Sunday, 21 July 2019

Cookbook review: The Quick Roasting Tin

Damn, Charlotte. Back at it again with the roasting tins.

Basically as soon as I knew there was going to be a third roasting tin book in the series I was absolutely buzzing, and a quick one at that! (There's also going to be a fourth one next year!). It's hard to explain the love of these books. This thread of Bert's gives you an indication of why we're all obsessed with them (and it looks like a couple of journalists have gotten on board and are going to write about the phenomenom!). They're easy, they're accessible, they make it easy to riff on your favourites and they're endlessly customisable. Plus, in a world where everyone is "sooooo bussssssy" (my hatred of "busyness as achievement" is for another day) they do genuinely mean you can bung your dinner in the oven and go back to reading/spending time with your husband/playing Tetris, at least in my case.

Anyway, I was absolutely thrilled to receive a copy of this straight from Rukmini herself (I'd obviously already preordered it so this was a nice surprise!). Here's what I thought...

First Impressions

Unsurprisingly, I absolutely adored The Green Roasting Tin with everything being vegetarian and half the recipes being vegan, but this is a return to meat and fish based recipes. With it being a quick book, meat probably cooks quicker in the oven than a potato or carrot! At first I was disappointed in the number of veggie recipes, but I found they're more towards the middle of the book, particularly in the lunchbox section.

Speaking of the lunchbox section - I love this! I take leftovers a lot of the time to work so this is perfect for me.

From an initial flick through I found 33 veggie recipes out of 64, with 11 being desserts. 

Here's what I made...

Salted chocolate peanut butter brownies
These appealed to me right away but I knew they wouldn't be Phil's thing so I halved the recipe. They were very easy and the only thing I needed to buy was chocolate (albeit, very dark, expensive chocolate). I think I undercooked them as they were very gooey. Definitely a grown-up brownie - I really liked them but I'm not sure I'd make them again as they weren't very popular!

Roasted Aubgerine courgette and macaroni bake
My Mum gave me a courgette and an aubergine as she was going away, so it made sense to give this recipe a go. I feel like a bastardised it a bit - I couldn't get boursin so I used goats cheese and added mixed herbs, basil and garlic powder. I also only had 100g rather than the requisite 150g so I threw in some cheddar.
Super easy if lacking in complex flavour from the tinned tomatoes straight into the oven, but Phil, who usually hates courgette and aubergine, liked it, so I guess that's a win!
I'd maybe make this again with a few adaptations.

Weekend breakfast traybake
One of my pet peeves is people complaining in the Guardian Food comments section that the recipe didn't work. Then it turned out they swapped the pasta for rice, the tofu for chicken, the soy sauce for ketchup... you get my drift. I think in this recipe I made too many changes and that was why it didn't work.

I used veggie sausages with added fennel and smoked paprika to make them taste more "meaty", but I think there was something fundamental about the chorizo that I just couldn't replace. The whole thing was a bit bland, but I think this is my fault for making the change. I imagine chorizo imparts a smoky, fatty deliciousness which veggie sausages... do not. Bit disappointing but I bet this is great if you do eat meat!

Quick cook cauliflower curry with peas and spinach
I love cauliflower, I love peas, I love spinach, I love curry. I did not love this. And I have no idea why! Maybe my cauliflower was a little underripe. Maybe I don't like mustard seeds as much as I first thought. I did forget the lime which may have been more up my street, but I found the cauliflower flavour completely overwhelming. I kind of want to try it again to see what I did wrong, but something you have to call it loss and maybe this wasn't for me!

Spiced sweet poato curry with peas and coconut milk
After not liking the cauliflower curry, this was a perfect return to form. Really easy and tasty - I'd up the chilli next time. The serving size was "2 adults and 2 children" which doesn't really work for us, but with a side of Meera Sodha's insane green beans (seriously I could eat a bucket full - if you haven't tried them you really need to, pictured in the image above) and some pitta, we got 2 portions.

