It has been non-stop here over the last week or so. A family holiday in Norfolk (pictures will follow just as soon as I get round to it), catching up with various friends that we haven't seen in months, and Mr C with a week off work in an attempt to get various jobs done around the house and garden. Finding time to go online just keeps getting knocked off the end of each day's to do list!
There has also been the arrival of many new books (both new new and old) and various new recipes have been discovered. The first of these comes from the very new River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook (published only earlier this month). Now if you have little kids then you should definitely buy a copy of this book. If you're expecting a baby then I'd recommend it even more. I just wish I'd had this book before I started weaning Little Miss C.
Although it's called a cookbook this book is actually a whole load more. It covers how to encourage children to be interested in food from a very early age, and also how to involve and engage them in understanding where food comes from, in particular the vegetables that make up so many first baby purees. There are some great puree recipes that I'm sure LMC would have loved if she'd tried them and then the "meat" of the book are the main recipes which are split into the four seasons so that you can plan to feed your little one the foods that are in season throughout the year.
The first recipe that we tried was Frittata, featuring in season English asparagus. To say that LMC loved it would be an understatement. It also made a lovely lunch for Mr C and I when accompanied by some freshly baked bread and baked beans. I've already got a list of other recipes that I'm planning to try for the three of us, so watch this space...
I've got the NCT girls coming over this afternoon and after a long weekend at home the cake tin and biscuit barrel are rather bare. Last night I had a quick look through my various cook books and came up with this recipe for oat and raisin cookies from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.
One thing I did notice when looking at the recipe was that it required 4 baking trays for 20 cookies. Now, I don't know about you I don't actually own four baking trays. Mr C thought I was a bit excessive having three, but seeing as my oven only has two shelves I couldn't work out how to fit four in the oven. I therefore halves the recipe and even making rather generous sized cookies still managed to make 22!
The dough was rather stiff which made mixing the sultanas (I couldn't find any raisins in the cupboard) in by hand rather difficult. They also seemed to require slightly longer than the 12 minutes that the book recommended. The finished result though was delicious. Slightly crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy inside. In fact just as you want a cookie to be! It'd definitely made me keen to try the other cookie recipes from the book, but again I think that halving the quantities may be the way forwards.
For years my late Gran told me to get myself a copy of the Be-Ro cookbook and last year I finally did - I just wish I'd done so sooner. This book has in every standard baking recipe you could ever need which is pretty impressive when you bear in mind it only costs £1.50 a copy!
Unfortunately this Victoria Sponge never made it to its intended recipient as an ill Little Miss C had to take priority. There was one bit I had to disagree with though; Step 5: When cool, fill with jam or cream. Or??? Surely that should read "and"!
There has been a bit of a break in cookbook challenge entries lately - mainly because there's very little point trying out new things when no one is able to eat anything other than hot toast. Luckily we're over that phase now so this week has seen me pour through all my cookbooks as I wrote the weekly shopping list.
It may have taken nearly three hours to cook, but tonight's beef and carrot stew from Apples for Jam: Recipes for Life was melt in the mouth perfect. I served it with a simple mashed potatoes which were a perfect accompaniment. The carrots provides a lovely sweet edge and the beef had fallen apart beautifully.
I have to admit that Apples for Jam is a cookbook that I originally bought purely for the lovely picture on the front cover. Very shallow I know, but in my defence I had also read a good review of it on someone's blog. All the recipes I have tried from it are delicious, but on a practical level the book is a bit of a disaster. Recipes are organised by colour (red, orange, yellow, pink, green, gold, white, brown, monochrome, stripes and multicolour). I don't know about you, but when thinking about what to include in the next week's meal plan I don't instantly think about what colour meal I want. Until you get to know the book it's therefore hard to choose dishes from it without having gone through the whole book first. The other practical problem is the light grey font on white background that is used for the recipes. In my kitchen there are a few dark corners, but when cooking I frequently find myself glancing at the recipe, but with this book it's hard to do so due to the lack of contrast. It may look "prettier" than traditional black on white, but I do find it much harder to read - and that's when wearing my contact lenses!
Plenty of cooking and baking has been going on here recently. Whatever happens people still need to eat.
This batch of apple muffins were for the wassail that took place at the WWA today. Taken from Classic 1000 Cake & Bake Recipes - a book I always forget that I own, but that contains loads (1000 in fact) fantastic baking recipes - these were incredibly simple to make. It was just a shame that I only got to eat one muffin of them out of the two batches I made.
I don't normally go in for thinking that raw meat looks beautiful, but this chicken covered in delicious tasty marinade certainly did. The fact that once it came out of the oven it was a lovely, dark and caramelised meant that an "after" photograph didn't really do it justice.
Taken from Nigel Slater's Real Cooking the cooking part of this meal had to be one the simplest things ever - it just goes in a hot oven! The preparation of the marinade did take a little while to prepare, but containing lime juice, lemon grass, hot red chillies, fresh ginger, spring onions and garlic it was quite simply the tastiest chicken I'd had in ages. We served it with some roast potatoes and some steamed veg and I would have been quite happy to serve this up as an alternative Sunday roast too.
Another success from my cookbook challenge - 2011 is certainly shaping up to be a fantastic year in the C kitchen!
Continuing my cookbook challenge I decided to be a bit adventurous with my bread making. For years have just been using the same wholemeal recipe. I've no real idea why though as I do love a range of different breads. Habit I guess.
Today I broke that habit though by actually using one of the two bread machine books that I have on the shelf. Admittedly I didn't become super adventurous, but to use up some of the egg glut that we seem to have I went for the egg-enriched white loaf from Bread Machine by Jennie Shapter. I have to admit that I don't think I have made a single recipe from this book before today. This one was super simple though and the bread came out looking, smelling and tasting delicious. Recently I had been having problems getting loaves to rise enough, but this one came up beautifully.
Another fantastic result from the challenge and another cookbook that I have fallen in love with!
Less than 24 hours into the new year and my cookbook challenge seems to be going well - even if I did start it last year!
Mr C was responsible for cooking up the pork stroganoff from Gary Rhodes' Keeping it Simple even though some of the recipe wasn't quite as simple as the book's title suggested. Our brandy just didn't want to flambe no matter how much Mr C tried. A shame as otherwise it was quite tasty and relatively simple to make. It did remind us a fair bit of the paprika pork recipe from one of the 101 books, but the mushrooms did add a certain something special. Maybe the next time we make paprika pork we should try to remember to add mushrooms too.
Keeping it Simple really is a cookbook that we have hardly touched since I brought it home. It contains loads of recipes for what look like hearty dishes and judging by the short instructions they do appear to be relatively simple too. Not at all bad for a book that I picked up for just four pounds in a charity shop a couple of years ago!
I realise that we're still in 2010, but I've already started my 2011 cookbook challenge - I figured that seeing as I invented it I could write the rules, and bend them as I need to!
There are two cookbooks on my shelf that I use more than any others - 101 simple suppers and 101 cheap eats. Both contain a fantastic mix of tasty, easy recipes that form the main part of our regular dinners. Tonight's dinner was one that we had done before, but enjoyed so much that it was time to do it again - a mustardy twist on toad in the hole that can be found in 101 cheap eats.
It's very simple really; two onions go in the tray whilst you roast the sausages and the batter has in it a couple of tablespoonfuls of wholegrain mustard. Combined with the pork and leek sausages that I was using this adds a lovely kick to what is already a pretty delicious, hearty meal.