Monday, 27 August 2018

Cookbook review: The Green Roasting Tin

Last year, Rukmini Iyer's The Roasting Tin was hands down my favourite recipe book of the year (maybe even ever). I stumbled over it, as I often do, during a book-buying ban, when my friend Sarah won it in a competition, and once she started sharing photos I was obsessed.

As much as I love to cook, I don't always love spending inordinate amounts of time in the kitchen. As a vegetarian, I spent a LOT of time chopping, and after a long day at work, I don't always want to spend an hour standing in the kitchen stirring and mixing and checking recipes.

One of the things I loved most about the original Roasting Tin was the "shove it in the oven and forget about it" mentality. It completely frees up my evening - I can get a load of washing in, read my book, or do anything that doesn't involve having to stand over a stove!

I've recommended the Roasting Tin to so many people I've lost count. I've bought it for my Mum, two of my colleagues have it, my cousin has it, and I feel like I've shoved it onto most of my Instagram followers!

There are loads of vegetarian recipes in The Roasting Tin (you can read my review of it here) but I was absolutely buzzing when I found out there was going to be an entirely vegetarian sequel.

Even more amazingly, Rukmini herself got in touch with me to ask if she could send me an advanced copy thanks to all my support for The Roasting Tin! I was absolutely thrilled! (edit: this is not a sponsored review at all - the book was a gift and I was under no obligation to write a review for my blog).

I've waited absolutely months to finally get hold of this book, and, spoiler alert, it was completely worth the wait! What's also been great has been the community around this book - my friend, Alice, started the hashtag #tinlads when she got her copy, and I've really enjoyed keeping in the loop with what everyone else using the hashtag was making too!

So, what was it like?

First impressions

This was everything I wanted it to be and more.

First off, I love the way the book is laid out. The first half of the book is all vegan recipes, divided by the time the recipe takes to cook - quick, medium and slow, and then the second half is vegetarian recipes split the same way, so it's really easy to get inspiration depending on what it is you're looking to make and how much time you have.

Secondly, I really feel as though Rukmini has addressed a few issues I had with the first book, with the main one being what to serve each dish with. While some dishes in the original The Roasting Tin felt like complete meals, there were times when I pulled something out of the oven and realised it wasn't really enough on its own. In this book, she has an opening section where she discusses side dishes, and any recipes that requires a side mentions it in the intro.

Finally, I love the mix of dishes here - with everything from classic roasted vegetable dishes reminiscent of the first book, to grains, salads, curries and even stews.

Also, the super-helpful Infographics at the start of each chapter in the original book are back in the middle of this book too.

On to the recipes...

Escalivada: Slow roasted peppers, aubergines and tomatoes with basil and almond dressing
The day after The Green Roasting Tin came out was my Mum's Birthday, and, as I knew she loved the first book, I preordered green version for her. 

We were off to Spain a few weeks later, and while I'd taken a few photos of recipes I wanted to make while we were there, my Mum packed her copy of the book!

This recipe was described as reminiscent of a Spanish cafe, so I knew it would be perfect to make while actually in Spain!

It felt a bit of a risky first - my friend Alice had posted that the recipe hadn't worked for her. Rukmini replied to her tweet and it turned out that Alice's dish was a bit crowded, and that the recipe works better in a metal tin, so I followed the advice and used a huge roasting tin for this one.

It's a funny one that feels like it won't work - you pretty much just chuck everything into a tin unchopped - whole aubergine, whole peppers, whole tomatoes (perfect if you're a tired vegetarian who is sick of spending her life chopped) - and let the oven do its magic.

The result is absolutely wonderful. So tasty, so unbelievably easy, so fresh-tasting. It made so much we ate it for a few days, and it produces a lot of liquid so it's beautiful with just bread. I particularly loved the roasted garlic.

My oven can be a bit temperamental so the real test will be seeing if this goes as cripsy and collapsed at home, but it's one I'm definitely keen to make again.

Crispy gnocchi with roasted peppers, chilli, rosemary and ricotto

This isn't the kind of recipe I'd normally be interested in (I've never made the roasted gnocchi from the first Roasting Tin book), but a lot of people were posting about this on Twitter and Instagram with the #tinlads hashtag, so it piqued my interest enough to want to give it a go.

It's exactly what I want from the Roasting Tin - super easy, minimal prep, chuck everything in a tin and let your oven do the hard work. 

I knew Phil in particular would love this but I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected - I've already made it again since, and I made it when we had people over for dinner - the ultimate praise!

All-in-one jewelled pearl barley with squash, pomegranate, watercress and feta
I had some goat's cheese to use up so I looked up recipes with feta so I could use it as a substitute, and this looked right up my street.

