Our Verdict: Repertoire

Kirstin: How did you like it?

Maureen: I really liked it because it reflected how I usually cook. You could tell that we both liked it because we did end up posting a lot of recipes this month.

Kirstin: I liked it too, but I had a friend who cooks who asked me if she would need it, and after thinking about it, I decided she wouldn’t need it. She probably had a lot of the recipes elsewhere.

Maureen: That’s true. She certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel. But the recipes she did have were good and they all worked, which is something we don’t get to say every month.

Kirstin: But the recipes were so good. Maybe I’m being too hard on her because the recipes were so good. When I was reading any new recipes, I was starting to quibble about the extra steps, wondering why I had to do them.

Maureen: I know what you mean. When I made the Tortilla Soup, she wanted me to poach a chicken so I’d get a stock and cooked chicken. I’m sure it would be delicious, but I’m sorry, I’m not poaching a chicken on a weeknight. At least she provided substitute instructions.

Kirstin: This is hard. It’s a really good book. We cooked all those recipes. It was so good. But why we don’t feel the love for this one?

Maureen: I don’t know.

Kirstin: I’ve got to say that the recipe for “Negronis and Crisps” was great.

Maureen: (Laughing) Come on! That was hardly a recipe.

Kirstin: But that was great. I think this would be a good desert island book. On the back of the book it says trust worthy and versatile and it is. Everything in it would work. I suspect I’ll still be using this in 10 years time.

Maureen: I’m not sure I’ll be using it in 10 years time, or even six months time. We’ll have to see.

Overall Grade (A- F): A solid B (Kirstin) B (Maureen)
Grade for Photography (A-F): I’d give it a B too. She did it all herself. It was very unstuffy.                                                                                                 Favourite Recipes: Negroni and Crisps (Kirstin) Chocolate Chip Cookies (Maureen)
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Medium rotation bookshelf, for the time being. Maureen: Low rotation bookshelf for six months and then I’ll see how much I’ve used it since.

Our Verdict: Repertoire

“Chocolate Chip Cookies” from “Repertoire”

I cannot overstate how firmly chocolate chip cookies reside within my culinary wheelhouse. It was one of the first things I learned to make on my own, when I was still in single digits. I’ve continued to make them throughout my life– through high school, university, my early career, as a newlywed, as a new mother… you get the idea. My go-to recipe is the Toll House Cookies one, and I know it so well that I can get a warm cookie in your hand in under 15 minutes (including 10 minutes baking time). Chocolate chip cookies are, in short, important to me.

So when it was time to make a new batch for the week, I decided to give this version a go. She said in the introduction that she knows that the world doesn’t need another chocolate chip cookie recipe, but that she also knew it was so much better than the ones she can buy in bakeries and supermarkets, so she decided to include it.

When I looked at the ingredient list, I was skeptical. It calls for twice as much flour as I usually use and more than twice as much sugar. Once the dough was made, I could not believe the size of the batch it produced. It was easily more than twice the yield that I usually get for my traditional Toll House version.

Was it any good, I hear you asking. Reader: I’m here to tell you it was delicious. Sure, it took me longer to pull this together, but it was worth it. However, and this is a big however, I’m not sure we liked it so much that this is the version I’ll be making all the time now. Certainly if I have time to spare, I’ll do this one. But if I’ve only got 15 minutes, I’ll stick with the tried-and-true Toll House version.

But it’s never a bad thing to have choices.

“Chocolate Chip Cookies” from “Repertoire”

“Pork Saltimbocca” from “Repertoire”

It’s a Pork Inception!

I have to admit that when I saw this recipe, I thought pork was a mistake, given that my favourite saltimbocca is veal, and because you’re literally wrapping pork around pork. But I thought I’d give it a shot just the same, not least since I had plenty of parma ham to use in the dish. It was, in short, a success.

It was easy, it was quick, it was delicious: the holy grail of any weeknight dinner. I would happily eat this again, as would everyone else in my family.

Pork inception for the win.

“Pork Saltimbocca” from “Repertoire”

“Tortilla Soup” from “Repertoire”

These days, the highest compliment to any dish is when Andrew, 19, turns to me and says, “Is this hard to make?” This query is roughly translated into, “I love it! I’d like to make it myself, but as you know my culinary skills are limited, and plus I’m a uni student so I don’t want to make anything too complicated, so do you think I could pull this off back in my own kitchen?”

This is precisely what he asked me when we finished eating this tortilla soup. In this case, I told him it could be easy, but only once I’d modified the recipe so that he could do it himself.

First, I should note that I had to make a few modifications before I even started. Jessica would *really* like you to poach a whole chicken and then use the broth and shredded chicken as a base for the soup. I am here to tell you that life is too short to poach a chicken on a weeknight. Yes, I know that it’s easy. Yes, I know I work from home so theoretically I could do it with ease, but no. Just no. To be fair, she does say in the introduction you can substitute some shredded chicken and chicken stock, so that’s what I did.

Secondly, this is an American cookbook so we’ve once again come across an ingredient that was hard to source here in London. The soup calls for hominy (I had to resist putting it in quotation marks– that’s how exotic it seems to me), which is a type of corn. I’m sure in California, where Jessica lives, you have hominy aplenty. But not here in London. It’s not that it’s impossible to get here, but it is £6.31 per can on Amazon.co.uk, so I figured I should find a susbstitute. I did. It was frozen corn, which worked great.

So while this was a terrific recipe, I did modify it so it would work for us. I will modify it again so it will work for a university student. But given that’s the whole point of the cookbook, I’d call that a success.

