March’s cookbook of the month is the brilliant Isa Does It. I’ve tried a number of recipes since I got it last year, particularly from the breakfast section, but I challenged myself to try new recipes this month. It was very easy to choose my dishes, as there are numerous tasty options, and the photographs are all extremely tempting. Yes, it’s been another month of stupendous food.
The Bowl section of the book has been a revelation! It’s essentially just a combination of some kind of grain (rice/quinoa), a vegetable (usually roasted), some beans or lentils, and a sauce packed with flavour to tie it all together. This means there’s a lot going on in the kitchen, but each element is quite simple to make, so it’s only a matter of timing. We started off with the Roasty Soba Bowl, which unites noodles, roasted cauliflower, green lentils and a dressing, and the combination of miso and tahini in the sauce made my heart sing. This is my new favourite thing.
The chimichurri bowl was just as good, packed full of flavour from the herbs in the parsley and coriander sauce. This was a really pretty bowl, with the vivid orange butternut squash slices, green noodles and sauce and the darkness of the black beans. It tasted as good as it looked.
And the pizza bowl in no way resembled a pizza, but it was tasty: sausages, kale, olives and rice united in a delicious tomato sauce. Again, the sauce was the real highlight.
This spinach and black bean burrito bowl looks so healthy and appetising: quinoa, spinach, tomato, black beans, homemade guacamole. However, it was surprisingly bland and needs some serious seasoning. All the other bowls I’ve made from this book have instant hits, and this is the only one requiring any real tweaking. It has definite potential – next time I plan to double the amount of cumin and add some chilli flakes, and probably throw some salsa together for serving too.
The curried peanut sauce bowl was more of a hit, tastewise. The sauce was a great balance of the salty peanut butter, spicy curry powder and sweet agave nectar. The tofu cubes were wonderful (how anyone doesn’t like tofu just baffles me – it’s glorious!), and the steamed kale was a nice healthy touch. However, there were a lot of different pots and pans on the go which always stresses me out a bit and deters me from making it regularly. I’ll definitely make it again, but I don’t think I could throw it together on a work night, even though it’s fast.
Moving on from the bowls, this dilly stew is raved about in the vegan community, so I had no choice but to try it. I found it a little bland at first and had to add some serious seasoning, but it was a really tasty dish. The dumplings are wonderful and it’s a very comforting meal.
The okra gumbo was nice, though again it didn’t pack quite the flavour punch I’d been expecting and generous lashings of hot sauce were required to give it some fire. I’d never seen okra in the shops until I moved to my new place, and now it’s available in our local Tesco (that’s the bonus of your local being a Tesco Superstore) and the local grocery shop. I was eager for another opportunity to use it, which leads us nicely to…
…the bhindi masala. First tasting, as it cooked, revealed quite a bland taste, which was not entirely surprising as the recipe included curry powder but no chillies. My Indian fellow would be outraged if I served him a curry with no chillies (as he is when I serve him anything that doesn’t pack a spicy punch). I added some green chillies and doubled the amount of curry powder, and it was finally strong enough to serve. It was tasty!
The marbled banana bread looks pretty spectacular, no? Yet somehow, some of the slices turned out all brown! I have no idea how I managed to achieve that. I suppose it’s all about taste though, and this was very good indeed: the bananas come through strongly, and the cocoa and vanilla mingle happily. And it’s a lovely moist cake, as you’d expect from banana bread.
I tried to make the chai spice snickerdoodles on a day that I didn’t have any ground cardamom or cloves, so they turned into normal, cinnamon snickerdoodles. They were tasty, and the texture is absolutely perfect – crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Just check your spice rack before you start!
And to finish on the highest of highs, the Chandra Malay Kofta is probably the tastiest thing I’ve made from the book. The picture doesn’t really do it justice: the kofta balls are made of courgette, chickpeas and panko breadcrumbs, and the sauce is creamy and spicy and wonderful. It was such a satisfying combination of flavours and textures. Delicious!
Stay tuned for more delicious meals from this book, including some very special soups.
I need to make those chai spice snickerdoodles! I love seeing what other people make from cookbooks I have – it inspires me to try more stuff. I haven’t tried any of the bowl recipes yet!
I always skipped over the bowl section, but I’m glad I delved into it. The roasty soba one especially is really good, but they all feel like a hearty, balanced meal.
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