Friday, 23 May 2014

12 New Recipes in 12 Months

by Laura Burden

We love watching others cook. The final of The Great British Bake-off was seen by almost 9 million viewers; 4 million tuned into the ninth series of MasterChef. Weighty tomes by Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay or The River Cottage line our kitchen shelves. In spite of this, few of us have an extensive repertoire in the kitchen. A study in 2009 commissioned by Merchant Gourmet found that, of 4,000 mothers surveyed, the average had a range of only nine meals, the most popular dishes being spaghetti bolognaise, roast dinners and shepherd’s pie.
Reviewing my own frequented recipes, I realised that I was sinking into a nutritional as well as a culinary rut. I was eating far too much convenience/packaged food in term time in any case despite loving to cook – but when I did have the energy, the standbys of lentil curry, pork and cider casserole, and veggie pasta were making repeated appearances. I decided to set myself the target of cooking at least one new thing every month for a year.

The verdict on each recipe is below.

1.    Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne – Delia Smith

Easy? ●●○○○ – the nuisance is de-stalking the spinach. I de-stalk if cooking for guests and don’t bother if it’s just for me.


Healthy?  ●●○○○ – plenty of spinach…but even more cheese (ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and gorgonzola). Works just fine with margarine instead of butter and with skimmed milk, though.

Tasty? ●●●●● Lovely veggie meal.

Would I cook it again? I’ve cooked this four times now – it’s become part of the repertoire.

 This recipe appears in what has to be the Bible of basic cooking – Delia Smith’s Complete How To Cook. However, it has also been published on the chef’s website and so is legally and freely available:
The instructions are perfectly easy to follow. This is a delicious recipe that freezes well and can be used at dinner parties as well as for home cooking.

2.    Slow-cooked Fiery Lamb – Gordon Ramsay

Easy? ●●●●○ As long as you have the spices in stock, it is straightforward.

Healthy? ●●●●○ Aside from the fact that it’s a meal based around red meat, this is healthy.

Tasty? ●●○○○ Depends if you like spicy lamb.

Would I cook it again? Probably not – but that’s because I prefer my other lamb shank recipes.

This recipe appears in Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course but has been reproduced with the chef’s permission on the Channel 4 website  The instructions are very clear. It is a recipe that demands some forethought – the lamb needs to be marinated for at least an hour but preferably overnight, and once prepared the cooking time is three hours.
I love lamb shanks and cook them fairly often, usually with white wine, leeks and pearl barley...and, therefore, although this recipe worked well, I think I prefer shanks without the spice.

3.    Quinoa, Pumpkin and Orange Salad – Tony Chiodo

Easy? ●●●○○ Worth the trouble

Healthy? ●●●●● Healthy, varied summer meal.

Tasty? ●●●●○ Most of my friends who have had this liked it. I use butternut squash instead of pumpkin.

Would I cook it again? Yes. Good veggie standby, especially at barbeques.

 I cut this recipe out of The Times – it’s by a chef called Tony Chiodo and from his book Feel Good Food. Variants can be found online. If you have never tried quinoa, it’s a South American grain that can be treated in a similar way to couscous – it needs to be cooked but can be chilled for salads. You know it’s ready when a little “tail” emerges from the grain. I encountered it walking the Inca Trail in 2005 and have been cooking it ever since.
Essentially, you boil 250g of quinoa in 375ml of water and then simmer it until the water has been absorbed. The quinoa is then set aside to cool. Next, you chop two small onions and fry them with a pinch of salt before adding one and a half tablespoons of white wine vinegar and two tablespoons of orange juice. At this point you’re supposed to add 200g pumpkin and fry that as well, but I roast a butternut squash in the oven instead. When cooled, add the onion mixture, squash/pumpkin and some pumpkin seeds to the quinoa and mix well. Season with salt, pepper and orange zest.

This one is well worth trying: it’s filling enough to be a vegetarian meal in its own right but also works as a side salad.

4.    Melanzane alla Parmigiana (aubergines with parmesan and tomato) – Antonio Carluccio

Easy? ●●●●● Dead easy.

Healthy? ●●●○○ Packed with vegetables but cheesy.

Tasty? Very.

Would I cook it again? Probably but haven’t yet – a useful alternative to my usual veggie pasta and it freezes well.