Cinnamon spiced aubergine with feta, olives and herbed bulghur wheat
So much going on here - olives! Feta! Pomegranate seeds! but it was soooooo good. An absolutely treat in your lunchbox. Definitely making again!

All in one nigella spiced whole tomato dal
In every Roasting Tin there is one recipe that does not work for me. Unfortunately, as a person who loves dal almost more than any other food, it was this one.
I bought a lidded dish especially and followed all the instructions to the letter. It seemed a lot of liquid, but in Rukmini we trust.
After 30 minutes it was still really watery and bland so I gave it another 10 minutes without the lid before I gave up. 
I used a mix of tomatoes which I think could have been too big and released too much liquid, or it could have been old lentils or my oven, but it just did not work. I kind of want to try it again, but I also know the dal in The Green Roasting Tin is one of my favourites so perhaps I just stick to that!

Tikka-spiced paneer salad with chickpeas, mint and naan croutons
I mean, "Tikka-spiced paneer salad with chickpeas, mint and naan croutons". It had me at "hello". This is so flipping great. I overcooked the naans a bit and they were a tad crunchy, but that is all on me. My only disappointment is that I had a busy week and I was out for lunch for the next few days so I halved it! What a travesty! I can't wait to make this again.

Lightly roasted chickpea, halloumi and red onion salad with coriander and giant cous cous
Quite often with these books, it's the recipes I don't expect to love that become my favourites.
The flavour profile here is very simple - only smoked paprika, salt and lemon - but it really allows the rest of the flavours to shine. I absolutely loved it.
There was very little chopping involved, which as a veggie, is a rare and beautiful thing, so it was super quick to get in the oven.
I already can't wait to make this again - especially for my lunchbox!

Roasted halloumi and bulghur wheat salad with avocado, mango and coriander
Is this my favourite recipe in the book? Again, I didn't imagine I'd be saying that when I read this recipe. It's so fresh-tasting and summery and delicious. AND it's even better hot and totally worth going down to the kitchen at work to warm up so that halloumi is all hot and melty. I'm genuinely considering making this every weekend for my lunchbox.

Orzo giadineiera: Baked orzo with courgette chilli and lemon
I keep hearing a lot about the orzo recipes in these books but I'd been yet to try them. This was my first foray and I was really, really excited about it. I knew we had a tight turnaround time the evening I made this, so I grated the courgette in advance and left it in the fridge. 
In the end, it came out a tad watery so I wonder if my courgette released too much liquid while it was in the fridge. I think it needed a tad less liquid, extra salt and extra lemon. I also ended up having to used dried chillies as I didn't have fresh, so that might have made a big difference.
It just feels like it needed "something" but I would give this another go with a few tweaks.

Honey roasted butternut squash salad with chickpeas, goats cheese and rocket
This was lovely, quick and refreshing - perfect for a lunchbox! I love the combination of goats cheese and butternut squash anyway and this was lovely with the cumin and honey. I halved this as we were going away and didn't need leftovers, but I'd definitely bulk it out with the bulghur option next time as it wasn't quite enough for dinner with a pitta. I was hesitant to try to do the bulghur addition when halving it in case it dried up. Also, cutting up a butternut squash takes FOREVERRRRRRR. But we know that.

Pomegranate yoghurt cake
This was a bit of an unplanned bonus. I'm not much of a baker but whenever Phil is away I find myself baking out of boredom. On this particular solo Sunday I had already planned to make two recipes from the Quick Roasting Tin (the two below) but I had everything in to make this, thanks to buying pomegranate seeds for another Roasting Tin recipe this week (I'm going to attempt to sub the chicken for halloumi in the brown rice and avocado salad in the first book).

Rukmini notes that this cake is best eaten on the day of baking, and seeing as I was baking out of boredom and had nobody around to help eat 8 servings of cake, I decided to halve the recipe.

