Sunday, 29 September 2013

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Tomato

Dish: Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Tomato

Difficulty: Easy

Utensils Used: Wooden spoon

Cock Ups: 2

Recipe Book: Jamie Oliver

Cooking: The Boyfriend was on a fire call right over when we normally have dinner, so this became a bit of a speed cooking team effort. Fortunately, I had all the ingredients for this quick easy pasta.

This started with frying up some garlic and setting water for 500g of pasta to boil. Once the garlic had fried for a bit, I added some finely chopped basil stalks.

Once that had cooked for a while, two tins of chopped tomatoes were added, brought to the boil and simmered for a few minutes.

While the Boyfriend was taking care of the pasta and sauce, I cut up some basil leaves and chopped the asparagus. The recipe called for a 'bunch' so I just did everything that I had.

This was then stirred into the sauce and left to simmer for a few more minutes.

The pasta was then strained, a little water left in with it, and some olive oil stirred in to stop it sticking.

The Boyfriend did have a bit of a mishap in the sink, however...

The sauce was then stirred into the pasta. It was way to much for two people, but will do nicely for my lunch at work tomorrow!

All in all, this took about 20 minutes to make, nice and easy :) Served with a bit of crumbled feta I had left over from last week's escapades.

Washing Up Required: A modest amount. Good job, too, because the dishwasher was already full and I forgot to put it on earlier.

Result: An easy, quick recipe that isn't exactly fancy, but perfect when there's no time and no Dolmio sauce in the cupboard.

Taste Test: I thought this was pretty nice - quite light flavours, but summery and fresh tasting. The asparagus was a bit crunchy because the recipe said to 'chop finely' or use a food processor. I don't have a food processor (getting one next week, yay!) and in my haste the chopping wasn't particularly fine, so it needed a bit more time to cook. Other than that, though, this was good.

The Boyfriend wasn't so generous.

It reminds me of the reason I don't like pasta: bland, boring, the asparagus wasn't cooked... but the bits I did were good.


Overall Verdict: I'd make this again, perhaps for lunch or as a side for a bigger meal. It wasn't quite enough for just a main meal.

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Tomato

Easy Plum Cake

Dish: Easy Plum Cake

Difficulty: Well, the title didn't lie for once.

Utensils Used: Electric Whisk, wooden spoon

Cock ups: 2

Recipe Book: All Recipes

Cooking: So, my mother had some plums she needed using. Plums she was given by someone else because they had too many to use. So, I had twenty three plums and not enough time to just eat them before they went off.

So I decided to make a cake. And I decided to invite my sister, Charis, over to help. She's home from boarding school for the weekend and is an expert baker.

I got the task of halving and putting the plums.

Meanwhile, Charis had a disaster kitchen moment and put the flour and butter together, rather than the butter and sugar. It was partly my fault for talking at her about doubling the quantities (so she could take a cake back home for Mum) but also partly autopilot on her part - she makes a lot of crumbles!

Once the 300g of caster sugar and 230g of butter were in the right place, together, Charis whisked them together.

Then she added the 280g of plain flour, 2tsp of baking powder and four eggs (got from the Boyfriend's family this time, as they also have chickens) and mixed it all together.

This finished the basic cake mix.

Meanwhile, I'd finished halving and pitting the plums - a sticky, messy job that took as long as making the mix.

Around this point, the Boyfriend arrived home and wanted to play Playstation with his work colleagues. An internet malfunction drew me away from the kitchen to solve technical difficulties (much more my forte, though this time it was on the internet provider, nothing we'd done) leaving Charis to divide the cake mix between two cake tins.

You can tell Charis was responsible for the plum arrangement. Look at those perfect concentric, symmetric circles. Beautiful. And that blur at the top is me very inelegantly sprinkling on the cinnamon to flavour. Because Mum doesn't like cinnamon, we put ginger on hers instead, along with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar, then placed on a low shelf in the over (preheat 180C) for 40-50 minutes.

Washing Up Required: For once, none! Charis was kind enough to do almost all of it for me. Very generous of her.

Result: This was a very easy recipe (even if I had been doing it myself, I would have managed) and the result smelled so good. The cakes rose nicely, the plums sinking into the mix as it oozed up between them. It came out of the cake tins easily (second cock up - the tins have bases that you can push up to help you get the cake out and I managed to turn the circular side into a burning hot bracelet as I tried to push the cake up and through, almost resulting in the cake flying across the room.) and the slight caramelising of the fruit sugars made it look really nice.

Taste Test: Though everyone agreed that the plums were a bit tarty (muuuuuch more sugar needed!) when eaten without any sort of custard/icecream/cream sweetening it, the sponge was moist and delicious. I ate one piece of cinnamon, one ginger, and neither could be tasted, so I don't think there was any real benefit there.

A friend tried a piece and agreed it was good - he even liked the sharpness of the fruit. 

The boyfriend's verdict: F*cking average.

Overall Verdict: I can't imagine owning an excess of plums enough to make this again in the near future, but perhaps next year when the harvest comes round again I will be looking up this recipe, as it was easy and tasty. Though I would add more sugar!

Easy Plum Cake

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Dish: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Difficulty: Medium

Utensils Used: Electric whisk, blender, wooden spoon, spatula

Cock Ups: About... four?

Recipe Book: Jamie Oliver

Cooking: So, to pair with my Ratatouille, I decided to make a Sticky Toffee Pudding. Not because of any great love for the sticky toffee pudding, but simply because it was the first pudding recipe I found that didn't look overly complex or grim. Why do people try so hard with pudding? I like simple and traditional.

