Thursday, 28 July 2016

Cookbook review: Eating in the Middle

I am a huge fan of Andie Mitchell's blog. She was the one who introduced me to roasted broccoli and it's basically changed my life (seriously, I eat it pretty much every week) and her poached salmon is one of my favourite dinners.

So I was absolutely thrilled to find out she was releasing a recipe book. It was due out on the 29th March - the day before my birthday - and despite preordering it I didn't actually receive it until a few weeks later. I was so excited it was driving me crazy waiting!

When it finally arrived I was so excited to give it a proper flick through. As I've mentioned before, that first flick through of a recipe book is like Christmas morning for me. I absolutely love that initial look through - the excitement and inspiration and nervousness.

First impressions


And I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed. Now full disclosure here, this is a non-vegetarian book, so there is naturally going to be fewer recipes that I would like to cook compared with a veggie or vegan book, but as I do eat fish I was excited to see if there were some fish recipes I fancied (a la the salmon mentioned above). But there is a lot of meat in this book. And from first impressions, a lot of unnecessary meat. Does sweet potato hash really need bacon? Does egg salad need bacon? Do breakfast potatoes need bacon? (apparently this book really likes bacon!). Of course, in these examples meat can easily be omitted, but in a lot of recipes the option to adapt to remove meat is near-impossible. And of course, if you eat meat, that's fine! I can't really mark the book down from an objective perspective for having too many meat recipes, but for me personally, it was a struggle.

I was also disappointed because I simply wasn't excited about a lot of the recipes. The book is split into "healthy" recipes in the first part of the book, and "sharing and treats" at the back. A big chunk of the book is desserts, and I'm just not a dessert person. And a lot of the other recipes are a little... unoriginal. Chia pudding, overnight oats, brown sugar salmon, tofu stir fry. Kale, pomegranate and butternut squash salad is pretty much that - kale, pomegranate and butternut squash with a vinaigrette. I tend to lean towards the healthy side, which could be why, but almost nothing in the "for sharing" section inspired me. I liked the sound of the cheesy baked gnocchi, but buying packaged gnocchi felt like cheating, and there are only two other meat-free recipes in the sharing section. From an initial look through I just felt there weren't many recipes (that I could eat) that felt original or exciting.

But enough first impressions, here are the recipes I tried...

Sweet potato hash
I made this a few weeks ago (minus the bacon!) for brunch after parkrun. It was tasty, but with 40 minutes for the potatoes it takes a long time for a breakfast! I overcooked it a bit so it was a bit dry, and I used 2 eggs per person (I halved the recipe and 2 eggs for 2 people didn't seem enough!). This was nice, but not that original or exciting I'm afraid!

Brown sugar salad with avocado crema
I know this looks horrendous! I'm always looking for new salmon recipes as we're both big fans of salmon (in fact, when we first started dating salmon was the only thing we ate because Phil never knew what to make me!) so I was excited to try something new. I'm not a big parsley fan so I used basil, and I hate cream so I swapped sour cream for greek yoghurt. 
Conclusion? It was tasty and I'd make it again, but according to my notes, "not life changing" (I clearly have very high expectations when it comes to salmon recipes!).

Roasted broccoli
I've mentioned Andie's roasted broccoli before, but in her book she adds garlic. YUM. A welcome addition indeed! I'll definitely be adding garlic whenever I make roasted broccoli from now on.

Lightened up pad Thai
I'm the first to admit I don't really "get" pad Thai. I've had it a few times and just feel like I'm missing something. However I liked the idea of creating it with cabbage so I thought I'd give this a go. Turns out, Phil doesn't really like cabbage. This came together quickly, but needed some protein (I added prawns). It was okay. I'm not sure I would make it again.

Sweet potato curry
I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say we eat curry at least once a week in our house (I swear mango chutney is on the shopping list every fortnight!). I'm a huge curry fan, and I love the unlimited options there are for veggie curry. This came together pretty quickly so is perfect for midweek, and isn't super spicy, so good for people who don't like their curries hot. This was a success, especially with bread, as it wasn't quite as thick as in the photos. I'd definitely add this to the list of easy midweek dinners. 

Black bean burgers
I've mentioned before that I'm really rubbish at making burgers and here's another example of me being rubbish at it! I think my downfall was using regular oats over quick oats (with being in American measurements, I suspect you can't pack as many regular oats into the cup size as you can ground up oats, and I forgot to adjust the recipe to compensate) these fell apart a lot. However, they were delicious and I would definitely make them again (but pulse my oats down a bit first!).

I've only made five recipes from this book so far, and to be honest, I don't think there's anything else that has inspired me. I can't talk for everyone - I think as a non-meat eater, choosing a non-vegetarian recipe book is always a challenge, so there's every chance that all the meat recipes in this book are exceptional! For me, I was disappointed. I really wanted to like this book, but the recipes just weren't new or inspiring enough, and there was too much dependence on meat (which is strange as Andie says in the introduction to the bean burgers she used to be vegetarian). I also noticed a few recipes that are already on her blog, which is disappointing as this is one thing I loved from the Minimalist Baker book.

Overall, I'll probably use this book from time to time, but it's a little bit of a let down for me. I still love Andie and her blog, and her writing between chapters is engaging and fun, but I think I expected a little bit more from her recipes.

Charlotte x

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