Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cookbook Review ~ Bill Granger Easy {And Marinated Steak Rolls with BBQ Sauce}

When I bought this book (over the internet so with only a brief preview) I was a little worried that the recipes might be a little too easy and simplified since Bill Granger's books are generally always filled with fairly straightforward, relaxed recipes, however, I shouldn't have worried. What fills the pages are beautiful recipes that aren't too complicated but still have a bit of oomph to them so that I wasn't bored or had seen the recipes hundreds of times already. It became obvious very quickly that this was a book that I really wanted to cook from and with 100 recipes I had plenty to choose from.

One of the first things that I loved about this book was the fact that the chapters are divided up by specific ingredient such as 'Piece of Chicken', 'Slab of steak', 'Mince & Sausages' and 'Carton of Eggs', (to name a few). I found this approach really helpful cause it means you can go raid your fridge or freezer, decide what you want to cook with and then just jump straight to the chapter for instant inspiration. There were so many recipes that I wanted to try that I literally gave up bookmarking them since it seemed I was putting a sticky note on almost every page! In the end I managed to try 6 recipes but I still have quite a few that I want to try!

The Tested Recipes:

Orange and Oregano Marinated Pork
Marinated Steak Rolls & Barbecue Sauce
Light Butter Chicken
Spanish Fish Stew
Individual Baked Beans with Eggs
Chilli, Sausage and Broccoli Pizza

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chicken, Vegetable & Barley Soup

When I was recently back home in Scotland I went out quite a lot for lunch and the one thing that I always love when I go out for lunch there, is that the soups are always fantastic. Now to be honest there is no excuses for bad soup, but the thing I love about the soups I had was that they weren't fancy soups with exotic or indulgent ingredients, they were the simplest soups you could imagine, using everyday ingredients. They were the kind of soups that my Gran used to make using good quality stock from the roast they had cooked on the Sunday and using some of the left-over meat along with vegetables that were in the fridge or pantry and sometimes a grain to help bulk it up and turn it into a hearty, nourishing and completely delicious bowl of soup.

This is my version of a soup I had at a wonderful farm shop and restaurant near to Perth. It is definitely a soup that needs a good stock so if you don't have any homemade stock then use the best quality, good tasting stock you can. It's a basic hearty soup so feel free to change the vegetables around and use whatever you have available, and for a vegetarian version simply miss out the chicken and use vegetable stock instead.

150g (¾ cup) pearl barley*
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled & sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1.5 - 2 litres chicken stock**
Salt & pepper
Couple of handfuls of cooked chicken, shredded or cut into small pieces
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice to serve (optional)

Rinse the barley well under water then put into a medium sized pan. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil then leave to boil for 10 minutes.

While the barley is boiling heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion, leek and celery until softened but not coloured (roughly 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic, carrots and potato and stir everything together and cook for a couple of minutes until the barley is ready.

Drain the barley then add to the vegetables along with 1.5 litres of the stock. Season with salt and pepper and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the barley is cooked and tender. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary then add the shredded chicken and parsley. Cook for a further 2 minutes just until the chicken is warmed through then if you like spritz with a little lemon juice. Serve at once for a hearty and healthy soup that will warm you up in an instant.

*Depending on the type of pearl barley that you use, you might need to soak it first so follow the instructions on the packet up until the last 20-30 minutes of cooking.

**If the soup isn't all eaten straight away and is left to stand you will need to add more stock to it as it will continue to thicken as the barley soaks up the stock. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cooking the Books....Again!

After a much longer than intended absence from 'Cooking the Books', I'm back at it with the intention of cooking from 1 or 2 books a month. A picture of the book(s) will be posted on the right sidebar at the start of each month so you can see which book(s) I'll be cooking from and reviewing for that month. As always if you have that particular book I would love for you to join along with me, cooking whichever recipes you like the sound or look of and letting me know how you get on!

Up first and I have picked one of my newest cookbooks to be added to my collection which is Bill Granger Easy. After the busyness and overindulgence of Christmas and New Year this seemed like the perfect choice especially since it has so many recipes that I am desperate to try! Since I'm late on starting this month (with being in Scotland) I'll only be doing 1 book but will do 2 for February. As always at the end of the month I'll post my review of the book and will also include a recipe for one of my favourite dishes that I tried!

So what are you waiting for? This is a great way to start really using your books and putting them to the test and hopefully getting lots of delicious meals in return!

To see this review click here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mozzarella, Pomegranate & Almond Salad

I couldn't decide whether to call this 'Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Almond Salad' or 'My Christmas Salad' because I can never resist serving it as a starter on Christmas Eve. Eventually, on the basis that I could never just limit this salad to Christmas time and enjoy it as long as pomegranates are in season I thought I'd stick to it's original name! It is so easy to make and tastes amazing. Full of crunchy nuts and vibrant pomegranate seeds, soft creamy mozzarella and your favourite mix of salad leaves it's impossible not to love it.

The quantities are fairly roughly measured as generally I tend to just go by eye based on how many I am feeding, using handfuls of things here and there so please don't worry about measuring anything out specifically – add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like.

Serves 4 (easily halved or doubled to feed a crowd)

85g Almonds
2 tbsp Pine nuts (optional)
200g approx. of mixed salad leaves of your choice – try and use a variety of textures
Small handful of fresh mint leaves
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
2 balls of Mozzarella (either cows or buffalo)
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
Maldon salt or other sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Good quality balsamic vinegar
Good quality extra virgin olive oil

In a dry frying pan gently toast the almonds and pine nuts (if using) until just golden, being very careful not to burn them. Set aside and leave to cool.

Scatter the mixed salad leaves on to a large platter (or alternatively divide it between 4 serving plates) then sprinkle over the mint and basil leaves, roughly ripping up any larger leaves. Scatter the cooled nuts all over the salad then tear chunks of the mozzarella and gently drop on top of the salad. Finish with the pomegranate seeds which add a beautiful Christmassy jewel-like gleam to the salad then sprinkle the salt, crushing it gently with your fingers as you do, and a touch of freshly ground black pepper.

Just before serving drizzle over a little balsamic vinegar – roughly about 1 tablespoon, and then the extra virgin olive oil – about 2 tablespoons, then take to the table and let everyone help themselves. A wonderful salad and fantastic starter for Christmas Eve or for a Winter Dinner Party.

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