“Happy Fish Pie” from “Jamie’s Great Britain”

We didn’t talk about this recipe very much, as our dinner conversation quickly veered into the territory of “What souveniers do you want from China?” (Answer: A panda. Or if that’s not possible, chopsticks) and jokes (Here’s the best one: A panda is eating in a restaurant, when all of the sudden he shoots his waiter and leaves. A policeman chases after him and says, “What do you think you’re doing?” to which the panda replies, “Hey, I’m a panda. Look it up in the dictionary. I eat shoots and leaves.”) I think there’s some good value in the blog today– food AND jokes!

It’s no surprise that a recipe for fish pie was included in “Jamie’s Great Britain.” I think fish pie is as classic a British recipe as it comes. As he says in the introduction, “Fish pie is one of the cornerstones of great British comfort food.”

Fish Pie is definitely classic British cooking. Before we moved here 13 years ago from the United States, we never had a fish pie in our life. But that all changed after I bought a copy of “The Return of the Naked Chef,” Jamie’s second book. “Fantastic Fish Pie” is just that– fantastic. The page in my cookbook has all manner of splashes and stains on it. I have notes from October 2001 on the page, meaning that I’ve been making this dish for 10 years. We all love it. It is firmly in the autumn/winter rotation of dinners here. If you’d like to make it yourself, there’s a link to the recipe here.

So how does this version stack up with the original? It doesn’t stack up, unfortunately. Our view might be tainted by the fact that we haven’t tried many any other fish pie recipes. (Why branch out when you found one you’ve love?) This version isn’t dramatically different from that one, but where it fails is it doesn’t include the two things that make the original so good: handfuls of spinach and boiled eggs.

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“Happy Fish Pie” from “Jamie’s Great Britain”

“Summer Vegetable Broth with Pesto” from “Good Things to Eat”

Nicholas (8): I’ve got one thing to say. In the event of an earthquake, if you had these vegetables, it would be the only thing that survived.

Maureen: I don’t understand what you’re talking about. It’s delicious. I love it.

Andrew (11): It seems to be missing something. I’ve got another comment about the Jamie Oliver prunes dessert.

Maureen: But we’re talking about the soup!

Andrew (undeterred): The prunes were good for only one thing and that was to clean out the sewers.

Maureen: Back to the soup. This is really nice. There’s nothing weird in it. It’s not spicy. It’s just yummy vegetables made into a soup. I’m not asking you to love it. I’m asking you to eat it. (The boys begin to eat it) Is it growing on you?

Andrew: Yes, actually.

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“Summer Vegetable Broth with Pesto” from “Good Things to Eat”

“Roast tomatoes and mozzarella”, Slow roast lamb shoulder with garlic, vermouth and rosemary”, “Roast potatoes”, “Courgette and pine nut salad” and “Little chocolate pots with cardamom” from “”Good Things to Eat”.

Katherine:So how do you pick the recipe you are going to try?

Kirstin: There are only a few dinner menu recipes. It wasn’t hard.

Katherine: My problem is I’d want to do too many different things that don’t go together. Mussels with leeks, why didn’t you choose that?

Kirstin: I just chose things that go together. I don’t cook mussels. But you know, I should. I should definitely try and cook mussels sometime.

Tom: So what did we think?

Katherine: The tomatoes were the perfect temperature.

Kirstin: I was supposed to use a big piece of mozzarella and break it up, but I used small ones. And I forgot the lemon juice. They looked good, though.

Continue reading ““Roast tomatoes and mozzarella”, Slow roast lamb shoulder with garlic, vermouth and rosemary”, “Roast potatoes”, “Courgette and pine nut salad” and “Little chocolate pots with cardamom” from “”Good Things to Eat”.”

“Roast tomatoes and mozzarella”, Slow roast lamb shoulder with garlic, vermouth and rosemary”, “Roast potatoes”, “Courgette and pine nut salad” and “Little chocolate pots with cardamom” from “”Good Things to Eat”.

“Baked sea bass with saffron potatoes” and “Strawberries in red wine with cream cheese and basil” from “Good Things to Eat”

Anna: Why did you choose this, Kirstin?

Kirstin: Because Pat’s a vegetarian!

Zoe: So, it’s all your fault! You know what, everything’s his fault.

Pat: It’s my lot in ife.

Kirstin: No, seriously, I like sea bass. It was a good excuse to cook fish…I rarely cook fish for lots of people, so it was a good challenge.

Tom: I liked the potatoes. They were like chips crossed with crisps!

Peter: Was there a lot of saffron in there?

Continue reading ““Baked sea bass with saffron potatoes” and “Strawberries in red wine with cream cheese and basil” from “Good Things to Eat””

“Baked sea bass with saffron potatoes” and “Strawberries in red wine with cream cheese and basil” from “Good Things to Eat”

“Agnello con Piselli Freschi” from “Two Greedy Italians”

For those of you who still haven’t gotten to the food section of Rosetta Stone: Italian, this is known in English as Lamb with Fresh Peas. You could also probably call it just Lamb Stew.