The method is easy peasy - mix everything up, put it in a tin, put pomegranate seeds on top. Can confirm, it works fine with self raising flour with a best before date of 9 months ago, and also when you're trying to guess how many seeds the average pomegranate has because you're using prepackaged pomegranate seeds.

I was struggling to find the right sized tin based on the recommendations but in the end I just made it in a loaf tin. I did 20 minutes in the oven and it was perfect. 

Really easy and tasty. Next time I'll add more icing!

Charred tenderstem broccoli with black beans, avocado and peanuts and sesame and thyme roasted cauliflower pilaf with feta cheese and watercress
Both these dishes sounded really good but they were both described as side dishes and I didn't want to make a really elaborate side dish as well as something else, so I took Rukmini's advice and combined these into a "vegetarian sharing feast", well, except I didn't share!

It took me about an hour and 20 to make both of these, but only because my oven really doesn't like having more than one thing in it at once! I did the broccoli for 20 minutes but the cauliflower had barely cooked in that time so I had to take the broccoli out and wait another 2o minutes!

Both these dishes are lovely and work really well together. The combination of avocado, black beans and smoky chipotle flakes with the lime juice in the broccoli dish makes it feel mexican and I loved the addition of the peanuts. It actually worked really well with the pilaf - next time I would serve this alongside bulghur and feta.

I've recently discovered za'tar and now I just want to use it in everything, so I really like it in the pilaf. The cauliflower itself wasn't my favourite (have I gone off cauliflower?!  What is going on with me?) but I loved the flavours in the bulghur and the addition of the feta.
I'm not sure what I'd serve either of these on the side of, but I like the idea of making them together again, or bulking one of them out into a full meal.


Maybe my favourite? No wait the green one is my favourite. But this one is really great. And I also love the first one. Basically, you need all 3.

I really love how each book builds on the previous - for me, a whole book of veggie recipes was the perfect follow up to the original, and here, a whole book of quick recipes is the next step in making Roasting Tin recipes even more accesible.

I remember cooking from the first book (over 2 years ago!) and going out for a walk while everything cooked, and the second needing "emergency crackers" to keep us going til dinner, but this is absolutely perfect. We've had a hectic few weeks so it's been great to know I can put something in the oven at 6 and still make it to the cinema for 7!

Shout out in particular to the lunchbox section, which I absolutely love! I bring leftovers to work most days for lunch, but I can't have hot food at my desk - this book allows me a fresh, delicious lunch and means I can still spend my lunch break reading outside, not queuing for a microwave!

While I feel I've made pretty much every recipe I wanted to make from this book (with the exception of a couple I want to veggie-ize) I know there will be so many I'm going to make and adapt and recreate again and again.

These book just keep getting better, and I cannot wait for the next one!! Thank you again to Rukmini for my copy, and for these amazing books!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Cookbook Review - Bish Bash Bosh

The original Bosh! (exclamation mark theirs, not mine) was one of my favourite books of 2018. I love their modern, fun take on plant-based food where there are just as many recipes for burgers and curries as there are for salads and smoothies. I found it one of the most accessible of all my vegan books and would definitely recommend it as an "entry-level" plant based book. I still cook from it regularly, with the BBQ kebabs, sweet potato korma and sweet and sour tofu being my faves.

I pre-ordered Bish Bash Bosh as soon as I knew about it and couldn't wait to cook from it. The only downside was, it came out the week before we got married, so with the stress of the final details, the wedding itself and then our minimoon, it was actually a couple of weeks before I got to properly cook from it!

First Impressions
Obviously my expectations on this one were super high, and I was not disappointed from my first few flicks. There were so many recipes I wanted to make!
I also got my copy from Waterstones so I got bonus recipes and it was signed both by Ian and Henry, so that was nice!

It's not completely clear if this is a "themed" book, but mostly feels like a traditional sequel to the original, rather than having a focus on specific types of recipes, but as I loved the original so much that was fine.

Here's what I made...

Bang Bang Noodle Salad
Remember that very brief warm period a few weeks ago? Yeah no me neither. But once upon a time it was warm and I made this salad for tea. It was super easy and tasty, with a delicious peanutty dressing (I'm a sucker for any kind of peanut butter sauce). I swapped out a few veg but I like that it's the kind of recipe where you can just swap in whatever you have and smother it in delicious sauce.

Piri Piri Bake
This was a bit of a manic and long cook, despite the intro describing it as quick and easy. It took about an hour, and that was including microwaving the sweet potatoes (just to add, I love that it recommended this as an option. It's just such a quick fix, especially if you don't know you can do it, and it's perfect in a recipe like there where there's a lot going on). There's a lot to do and there isn't an awful lot of down time. For a "roasting-tin-esque" recipe I found it quite intense!

You have your sweet potatoes, then you have to roast some veg, then you make some veggie "chorizo" and then you make homemade Piri Piri sauce. Phew! 

I really liked it and the idea, but I'm not sure the end result was quite worth the effort but I could definitely adapt it with plain veggie sausages and a bottle of Nando's sauce!

Sweet potato tagine
I love a tagine and this was super easy. It took about 45 minutes but never felt manic, and it relied on Ras el hanout and harissa which mean once you've bought those you can easily throw this together with whatever other veg you have to use up. Next time I'd definitely mix it up as the sweet potato got a bit boring after a while, and I think some peppers and mushrooms would be a great addition.

Aubergine Katsu
I made this when a friend came over for dinner as Phil isn't a huge aubergine fan. I'm a bit nervous about shallow frying but it seemed to go okay. The sauce was delicious but I should have used double the amount for two of us as I found it a bit dry. I would make this again but probably with tofu.

Shepherd's Pie
This is classic Sunday food - something comforting that takes longer than I'd bother with on a weekday. It was quite faffy, and there's quite a lot going on, but I was interested in the combo of red wine, sundried tomatoes and Marmite. In the end the red wine seemed quite overpowering so perhaps it didn't cook off enough, and the texture of mine felt quite mushy, but this might have been because I swapped the (expensive) puy lentils for (cheap) green ones. I do really like the use of "mushroom mince" which is something they use in the first book, but I'm not sure it quite accounts for all the liquid that mushrooms produce once cooked.

It said it served 4-6 and I got 6 good portions out of it with peas and broccoli. It wasn't my favourite shepherd's pie but I know Phil really enjoyed it so I might adapt it for another time.

This was a bonus recipe, and when I looked it up I couldn't seem to find anyone else doing a vegan Ximxim which was weird! So I didn't really know what this was or what to expect so I definitely cannot vouch for its authenticity! It's apparently a Brazillian dish with peanut butter and coconut milk, and this version is made with squash, aubergine and okra. I didn't have okra so I used mushrooms. It was really tasty and even got Phil eating aubergine which is always a plus! I would definitely make the sauce again with different veg.

Speedy Spaghetti
Anna Jones' lemon and kale spaghetti has legendary status in our house. It was the first thing I ever cooked in our house, it's Phil's favourite thing I make and I bet I've made it a dozen times (which is a lot for me who rarely remakes a recipe!). This follows a very similar format of creating a sauce from the starchy spaghetti water but with a slightly different sauce with olives and basil. I made a bit of a mess of it and had the heat on too high, so the water evaporated a bit too quickly to cook the spaghetti fully so I had to top it up a bit which I think affected the final flavour. I'd definitely give this another go as an alternative to our fave!

Singapore Noodles
Stir fry is one of my favourite ways to clear out the fridge, so this was perfect for a Thursday night. Really easy and tasty and really simple to adapt. I topped it with my favourite crispy tofu. Definitely one to make again.

Neuvos Rancheros
From my first look through the book this was one of the recipes I was most excited to make. I love weekend brunch and this sounded absolutely perfect. I halved it as it was just for the two of us, but I did use a full can of tinned tomatoes as it seemed a bit dry. We topped it with avocado, spring onions and cherry tomatoes but the whole thing was a bit one-note a disappointing despite being a bit of a faff to make! 

