Monday, 11 November 2013

My Big Fat Culinary Week

For one week, I set out to cook each Dinner Tonight by Lindsey Bareham in The Times. The mystery factor of not knowing what ingredients I needed until I looked in the paper each morning was both exciting and irritating; I couldn't buy anything in advance which called for a daily trip to Waitrose and a steely determination to walk past the ready meal aisles. There were four of us doing the taste test every night. Was it worth it?

Haddock Risotto

Monday: Smoked haddock and parmesan risotto
Haddock Recipe

An immediate challenge on Day One. Everyone knows that risotto takes forever to cook, dribbling bits of stock on fussy rice a third at a time while stirring constantly, and we've all eaten botched, stodgy versions. The amount of haddock Lindsey recommended also seemed a bit stingy so I bought more which pushed up the cost a bit. As it turned out, it was quick and simple, blowing the risotto myth out of the water. And the dinner table verdict - satisfied Mmmmms all round.

Delicious. Smokey, creamy, tangy and very satisfying. Served with a French Sauvignon Blanc for extra sharpness.

Cost of ingredients: £18
Haddock Bill

Aubergine Linguine

Tuesday: Linguine with aubergine, mint and ricotta
linguine recipe

Aubergines, eh? Sounds bland, but the rest of the ingredients looked tasty - chilli flakes, mint, celery, a big dollop of Ricotta cheese. And everybody loves a bit of pasta on a Tuesday. Let's give it a go.

Disappointing. Aubergine too chewy - I think I should have cooked it for longer - sauce too thick with no juices for the linguine to absorb. 
Chilli flakes and mint were kick-ass flavours but we couldn't taste the ricotta cheese. Might have another bash at this one because I'm sure it should taste zingier than that.

Served with Chilean cabernet sauvignon.

Cost of ingredients: £11
Linguine bill

Wednesday: Lancashire Hot Pot
Gah! The Times recipe was for another veggie dish - Pan Haggerty. Didn't fancy another day without meat for dinner so I opted for another traditional British dish using this recipe from The Guardian. I thought it was unusual in calling for lamb chops to be thrown in the pot complete with bones - surely that would result in a big faff for everyone eating it.
It took about three hours to cook in the oven: it was good but a bit over-cooked: I forgot Grace's piano lesson and had to keep it warm for half an hour which made it a bit greasy with dried-out sauce. Nobody enjoyed picking the bones out of it but the meat was deliciously flaky. 
Served with steamed cabbage and leaks.
And a bottle of excellent Jaipur IPA followed by one of their Swan Pale Ales.

Lancashire Hot Pot

Cost of ingredients and beer: £23:
hot pot bill

Thursday: Ginger noodles with sesame white fish

Now this is more like it. Really enjoyed this one. Very simple to cook, fresh and tangy taste, fish tender and flakey. Again, bought more lemon sole than suggested because the amount in the recipe seemed a bit stingy. The sesame seeds did tend to pop everywhere during the frying and there wasn't a lot of liquid for the noodles to absorb. Joe complained that none of the dishes this week had enough sauce. I blame the cook, not the recipe.
Forgot to buy any soy sauce and had to settle for non-black sesame seeds. 
Cost of ingredients: about £18.50.

Fish noodles recipe

Fish Noodles

Here's the receipt:
Noodles Bill

Friday: Eating Out!

So was it worth it? 
Yes it was. It was a satisfying exercise and added variety to the usual weekly menu. But the daily trip to Waitrose became a pain. Better, I think, to plunder a few recipes from the archive and cut the checkout visits to a couple a week.
With the haddock risotto I've discovered a new favourite but I won't be troubling the guys at Masterchef just yet.

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