how long it took me to pod them.

Tim: I can taste the difference. The peas are definitely crunchier. But I didn’t have to pod them, so maybe I’d feel differently if I did.

Maureen: Podding the peas was the worst. I kept thinking to myself, “Nigella would never make me pod peas. She’d be happy with the frozen ones.” Podding the peas took a lot of time, not to mention made me bitter in the process.

TIm: How long did it take you?

Maureen: At least 20 minutes, and I only got about 250 grams worth. Should I make this again?

Nicholas: Sure.

Andrew: I guess.

Maureen: That’s far from universal acclaim. I thought you guys would go nuts for the sauce, with the double cream and the multitude of parmesan. This was good, but really, it’s just a variation on the pasta, creme fraiche and pea dish that I usually make.

“Alfredo Pasta with Sweet Peas” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Farfalle with Ricotta, Pancetta and Peas” from “Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course”

I’m sorry. No dialogue for this one. It obviously got lost amid the hoopla of Christmas.

But this could be the perfect run-up-to-Christmas-weeknight dish. First, it’s got green and red. OK, not red exactly, but pink pancetta, but close enough. The green is provided by the peas. Everyone liked this, but frankly, it’s like so many other pancetta and pea pasta dishes we’ve ever had that it was hardly an adventurous night of eating.


For creaminess, Gordon adds ricotta and creme fraiche. I hate to tell you Gordon, but I was on the creme fraiche in pasta bandwagon years ago, in a quick kids weeknight dinner which I called “Cheat’s Alfredo.”

To make my Cheat’s Alfredo, all you do is cook pasta, add the peas in when there’s about three minutes left of cooking, drain the pasta, add creme fraiche and copious amounts of dried parmesan cheese. Done. Bob’s your uncle.

This one is slightly different in that you add pancetta. Frankly, I think whenever you add a bacon product to a dish you are guaranteed a win. You also add ricotta, which is a slight variation on my Cheat’s Alfredo, but it works.

Finally, you will notice from the photographs that the pasta is decidedly not farfalle. Here’s what happened: I bought the farfalle but also some fusilli at the store. While I was making dinner amid about a million other Christmas jobs, I just opened one packet of pasta which happened to be the fusilli. As a result, we’re having Fusilli with Ricotta, Pancetta and Peas. Next time I will use the farfalle, but I don’t think it makes a bit of difference.

Will I make it again? Maybe. I still think Nigella’s orzo with peas and pancetta is better, but this one is good too, especially if I don’t have any orzo in the cupboard. We now all know how difficult it can be to find orzo in the shops.


“Farfalle with Ricotta, Pancetta and Peas” from “Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course”

“Gorgeous Greek Chicken with Herby Vegetable Couscous & Tzatziki” from “Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals”

If you would like to see if you can make it in 15 minutes (Good Luck!) you can find the recipe on Jamie Oliver’s web page by clicking on this sentence.

Prep Time: 4 minutes (aided by the fact that we keep our food processor on the counter, ready to go)

Cook Time: 27 minutes, 3 seconds.

Andrew (12): It’s good. I really like it. Me like!

Nicholas (9): I agree. I’m putting a thumbs up on this.


Maureen: What do you like about it?

Andrew: I generally like couscous– whatever it’s in.

Tim: It’s good. It’s nothing special, but I like it.

Maureen: To be honest, it’s not hugely different from the couscous I make with roasted chicken thighs, peppers and feta. But it was slightly quicker to do it this way.

Nicholas: But it still wasn’t done in 15 minutes!

Maureen: Not even close. But if this had been featured in the 30 minutes book, we would have succeeded. This book is stressing me out as much as the last one, even though Jamie says in the introduction we shouldn’t get too caught up in getting in done in 15 minutes.

Nicholas: Well then he shouldn’t have called the book the 15 Minute Meals Book.

Maureen: I agree. Would you like me to make it again?

All: Yes, please.

Maureen: At least we have a winner on our hands.

“Gorgeous Greek Chicken with Herby Vegetable Couscous & Tzatziki” from “Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals”

“Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta” from “Nigellissma”

Maureen (looking at Andrew’s empty bowl): Wow. You really hoovered that.

Andrew (13): I did. I like it! Is it from this month’s cookbook?

Maureen: Yes. Another Nigella offering.

Andrew: I really liked it. Please make it again.

Nicholas (9): Same! I liked it.

Maureen: I think I know why you like this so much. It’s just like the pasta that Kirstin used to always make, with pancetta and peas. The only difference is the pasta shape.

Andrew: Hey, you’re right. It is!

Continue reading ““Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta” from “Nigellissma””

“Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta” from “Nigellissma”

“Tortelloni Minestrone” from “Nigellissima”

Tim: I thought this was good. It could have had more flavour, but it was still good.

Maureen: Did you think it needed more herbs?

Tim: Maybe. It definitely needs more of something.