Sweet potato tikka masala
The Bosh boys are big on making their own curry pastes, which is cool, but my Nutribullet is a bit knackered so I'm always a bit nervous about getting it out! So in this case I decided to skip blending the tikka masala sauce so there was one less thing to wash up!

The sauce was absolutely insane and tasted just like a tikka masala - in fact it was my favourite thing I made from the book! It's quite hands on and time consuming so I don't think it's something I'd make too often midweek, but I'm definitely keen to make the paste again and mix up the veg. A huge success!

Vietnamese Tofu
"Add this to the list, mate" - Phil loved this one! Crispy tofu in a sticky sauce is right up my street so I knew I'd love this. I didn't want to buy coconut water, so I used the liquid from the top of a can of coconut milk and used the rest to make coconut rice in my Instant Pot as a side (in hindsight, a bit overkill with the sweetness of this sauce!). It was very rich and sweet and maybe a little bit too rich for midweek, but I'd definitely make it again on a weekend!

I would say this is a step up from their first book, which I think is their intention. The first book is very accesible for both a beginner cook and a beginner vegan, whereas I think this goes a step further without being overly complicated or requiring too many weird ingredients.

I would definitely recommend it as a complement to the first one and I know I'll be picking it up a lot! A great addition to any shelf, vegan or otherwise.

June Life Lately

June has been quiet, but in a really nice way. It hasn't been filled with weekends away or big events, but instead lots of lovely little things - dinner parties, birthday parties, shopping trips, seeing friends. It's been one of those months where I don't have lots to blog about, but it's been really great. It's been nice to not have a stuffed calendar, and instead have a more relaxing time and even, I'm not kidding, be a bit spontaneous! 

Here's what I got up to in June, and here's my One Second Every Day for the month!:

Where I've been
We always said if Liverpool won the Champion's League (or the league, sob), we would go to Liverpool for the parade, so of course, before the final whistle had blown and we'd even stopped crying, we were making plans for Sunday afternoon. In the end we managed to convince Phil's Mum to come along, and we drove up to Liverpool and picked up Phil's sister along the way, who lives there.

We got to the docks by the Liver Building at 3.30pm, giving us plenty of time until the parade started at 4. The atmosphere was insane. Everyone had a shirt on (we even brought some of our spare shirts so Phil's Mum and sister had one each to wear), everyone was chanting and singing. It was warm and a beautiful day. It was amazing.

We had no phone signal, so we had no idea what was going on or where the bus was. After 2 hours of waiting, and starting to get tired and impatient, a speaker appeared and welcomed us to the parade. This is it, we thought, it's around the corner! They're going to be here soon. "The victory bus is an hour and a half away". 


We nearly bottled it. We nearly left our cushdy spot for a place earlier in the parade. Phil's Mum and sister went to get something to drink and Phil encouraged me to get out my book.

But then, they arrived. And it was glorious. You know all the photos you've seen of the red flares down by the docks? That was right where we were. In the middle of all of it. Looking back now I don't think about the 4 hour wait. I think about those glorious few minutes, seeing the boys on the bus with the trophy. And it was all worth it.

For my Birthday, Phil had bought me tickets to a double bill of The Godfather films (I specifically do not refer to The Godfather 3 which I pretend to not exist) at the local old theatre We'd been looking forward to it for months! So a few weeks ago we packed a bag full of sweets and hunkered down for 7 hours of cinema. After the first film we had an hour's interval to grab a Subway, and then the second film had an interval so we could have some ice cream. The Godfather films are two of my favourite ever films and it was amazing to see them on the big screen. The Plaza even has an organist who played songs from the films at the start. It was such an amazing experience.