 I was upset that Fire and Stone closed in Gunwharf but slightly mollified when a Carluccio’s opened instead. This recipe is from Antonio Carluccio’s Perfect Italian Cooking.
Thinly slice three aubergines: soak the pieces in cold water and then pat them dry.  Beat three eggs and add a pinch of salt, then dip the aubergine slices into the mixture and fry them until golden. Set the eggy aubergine aside, heat the oven to 200C and make a basic tomato sauce with 800g chopped tomatoes and garlic. Then, layer the tomato sauce and aubergines and 250g parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Providing that you like aubergine, this is worth cooking – it requires very few ingredients and is incredibly simple to make.

5.    Rose Harissa Pork with Quinoa and Dates – Georgina Fuggle

Easy? ●●●●○ Once you have the ingredients in stock this is simple to follow and, as you only need a casserole dish, there is little washing up. Rose harissa paste is available in most supermarkets: you need half a jar.

Healthy? ●●●●● Varied and perfectly healthy as long as you go easy on the oil when frying the pork. Harissa paste varies in its oil/calorie content so read the labels of the different brands available on the shelf.

Tasty? ●●●●○ Lovely – but you must “seal” the pork properly when frying it or it will dry out in the oven.

Would I cook it again? This one has become a firm favourite.

I cut this recipe out of a newspaper. It is from Georgina Fuggle’s book Take One Pot and her publisher has made it available online  

This is a fantastic dish that is quick and easy to make. The recipe specified that it serves two or three but I’ve found that I can eke four meals out of it – three with the spicy quinoa and pork and a smaller one of just the quinoa mix.

6.    Chicken Cacciatore – Alan Rosenthal

Easy? ●●●●● Only uses one pot and very simple

Healthy? ●●○○○ I used chicken thighs with the skin on as directed which are, obviously, high in fat. The dish would probably work if you skinned the chicken pieces.

Tasty? ●●●●○ Very nice.

Would I cook it again? Not with this recipe as it was quite fatty and it didn’t freeze particularly well.

There are plenty of Chicken Cacciatore recipes freely available online. I used the one in my favourite cookbook, Stewed! By Alan Rosenthal. Although it is possible to cook this in a healthier way, I found this particular version of the classic Italian dish too fatty.

7.    Baked Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Salsa and Rice with Coconut and Beans – Lorraine Pascale

Easy? ●○○○○ Not really – the list of ingredients is very lengthy. However, it’s the elaborate rice and salsa that complicates it and you could just cook the chicken.

Healthy? - ●●●●● As long as you use chicken pieces without skin, and lower fat coconut milk, this is perfectly healthy. Nothing is fried.

Tasty? ●●○○○ I thought it was “ok” but that’s partly personal preference. If you like Caribbean food, try it. The taste is “sharp” rather than spicy.

Would I cook it again? Probably not – mainly because I tend to cook food that can be safely and easily frozen. This recipe demands that rice be cooked in coconut milk and mixed with kidney beans – but, as rice should never be re-heated, any rice left over must be served cold.

This recipe is legally available online and appears in Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food. This is a book worth having on the shelf, mostly because her cake recipes are fantastic!

8.    Seco de Cordero (Peruvian Lamb Stew) with coriander and beer – Alan Rosenthal

Easy? ●●●●● This recipe book, Stewed! is packed with dishes from all over the world that can be cooked in a single pot.

Healthy? ●●●○○ It’s a red meat dish but contains plenty of vegetables too.

Tasty? ●●●●● I loved it

Would I cook it again? Yes – as it has carbohydrate, meat and vegetables in every portion it can easily be served in a bowl and makes a great winter dish.

Essentially, you brown and then set aside 900g lamb shoulder pieces, and then fry 2 red onions, adding 8 cloves of garlic, a frsh chilli and two teaspoons of cumin. Then, add 400ml of beer, a large bunch of coriander (tied), two tomatoes and three tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Add the lamb back into the mixture. Cook on the hob for an hour and a half, then add 400g potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes. Season and add fresh coriander before serving.
I used sweet potatoes rather than normal ones but that’s just preference – probably from spending part of my childhood in New Zealand, where lamb is the most common meat and is often served with sweet potato, which the Maori call kÅ«mara.