Maureen: I thought this was healthy and good with loads of vegetables. I feel more virtuous having eaten it.

Andrew (13): It smelled good. But it didn’t look very attractive and the taste wasn’t there. From my perspective, it looked like mush. I’m not being mean, but it just looked like mush.

Nicholas (9): I expected it to be a different colour and like miso soup, but when I tasted it, it just wasn’t that good.

Continue reading ““Tortelloni Minestrone” from “Nigellissima””

“Tortelloni Minestrone” from “Nigellissima”

“Leek and Pea Risotto” from “Food”

Maureen: Ah. Another risotto. We could become a risotto test kitchen. I think we’ve got the experience. [Note: We’ve tested risotto in January 2011, May 2011, August 2011, February 2012 and July 2012.]   What do you think?

Tim: It’s fine.

Andrew (12): It’s OK, but it’s not as good as our usual risotto.

Maureen: Do you mean the one with lashings of butter and cheese?

Andrew: Yes, that’s the one.

Nicholas (9): I agree with Andrew. The other one is better.

Maureen: This one is much healthier, though. There’s not nearly as much butter and cheese as I usually put in. In fact, if you were a vegan, you could probably take out the butter and the cheese and it wouldn’t taste hugely different from this.

Tim: Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe for a good risotto you need butter and cheese.

Maureen: Could be. So should I make this version again?

Andrew: No. Please make the one you usually do.

Nicholas: I’m with Andrew on this one.

Maureen: It seems to me that we still haven’t found a risotto recipe that is better than the Giorgio Locatelli one. But we will keep trying!

Cook’s Notes: Sorry, this recipe can’t be found on the Internet anywhere, but that’s OK, because I think there’s better risotto recipes out there. The biggest problem was the amount of rice it called for– only a measly 250 grams– which she said would serve four people. Let me assure you that 62.5 grams of risotto per person wouldn’t do it in this house. So I increased it to 400 grams, which was sufficient. Beyond that, there’s not much to distinguish this recipe from any other risotto recipe, other than the reduced amount of cheese and butter used. Like I said, it would be a good recipe for a vegan, because I think they could omit them and it would still be fine. But for this family, we won’t be using this recipe again.

“Leek and Pea Risotto” from “Food”

“Peas, broad beans and ricotta on toast” from “Good Things to Eat”

Kirstin: This recipe is the reason I bought this book. I thought that if somebody chose to do a chapter on “things on toast”, and could make it look so nice, the least I could do was buy the book. And that was absolutely yum.

Tom: It was indeed. We made extra slices it was so good.

Kirstin: You did that thing where you don’t talk when you’re eating. Which is always a sure sign that it’s yummy.

Tom: Yup, it takes a lot to shut me up.

Kirstin: That’s true.

Tom: And that was really good. I loved the garlic — was it just scraped on the toast?

Continue reading ““Peas, broad beans and ricotta on toast” from “Good Things to Eat””

“Peas, broad beans and ricotta on toast” from “Good Things to Eat”

“Pea, asparagus and Parmesan tart” from “Good Things to Eat”

Anna: I’m not really a tart person….

Jane: Guffaw! I don’t know, I’ve known you a long time  – have you forgotten the Nineties?

Anna: Thank you for that. As you well know, what I mean is that I seldom make tarts, quiches, those sorts of things. In fact I think I manage one a year.

Jane: Well this is beautiful.

Anna: I’d call it ‘rustic’. The pastry is threatening to fall apart. I’m not quite sure why, as I followed the recipe. It’s pastry alchemy. I don’t have the secret.

Jane: Did you make the pastry from scratch?

Anna: Did I hell. There’s a limit to how much work I’m prepared to do on a Sunday morning, even if I have the Archers Omnibus to keep me company.

Jane: It reminds me of the south of France. It’s delicious. Can I have another slice?

Anna: It is very good, isn’t it? But it’s not very filling. I put more parmesan in than it called for too, but I think it’s because there isn’t enough filling mixture. It feels like there’s more pastry than tart, if you know what I mean.

Jane: I do. It looks quite big and rich in the dish, but once you put the slice on the plate it looked a bit thin and sad.

Anna: Though that might have been because the pastry fell apart, as feared.

Jane: We had enough for seconds, and I still think it was delicious. Thank you for my lovely lunch!

“Pea, asparagus and Parmesan tart” from “Good Things to Eat”

“Coconut Chicken & Petit Pois Curry” from “Leon 2”

Maureen: Curry night! We don’t do it very often, but maybe we should. What do you think?

Andrew (11): It’s like the other chicken curry you make, which is very good.

Maureen: What other chicken curry? We never have curry. You both think it’s too spicy.

Nicholas (7): I think it’s good.

Continue reading ““Coconut Chicken & Petit Pois Curry” from “Leon 2””

“Coconut Chicken & Petit Pois Curry” from “Leon 2”