What I've been doing
Due to us having a few quiet weekends, we decided to do what we always do when we have a bit of free time, spontaneously start a house project! We've wanted shelves in the alcoves in the front room for ages, so one Saturday morning we took a tape measure and headed to IKEA. After an hour of planning and calculating spacing and the weight of recipe books, we then nipped to B&Q. Where we spent another hour looking at brackets and whether we cut saw a shelf up at home and buying spraypaint. Then back to IKEA for a cabinet.

Then home, where we had a flatpack malfunction, so then... back to IKEA.

There has been a fourth trip to IKEA, a cabinet that didn't fit (and now we've decided we don't need the cabinet but can't bring ourselves to go back so we're trying to find it a home in the house somewhere), two visits from my Dad to put up timber when Phil's drill wasn't strong enough to get through the wall, one night painting timber, and then finally, finally, last week, we got them up. And then realised we want two more.

They look great and I'm very excited... I just wish I'd known our little Saturday project would take 3 weeks to get finished!

One of the reasons we were up by IKEA was Phil had his 150th parkrun this month. Well, in fact, he actually had two! The plan was to do Heaton Park for his 150th so we could wear the 150 bib, but the day before we realised it was cancelled! We'd already decided to go to IKEA after, so instead we went to Hyde parkrun. But then he still needed a chance to wear the bib, so last weekend we celebrated his 150th... which was really his 151st.

We've had a few last wedding bits back this month. I had my bouquet and Phil's corsage freeze-dried and framed (thanks to my Mum who sorted this out when I decided the day after the wedding I wanted them preserving!) and we've had our video back! As with the photos, we're showing them around to friends and family first before I share, but we're really happy with our video and it really captures the day.

What I've read
Big reading month this month, thanks to reserving 9 books from the library and them suddenly coming in all at once! I've been to do some real tactical reading this month to make sure I didn't take too many books out at once or have anything late to be returned!

Here's what I read this month:

The Immortalists
Her Body and Other Parties
The Gathering
Paul takes the form of a mortal girl
The Corset
There There
The Doll Factory
Ordinary People
The To-Do list

The To-Do List is my friend Amy's book, so it was amazing and bizarre and surreal to read her actual book in real life! I was lucky that Waterstones emailed me on Friday to say it was in, even though it isn't out til Thursday, and I read the whole thing over the weekend!

What I've been watching
To distract us from worrying about the Champion's League final, we did a double bill at the cinema of Rocketman and Booksmart.

Booksmart is absolutely brilliant and everything I wanted it to be and more, but guys I am obsessed with Rocketman. We've seen it twice now and I want to go for a third time. I've pre-ordered the DVD and I reckon I've listened to the soundtrack 30 times. I listen to it constantly. I love it. So, yes, that is my review.

We've also been to see Toy Story 4 which is very cute and very funny - I was sobbing before the opening credits.

At home, we've been watching the second season of Big Little Lies and just watched Spider-man: Homegoing to prepare for the new one.

What I've been listening to
This month I finished Sheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things on audiobook, and unexpectedly sobbed when it was over.

I've also finally caved and got Audible... and then suddenly not a single audiobook was appealing to me. I've already returned one, and I'm currently listening to You are Not So Smart. Basically I want an audiobook as good as Bad Blood - I only listen to non-fiction on audio and I want something juicy.

Speaking of Bad Blood, I listened to The Dropout podcast this month because that story is just insane.

What I've read online
Metro - I had a miscarriage but I don't regret telling people before 12 weeks
Vice - Liking gin is not a personality trait
Clementine - Learning to love my Mum-gut after years of body disappointment
i News - For working class people like me, the threat of debt is always there
A Cup of Jo - A trick for making weekends feel longer
NY Times - Why we need to smash the wellness industry
Grazia - Apparently pregnant women are operating at the highest level of pain endurance all the time
Bon Appetit - How cooking has made me see my ADHD as a talent
The Bibliophile District - 5 Quick tips to read more books
Vix Meldrew - How one simple mindset shift changed the game
Greatist - Why diet culture is toxic, even for people who don't diet

Hope you're having a lovely July so far!
Charlotte x