As you know, I am deep in the throes of cooking at the moment, so all blog content will be heavily food related.
More than normal.
If you are on a diet, you may want to wander off until next week.
Despite the fact that the book claims to be for skinny weeks and weekend feasts, I am very much testing from the feast side of the table.
A slight crimp in the plans today was waking up to the fact that the fridge has packed in.
We have one of those large integrated fridge/freezer jobbies in our kitchen. Not our choice. I would always choose standalone, but I have inherited it. It could be worse. It could have matching doors to the units, which it doesn’t. But it is shoe horned into a particular space.
And it’s a bugger to do anything to, because it has to be un shoe horned and then re shoe horned etc.
We already lost our back up freezer last week. It is sitting sulkily in the utility room while we argue over whether we need a new one. I say yes, Jason says no. I like to stock pile for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. He thinks this is weird.
So we argue.
Now the fridge is shafted, but the next door freezer part isn’t.
Jason called the company this morning. They say they may be able to get an engineer to us tomorrow, but it is more likely to be Tuesday.
Bum, bum, bugger.
In the meantime, as the freezer side is working, they have suggested that something in the workings of the fridge might be frozen. We were instructed to turn everything off for five hours in the hope that whatever it is (if it is indeed that) in the fridge will defrost. We have done this. It is due to go back on in twenty minutes. I am praying a lot.
Apparently, even if it is this, it is only a temporary fix, but a temporary fix is better than no fridge at all until Tuesday.
I have tried not to let this bother me, and carry on regardless with my testing.
You may recall that I am testing Gizzi Erskine’s ‘Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts’.
Last night I made the pumpkin spice cake. You could substitute pumpkin for butternut squash, which I did, because finding a pumpkin in this country except around Halloween is rather like finding the Koh I Noor diamond under your bed, surprising and unexpected.
Basically it was exactly like carrot cake. She only gets you to cook one layer of the cake, so it is like thin carrot cake (mine didn’t rise very much), which you slather in cream cheese frosting.
I liked it. I preferred grating squash to grating carrots. It is less slithery and fiddly. I will make it again. Next time I will make double and make a proper cake and fill it with frosting as well as icing it.
Oh, she said to put walnuts in. I didn’t have any so I substituted pecans. I liked that a lot. I prefer them.
Tilly attempted to make gypsy tart. It was a raging disaster. This cannot, in any way, be attributed to the book. She wanted to make it, but her mind was firmly in Tilly land, and the subject of baking didn’t really crop up in Tilly land. There was not a single thing she didn’t do wrong, and in the end the whole lot took about four hours to make and ended up being thrown into the bin while I scraped gypsy tart off the light fittings.
I am trying again today, which given how everything needs chilling, may well prove problematic. We shall see.
This morning I have put Malaysian beef rendang in the slow cooker. As you know I have substituted shin of beef for braising steak. I also decided that ten chillies in the paste was probably too hot for our tastes, so I added three (seeds in) and will see how that goes. Ten chillies seems rather excessive.
It smells nice.
After the rendang I made home made hummus. I cannot believe I have never tried making it before. It is the easiest thing in the world. I made a decent hummus in less than five minutes, and was quite happy with the results. I shall make it again (and again), and undoubtedly fiddle with flavourings etc until I find my ultimate hummus. I am thinking of whizzing in some harissa paste on my next attempt.
As a caveat, I would say that I’ve seen other hummus recipes just as easy in many cookery books, but never bothered to give it a go before. I don’t think this recipe is particularly special, or unique to this book, it’s just that I needed things to test and I knew I’d eat hummus. I wouldn’t rush out to buy the book because it has hummus recipes in.
I also made courgette baba ganoush. Baba ganoush, for the uninitiated is a type of middle eastern dip that you usually make with aubergine. It was on the following page from the hummus and I had some courgettes that my aunt left me from her allotment that needed using up. I’m the only one that eats them unless they are heavily disguised, so I made it. I have to say it was as easy as the hummus and very nice. I like the idea of making it with courgettes instead of aubergines.
For lunch we had eggs Benedict. In the book they are called Australian Eggs Benedict. I think this is because it is bog standard Eggs Benedict with tomatoes, avocado and lettuce added. Again, as with the hummus, I wouldn’t rush out to buy the book for the recipe. It’s a classic. You can get it anywhere. Sticking salad at the side and changing its name doesn’t make a ‘new’ recipe in my opinion. Like the hummus, I made it because I wanted something to try that didn’t have too many taxing ingredients that were hard to source. I also wanted a crack at making my own Hollandaise sauce because I’ve never made it before.
Eggs Benedict, if you’re not sure, consists of toasted muffins (breakfast muffins, not sweet muffins), with ham on top, a poached egg on top of that, and Hollandaise sauce drizzled over the top. I rather like it, although I prefer salmon instead of ham, and earlier in the year I had it with juicy Portobello mushrooms instead of ham or salmon, and that was lovely.
Hollandaise has a reputation as being a bit tricky. I have always bought mine in jars previous to this, wimping out, as I do when it comes to tricky business in the cookery line. I decided to man up today and gave it a whirl, and produced a perfectly competent Hollandaise, which tasted right and didn’t split.
Double hoorah was that the whole family are delighted with Eggs Benedict, which I’ve only ever bothered to cook for myself before, due to living with a bunch of fussy eaters. They all shunned the Hollandaise and went for the unadorned version, but wolfed down three eggs each, and clamoured to know when we could have it again.
For that, it is worth the price of the cookery book.
By the end of today I am hoping I will also have produced a competent gypsy tart, and a pear and ginger cake.
Tomorrow I am going for home made crumpets and ricotta and sour cherry pancakes for breakfast, and Chinese style pork hot and sour salad thing for dinner. Depending on whether the fridge works I may also break out into butterscotch Angel Delight. We shall see.
With all of that in mind I am still undecided about the recipe book.
I have made the first pastry I’ve made for thirty years, my first hummus and my first Hollandaise sauce, and nothing has gone wrong. This is good, but I am wondering whether it is just that I am more competent and confident now, rather than the fact that these recipes are any better than any others.
Everything I have made so far has tasted lovely. This is a big plus point.
There are things in the book I know I would love to eat if a) I could get the ingredients and b) I could eat enough of them on my own to justify the expense. This, I have found to my cost is an expensive way to eat, and not very good for the figure either.
These are things I know my family won’t touch. Things like the gorgeous Lebanese salad Fattoush, for example. It is wonderful but I already have recipes elsewhere (thank you Ottolenghi), I cannot get Sumac unless I order it online, and I am the only one who will eat it.
I still feel that there are too many recipes of that kind in here for me not to think it worthwhile for us as a family.
But I am warming to the book. Everything I make that tastes good is another gold star, so I shall continue with the testing until the wheels fall off.