The past few days have been a whirlwind of cooking as I continue my Economy Gastronomy challenge. I’m trying out meals from the BBC2 show’s recipe book and putting them through their frugal paces.
Even DJ – a keen chef – has got in on the act. After flicking through the cookbook last week, he took a fancy to Paul Merrett’s smoked haddock soup recipe – a creamy broth including leeks, new potatoes and boiled eggs. So, on Friday night, he made it for us. Bliss. DJ is a whiz in the kitchen and it was a nice break for me not having to cook…
The dish was delicious and very filling. DJ added some extra new potatoes to the recipe than it called for, thinking it wouldn’t be enough, but in the event we couldn’t eat it all. I’m not sure how slimming the meal was, though, as DJ had to use a carton and a half of double cream, but it was a lovely winter-warming dish and packed with flavour. The boiled eggs were a tasty addition to the haddock. On the downside, DJ did find it fiddly to make and misread some of the instructions because of the small typeface in the cookbook. At one point, he had to take some of the ingredients out of the pan and then replace them later on, so all was not lost.
However, not quite as successful was the final ‘tumbledown’ recipe using leftovers from the roast pork dish. Using the spare polenta, I made the gnocchi al forno dish from the cookbook. I’d used up all the roast tomato sauce from in the pork lasagne, so I used tinned tomatoes instead and added some chilli and Worcester sauce. In the recipe you combine layers of sliced cooked polenta, tomato sauce, slices of butternut squash (I used a harlequin squash from the garden) and peas, adding more parmesan as a topping and cooking it in the oven. The recipe called for capers but we didn’t have any and I was too tight to buy them as I doubted we’d use them up. Unfortunately, when I served up the dish, it looked like baby sick. I neglected to point this out to DJ until after the meal, when he admitted he’d thought the same. It tasted alright, if a bit bland, and perhaps would be better with the roasted tomato sauce and capers, but I wouldn’t bother making it again.
The pumpkin risotto was also mixed bag. I was very excited to make it as I got to use my first home-grown pumpkin from the garden – a ‘jack of all trades’ variety. However, it was also a pretty fiddly recipe. You take the pumpkin and dice it, boiling half in water until tender and then pureeing it, while the other half you panfry until it looks roasted. Then you fry garlic and onion in butter, fry the risotto rice and add the stock gradually and meanwhile roast some broken bits of walnuts in the oven. Ten minutes before the end, you add the puree and the pan fried pumpkin to the risotto, cook through, add parmesan and yet more butter (you are supposed to use half a pack of butter for four people but I couldn’t bring myself to). Then you season and serve it with some herbs, chicory (DJ isn’t keen on chicory so I didn’t buy any and served salad instead), the walnut pieces and cubes of gorgonzola on top (we substituted dolcelatte cheese). It was ok but not massively more flavoursome than my own usual, less faffy risottos – except for the pieces of dolcelatte. Perhaps my pumpkin was to blame for that – maybe it’s not a very tasty variety – but I was a bit disappointed after all the hard work in the kitchen.
Are you a perfectionist in the kitchen? Do you enjoy making fussy, complicated dishes or do you prefer simple, easy to make dishes? Who is your favourite TV chef? Leave a message and let me know.
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