I always feel a bit nervous when making a recipe where the grain cooks in the oven and this was one of those, but I needn't have worried. This was lovely and Phil in particular enjoyed it.

I made a few substitutions - the aforementioned feta, a bag of spinach, watercress and rocket, and I forgot the garlic and had to fry it off and add it at the end. I only had quite a small squash so I wasn't sure it would make enough but it made loads - enough for dinners for us both and two lunches. 

I did try to use the seeds from my squash but they didn't really roast so next time I'd just use some from a packet!

All-in-one sweet potato Thai curry
I've written in my notes "flipping heck this is absolutely delicious" and this is one of my favourite recipes from the book.

It was another where I wasn't convinced it was going to work, and of course, I was wrong. I really feel as though this book is really well tested which I really appreciate.

I couldn't believe how complex this tastes with so few ingredients!

This made a LOT (which was great, because I got to eat it for lunch for a few days). I definitely want to make it again, and next time I'd like to try it with different veg.

Squash and spinach curry
Another easy dinner after initial prep and really adaptable - I can definitely see myself making this again.

It's quite a mild curry but really tasty.

All-in-one sticky rice with broccoli, squash, chilli and ginger
This is another dish that I would normally overlook but something about it intrigued me. 

I made this in a week where I'd made the squash curry and the pearl barley so I was getting a bit sick of cutting up butternut squashes by this point! 

This takes about an hour so we had to have some emergency cheese and crackers! (This happened a few times...)

Again, I was nervous about the rice in the oven but it was perfect. 

Oven baked shakshuka; roasted peppers, tomatoes and chilli with eggs
Shakshuka is my favourite weekend brunch and it's taken me a long time to find my perfect method (my current favourite is this one from the Guardian), so I had to try a roasted version.

This wasn't loads quicker than my usual method - 45 minutes in the oven vs. my usual 15 minutes hands-on time followed a 30 minute simmer.

It was tasty, but more watery than my usual shakshuka, and I prefer the more concentrated flavour of my stovetop method, but while I won't make it again, it was by no means a fail.

Miso aubergine with tofu, sesame and chilli
This feels like a combo of an Anna Jones miso aubergine recipe I've made and an Aine Carlin miso tofu recipe I also like, and as a lover of miso, aubergine and tofu I was obviously keen.

I was home alone so I halved this recipe, but I could easily have eaten it all!

I flipped the aubergine and tofu halfway through as they were starting to catch, but this might be to do with using slightly less having halved the recipe. I couldn't get spring greens (they're one of my favourite things but my Aldi hasn't had them for a while!) so I used kale, and I added sriracha which was a nice addition and cut through the lime juice which was a little overpowering.

I liked this, but I'm not sure I'd make it again.

Groundnut stew: sweet potato in a peanut and tomato sauce
The combination of sweet potatoes, tomatoes and peanut butter reminded me of an old slow cooker recipe I used to love years ago (I feel like I might have been on my year abroad in 2010 so this was a while ago!) so I went to the liberty of adding kidney beans and spinach into the sauce. This bulked it out a bit so we could just have it with bread.

Phil isn't a massive fan of peanut butter normally so I wasn't sure how he'd feel about it but he really enjoyed it. Definitely one to make again!!

Gado gado: Indonesian salad with warm potatoes, green beans, beansprouts and peanut-coconut dressing
I've written in my notes "I mean it's roast potatoes and peanut sauce, of course I loved it!". Seriously though, the peanut sauce is absolutely incredible, this is absolutely delicious and I even loved the beansprouts, which I don't normally like. One of my favourite recipes in the book.

Three bean chilli with avocado salsa
I feel like I say this in every review of every book - I make and eat a lot of chilli. Chilli is one of my favourite foods, and I reckon we eat it at least once a fortnight and I have a few favourites (the Bosh! one I made last month is up there at the moment with the butternut squash chilli from Love Real Food and the super-thick chilli from the Minimalist Baker book), but I was obviously intrigued by a hands-off, oven-only version.

This wasn't my absolute favourite chilli, but I liked how hands off it was so I wouldn't rule out making it again, but it was easy and tasty, and I enjoyed the accompanying avocado salsa which deliciously refreshing.

Sweet potato and parsnip tagine with dates and coriander
My first fail! I'm not sure what went wrong here - perhaps the foil wasn't tight enough on the lid of my dish, or I cut the pieces too large, or I used the wrong kind of dish? I took it out of the oven after an hour to rock-hard veg and not being sure whether to put it back in the oven or throw it in the microwave, I decided to give it a quick go in my Instant Pot. I also added chickpeas because I feel like a tagine always needs chickpeas!

I'm a huge fan of tagine which is another thing I make frequently, so once I got this right it was delicious, but I'm still not sure what I did wrong!

