I didn’t know too much about this book before I received it for Christmas, but as soon as I began flicking through it I knew it would be a great addition to my bookshelf. I immediately marked almost every recipe to try – everything sounded both delicious and logistically possible without taking hours out of my day or breaking the bank with extravagant ingredients.
Unsurprisingly, then, I’ve decided that this book definitely warrants two months of attention. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface so far, but here’s what I’ve made from each section (the Cocktail section is the only one as yet unexplored).
I love recipes like this creamy carbonara, where there’s a really simple sauce to blitz and that’s basically the hard work done. The first night when we had this, we found the sauce far too bland – basically, the mushrooms were doing all the work, flavourwise. So on the second night we added some extra nooch, garlic, and salt to the sauce, along with the leftover mushroom marinade, and this time everything was properly delicious.
Dr HH and I got some stylish metal lunch boxes for Christmas, so we’ve been branching out from our usual lunch time soups to try to get the most out of them. This guacaroni was an obvious choice: pasta in a cool, creamy avocado sauce. Dr HH was a little underwhelmed by it, but I loved it and think it will become a packed lunch staple.
The first observation we both had about the easy peasy pasta was that there was far too much oil. It was absolutely swimming in it! Besides the excessive oil, this is pretty much a bog standard pasta and veg dish, nothing to write home about.
I was never a fan of those potato-topped fish pies when I was a meat eater, but I was very excited about this creamy seaside pie. I could only get regular button mushrooms rather than the recommended Asian selection, so I didn’t get that nice texture and deeper taste that would have been preferable, but this was still good. There was plenty of nori to give it a taste of the sea, and I chucked some dill in as well for good measure.
I very rarely cook Indian food, because Dr HH believes nobody makes it better than his mother and I don’t relish criticism. But we had a load of leftover spinach, so I thought I should give this saag aloo a go – and I’m glad I did! It really packed a flavour punch, plus it was very vibrant too. Even Dr HH gave it the seal of approval!
No, your eyes do not deceive you – that is indeed a second Indian dish! I was worried the rogan Bosh would be too sweet from the coconut yoghurt, but it turned out very well-balanced and tasty.
The Showpieces section of the book was crucial to my plans for celebrating my fifth anniversary with Dr HH, and I eventually settled on the world’s best pesto lasagne. I’ve come to really enjoy spending a few hours at the weekend labouring over the various components of a lasagne and bringing it all together into a slap-up Sunday dinner, with leftovers to carry us through to midweek. This one was certainly worth the effort, and my only complaint was that I’d have liked double the amount of pesto! I’ll certainly make this again.
Greens & Bosh Bowls
Our lunch boxes got another outing for this falafel bowl. I actually found the falafel quite dry and heavy, but that was possibly due to some clumsy work and I’d like to give them another go. They had it going on in the flavour stakes, and I enjoyed the Greek salad on the side. While I took care of those two elements, Dr HH handled the hummus…
He made both the roasted garlic hummus and sun-dried tomato hummus. The latter needed thinning out, and the flavour might have shone through more with a plain bread accompaniment rather than the competing falafel – for this particular dish, the roasted garlic version was the definite winner. All in all, this was a majestic lunch.
Small Plates & Sharers
For another exciting packed lunch, I made us two kinds of sushi! The guaca maki rolls were mega tasty (and I followed the ultimate guacamole recipe too), but a little bit heavy and sloppy from the guac.
The satay maki rolls (made with the rich satay sauce) were somehow even tastier, and one of the more exciting kinds of sushi I’ve tried. The sauce was just delicious.
From the Desserts section, my chocolate chip cookies didn’t look much like the ones in the book, but they tasted sublime! My colleagues absolutely loved them – including the person who had initially scoffed at the very notion of vegan cookies (can’t wait to tell him about Oreos…) and then swiftly demanded my baking tips.
And for Dr HH’s birthday I made this beautiful beacon of decadence: the ultimate chocolate fudge cake. The cake was good, but the icing was something else altogether. I don’t think I’d ever made a chocolate fudge cake before, and this one was exactly as it should be. We could only manage small slivers of this, because it was so intense.
Dr HH whipped up the banana pancakes for me one morning, and don’t they look good? He found the batter a little thinner than his usual recipes, and therefore the pancakes themselves weren’t as pillowy, but it was still a lovely breakfast feast. This won’t become our go-to recipe, but no real complaints.
I like making cake in a loaf tin, because then I can call it bread or a loaf and imagine I’m being quite healthy. I had to abandon that pretence when I made this banana bread because I only had half quantities of all the ingredients and didn’t really fancy a sad little loaf. So I made muffins instead, simply reducing the cooking time. These were really easy to make (just chuck it all in a bowl and mix, classic), and tasted very good indeed. I’ll certainly be revisiting this recipe.
So far, then, everything has been basically delicious and relatively easy to make, and I’m highly motivated to keep on cooking through February. One thing I love about this book is that there are plenty of pictures – a lot of books skimp on them, but this is gorgeous to flick through.
One thing I’m less keen on is that all ingredients are listed in their whole form in the list (eg. one onion), and the preparation of those ingredients are hidden away in the text of the method (eg. Next, chop the onion). Personally, I like to see all those preparatory steps separately so I can get them out of the way before I start. It’s no fun scanning the recipe trying to see if the onion was meant to be chopped or finely sliced when I’m already halfway through everything.
I will persevere though, because the end results are worth it! Have you already got your hands on this book? Which recipes should I definitely make in February?