I am still busily cooking my way through The Natural Cook by Tom Hunt.
Today’s menu included:
Shakshouka (a spicy tomato passata with poached eggs in it)
Spring onions marinaded in lime and chilli
Apricots roasted in sugar and vanilla
Asparagus blanched with butter and lemon
Risi et bisi made with added asparagus blanched with butter and lemon.
Everything I made today tasted delicious. It does work better if you make whatever the basic thing is he recommends and then follow it straight up with one of the recipes he uses to demonstrate how you would use the ingredient you have just created. It’s quite a satisfying way to cook.
We had the shakshouka for lunch with the spring onions and salad leaves. I grilled bacon to go with it. I could happily have done without the bacon, but there would have been uproar from everyone else at the lack of meat.
For dinner we made the asparagus, but rather than eat it as a starter I used it straightaway in the risi et bisi as he suggests. Again, I would have been happy eating this on its own, but I did chicken breasts poached in garlic and smoked paprika to go with it, and apart from Tallulah who hated it, everyone else mopped it up and had seconds.
I made the roasted apricots because we had some that needed eating and I fancied making a clafoutis because I’d never tried one before either to make or to eat, and it’s been on my culinary to do list forever. It was very nice with ice cream, but I feel it would have been even better with custard.
I confess I cheated a couple of times. I didn’t make the passata in the Shakshouka from scratch. I’ve done it before, and it’s alright, but the stuff in bottles is almost as good, and it saves you forty minutes effort. I chopped a couple of over-ripe beef tomatoes in with it to get more of an authentic flavour and cooked it down with a handful of torn basil leaves and it was absolutely fine.
I also made my risi et bisi with a chicken stock cube instead of faffing around for another forty minutes with hand making stock. It still tasted delicious, cooked in half the time and didn’t drive me insane, so time well spent I think.
Where he tells you how to make something very basic, like roasting the apricots, the other half of the page is taken up with one main recipe you can create with the ingredient, and usually a couple of tips, other recipes and serving ideas at the bottom of the page. The clafoutis recipe was one of the recipes featured at the bottom of the page. It was perfectly fine, in itself, but there was no picture and no sense of what it was supposed to look like when it was done. As I had never made or eaten it before I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to turn out. The mixture is rather like a cream laden Yorkshire pudding mix, and you bake it for thirty minutes until set. This was fine, but when I cut it, and it looked the consistency of an egg custard I had a small wobble in case it was raw and/or wrong. Turns out, after googling pictures of cherry clafoutis, that this is how it is supposed to be. It would really have helped to have this kind of information written in so I could have saved myself a small panic.
Otherwise I am increasingly impressed with this book. Over the last few days we have eaten well and interestingly and the food is tasty and challenging without being complicated.