“Lamb Stuffed Sweet Potato” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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Anna: Well this was perfect for a freezing cold Sunday night in January. Proper comfort food. Pretty easy, though I was a bit suspicious of the additional step required of mixing the cooked potato with the lamb and then popping back in the oven for half an hour or so. But it was really worth it. The potato lid goes crunchy. Parts of the lamb and potato go sticky and caramelised. Which elevates the whole thing. I didn’t entirely follow the recipe to the letter however. Nigel left out a key ingredient. What goes better with lamb and the sweetness of sweet potato then salty feta? You think Nigel would have worked that one out himself! So I recommend you try this recipe. With my secret ingredient.

“Lamb Stuffed Sweet Potato” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Chicken with Rice, Sweet Potato and Pepper Stuffing, Coriander and Coconut Sauce” from “A Bird in the Hand”

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Nicholas (11): Chicken again?

Maureen: I know. I’m starting to feel the same way.

Andrew (15): Chicken is always good, but we’re having a lot of it.

Maureen: This is what happens when you do a chicken-focussed cookbook. It reminds me of the movie “Take this Waltz” where Seth Rogan plays a cookbook author who’s doing a chicken cookbook. He has a party for his family and they all complain that they’re having chicken again. Spoiler alert: by the end of the movie, his wife has left him, but it’s not because he only makes chicken.

Tim: This is nice, though.

Maureen: Everybody seems to be devouring it, that’s for sure.

Nicholas: Yes, I like it.

Andrew: Me too.

Maureen: Although we’re having chicken AGAIN, I like that this is different from the usual roast chicken that we have. I don’t ever really stuff the chickens, but this is nice, with the rice stuffing.

Tim: Is this gravy?

Maureen: No, it’s not. It’s what you’re getting instead of gravy, and she calls it coriander and coconut sauce. You make it with coconut cream. Yum. I like it because it’s a bit different. Should I make this again?

Tim: Sure. Why not.

Nicholas: Make it again, but not any time soon. I’m getting a bit sick of chicken.

Maureen: I know what you mean.

“Chicken with Rice, Sweet Potato and Pepper Stuffing, Coriander and Coconut Sauce” from “A Bird in the Hand”

“Dalston sweet potato curry” from “Leon 2”

Anna: It’s my own fault.

Peter: What’s your own fault?

Anna: For choosing this recipe. I was bored of it before I’d even finished cooking it. So it’s no wonder I didn’t want to eat it. I managed half a bowl before I got bored again.

Peter: I don’t mind a vegetable curry, because there’s nothing that makes you more full. But they are slightly worthy.

Anna: And boring.

Peter: I thought Dalston Sweet Potato Curry was a dancehall hit. You don’t know what dancehall is, do you?

Anna: No.

Peter: It’s a genre of music.

Anna: I see.

Peter: Anyway, in the book it says it’s been tested by Marilyn or someone. I don’t know who Marilyn is. And I don’t give a monkies if she thinks it’s ace.

Anna: I don’t think the word ace is used.

Peter: I thought the curry was ok.  One billion Indians can’t be wrong with a vegetable curry.

Anna: Tonight, in order to face the leftovers, we added chicken and spinach, didn’t we? That made it a lot better as far as I’m concerned. And maybe it helped that you did the cooking, or heating up rather, tonight. So I didn’t have a chance to get bored of it again before we ate.

Peter: I didn’t think the chicken made that much of a difference. I’d leave it as vegetables.

Anna: You’ll be eating on your own then.  Worth mentioning as well that I had to add some chicken stock to it tonight, to temper the sweetness. There’s no salt in the recipe, and you really notice it, what with the sweet potatoes and coconut milk.  Cauliflower, what’s the point of it? God, what a boring vegetable.

Peter: That’s not true, you like it with cheese!

Anna: I don’t.  So, not a total thumbs down, but I’d be lying if I said I was going to make it again.

“Dalston sweet potato curry” 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”