Welcome to the Cookery Calendar Challenge for May 2018.
The Cookery Calendar Challenge is my monthly challenge to choose and make two new recipes from one recipe book, and share them on my blog.
Everyone is very welcome to join me; you will find a summary of the Challenge at the end of this post, and any other details you need can be found on the Cookery Calendar Challenge page.
My chosen recipe book for this month was Fortnum and Mason The Cookbook.
This book is a visual delight; it is beautifully made, the paper is thick, smooth and luxurious, and it is liberally decorated with original illustrations by Edward Bawden, which make it a joy to look through.
The book is divided into chapters covering Breakfast; Morning Tea (yes, a whole chapter devoted to morning tea), Lunch, Ice Cream (yes, a whole chapter devoted to Ice Cream), Afternoon Tea, Savouries, Puddings, Supper, Cocktails.... It is essentially an epicurean meander through the day of a privately educated lady or gentleman of refined tasted who has never quite escaped the Nursery. I love it.
The recipes have been gathered and edited by Tom Parker Bowles , as opposed to any of the chefs actually producing the meals and delights at Fortnum and Mason, so there is slightly disconnected feel about the writing. It is well enough written, but Tom is admiringly recounting the recipes of others, rather than describing recipes he has developed himself. This is not a criticism, merely an observation.
My first selected dish was Fish Pie. I love a fish pie; the fish is always cooked through, removing any nervousness about undercooking, and the béchamel sauce takes on the flavour of the fish so nicely. Topped with mashed potato and cooked until slightly crispy on top, if you throw in a handful or two of peas, or sweetcorn, it is a complete dinner. Tom (writing on behalf of the F and M chefs) recommends fine green beans cut in half, but give me some good old Birds Eye frozen peas every time. He also adds some parmesan to the mashed potato on top, which is a delicious addition I will adopt forthwith.
There's a slight problem with Fish Pie in our house- I'm the only person who knows they like it. Derek always says he doesn't like it, so will only deign to eat it about once a year. He always enjoys it when he does, but then immediately resorts to not liking it again, until next time. Timing is everything when it comes to Fish Pie and Derek. We should really have an annual Fish Pie Day, then at least I could look forward to it.
Jacob, being at University in another city, wasn't home for dinner, and Isaac was out with his wee friends on Fish Pie night (they are all 16 now, but I still think of them as his 'wee friends'). I tentatively presented the fish pie to Derek, saying in encouraging tones 'This is from the Fortnum and Mason book you gave me for Christmas', which I thought was rather clever of me, as he couldn't very well criticise it without damning his own choice of gift.
I needn't have worried, as the pie really was delicious, and Derek ate it without complaint. Equally without compliment, but considering his Fish Pie aversion, that's pretty good going, and with that, Fish Pie night was over for another year.
(Unrelated illustration, but it made me laugh. Looks like Derek and me, we always wear evening dress at dinner......)
My next foray in to the Fortnum and Mason book was one evening when Jacob was home for a few days with his lovely girlfriend, A, of whom we are all inordinately fond. Jacob likes onions; he actually loves almost all foods, but one of his favourite flavours is onions. I quite often roast red onions as an accompaniment to various dinners, and if I make sausages and onion gravy for him, it has to be heavily populated with onions to meet his approval.
I decided to make Baked Onion with Courgette from the F and M book, the plan being I would have that as my Veggie dinner, and everybody else would have some roast chicken alongside.
Each onion is peeled, the top is sliced off, the root is left intact. The onions are roasted for about 50 minutes with some seasoning, butter and a little water.
The difficulty comes after the onion is cooked, and the recipe directs that the insides are then scooped out, and combined with breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, then all stuffed back in and baked again.
I was in a hurry, so didn't leave the onions until cold to scoop out the insides, but even so it proved almost impossible to remove the inside of the onion, as it remained firmly attached to the root. The inner layers slipped around unpleasantly on the horizontal axis of the onion, but the insides remain stubbornly within, and I began to feel like a desperate Ophthalmic Surgeon attempting Enucleation Surgery. In the end I resorted to brute force (I can only hope that an Ophthalmic Surgeon would have more patience) and hacked in to the onion with a sharp knife to remove the innards, cobbling it back together for the second bake in the oven.. After all that palaver, the flavour was only ok, and provided a fairly bland dinner for me, and an unremarkable accompaniment for everyone else, so essentially not worth the trouble.
Overall, I really like this book. It is more of an over achieving coffee table book rather than a fully functioning recipe book, and is so beautiful that I was nervous of spotting or spilling ingredients on it whilst I used it, but it is sumptuous, and quite funny somehow, with its recipes for Scrambled Eggs with Lobster Bisque, or Cucumber with Mint Cream Cheese sandwiches, or a hundred other examples of almost impossibly posh and expensive, yet simple recipes.
However it has plenty of good, reliable and delicious looking recipes too, and some lovely baking. My intention is to photocopy some recipes and use the photocopied sheets rather than risk spoiling this book. Not the sort of treatment that could be rolled out for all recipe books, but well worth it for this one. After all, who could feel anything other than affection bordering on love for a book offering, for example, a recipe for Ice Cream Floats for the Young at Heart, But Old of Age.
My selected book for next month is 'Take One Pot' by Georgina Fuggle. I have had this book for ages, several years I think, and have no clear recollection of where I bought it. I have looked through it extensively but have not yet cooked from it, so it is high time I did so.
If you joined me last month, thank you. If you are wondering whether to take part in the challenge this month, I hope you decide to. Through the Cookery Calendar Challenge I have discovered some dishes that are now firm favourites in our house (as well as some I will never make again!), and I now make better use of my recipe books than before. It is an ongoing project, so it is never too late to join, and everyone is very welcome. Here's how to take part:
Select a cookery book from your shelf, and cook two new recipes from it over the course of the month. The recipes can be for anything: main meal, pudding, a cake or bake, a preserve, anything at all which is a recipe that is new to you. At the beginning of the following month, blog about it. That's all there is to it, describing the book, and recipes you have used, and announce your chosen cookery book for the month ahead. Add your post to the linky on my blog, to allow others to see what you have made.
If you haven't taken a photograph of the dish, don't worry, you can still describe it, and let everyone know how it worked out. 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.
I would appreciate a link back to this Cookery Calendar Challenge post in your post.
There is also a Cookery Calendar Challenge badge to display on your blog too, if you like (just copy and paste the code on to your dashboard). You can also join via Instagram using hashtag #cookerycalendarchallenge (you will find me on Instagram @penny.homemadeheart )
All this information is also on the Cookery Calendar Challenge page, should you wish to check anything in more detail, or of course you are welcome to message me also.