Andrew (11): I’m oing to judge this dish based on the acronym OPEN: Organisation, Presentation, Enjoyment and Nutrition. Here are your scores.

For Organisation: I will give it full marks. Five out of five. It looks very well organised.

For Presentation, I’d give it maybe three out of five. I’m going to be brutally honest, it looks like you took it out of the pot and put it in a bowl.

Maureen: Well, that’s exactly what I did, so I’m not at all surprised it didn’t score well.

Tim: Yes, it’s a stew. That’s what you do with a stew. But I can’t believe that your mother made a stew. As we all know, she hates stew.

Maureen: I really like this one, though. It’s delicious. I’m still not sold on beef stew or any variations thereof, like beef bourguignon, but I would happily have this again.

Continue reading ““Agnello con Piselli Freschi” from “Two Greedy Italians””

“Agnello con Piselli Freschi” from “Two Greedy Italians”

“Potatoes Leon-aise,” “Fred’s Asparagus,” and “Roast Carrots & Fennel” from “Leon 2”

Maureen: Since it’s Dad’s birthday, we’re having beef wellington, since that’s what he wanted. But we’re also having potatoes, asparagus and carrots from the Leon 2 cookbook. What do you think?

Nicholas (7): I loved the asparagus! I even had seconds. But everything else is “in the middle.”

Andrew (11): I liked the asparagus, too, but not as much as Nicholas. The potatoes were OK. I didn’t like the carrots.

Tim (aka Birthday Boy): How did the potatoes get so much liquid?

Maureen: That’s the chicken stock that you cook it in. What do you think?

Tim: I’m in the middle too. I like my roast potatoes more crispy and these are way more soupy than I prefer.

Maureen: They’re very healthy, though. There’s no butter, and very little olive oil.

Continue reading ““Potatoes Leon-aise,” “Fred’s Asparagus,” and “Roast Carrots & Fennel” from “Leon 2””

“Potatoes Leon-aise,” “Fred’s Asparagus,” and “Roast Carrots & Fennel” from “Leon 2”

“Piri Piri chicken, dressed potatoes, rocket salad, quick Portuguese tarts” from “Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals”

Prep time: 15 minutes.

Time taken: 48 minutes, with help.

Cleaning up time: Can’t face it yet.

Anna: Oh god, this was awful. Awful, awful, awful.  I hate it. Everything about it.

Peter: Does the 30 minutes he allows include building an extension and acquiring a 4th work surface in the kitchen?

Anna: That’s it.  He says get all the ingredients and equipment ready. That takes 5 minutes of reading the damn recipe even to work out what equipment you need. Then you get everything ‘ready’ and there’s no room to cook.

Peter: I can see why he’s done the instructions in chronological order, however trying to remember them while you’re actually cooking is remarkably difficult.

Anna: I just don’t get it. Really, I can work out what order to cook things in myself. This way, because it clearly WASN’T going to take 30 minutes,  I was sure I was burning the chicken while I was faffing around with that extra unwanted course of Portuguese tarts. I kept asking you what the next step was with the chicken and you kept saying that I had to make the tart filling first. Gah!

Peter: If you work out the amount of time the tarts need cooking and the chicken needs cooking after the tarts come out of the oven, it’s over 30 minutes anyway.  If he just said it was an hour it would be ok.

Anna: Honestly, you were reading the recipe out loud to me as I cooked, you were handing me ingredients, keeping an eye on the chicken, moving stuff out of the way…. there’s no way I could have done that one my own without taking my own life in the process.  I hate it!

Peter: But it tasted quite nice. The Piri Piri sauce was nice and pokey. The mash was very colourful with the sweet potatoes and feta and chillis.

Anna: Was it supposed to be a mash though? He called it ‘dressed potatoes’ whatever that means. I made the executive decision to make it into a mash. It felt like there were unecessary steps if you ask me. I agree, the sauce was nice. I’d do the whole lot in the oven with chicken boobs, forget the griddle stage. And the mash was good, I’d probably do it again.  The tarts were a bit of a disaster though.

Peter: They tasted better than they looked.

Anna: The pastry wasn’t cooked properly on the bottom, and the custard curdled when I added the caramel, which wasn’t really a caramel. We just didn’t need them. Honestly, that’s my other issue with this book. The way it’s written makes it cumbersome to take out courses that you might not want on a normal day.  It’s all or nothing.

Peter: You probably didn’t need the stress for this meal, not after flying back from Toronto overnight.  It was a nice meal in itself but the idea of doing it in 30 minutes is a fantasy.

Anna: I need a week off before I can face cooking another of these recipes.

“Piri Piri chicken, dressed potatoes, rocket salad, quick Portuguese tarts” from “Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals”