Monday, 30 September 2013

The Good Housekeeping's Cookery Compendium Challenge Round Up

I think it is human nature to be inquisitive and to seek things out that challenge us. For some people, that is academic pursuits or sky diving. For me, well certainly for the last week, it has been attempting to channel 50s food through the medium of this compendium.

There have been highs (SOUP!) There have been lows (FLAN!). But most importantly, it has been educational.  I've learnt how to not make a flan, that currying things can either go well or not so well, soup can make your house smell a bit weird, deep fried things involving bacon are awesome, and steaming giant meat rolls is what I shall be doing more often. 

I'm fully aware that what I picked to make from the GHCC may be deemed as a bit tame.  There are a lot of things in there are use aspic jelly. I'm not that brave yet. The majority of the book, well over a third, is dedicated to cakes and sweets. I'm looking forward to exploring these a bit further. 

The GHCC is more than a recipe book. It's a whole library. Need to cater for a wedding buffet for 50 people? To equip your kitchen? And then how to care for that equipment? So much within it's pages is still good, solid valuable advice. Yes, some of it is incredibly dated but learning the basics and cooking from scratch is the bare bones of this book. 

And I love it. 

You can read about all the posts in this challenge by clicking here

Friday, 27 September 2013

Day Five: Steamed Meat Roll

At this point, I was glad it was Day Five and thus the end. I managed to score myself a pretty brutal case of indigestion after the curried vegetable flan and spent a morning sucking Rennies. I'm pretty sure I can even still feel a Kromesky in my stomach. I think it is kicking...

I thought I'd go for something I wouldn't normally cook for the last day of the challenge. My part of the UK had been suffering from perma-drizzle as we made our way through the challenge, so I was looking forward to something comforting and suitably stodgy.

So, we have here beef minced with onions and carrots, seasoned and then wrapped up in a thick coat of suet pastry. Steam for three hours and job done.

Reliably stodgy. Like a giant meat filled dumpling. Amazing. Gravy. Amazing.

Not particularly. The suet pastry is super easy to bring together.

Make again?
Yes. Yes. Yes. But I don't think I would cook it for three hours - my suet pastry was starting to get a bit soggy. I'm also a huge fan of steaming things in my slow cooker so will have a look at tweaking that.

Learn anything new?
Steamed savoury puddings are the new black.

I don't have a meat mincer so used ready minced beef mince, grated in the carrot and onion and then smooshed it all together with my hands. The suet was also another issue. Obviously, I reached for the trusty box of suet rather than a block of suet, as per the book. I was worried how this would affect the outcome. Other than that, followed completely.

Score (out of 10)?
A sturdy 9. It was just what I think we needed after the week.

Little round up of the week to follow.

You can read about our foray into the Good Housekeeping's Cooking Compendium and the challenge we set ourselves here.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Day Four: Curried Vegetable Flan

After Day Three's Kromeskies adventure, it was time for something a bit less greasy. Something with vegetables for the penultimate meal.

That being said, this was a disaster.

In the UK, a flan either a sponge or pastry base filled with either something sweet or savoury. This is not a flan. It's mashed potato (with egg yolks...) piped around the edge of a plate and then filled with vegetables that have had Jesus boiled out of them in stock with curry powder.

Jim has a nasty cold at this point of the week (Kromesky induced sickness?). He ate a plate of it and said it was ok. Suppose, I'd only advise this one if you also don't have a sense of taste. A 50s attempt at vegetarianism.

Bland. So bland. Pretty much just potatoes and boiled vegetables.

Pretty easy, you do need to pipe potato though.

Make again?
No. It was not a flan. It was lie.

Learn anything new?
How not to make a flan.

I didn't make any alterations apart from not having a heatproof plate large enough to make it on. Went for a baking sheet and some greaseproof. Even stuck to the true quantities of prepping 2.5lb of vegetables for the filling.

Score (out of 10)?
Low. Can I give a zero? 1. Never again.

You can read all about The Good Housekeeping's Cooking Compendium Challenge and the past few days of meals here.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Day Three: Kromeskies

Hold your hats. You guys are in for a treat. This is more of an appetizer kind of deal than a weeknight dinner but when I saw them, I had to put them on the list for the Good Housekeeping's Cooking Compendium Challenge. There is no way I could describe what exactly a kromesky is apart from "a very thick roux of butter, flour and stock, mixed with cooked minced meat. Which is then wrapped in bacon. Battered. And fried". Sounds super healthy, right?

Google again came up with the origins of the kromesky. It has Polish origins with the name coming from a Russian derivative of the word "kromochka" meaning, loosely, a slice of bread. There is no bread in a kromesky. Just discomfort. Part of me wonders how they managed to make it into the GHCC.

