Sunday, 23 July 2017

Cookbook review: The Roasting Tin

For all my recipe-book-buying, I have to admit that I'm not that creative in the kitchen.
I guess these two go hand in hand - I'm not very good at creating something from scratch and I need someone to tell me what to do.

I nearly always follow recipes, and while I do make the occasional substitution (am I hell paying for pine nuts - sunflower seeds will be fine), I tend to play it quite safe.

I was supposed to be on a recipe-book-buying-ban (aren't I always trying, unsuccessfully, to be on one of those?!), when I came across this book via my friend Sarah, who had won it at work. I was intrigued by the easy concept and the hands-off nature, especially after a long day at work. However, I wasn't sure how meat-centric the recipes might be with it being a book dedicated entirely to roasting.

Sarah assured me there were plenty of veggie recipes, and then the author joined in the conversation too, and said there were lots of veggie and fish recipes, plus the infographics at the start of each chapter made everything easy to adapt.

I was intrigued! And after a quick flick through in Oliver Bonas waiting for a train, I of course, bought it.


First Impressions


First impressions was that there were indeed plenty of veggie recipes and plenty that I was excited about. There were even a few meat recipes I wondered how I could adapt! I did especially love the infographics at the start of each chapter which gave you a bit of a formula and timings to adapt the recipes for whatever you fancied (or had in your fridge).

I was intrigued by the "one-pan-meal" element of it, as I'm usually quite wary of that, and as a volume-eater, I always wonder what side dishes I might need or if I'll be hungry after. Some dishes seemed to be veggie-only and didn't have recommendations for what to serve them with, and I couldn't be sure if this was because they could stand alone, or if you were supposed to supplement them with a side dish or some carbs.

Anyway, here's what I made...

Steam-roasted salmon & broccoli with lime, ginger, garlic & chilli
At my parents', we usually have at least two meals across the four of us. You'd think I was the awkward one as a veggie, but it's actually my Dad who proves to be the most awkward, as both my Mum and Phil will eat whatever I cook.

So making this for all four of us was a risk.

However, we had four completely clean plates! This was super quick, easy and delicious - definitely one I'll be making again! The only annoying thing is I can't remember what I served it with, but I think it was cauliflower rice or mash (must make better notes going forward!).
(Fancy giving it a go? You can find the recipe here)

Spiced cauliflower, sweet potato and okra with yoghurt
So as you might see from the photos, no okra here. Not something I can get easily in Aldi! So with my new-found veg-swapping confidence, I used courgettes instead.
God this was so unbelievably delicious. So so so so so good. I could eat it again right now. The flavours were so tasty and it was so easy to make, plus I think you could easily swap in any other vegetables you fancy.
It took about an hour in total, but it's very hands off, so it's nice time to curl up with a book rather than having to jump up and stir something every 5 minutes!
Worth adding - I nearly didn't bother with the almonds but I'm so glad I did.

Crispy olive and pine nut cod
Okay in this case I think I made too many substitutions. I used sunflower seeds (as mentioned earlier) rather than pine nuts and they didn't really crisp, plus I think using frozen and then defrosted fish made this a bit watery, so it didn't really taste of anything. However I enjoyed using a mix of veg not just tomatoes - I used courgettes, tomatoes and peppers. Next time, more olive tapenade!

Ras el Hanout Slow roasted mushrooms with pine nuts, halloumi and parsley
Ooh this one is super yum. I've actually made it twice now. It takes a little longer than some of the other recipes - about an hour and 20 - so it's a little bit long for us midweek. I love swapping some of the mushrooms out for sweet potatoes which make it more of a complete meal. The second time I made this we had it with houmous and pitta and it was amazing. This is definitely one of my favourites from the book.

Bulgur wheat with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, feta and pine nuts
This is one of the quicker recipes, and we had this as a side dish at a bit of a mini BBQ we had a few weeks ago (okay, we just got the George Foreman out, but it was close enough!). I had this alongside veggie and halloumi kebabs and salad and it was the perfect side dish. I might reduce the bulgur wheat next time if I was going to have this alone, or serve it again as a side dish. I also like this recipe because it's very easy and full of things I usually have in my storecupboard!

Squash, aubergine and halloumi
This was one of the only recipes I probably wouldn't make again. It was nice and had some of my favourite things in it - halloumi, aubergine, butternut squash - but I found it a little bit dry. This might be another that is better as a side as it's quite heavy on the bulgur.

