“Save with Jamie”

Save with Jamie

Apologies for spatchcocking the book like this, but the back cover is so pretty it had to be in the picture. And the design throughout the book is just gorgeous – colourful, energetic and somehow both contemporary and ’50s diner-esque.

Back in March I decided that it was really time to stop buying cookbooks and start using the ones I already had. And I am so glad that I did, as it has been a real success thus far. (The “using the books I already had” bit, not the moratorium on buying new books. I’m about to crack and buy “Simply Nigella”, as the library will probably want their copy back at some point.)

So, in March I aimed to cook a recipe a week from “Save with Jamie”, and it was actually very easy to cook almost twice that.

As the cover promises, the aim of the book is to help people shop smart, cook clever and waste less. The Shop Smart section is written with a lightness of touch, and neither pontificates nor alienates readers with different budgets or experience of being savvy. Two nuggets (of information, not chicken) that I took away were that mushrooms can be frozen and that fresh herbs keep longer if you trim the stalks and then wrap them in damp kitchen paper. Useful to know.

The real gold, though, is in the recipes themselves.

Each section apart from Veg starts with a “mothership” recipe for a roast, and is followed by 7 or so recipes using the leftovers and then others to be cooked from scratch. I did some of each – verdicts below:

From scratch

  • Hit ‘n’ run traybaked chicken (pictured below) – absolutely delicious, and so easy to make. Chickeny, bell peppery, balsamicy goodness. I’m not sure how well this would freeze, but it would taste amazing cold as a posh picnic dish. (Yes, to me anything that requires cutlery at a picnic is posh.)
  • Pukka yellow curry – this was fine, but not jump off the plate exciting, although that could well be because the sauce never thickened as it was meant to, which was very likely my fault.
  • Mince & onion pie with cream cheese pastry – this was a revelation. The first mouthful tasted like pleasant comfort food. Then the heat from the cayenne and the creaminess of the pastry started to come through and made for something pretty magical.

Leftovers

  • Roast chicken and sweet pea risotto – tasty, and definitely inexpensive, although it took longer than the given 16 minutes for the rice to absorb the stock. (Which did not come as a surprise – risottos are renowned for being rather long-winded. A tasty alternative to risotto that doesn’t require constant stirring is this scrumptious chicken orzo recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.)
  • Beef rendang – enjoyable rather than life changing, but certainly extra points for being completely different from the original roast.
  • Punchy crunchy lamb noodle salad – making myself cook from the book meant that I had to be open to making things that I wouldn’t usually, and this lamb dish was a prime example of the benefits reaped from that approach. I was happily surprised at how well it was received, as this isn’t really a salad family. This recipe also contains a glorious example of the ebullient nature of Jamie Oliver’s writing – “lovely crisp slivers of leftover roast lamb, paired with lamb’s two best mates, Mr Mint and Mr Chilli”.
  • Quick Chinese Wrap – these were really good, genuinely quick, and again not the sort of thing I’d normally make. A great alternative to chicken sandwiches for lunch.

And there are many, many other recipes just waiting to be tried. This book celebrates nourishing food, full of flavour and variety that can be cooked midweek. And it is a joy.

Hit 'n' run traybaked chicken

Hit ‘n’ run traybaked chicken. Yum.

 

 

Quick supper – feta, basil and tomato tart

Tart

Do not fear, I am not advocating teeny tiny meals. This is just half a portion as a whole one wouldn’t fit on the plate.

This recipe (more like assembly instructions really) isn’t going to win any prizes for originality, but it was quick, tasty and – always immensely gratifying – used up the half pack of puff pastry that was just about to go out of date.

For two good-sized adult portions you’ll need the following:

  • 250g puff pastry
  • c. 4 tsp pesto
  • c. 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, cut into small strips
  • c. 75g feta
  • small handful of fresh basil leaves
  • olive oil

Then:

  • preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan
  • lightly flour the work surface and roll out the pastry to quite thin (to use the technical term), then cut in half lengthwise
  • score round the outside of each pastry rectangle, about a centimetre from the edge, making sure not to go all the way through it
  • spread the pesto over the pastry, up to the scored line
  • spread out the halved cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes inside the scored line, then crumble over the feta
  • finish with some basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil
  • bake for c. 15 minutes

We had ours with green beans and rocket with vinaigrette, and pretty good it was too.

O frabjous day!

Foolproof Cooking.jpg

(The narcissi aren’t actually growing out of the book, they just really wanted to be in the picture)

Look at what arrived today!

I tried to talk myself out of buying Mary Berry’s new book, “Foolproof Cooking”, which accompanies the television series, on the grounds that recipes from the programme are on the BBC Food website. But, like Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything except temptation.

Not having yet cooked anything from it, any thoughts at this point would be perilously close to judging this book by its cover, so I’ll stop for now. (That said, isn’t it an elegant cover? And the fresh, clean look continues throughout. It’s like springtime in hardback.)

Right, a cup of tea and a stack of post-it notes beckon.

Getting out of the supper rut

Recipe books

I’ve realised that I’ve been cooking the same dishes week in, week out. Tasty, comforting dishes that no longer require much thought. But now is the time to change things up and try some new recipes.

So I’ve set myself a goal. Every month I’ll revisit a cookbook that I haven’t used much or for a while (or, in a few cases, at all) and cook four new dishes. Now, I realise that this isn’t a challenge on the level of, say, climbing the north face of the Eiger, but it will still require a bit of planning and effort.

The recipes chosen will need to meet a few key criteria:

  • they must be fairly quick as these are midweek suppers
  • they can’t include obscure ingredients
  • ideally some will be suitable for batch cooking and then freezing

Kicking things off in March is “Save with Jamie”. Who says that resolutions have to be made on 1st January?

 

 

Mashed potato

(I did try and come up with a better title, promise.)

You know how when you try to spread mashed potato over the top of a pie, it can clump, or you end up getting bits of the pie mixture in with the potato, particularly if the mash has already cooled? (No? I wouldn’t bother reading the rest of this post in that case.)

Well, I think I have a solution.  If you spread some of the mash round the side of the saucepan in which you mashed the potatoes (the inside, obviously), you can lift it out on a knife and just lay it over the pie, then repeat until the whole thing’s covered. Like laying turf on a lawn.  But with mashed potato instead of turf.  And pie instead of lawn.

DSC_0350

Not a pie. Fairly obviously.