For all intents and purposes, good. Instant regret after eating three of them though. The bacon made them really salty and they were greasy. Would make good hangover fodder as they cover a number of the things you want in hangover food (grease, bacon, carbohydrates).

There are a lot of component parts in this, making a roux, adding cooked mince, wrapping in bacon, making a simple batter. It wasn't hugely time intensive but just a bit fiddly. The GHCC doesn't tell you how many this recipe makes. We went for six.

Make again?
It needs work. I think cocktail sticks to hold them together would have helped. Also, a thicker batter might been better.

Learn anything new?
If you make a roux with 1oz of flour, 1 oz of margarine and 1/4 of a pint of stock, the cooled roux has the consistency of gak. Remember gak? My sister once threw a blob of it onto our bedroom ceiling. We got most of it down...

Not a single one. Kromeskies in GHCC are spelt "Kromskies". Maybe the mince was an issue again though, see Day One.

Score (out of 10)
I'm going to go with between a 5 and a 4 depending on levels of discomfort. My thought process fluctuated - "They're good, but so greasy, but nice, but so unhealthy, but bacon, but greasy." Jim thanked me for serving vegetables with them. I feel like we're going downhill on the scoring so far this week.

Once this recipe is perfected though, I think Kromeskies will be the next food fad. I liked Kromeskies before they were cool *readjusts hipster glasses*.

You can read all about The Good Housekeeping's Cooking Compendium Challenge and the past two days of meals here.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Day Two: Cauliflower Soup

Last winter, I ate so much soup that I was convinced that I would be like that weird girl at school that always smelt of soup. But I have been happy about welcoming it back as the temperature has dropped, there is something so classically comforting about it. If you're like me, on weeknights, you don't want to spend hours dicing and slicing and blending and blitzing. This might be the soup for you.

So we blanch the cauliflower, fry off onion and bacon rinds, then simmer the whole lot in stock for 45 minutes. You read that right. 45 minutes. I had reservations. It's then pushed through a sieve as much as possible and thickened with milk and flour, and seasoned. Eat.

Exactly how you would expect cauliflower to taste after being boiled for 45 minutes. My kitchen smelt more like cauliflower than the soup did. That being said, it was surprisingly good. It was obvious what the soup was made of but it wasn't a strong flavour at all. It was super smooth and creamy. I am a fan of double cream in homemade soups so did have qualms about it being a bit watery.

Really easy. If you can boil a pan of water and chop stuff, you're pretty much in. Quantities were an issue again. I got two bowls out of the recipe. Not sure if its because my cauliflower was not a medium sized one in relation to a medium sized cauliflower of the 50s.

Make again?
Actually, yes. It would make a nice starter for a rich meal as it wasn't at all cloying. It had a little pinch of nutmeg in it which was so good. Think Christmas.

Learn anything new?
Not really.

Followed it exactly.

Score (out of 10)
6 - Tasty but it made the kitchen smell funky.

Details of the Good Housekeeping's Cooking Compendium Challenge and Day One can be found here.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Day One: Curried Mince with Rice

Day One of the Good Housekeeping's Cooking Compendium Challenge and the kitchen was full of questions. How many grams in an ounce? How many ounces in a pound? (Woe us, children of the 80s and our diet of metric.) Do we have any lemons? (Why do you need lemons? To make lemon butterflies to serve it with... We don't have lemons...)

What shall I cook the mince in? (We decided against olive oil). Why do we only have two onions in the entire kitchen? How much will this actually make? Is 1tbsp of curry powder really enough? Mild, medium or hot curry powder?

This is a really basic. The sauce is made by frying off onions and then curry powder with flour and stirring in beef stock and sultanas. This then simmered until the onions and sultanas are soft and the sauce is thick. The mince is then stirred through. The sauce was surprisingly rich, maybe not as spicy as our normal curries but good all the same. For a man who dislikes "out of context fruit" (Duck a L'Orange is his nemesis), Jim wolfed down a plate of the spicy sultana studded mince. Success.

It was actually nice. I'm fully aware that I picked something quite basic to ease us into it. The sauce was thick and coated the mince well. It wasn't as spicy as we would normally go. I'm putting this down to palates though.

Easy peasy, no lemon butterflies squeezy. Although a reoccurring theme throughout The Compendium is that it doesn't tell you how many people it will serve. There was a lot. Easily could have fed three or four. This worries me for the rest of the week, I haven't factored in leftovers.

Make again?
Maybe. It was exceptionally cheap. No cans of fancy coconut milk, thai basil pastes or bags of jasmine rice here. Would cut down on quantities a bit or keep the same and have leftovers. Would make a gorgeous jacket potato filling.

Learn anything new?
How many grams in a ounce and how to turn my scales into weighing in ounces.