First of all, I chopped 225g of dates and put them in a bowl with 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda and 7floz of boiling water to soften.

I then creamed 85g of unsalted butter with 170g of caster sugar, obviously with the wooden spoon stated in the recipe. Cough.

By the time this was done, my kitchen was liberally spattered with sugar and butter and the dates were ready to be blended. Wait, blended? I don't have a blender. Oops. I should really learn to read recipes before I start cooking.

Fortunately, my mother was on hand once again to save my culinary life. My sister walked round with her soup blender, and I got stuck in to turning the dates and water into date puree. I added 170g Self Raising Flour, 1/4tsp of cinnamon, 1/4tsp mixed spice and 2tbsp of Ovaltine. Now, because Ovaltine is disgusting and I won't drink it, I bought one of those individual sachets, poured it all in and hoped for the best. At this point, I realised that I had no eggs.

With my sister already at my house, blender in hand, I couldn't exactly send her back for eggs (my mother has chickens now, and so a ready supply of eggs) so I waited for the Boyfriend to get home and sent him in the car instead. When he returned (much later than I expected - stress - photos get a bit dodgy here on out as I was rushing!) I whisked the dry ingredients together with two eggs, then folded in 2tbsp of natural yoghurt and the date puree.

This was then cooked in a preheated oven at 180C for 35mins.

Almost instantly I realised we were in danger of some overflow.

About 25mins into the cooking, I measured out 115g of butter and muscovado sugar, then added 140ml of double cream to cook together over a low heat until everything is nicely blended.

I ended up cooking the cake a little longer than the 35mins after testing it by poking a knife through it to find there was still uncooked dough at the bottom of the blade when I pulled it out. (A little trick my mother taught me when I used to occasionally make cakes with her.) When it did come out of the oven, it left a bit of an overflow behind...

Slice, pour over a little sauce and serve with ice cream.

Washing Up Required: See Ratatouille post - not much anyway.

Result: Tipping it over onto the plate to serve was possibly the most intense moment of my life, but it was perfect! Cooked all the way through and, aside from the very edges, nicely moist.

Taste Test: The Boyfriend did initially tell me it tasted like bird poo, bit it didn't stop him eating an enormous piece. He later confessed he was kidding.

Due to an excess of cake, we shared round with our families too, all of whom enjoyed it.

Overall Verdict: Actually quite easy, though clearly I need a bigger loaf tin. Really tasty too.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

No Oven Simple Ratatouille

Dish: No Oven Simple Ratatouille

Difficulty: Easy

Utensils Used: Wooden spoon

Cock Ups: NONE! Yes! Well... One, but it was on Morrison's, not me. Honest. (don't worry, I more than make up for it with dessert.

Recipe Book: Student Recipes

Cooking: The Boyfriend has been going on about me never cooking any more that often now that I decided to surprise him. So it's a double edition today - dinner and pudding.

This was my kind of recipe. Three paragraphs long with options to skip out one paragraph. (I didn't.) I should have googled 'Simple Vegetarian Recipes' sooner.

So, optional make your own tomato sauce. I'd done this before in Aubergine Parmigiana, which filled me with confidence that I could do it again. Plus, I always think made from scratch is much nicer than shop bought.

So, chopped onion lightly fried. New potatoes not coming to the boil in the background. (Incidentally, I've been moaning about things not coming to the boil for months, and only realised today that that hob ring only half works and when you turn it up to full heat it actually cuts out... so that's why my tagliatelle wouldn't boil.)

I bought this today because I haven't got a food processor and my garlic crusher, while beautiful, is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. Seriously, it doesn't crush anything. I love that it's called 'Very Lazy' - that's me in the kitchen all over.

Look, I still haven't noticed the potatoes aren't boiling (I do in a minute) but I have added two tins of chopped tomatoes, ready to simmer for half an hour.

Meanwhile, I chopped the vegetables ready to go. My one dodgy piece for this meal - a carrot that was brown on the inside. It shows up kind of purple in that picture, but it was definitely brown. So that went in the recycle bin. And I'd only bought it today...

So the amount of carrot in my ratatouille is a bit pitiful, but never mind. I chopped the veg in big chunks. Largely because I'm lazy, but also to add texture.

Look! Potatoes on the right ring, simmering sauce that doesn't need much heat on the dodgy one. I love the vibrant pink of 'oh, shit, I should really get my potatoes boiling, like ten minutes ago.'

After the veg were fried for a while (the recipe says 'til soft' but because I was trying to cook pudding at the same time I left them for quite a long time) I added the tomato sauce. This was supposed to be left to simmer for a further ten minutes, but again, I was trying to cook pudding at the same time, so I stuck it on the lowest heat and just left it to do its thing.

When it was ready, I served with the cooked (yay) new potatoes and a sprinkling of feta cheese.

Washing Up Required: Bear in mind that this includes pudding. Overall, the whole meal was cleared away with one half size dishwasher wash.

Result: This was dead easy, though quite time consuming with all the simmering. Definitely one I'd stick on in the background when trying to do other stuff at the same time.

Taste Test: Boyfriend: I don't like new potatoes.

Me: They're just potatoes?

Boyfriend: I know, but they're all... new.

*five minutes later*

Boyfriend: Oh, I like new potatoes.

You see what I have to deal with?

We both enjoyed this - it was rich and tomatoey, healthy and the sprinkling of feta gave it a really nice zing.

Overall Verdict: A resounding success! Healthy, easy and tasty.

No Oven Simple Ratatouille