Spiced roast aubergine and potatoes with coconut basmati
I managed to get Phil to eat aubergine, which is always an achievement. I absolutely loved this, especially with the coconut rice which I almost didn't bother with. What I love about this book is it's so adaptable - I added mushrooms and next time I'm going to swap the aubergines for courgettes to appease Phil's aubergine dislike. I'm actually planning to make this again this week!

Honey-roasted carrots and parsnips with quinoa and rocket
I still can't decide how I felt about this one. It tasted a bit like Christmas, thanks to the rosemary and some leftover sage I threw in. I found the honey made it a bit too sweet. I'm still a bit unconvinced by cooking quinoa in the oven and some bits still felt a bit gritty, and I added extra water because I felt unsure it was going to work! This was another that I think might work as a lovely, wintery side dish, but on its own was a little bit dry and repetitive. Maybe some chickpeas or lentils would help bulk it out, or oooh, veggie sausages! Maybe I'll try that next time.

Sage-roasted butternut squash and mushrooms with feta and tomatoes
Annoyingly, I forgot to make notes on this recipe! BUT I remember it being really, really good and I loved the mustard-y rocket on the side (however, it didn't keep well with the dressing on, surprisingly). I loved the melty hot feta. Ooh yum, definitely making this again.

Conclusion

This is one of the best books I've bought in ages. I absolutely love it. It's perfect for when I'm super busy, because I can just throw everything in the oven and forget about it.

My next step is going to be looking through the meat recipes and seeing how I can adapt them to be veggie-friendly, as this book has given me loads of inspiration to experiment and not just follow the steps.

I bought this book for my Mum for her Birthday and I can't stop recommending it to people. I know loads of people who have bought it after I've raved about it so much!

It's perfect for busy people, quick and straightforward, and I love that I can get on with other things when I don't have time to stand over the hob. It makes excellent lunchbox leftovers too!

I can't recommend this book enough!

Charlotte x

Monday, 3 July 2017

June Life Lately

So this month I almost finished a blog post that wasn't a panicked end-of-the-month life lately post. Almost! BUT I did start a newsletter! So I wrote stuff! Yay!

Here's what else I've been up to this month...

What I've been doing

I would say there have been three main themes in June - my newsletter, my marketing diploma and running, or lack thereof.

At 3am on the morning of the 2nd of June, I woke up and nervously checked my phone. And relief. I'd passed my strategic marketing module! This was the exam I worried and stressed and revised for days and days and days for. The two month wait to get my results had been painful, and I was so relived to have passed!
I also handed in my digital strategy coursework this week. At 32 pages and almost 10,000 words it was almost twice as long as my dissertation! I still keep panicking about mistakes and I doubled checked multiple times I'd uploaded the right version. Now to wait for another two months for the results!

As I mentioned in my (very short) last post, I've started a newsletter! I've sent two issues out so far, and I'm hoping to keep it going every week or so. It's been a really nice intimate space to write without as much expectation. I'm still trying to work out my structure and format but I'm finding it a really freeing format. Sign up here.
Finally, running or lack thereof. A few weeks ago we decided to do a free 5K fun run because you got a medal and a tshirt and I like free tshirts and Phil likes medals. 

So in the last 18 months I've run a marathon and two sub 2 hour half marathons. And during a 5K fun run, I got injured. I cried crossing the finish line. I could barely walk. 
So the last few weeks have been awful. I'm incredibly impatient so I was constantly pushing myself too much too quickly to get better. I'm now only one parkrun away from my 100th, which I've been desperate to get to, so having to volunteer instead of running hasn't been great. But after a lot of walking and strengthening exercises, I think I'm nearly there now. I've managed two parkruns and a few mid weeks runs, so I'm hoping to be back on the horse now!

Now even though this was a July thing, this weekend Phil and I went to British Military Fitness for the first time and it was both awesome and incredibly hard! We've signed up for two months so fingers crossed I'm still doing it once a week next month!