The issue of cooked minced meat. I am assuming that this would have been meat leftover from a joint of meat and then minced rather than raw mince, cooked. As I don't have the facility to mince meat myself, we bought fresh minced meat and fried it off. I used a bit more stock than the recipe asked for because it was really getting thick. There were no lemon butterflies. I felt like I have let the side down.

Score (out of 10) -
A steady 7. I like having vegetables with dinner. Meat on carbs. Still a winner.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Good Housekeeping's Cookery Compendium Challenge

Ah, the shelf of cookbooks. The cookbooks on the bedside table. The one stuffed down the side of the sofa. The food memoirs sloshing around in your handbag. I have a rule though. Every single cookbook must be used at least once. But one has been sitting on my cookbook shelf. One which has never been used. Sure, I've leafed through the pages (and had to Google just exactly what Aspic Jelly is.)

The Good Housekeeping's Cooking Compendium. Which I scored at the local Oxfam bookshop for £2. This is a comprehensive how to cook book; from boiling an egg, making coffee in an earthenware jug and kitchen equipment to jellied salads and how long to cook your Christmas turkey. Eat your heart out, Delia. This is a 1956 edition.

Jim said it would be funny if we tried to do five meals from it, we'd been looking for a little inspiration for our weekday meals anyway. It turned into a bit of a game.

The Challenge:-
Stay as true as possible to the original recipes for five consecutive meals.

After the meals are cooked and eaten, the following questions will be rolled out:

Make again?
Learn anything new?
Score (out of 10)

I'm going to walk you through what we ate last week. It was educational...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

We Should Cocoa: Birthday Cake

This month's We Should Cocoa is hosted by Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog who has challenged us to celebrate We Should Cocoa's birthday with a chocolate showstopper of a cake. Last month's chocolate sweets round up can be found on Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary's blog which you can find right here.  We Should Cocoa is the brainchild of Choclette and Chele. You can find out more about it on their blogs. 

September is the most birthday abundant month in our family. It was extra special this year as my mum turned 60. I'm not going to gush (because I know it's embarrassing) but she is amazing. 

We had a family meal. We laughed. We ate cake. 

This cake is a hybrid of two of my favourite birthday cake recipes.  The centre is two layers of the Jackie, Oh! Cake from Gesine Bullock Prado's Sugar Baby and the middle layer is a layer from The Magnolia Bakery's plain vanilla birthday cake. Simple buttercream filling. Crushed oreos around the sides. Cocoa dusted stencilling for the top. Bit of piping.

It didn't need to be a fondant monolith of bows and flowers. Simple awesomeness. Just like my mum. 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Blackberry & Vanilla Ricotta Tart

Can we talk about things that are totally impractical?

Cinderella's glass slippers. No wonder she lost one of them at midnight. They would have killed her feet.

Serving sizes on packets of junk food. You're right. I'm only going to eat 30gr of M&Ms and then I'll put the bag down. Behave.

Red lipstick. It only has one goal. That is to get everywhere else, except for your lips. That's mainly your teeth.

Handbags so small that you can't actually fit anything into.  I fell in love with a bag that was shaped like an owl, shame it couldn't contain more than a bank card and a lip balm...

Serving dishes that you can't get a whole bag of Kettle Chips in. No one ever sets out to serve just 94% of a sharing bag of crisps. 

Freezer bags when you are collecting blackberries. First, your berries get squished. Second, you know that bag is going to split open and spill your carefully plucked wares all over the floor or down your jeans...

This tart is a sweet reward for all your stained and bramble scratched fingers. 


200gr plain flour
Pinch of salt
45gr caster sugar
110 gr cold butter
1 egg
Ice cold water

Ricotta Filling

500gr ricotta
1 egg
1/2 vanilla pod (seeds only) 
50gr caster sugar (plus 2tbsp for the topping)
300gr blackberries


1, Make the pastry first by sifting the flour with the salt and sugar. Rub in the butter until you have a coarse breadcrumb texture. Using two knives, mix in the egg and bring it into ball. If its a bit dry and not coming together, use a tiny splash of ice cold water.
2, Shape the dough into a fat disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3, Preheat your oven to 180o/c and roll out your dough to a thickness of around just under half a centimetre. Line a 9inch tart tin with your pastry and trim off any excess. Add a scrunched layer of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. 
4, Chill the tart crust for another 10mins before baking for 15-20 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are just starting to golden. Remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and bake for another five minutes to crisp up the base. Leave this to cool completely before filling. 

5, Beat the ricotta filling with the egg, sugar and vanilla until completely smooth.  
6, Fill the tart with the ricotta filling and scatter the blackberries over the top. Gently press them into the filling but don’t submerge them completely. Scatter the remaining 2tbsp of caster sugar over the top and bake for 20 minutes or until the ricotta filling is set and slightly springy to the touch. 
7, If you don’t feel like making one big tart, try making mini tarts.  I made these with a Wilton mini muffin pan using the same method.