Spicy Harissa sprouts and broccoli with halloumi and spinach
You know what, I don't think I actually like sprouts. I think I really, really, really want to like sprouts, but actually, unless it's Christmas and they're smothered in gravy and cranberry sauce and tradition, I don't think I like them.

So the halloumi was lovely and the harissa was lovely and the broccoli was lovely but I need accept that I don't like sprouts!

Herb-stuffed roasted onions with cherry tomatoes and cannellini beans
This was really unusual! I don't really know how to describe it - Phil said it seemed like a series of side dishes. But it wasn't a bad thing at all!

The baked buttery onions were gorgeous and I loved the lemony beans and feta - we ate all four portions between us with crusty bread.

All-in-one daal with roasted shallots, coriander, pomegranate and cashews
Dal is my favourite food. I love a delicious bowl of spicy, creamy mush. It's the best. I've almost never met a dal I didn't like, but as with chilli, I have my favourites (it's another Aine Carlin recipe, and is weirdly, one of the simplest dal recipes I have. Some things don't need to be complicated!).

I was very nervous about this going dry - especially as I used green lentils instead of brown because that was what I had in, and because I went out to my physio appointment while this was in the oven so I couldn't check on it. It was tense peeling back the foil!
This is probably the recipe with the longest cooking time of anything I made - about 1 hour 20 in total, not included peeling those pesky shallots! But I think it was my absolute favourite.

I will definitely be making this again (with regular onions!) and I didn't think the pomegranate seeds were totally necessary, but as someone who eats dal as often as I do, I did not expect to find a few favourite!


Everything I wanted it to be and more. It was hard to stop cooking from it so I could finally write a review! I think this is the most I've made from one book to review!

I still have a few things I want to make - I plan to make the ratatouille next time Phil is out as he's not a big fan, and there are so many things I know I'm going to make again and again.

My favourite recipes were the dal, gado gado, groundnut stew and sweet potato Thai curry, but there were only a couple of recipes I wouldn't make again.

I didn't think the first book could be topped, but she's done it. A huge triumph for veggies and non-veggies alike!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 4 August 2018

July Life Lately

July was a month where it felt like I spent the whole time being away, or preparing to go away, so I feel as though I was super busy without actually doing much!

We started the month in Centre Parcs (which I talked about last month), spent 8 days in Spain, and then two days after I got back from Spain I was down in London for 4 days, so it feels like I haven't actually been home much at all!

Here's what I did get up to this month...

What I've been doing

This month, 5 months earlier than billed, I hit my Goodreads reading goal for the year! I set my goal as 4o books even though I know over the last couple of years I've been reading about twice as voraciously! I didn't want to make reading a chore, and give myself some big lofty goal which would make me pick up novellas instead of big, lofty books I really wanted to read. I'm really proud of achieving my goal already, and I'm currently up to 51 books. I reckon I'll read somewhere between 70 and 80 books this year.
I hung out with some doggies.

We've started to tentatively think about redoing our living room. We had it redecorated a few months ago but we've not really been in a rush to buy new furniture (I nearly said "to get it finished" but I don't think a room in a house is ever "finished"!). We've got a few ideas of what we want, after a few trips to Next and IKEA and Dunelm, and we've made a start putting pictures back up after we took them all down after we decorated, and we got a lovely floating shelf from IKEA which I'm totally in love with. We're taking it very one-step-at-a-time so we don't rush into any decisions but I'm excited for make progress.
For my Birthday last year I got a little set for growing your own herbs on the window ledge and a few months ago I finally got it all set up. I'm not green fingered by any stretch of the imagination (RIP the tomatoes I tried to grow), but I love my little herb garden and I was really worried they would all die while we were on holiday. So before we went away I decided to at least use them if there was going to be a chance I'd be coming home to dead mulch, and it was really exciting to use my own basil, dill, coriander and mint! And thanks to a little plastic mini greenhouse find in the Aldi middle aisle, they survived my time away!

Where I've been
Gig tickets these days are so expensive that Phil and I have a game called "who would you pay £60 to go and see?", and honestly, the list is pretty short. But when tickets went on sale for The Killers, even though they were £65 (we honestly did dither over the extra £5!) we had to go for it. I last saw The Killers at Leeds festival in 2008 so I knew it was going to be a good show. We didn't get off to a good start - it took us 3 hours to get the 22 miles to Bolton, and we thought we were going to miss the gig! We ended up arriving only 5 minutes before they came on stage! They were absolutely incredible - one of the best gigs I've been to in ages!
This month I also headed off to Spain with Phil and my parents for 8 days. I absolutely love getting away, turning off my phone for a week, completely disconnected from the world and focusing on reading, eating and nice walks by the sea. 