9.    Pork, Tomato, Paprika and Barley Stew – Chrissy Freer

Easy? ●●●●● Very easy.

Healthy? ●●●●● As long as you use a minimal amount of oil when browning the pork, this is a healthy and balanced meal. The recipe does include speck (ham) but I omitted that as I don’t eat cured meat.

Tasty? ●●●●○ yes, Although I’ll add more paprika next time.

Would I cook it again? Yes.

 This is from a book called Supergrains by Chrissy Freer, which I bought in a bid to eat more healthily and really should use more! An abbreviated version of this recipe is available online

This is packed with vegetables and the recipe presents little difficulty. It freezes well. Similarly to some of the other stews, it has meat, vegetables and carbohydrates in every portion and so a single bowl is a great winter warmer.

10.                      Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma) – Rick Stein

Easy? ●●●●○ Yes, providing that you have all the spices in your cupboard.

Healthy? ●●●●● Very healthy.

Tasty? ●●●●● Surprisingly good.

Would I cook it again? Yes – a great veggie meal. If you removed one portion before adding the yogurt, it would be fine for vegan friends too.

 This recipe is from Rick Stein’s India – his most recent collection that was recently serialised on the BBC. It is legally available on the BBC website

This is a deeply interesting book as Stein explores different regions of India and writes about his encounters with great enthusiasm. Although this recipe contains standard vegetables and spices, some recipes in the book demand ingredients that are difficult to source in supermarkets and need to be bought elsewhere, such as I cooked this recipe in a desultory way, motivated by the knowledge that it was time I had something healthy/vegetarian. In the event, I was surprised by how much I liked it.

11.                      Pollo Alla Cacciatora (Hunter’s Chicken Stew) – Jamie Oliver

Easy? ●●●●● Incredibly easy.

Healthy? ●●○○○ Sadly, anything that contains half a bottle of wine can’t be that healthy. As this dish doesn’t contain many vegetables, it should be served with some to make a balanced meal.

Tasty? ●●●●● Delicious

Would I cook it again? Yes – I’ve tried this one twice. It works just as well without the anchovies.

 This is the second chicken cacciatore recipe I tried this year (see 6) and it was much more successful. It is from Jamie’s Italy and is also freely available on the chef’s own website
The recipe demands a good bottle of chianti. When I cooked this for myself I used cheap wine but chose a more impressive bottle when cooking for others.

12.                      Duck and Ginger Stew – Alan Rosenthal

Easy? ●●●●○ The ginger needs to be sliced very finely – but there are few ingredients.

Healthy? ●○○○○ Duck is a fatty meat and this should be an occasional rather than a frequent meal. However, it is rich in vegetables.

Tasty? ●●●●● Wonderful (most unhealthy things are…)

Would I cook it again? Yes, possibly for guests.

This is another recipe from Stewed! by Alan Rosenthal. Four duck legs should be simmered in boiling water for an hour and a half and then set aside. A kilo of skinned tomatoes should be cooked with two red onions, ten cloves of garlic and 40g of ginger. The duck legs should be added to the vegetable pulp and then the whole dish should be cooked gently for a further 30-40 minutes.

This meal is a treat rather than a routine dish but I enjoyed it. As the duck is cooked slowly for a lengthy period, the meat is deeply tender and falls away from the bone.
The twelve-meal challenge: was it a success?

I knew I wasn’t eating enough meat-free food and, through the challenge, I discovered three recipes to increase my vegetarian range. Looking over what I chose to prepare across twelve months made me realise how dependent I am on stews and casseroles, mostly because they are easy, fairly healthy and lend themselves to being stored in portions for another day.
One of the barriers to experimenting with new recipes is the need to buy in more ingredients. I did find, with spices in particular, that buying in new components for one dish meant that, when it came to contemplating another, the ingredients were already in the cupboard.
As William Cowper wrote, “Variety’s the very spice of life/ That gives it all its flavour.” There is merit in trying something new!
If you cook only one of the meals above, make it number 5 – the pork with rose harissa and dates. If you are new to cooking or are heading to university, the one recipe book to buy is Delia Smith’s Complete how To Cook; if you like experimenting, make it Rick Stein’s India.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments with names are more likely to be published.