Cooking The Books- March 2017.

It’s been a long time since I did my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge. Every month for a few months back in 2014 I chose a book and aimed to bake or cook one or two recipes from each chapter throughout that month. It meant that any book I’d bought and let gather dust on the shelf would get some use out of it.

Or so that was the plan…

A couple of weeks back I bought Mary Berry’s new cookbook “Everyday”. There’s so many recipes in there I want to try out and it’s not all about baking.  Especially as if I bake, I end up eating it.

Mary+Berry+Everyday

The original idea in the Cooking The Books Challenge was to choose at least one recipe from each chapter of the book I was using that month.  It could vary depending on the amount of chapters and what sort of things were being cooked. With a Mary Berry cookbook and also one which featured family meals, I knew that the Everyday book challenge wouldn’t be so hard after all.

The strapline for the book is to “make every meal special”.  I cook most of my dinners from scratch but we do have the odd takeaway and use shortcuts. I don’t have time after a busy day in the classroom to make every meal special.  In fact if I have been working as with a lot of working families, it’s what you can grab at first.

So as I opened the book I laughed my head off to see the contents of Everyday’s first chapter: Food For Sharing.  Mary does love her dinner party food with canapes and little nibbles.  The only time I do anything remotely like this is at Christmas. Do people really have nibbles and bites like this everyday? Perhaps I’m missing out.

The rest of the book is divided into eight other chapters and to me  they include more of your everyday foods and meals. This does do what it says on the book cover.  The recipes are mainly every day meals but with a special twist. Also there are ideas which look very fancy but actually don’t take as long to cook as they first appear.  I was keen to try out a few recipes on my family.

What is going to be tried out in the SmartCookieSam kitchen over the next few weeks?

Food For Sharing:  I won’t be holding any fancy dinner parties this month. I’m far too busy.  But I do love the sound of the two Samosa recipes in this chapter; Curried Beef Samosas and Spicy Mexican Samosas.  I’ve got some filo pastry in the freezer I’ve not managed to use up. I might try out the Guacamole with Coriander and the Olive Tapenade if I have time one weekend.

First Courses and Light Lunches: Often at work I take along a salad, a Mug Shot, yoghurt and fruit or a sandwich.  I sometimes take soup.  Or if I’m forgetful I end up rushing out of the house and forget my lunch meaning I have to stop off at the M&S at the local garage near me.  Better get my act together.  There’s a mouthwatering recipe in this chapter for a Winter Vegetable Soup.  I also fancy trying out Mary’s Crispy Bacon Rosti one Saturday lunchtime.

Beef, Pork, Lamb and Game:  I can’t stand lamb but don’t mind venison.  There is a twist on the Cottage Pie recipe here by using minced venison in place of beef.  It looks delicious but I’m not sure whether Mr SmartCookieSam and our son will eat it. I know they will love Mary’s special Chilli Con Carne,  the Fillet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce and the Sausage  and Herb Plait.  I’m really keen to try the Portguese Pork and Rice too.

Poultry: As with lots of people, we love chicken in our house. It’s a joke that when Mr SmartCookieSam cooks it’s always Garlic Chicken.  My son said until recently, “If Dad’s cooking, it’s garlic chicken!” Though recently hubby has started cooking curries.  Now my son says “Dad’s cooking curry again!”  I’m grateful for hubby cooking and he is a great cook but sometimes I like to try different things.  So I’m going to test out Marsala Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, the Chicken Stir Fry with Teriyaki Sauce and Chicken Dijon on them. I might even try more.

Fish:  I’m not a huge fish lover though I’m doing my best to eat more fish and seafood.  I had a lot of bad experiences as a child with my Nana Margaret’s terrible cooking and it’s put me off for life.  Even smelling kippers now at breakfast in a hotel room makes me want to throw up. But I’m not going to throw up testing out Mary’s Very Posh Fishcakes, her Yuzu Salmon with Buttered Leeks and her Fragrant Light Prawn Curry.

Vegetarian: I was really struggling with this chapter.  Not because I didn’t like any of the recipes.  It was more about what on earth my carnivore mad hubby would eat.  Any recipes which contain courgettes, aubergines or are risottos are out!  I think I might have to try out the Sun dried tomato pasta with Mozzarella and the Potato, Leek and Cheese Pie though.

Sides and Salads:  Lots of variety to choose from here but I think the two different salads with bulgar wheat in as well as the Satay Chicken Salad look delicious.Once again what I would eat and what Mr SmartCookieSam would eat is another thing!

Puddings and Desserts: Now for an everyday occurence, I definitely don’t have puddings and desserts.  I’ve even stopped having out weekly Sunday lunch dessert.  This is mainly because my son now works on a Sunday so we don’t eat our dinner until late. Eating a pie or a crumble late in the evening gives me indigestion so I don’t bother. All of Mary’s pudding recipes look scrumptious and I’m so tempted by her Apple and Lemon Galette and her Blackberry and Apple Crumble Pie.  But when would we eat it though?

Teatime: Now as you all know I’m a baking addict and I confess to always looking at the baking chapter first in a book like this.  As Mary Berry is the baking queen herself, her baking recipes never disappoint.  I’ve seen several recipes in this chapter I want to try but of course if I bake them, I eat them.  I would love to try out Mary’s Hummingbird Cake, her Pistachio Shortbreads, the Lemon Meringue cupcakes and her Chocolate Reflection Cake.

Watch this space and read on throughout the next few weeks to see how many recipes I actually do get to try out.

Love Sam xx

 

 

Saturday Suppers- The Hairy Dieters’ Beachside Paella

 

 

 

 

The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.
Paella.

On Saturday night I TRY to cook something a little bit more special if we have time.  We have been back from our holiday in Spain for two weeks now and the time has gone so fast.  The weather has been up or down and on Friday and Saturday I began to wonder what had happened to our summer.  I began to think back to the hot, sunny climate of Spain and how every meal was sat outside.  The rest of the time being spent in the pool trying to cool down. Last Saturday I looked out of the window, seeing the rain lash down and felt a sudden need for something Spanish and holidaylike!

Moraira Harbour on the Costa Blanca in Spain
Moraira Harbour on the Costa Blanca in Spain

So what better than Paella?  My hubby and kids never seemed to want to try the paella when we were away so I couldn’t have it unless we were somewhere that did individual portions!  Last year on holiday in Ibiza I saw two blokes tucking in to a huge paella dish which was the side of a Sky Satellite dish!

At Alicante airport I went mad buying things in the Duty Free shop. Usually if I try to buy it in the supermarket with hubby watching I get the “What do you want that for?” but I wanted to buy some Turron to keep for Christmas. I spotted some paella rice and some pimenton so that was sneaked into the basket quickly.

A 500g bag of authentic Arroz for paella and a jar of pimenton.
A 500g bag of authentic Arroz for paella and a jar of pimenton.
I chopped two chicken breasts up into bite sized chunks.
I chopped two chicken breasts up into bite sized chunks.
The chicken breasts were fried gently in a pan with a spoonful of olive oil.
The chicken breasts were fried gently in a pan with a spoonful of olive oil.
I chopped two onions, a red pepper, a yellow pepper and 4 cloves garlic to go in the paella.
I chopped two onions, a red pepper, a yellow pepper and 4 cloves garlic to go in the paella.
The onions and garlic were gently fried in the pan.  The chicken had been removed once it had been browned.
The onions and garlic were gently fried in the pan. The chicken had been removed once it had been browned.
Then the peppers and a tin of green beans (drained) in water were added to the onions and garlic. These were cooked for a few more minutes.
Then the peppers and a tin of green beans (drained) in water were added to the onions and garlic. These were cooked for a few more minutes.
I made up a litre of hot chicken stock. It was made with a Knorr Stock cube.
I made up a litre of hot chicken stock. It was made with a Knorr Stock cube.
A couple of pinches of saffron and some pimenton were added to the pan to cook in the veg.
A couple of pinches of saffron and some pimenton were added to the pan to cook in the veg.
Then the rice was added until it was coated well in the oil and started to shine.
Then the rice was added until it was coated well in the oil and started to shine.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Both my frying pans are small ones so I had to make two paellas!
Both my frying pans are small ones so I had to make two paellas!

Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan. This would also have some prawns added towards the end of the cooking time.
The paella begins to thicken up as the rice grains swell. Every now and again I ladelled in some more chicken stock.
The paella begins to thicken up as the rice grains swell. Every now and again I ladelled in some more chicken stock.
To the other paella I added seafood from a pack bought in Morrisons. This was for my hubby as he loves squid and mussels. I can't stand them!
To the other paella I added seafood from a pack bought in Morrisons. This was for my hubby as he loves squid and mussels. I can’t stand them!
A crafty Mojito to drink while I was cooking- cooks' perks!  I felt like Keith Floyd glugging down the wine!
A crafty Mojito to drink while I was cooking- cooks’ perks! I felt like Keith Floyd glugging down the wine!
The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.
The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.

 

I used the recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Diet Book, (the first one with a white front cover) which is a huge favourite in our house.I cook a lot of meals out of it although I had not attempted their paella recipe. Their recipe is called Beachside Paella and serves 6. There was only 4 of us so we had far too much left over.  My children picked out bits they did not like. For me and my hubby we had two large Mojitos and shared a bottle of red wine.  I was rather sloshed after it so it defeated the object of being a “diet” meal! Get a grip, Sam!  I will definitely make this again but will save it for when we have visitors or friends over, it’s quite time consuming when you’re cooking it but it’s worth it!

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx