Friday 7 November 2014

1: Catherine Atkinson & Jenni Fleetwood - Slow Cooker, One-pot & Casserole – Cooking the Books



Starter:      Baked Field Mushroom with Hazelnuts

Main:         Irish Stew

Dessert:     Pumpkin & Banana Cake

Obviously, this week is a pumpkin week, so I needed to find a book that would help me use up the tasty flesh, definitely as a starter or main course, and possibly as a dessert. I hadn’t considered the actual food I’d have in my house each week before setting myself this challenge…maybe I’ll get better as I progress, choosing my recipes first, then ordering to fulfil it rather than the other way round, as was the situation this week! As well as pumpkin, I have much veg. including carrots, squash, beetroot and salad. As for protein, it’s a choice of whole chicken, scallops or diced lamb. Fruit includes options of apple, orange, kiwi or grapes. I also have a ready supply of eggs from our three chick-chicks and standard store cupboard ingredients.

I really wanted to start with my newest addition, Nigel Slater’s ‘Eat’, in a gorgeous yellow fabric cover, but he has no pumpkin recipes at all, so you’ll have to wait for a little treat from him next week. Instead, I chose (no, not Heston, although I’m going to have to get that one done sooner rather than later I think –  maybe its a holiday project!) one of my two slow cooker / one pot books. This book also includes tips for using the cooker in different ways and so, after reading these, it was with a little trepidation that I chose to use the pumpkin in a slow-cooked cake.

Starter: Baked Field Mushroom with Hazelnuts

Easiness: 9/10                                                                                                                         Taste: 7/10                                                                                                                                Make again: 8/10                                                                                                                     Cheats & Changes: I used pecans as I had them for the cake, but the recipe does state you could use any unsalted nuts. It also suggests that they should be eaten very fresh, so to buy small packets you’ll use quickly or nuts in shells – too much phaff for me, stick with the small packets!


Garlic mushrooms are always a favourite, especially since we visited River Cottage on a mushroom foraging course and learnt how to cook them properly. Unfortunately, they’re one of those things I don’t cook often enough so I was pleased to find a twist on this recipe, even though these are baked rather than fried. It’s a case of mixing crushed garlic with olive oil and lemon zest, leaving to infuse, then pouring half of it over some large mushrooms. Bake the ‘shrooms for about ten minutes before removing, sprinkling with chopped hazelnuts and the rest of the oil, then bake for another ten minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the parsley over the top. Crusty bread to dip is a must!


These were scrummy and could be used as a side dish for meat, as well as a vegetarian main if served with couscous / rice or similar. They were yummy, as you’d expect from a basic garlic mushrooms recipe, but the nuts really added to the earthy flavours.


Main: Irish Stew

Easiness: 10/10                                                                                                                        Taste: 6/10                                                                                                                                Make again: 8/10 (Frankie had seconds!)                                                                                   Cheats & Changes: erm, none, I just didn’t stick to the quantities, as usual. You could use ready prepped veg and cubed lamb.

I’m not really sure how ‘Irish’ this is, or how traditional, but it was very simple and quite tasty. Frankie even had seconds. You’re meant to make it with mutton, but unless you live near a fantastic butcher, this is quite hard to come by so I used stewing lamb instead. Neck of lamb would work well too.


This really was easy to make. Fry some lamb to brown then remove from pan. Fry off chunky carrots and onions until browned. The recipe says to quarter onions and cut wide slices of carrot. Add lamb back to pan with water to just cover then simmer for an hour. Add chopped potatoes to the pan along with a few sprigs of fresh thyme. The recipe doesn't say whether to peel or not, but I left mine skin-on. Cook for another hour. Leave to settle, season well, as there’s no salt or pepper added during the cooking process (something I was a little unsure about) and stir in a knob of butter and chopped parsley before serving.


Now I can’t make it look ‘nice’, well, not without a warm filter anyway, but it did taste good, just don’t forget the seasoning or parsley. And a little confession – I stirred in a good blob of mint sauce! 

Dessert: Pumpkin & Banana Cake (in a slow cooker!)

Easiness: 8/10                                                                                                                         Taste: 5/10                                                                                                                                Make again: 0/10 (There are far quicker and more reliable recipes out there!)                                 Cheats & Changes: none


A cake in a slow cooker? Nope. I’ve heard of it but never had the guts to actually try it out until now. I read the ‘tips’ and followed the instructions, but my main challenge was to find a cake tin than actually fit into my cooker as it’s not a large oval one, but a round one with a smaller base and a lip around the top. The tin also needed to have a ‘built in base’ rather than a spring form tin or one with a loose bottom (that would be dreadful!) or the water that creates the steam to cook it would seep in slowly but surely. As it turned out, I couldn't find a solid base tin, so used a loose based one with a cake-liner, coated it in foil and crossed my fingers: But I’m fairly certain the authors of the book didn’t have this completed vision in mind when they created the recipe…


Not only was the cake heavy, the icing was really more of a sauce, despite me putting it in the freezer for an hour to try to firm it up. Indeed, the question, “Is that icing?” was muttered as the OH wandered past! As for moistness, well, with all that water, it certainly wasn’t dry, and the taste? That was good too – why wouldn’t it be? It had cake ingredients in it! If you like this sort of cake, I’d suggest using an old favourite Good Housekeeping Banana Tea-Bread recipe I have instead and substituting some of the banana for pumpkin if you need to use it up. Quicker and far more reliable.


So my first week of ‘Cooking the Books’ had it’s ups and downs: I certainly won’t be cooking cake in a slow cooker again, not without the right tin anyway, and I’m going to try to cook more garlicky mushrooms of one sort or another.  But on the whole, as Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad!

Monday 3 November 2014

Dansk Kobenstyle Vintage Yellow Fondue Pot

And it's mine...all mine!

I've coveted this ever since I saw a picture from Delicious magazine using it to serve mussels, and within an hour of searching, had tracked down it's make, model, design and even managed to source quite a few too! My little number came via the USA and arrived safe and sound this morning.

Not sure I'm actually going to use it to cook anything, I really don't want to spoil it, but I'll definitely use it as an attractive serving bowl. And may even invest in the 'fondue' warmer part of it too. 
Couldn't help but share. 

Sunday 2 November 2014

Bonfire Baguettes

A perfect warming steak baguette for that post-bonfire night hunger. Again, this was stolen from a Waitrose recipe card, and this time, I stuck to it, except I used white wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar, oh, and shallot instead of red onion. (So, no, I guess I didn’t stick to it after all!)



4 tbsp The Spice Tailor Peanut & Tamarind Chutni
1 tbsp honey
Beef Sandwich Steaks / Thin Cut Steaks
1 cucumber, very thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 tbsp rice vinegar
Pinch of sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large baguette
2 tbsp Mayonnaise


Mix together the chutni and honey. Spread over the steaks and leave to marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes. I left mine for a few hours, then made sure they were up to room temperature before pan frying.

Combine the cucumber with the red onion, rice vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt. Leave for flavours to infuse.

Heat the oil over a medium-high heat and fry the steaks for a couple of minutes ensuring they’re still pink in the middle. Slice into strips.

Spread a little mayonnaise in each baguette, add the steak and top with the cucumber salad.


I was a little hesitant about the wateryness of the salad, but after I’d left it for a while, it seemed to evaporate. The cleanliness and sharpness of the salad really cut through the heat and sweetness of the steaks to make an interesting and delicious alternative to the regular steak and onion sandwich. And I’ll definitely be using the chutni again – it would make a good chicken satay dressing with a little oil.

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