Welcome to the Cookery Calendar Challenge for May. If you would like to join the challenge this month, please take a quick look at the Cookery Calendar Challenge page, which will tell you everything you need to know.
My chosen book for April was 'Persianna' by Sabrina Ghayour. This is a nicely produced book, divided into chapters such as 'Mezze and sharing plates', 'Roasts and grills', 'Desserts and sweet treats'. Sabrina's introduction is warm and welcoming, explaining her Persian roots, and the influence on those food traditions of thirty years in England.
The first dish I cooked was Lamb and vegetable Tagine. Lamb is a popular meat in our house (though not with me, being a veggie), but it is expensive, so I don't splash out on it too often. I was optimistic that this would please the carnivores, and confidently predicted a double green tick for the hard working cook. To make the tagine, onions are fried off in olive oil, then ground ginger, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, cubeb pepper (which I did not have) are added, then the lamb is browned in the aromatic mixture. Saffron and water are added, and the meat is left to simmer for three hours. Following this, turnips, carrots and shallots are added, and the tagine cooks for a further forty five minutes, then chopped courgettes are added and a further thirty minutes of cooking is required. I omitted the courgettes and the extra cooking time, as the natives were demanding their dinner, and I felt I had been looking at the tagine all day. I served it on cous cous, and bore it proudly to the table but alas, it did bot receive a good reception. I had assumed with all those spices and the long slow cooking that the flavour would be rich and satisfying, but it was pronounced 'bland', and I was asked awkward questions such as 'Why did you put turnips in a tagine?' (A question which had crossed my own mind I must confess.) Dinner was eaten in disappointed silence and I washed up in disgrace (yes of course I exaggerate, but not much).
I was looking forward to making my second selected dish, which was Spiced Vegetable Soup, containing my favourite ingredient ever; chickpeas. Sabrina cheerfully advises you to make this soup with 'whatever you find lying round your house and in your fridge', a nicely down-to-earth attitude which I applaud. I always enjoy making soup, and often have it for lunch when I am alone in the house. I actually have it reasonably frequently for dinner too; by the time I have cooked for two carnivores and the house fusspot (he knows who he is), sometimes all I want for myself is a bowl of home made soup with crusty bread.
Butternut squash, courgettes, onions, potatoes, leeks, vine tomatoes, and garlic are roughly chopped and softened in olive oil, then ground cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and chilli paste are added, then seasoning. This wholesome mixture is covered with water and brought to the boil. When the vegetables are soft, the mixture is pureed to a smooth consistency, and then the chickpeas are added, reserving some for the garnish. Sabrina advises adding the chickpea water also, but I couldn't bring myself to; the cloudy water from tinned chickpeas (even organic ones) makes me feel queasy.
Another twenty minutes cooking time is advised, and in the meantime, some thinly sliced onions are fried off with the remaining chickpeas to sprinkle on the finished soup, finally, feta cheese is crumbled in.
The soup looked just like the photograph in the recipe book, but unfortunately had a bitter back taste which I could not eradicate. During cooking, I added a little sugar, to no avail, and as a last resort stirred in some double cream, but the bitterness lingered. The fried onions and fried chickpea garnish was also a bit greasy, so unfortunately this dish was not a success. I had made quite a large pot, intending to freeze some in portions, but sadly the whole lot went down the sink.
Perhaps I was simply unlucky with both dishes I tried, it would not be fair to condemn the book on the basis of two recipes, but in all reality it is unlikely that I will revisit this book in case of further disasters.
My chosen book for May is 'Home Cooking' by Rachel Allen. I have cooked quite a few dishes from this book, and enjoy Rachel's easy going, achievable style. Jacob gave me this book as a gift some years ago and wrote a message inside it for me. (On that basis, even if the book was 'Forty Ways With Frog Meat' I would treasure it for ever.)
If you joined me last month, thank you. If you would like to join the challenge this month, this is what to do:
The challenge is simple: the first week of every month, select a cookery book from your shelf, and cook two new recipes from it. The recipes can be for any meal. Cakes and bakes are excluded, but puddings are included. Don't worry about photographs; if you haven't taken a photograph of the dish, post a photograph of the recipe book you used. Similarly, you are welcome to share a recipe if you wish, but there is no pressure to do so. This project is more about the process of reconnecting with your cookery book collection, than about recipe sharing or food photography. At the beginning of the following month, blog about the recipes you have used, and announce your chosen cookery book for the month ahead. This is an ongoing project, it's never too late to get involved, and everyone is very welcome.
I would appreciate a link back to this Cookery Calendar Challenge post in your post. Grab the Cookery Calendar Challenge badge to display on your blog too, if you like (just copy and paste the code on to your dashboard to display). You can also join via Instagram using hashtag #cookerycalendarchallenge (you will find me on Instagram @penny.homemadeheart )