Where I've been

June has been quite quiet, but we have managed a few trips out.
A few weeks ago for a break from my coursework we had a little date-afternoon. We went to Bundobust for okra fries (THE BEST) and cumin-spiced lemonade (for me, and peach beer for Phil), dinner in The Indian Tiffin Room and a posh gin and a film at Home. It's weird, but we don't miss living in town in the slightest. I'm so surprised because I loved living in the city so so so much, but even when we make a little trip into town I don't pine for it. Apparently we're ready for suburban life! Days like this just prove it really isn't hard for us to still enjoy the restaurants and bars and entertainment of the city, and get back home in the evening. 
This month I fulfilled one of my life-long dreams and went to see Penn and Teller perform. It was absolutely incredible - we got to see some classic tricks up close (WHERE DO THE GOLDFISH COME FROM?!) and a few new ones. It really reignited my love of magic and now I just want to watch magic shows forever.
Then just this weekend we had a tiny little mini mini break to Chester for the night. We went down on Friday and had some drinks near our hotel, then on Saturday went to parkrun (stipulation of going away for the weekend was that there had to be a parkrun nearby for me to do number 98!) and then spent the day exploring Chester. It was very chilled out - we had brunch, wandered around the shops and walked along the walls. We played a little game where we had a £30 budget to buy each other something. You picked what you wanted, but it made it fun to buy something you might not ordinarily buy, and then you get the joy of buying a gift AND thee joy of receiving one! Phil bought me a dress for holiday, and I bought him a tshirt. Every is a winner!

What I've bought
Phil and I have a real thing for prints, and we're really excited to buy more things for on our wall when we get into our house (we'd definitely ran out of room in our flat!). One thing we'd wanted for years was a Manchester print, but we'd been struggling to find one that had everything on it we wanted. When I saw this Ella Masters print on Instagram I immediately screenshotted it to sent to Phil and knew it was the one. It's absolutely gorgeous and I can't wait to give it pride of place in our house!
I obviously bought another recipe book. And it's an absolute beast.

I buy probably 70% of my clothes from Oasis. I live in floral tshirts, jeans and ballet flats. I got my 8th floral tshirt yesterday. I know what I like, okay? But what I always fall down on is buying things full price, because the Oasis sale is incredible. The number of times I've bought something full price only to find it in the sale a few weeks later! So when I tried a £45 floral embroided jumper on in February, I knew I had to play the long game. And I'm happy to confirm, just 5 months later, that jumper is mine! (I'm yet to wear it so no photo yet!)

What I've been eating
To control my ever-growing recipe book addiction, I have decided to go back to reviewing them on my blog. I find this helps me from getting overwhelmed by my collection and helps me control my indecision (which might be this week's newsletter topic). So this month I've been eating almost entirely from The Roasting Tin - review coming soon!

What I've been reading
I've been a bit crap at reading lately, but I really, really loved The Other Mrs Walker, which I read this month and would definitely recommend it!

What I've been watching
Maybe the reason I haven't been reading much this month is because I've been watching a lot!

I've been to the cinema 4 times this month. I bloody adored Wonder Woman and was absolutely thrilled at how good it was. I'm not super into comic book film, but I'll go see a good one and I thought it was absolutely brilliant and so empowering!

We also saw My Cousin Rachel, which was really good, and My Life as Courgette, which was very well done, if a bit overhyped.

But the best film of the month, which we managed to catch a week and a half ahead of release thanks to our Cineworld Unlimited Cards, was Baby Driver. The soundtrack was brilliant, it was so much fun, and I can't wait to see it again.

We've watched a few films at home this month, notably, Annie Hall, which was the first time for both of us! Phil is also really exited to see the new Planet of the Apes film, so we watched the Rise of the Planet of the Apes as I hadn't see it. It was so much better than I expected it to be, and I'm looking forward to watching the second one before we catch the new one!
We also, sadly, finished Parks and Recreation this week. It was my second time watching it all the way through, but Phil's first time, and it was so great to get to share it with someone! I cried all over again at the finale.

What I've loved
My absolute favourite podcast, Revisionist History, came back this month, and if you haven't listened to it, you should. There have only been 3 episodes so far, but I'm excited to see if it will be as incredible as the first season.

As I've started my own newsletter this month, I've been enjoying a few of my old favourites, Shmancy, and Amy's newsletter.
Sometimes when you have a rubbish week at work you should find amazing friends who make you awesome and wonderful homemade presents like my friend Riven did last week.

What I've been reading online
The Pool - Are you an unpaid emotional labourer?
The Pool - What happens when a digital devoted family goes offline?
Medium - How to better manage your time and energy
The Muse - The simple trick that makes morning more productive
The Pool - The DIY stain removal we all need in our handbags
A Rosie Outlook - The Penultimate time I will come here
Vix Meldrew - Mental Illness and why I neglect myself
Vix Meldrew - Stop sun shaming
37 Tweets that sum up being an introvert

What I'm excited for
Hopefully moving house! God buying a house takes forever, but hopefully this is the month! So that means I have nothing else planned for July as we're hoping to be busy moving boxes and painting walls!

Charlotte x