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.

Conclusion

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

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