“Tortilla Soup” from “Repertoire”

“Cheater’s Tortilla Española” from “Repertoire”

It had been a long day. It was Monday. We’d just come off having two (unrelated) guests for the weekend, who were the last of 12 guests who’d stayed with us this summer. I spent six hours on the train for a round trip to Sheffield to transport Andrew, our oldest son, back to university for the year. I had to shop, unpack and help organise him once we got up there. Then I had to sadly leave him behind, which made me more emotional than I expected. When I got to London Bridge at 9 p.m.– the final leg of my journey home– it was crammed with irate people because many of the trains weren’t running.

Needless to say, when I collapsed on the sofa once I returned home, I was pretty tired. And hungry. My plan was to rustle up some scrambled eggs, chopped spinach, feta and sriracha sauce (my Go To Meal when I don’t know what to cook). But those plans quickly changed when my lovely husband told me he’d made this for dinner, even took photos for the blog, and there was plenty left over for me to enjoy.

If that’s not true love, then I don’t know what is.

He did go into a detailed explanation of how he cooked this meal, but I’ve got to be honest– after the aforementioned day I can’t remember now what he said. I do recall that he said it was relatively easy, and that the most notable part of the recipe was the fact that it took 10 eggs. (Luckily, we had eggs to hand. See above.)

The introduction said that this dish is good hot or cold, and I can confirm that’s true. I put some warmish tortilla straight in my gob when I realised what good food awaited me in the kitchen, but I also reheated some in the microwave. It was delicious both times.

This is an excellent addition to our Meat Free Monday rota.

“Cheater’s Tortilla Española” from “Repertoire”

“Flank Steak with Salsa Verde” from “Repertoire”

That’s a lot of steak for three people. I make no apologies for my over catering.

Want to know a secret? If you’re ever short on time and you want a meal that truly can be done in 15 minutes (I’m looking at you, Jamie Oliver), grill a steak. It truly is the quickest of quick meals.

But before you take the not-even-10-minutes you’ll need to grill the steak, make this salsa verde. It couldn’t be easier. It literally is a matter of throwing herbs, olive oil, seasoning and a bit of vinegar into your food processor. It is delicious. It looks impressive. It even keeps if you have leftovers. Win. Win. Win.

If you have an additional 10 minutes, you might as well roast some new potatoes in olive oil and garlic, like I did here. The thing that will take the most time is cutting each potato in half so you’ll have more crunchy bits by the time you’re finished. In my experience, everyone loves crunchy bits.

Sure, it was a bit of a cheat to “test” this recipe, given the amount of times I’ve made steak for dinner. But I’ve never had any complaints here when I’ve informed the family that we’re having steak for dinner.

But one final note, especially on a day where there’s been demonstrations around the world about our current climate crisis. I am very cognizant that the farming of beef, and specifically the farting of cows, contributes to our climate crisis. For that reason, steak is very much a special occasion treat. I’m trying hard to moderate our diet to include more vegetarian nights beyond Meat Free Monday, and more fish nights beyond Fish Friday. We can all do our part, and every little bit helps.

“Flank Steak with Salsa Verde” from “Repertoire”

“Garlic-Butter Roast Chicken” from “Repertoire”

Having a roast chicken on a weeknight always seems like such an indulgence. It seems like the sort of dish that should be reserved for a lazy Sunday afternoon, when you also have time to make all the trimmings, along with some sort of dessert.

But why not have it on a weeknight? I mean, we live in very uncertain times here in the U.K. (understatement of the century), so why not reward ourselves on a random day for having survived another day of dire headlines? So roast chicken it was.

In the introduction, Jessica admits, “There are an astonishing number of recipes for roast chicken in the world.” It’s true, there are. She goes on to say that we should just use this one, though, which I think would be a mistake. With so many delicious ways to eat a a bird, why restrict ourselves to just one type?

However, this was a good one to have on the aforementioned weeknight, because it is spatchcocked, which meant it cooked quicker and more evenly. Pouring the melted garlic butter over the top of it was, obviously, fantastic. Has melted butter ever been a bad idea? The cardiologists of the world would disagree with me, and they might be on to something, but still…

So, yes, this was delicious. It cheered us all up on a random weeknight when we had our fill our political shenanigans, on both sides of the Atlantic. Was it vastly better than the hundreds of other types of roast chicken I’ve made? Well, no. But who cares. It was still delicious.

“Garlic-Butter Roast Chicken” from “Repertoire”

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”

One of the things that Jessica Battilana encourages people to do in this cookbook is not to be afraid to alter the recipes to fit their needs. The whole point of “Repertoire” is to create your own dishes for your own repertoire that will work for your family. For this recipe, I followed her advice, partly because I altered the recipe to make it what our family would like, and partly because our local supermarket didn’t have the ingredients I needed when I went shopping at 6:30 pm for dinner that night. Life is all about being adaptable.

In the first instance, I changed the recipe a little bit to fit what we would like. I was fairly sure that the rest of the pack would not be keen on mint in their pasta, no matter how good it might be. So I subbed out mint and replaced it with basil. (This is in the spirit of full disclosure, since you’d never be able to tell either way in the picture above.) I also didn’t have rigatoni, but I figured this pasta was just as good, so that’s what happened there.

Now on to the 6:30 pm supermarket sweep. Usually, I can count on our local Sainsbury’s to have ricotta, but alas, on this night it did not. I didn’t have time to get to the other local supermarkets since it was already so late, so I decided to sub in a mild goat’s cheese for the ricotta. I’ve got to say, that was a result. I’m sure the ricotta would have been good too, but this was delicious. Add to the fact that she recommends you warm it up a bit in the oven, and it really was spectacular.

One final suggestion that she made that I will definitely do again: presenting it all on a big platter. Usually for pasta dinners on Meat Free Monday, I’ll just load up the food on to each individual plate. But by putting it on the big platter and allowing everyone to dig in, it really made dinner more convivial and communal.

All in all, it was an excellent Meat Free Monday.

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”