I also had a busy trip to London this month. I was down for work doing some courses in the week and Phil was heading down for at weekend for his friend's Birthday so we made a nice little weekend of it. We did some tourism at Burgess pakrun - eventually! Turned out after waiting 20 minutes for a bus that all the buses were cancelled, ran to another bus stop and waited 10 minutes for the bus, got on board and found out we couldn't both board with one contactless card and ended up having to run the 1.5 miles to the park! We arrived 5 minutes late, and exhausted, so we didn't get our best parkrun times, but it was an absolutely beautiful park so I'm glad we made it! We spent the afternoon exploring Walthamstow Wetlands which was gorgeous, went to a gin bar in an industrial park and had a great time catching up with Phil's friends from uni.

What I've bought
Whatever the opposite of an impulse buyer is, that's me. This month I finally bought a top and a jumper I've been wanting to buy for probably 4 months.

It's not quite the weather yet, but I am so excited to wear my new llama jumper and stripey top
And along the theme of quirky prints and stripes, I also got this stripey (check!) banana print (check!) top for €2.50 from Primark in Spain.

What I've been reading
So as I mentioned earlier, I hit my Goodreads challenge of 40 books read this year, and I actually hit it before I went on holiday and read 7 books. 

Here's what I read this month:

I Capture the Castle
The Cabin at the end of the World
The Stepford Wives
Everything I Never Told You
Instructions for a Heatwave
The Great Believers
Gentlemen and Playes
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
The Water Cure
The Party
This Must be the Place

My favourites were The Stepford Wives, Everything I Never Told You, The Water Cure, Educated and This Must be the Place. I cannot get enough Maggie O' Farrell at the moment and This Must Be the Place left me broken and bereft when it was over!

What I've been loving
You might remember by obsession with The Roasting Tin last year. It was my favourite recipe book of 2017, maybe even ever. I've lost count of the number of copies I encouraged friends to buy - two of my colleagues have it, my cousin has it, I bought a copy for my Mum - it's my most recommended book ever.
So I was obviously ecstatic last year when I found out there was going to be a Green Roasting Tin full of vegetarian and vegan recipes! Rumi actually messaged me herself and said she wanted to send me an advanced copy to thank me for all my support for The Roasting Tin which was absolutely lovely and completely unexpected!

I'll be reviewing it soon, but for now you can see everything I've cooked from it on my Instagram, and I'm also using Alice's hashtag, #tinlads

I have a habit of getting super excited about new podcasts, downloading hundreds, getting my phone full and then deleting them, and about two months ago I was looking for book podcasts to supplement my beloved What Page are you On? and one recommendation I got was Reading Glasses. It sat in my "unlistened" pile for weeks until a few weeks ago when I decided to give it a go, and now I'm obsessed! Unlike What page are you On? it's less about particular books and reviews and recommendations, and more about reading life and book culture. I absolutely love Mallory and Brea and I would recommend this to anyone who loves reading and talking about reading!

What I've been watching
Well, football didn't come home but I absolutely bloody loved the World Cup. I watched every single game I could and I was absolutely gutted when it was over - good job the Premier League Season starts next week!

Phil and I have been putting off watching All About Eve for years - it's been a running joke that we would never watch it. We kept hearing how good it was (Buzzfeed chose it as its number 1 Best Picture winning film a few years ago) but we just didn't fancy it. But this month, on a football-less Saturday night, we finally caved. And guys, it's so so so good. SO good! We totally get it now! It's on Netflix so you should definitely watch it.

We're finally catching up (although still totally behind) on The Handmaid's Tale. It's not always the easiest thing to watch (so dark, so depressing) but it's absolutely brilliant. I'm really intrigued by where this season is going!

In other "films-we've-been-meaning-to-watch-forever", this month we also watched Before Sunrise which we both completely adored. It's the exact kind of film we both love and I found myself crying at the end but didn't know why?! I can't wait to watch the rest of the trilogy.

What I've been reading online
I've been working on scrolling less and when I want a break to look at my phone (usually when I'm drying my hair!) I've been trying to read articles instead. Here are some of my favourites I read in July:

A Rosie Outlook - Sacking off my 2018 resolutions
What Olivia Did - When jeans don't fit
The Guardian - How the psychology of the England football team could change your life
Biscuits and Blisters - Spare Change
The Pool - Insatiable's fat-shaming feels unfunny – and potentially dangerous and also my girl Bethany Rutter's piece on this too
Medium - Why waking up at 6am won't make you productive
Yes and Yes - How to feel richer and fancier without spending any money
Vix Meldrew - Making friends as an adult
The Pool - When is knowledge not power? When you’re a woman picking up the pieces

Hope your July was great and your August is going well so far!

Charlotte x