2013 Recipe Book Challenge

 52 weeks - 52 recipe books - 52 new recipes 

Inspired by  The Grumbling Tummy


Week 14 - DK Cookbook for Girls - Chocolate Cake

I always smile when I use this recipe book as it's obviously aimed at much younger girls than me! I can't even use the excuse that it for bought with Little Cook in mind as it was purchased before her time as I liked the recipes in it and it was a bargain book. 

I've tried umpteen recipes for chocolate cake and with a little tweaking the recipe in this book came up trumps. The ingredients are pretty much the same, just I use a different method.

This recipe was used twice in one week as we had a double whammy of Birthdays, both of which love a good chocolate cake.

Moist, gooey, easy to follow and AMAZING to taste. 

Week 13 - The Good Housekeeping Cookery Club (Fish & Shellfish) - Smoked Haddock Chowder

It was agreed that a trip to the fishmonger was in order so what better book to get off the shelf than "Fish and Shellfish". I didn't get very far before salivating at the idea of a tasty smoked haddock chowder. This soup has to be the Queen of what I class 'main course soups'. Accompanied by some warm crusty bread, a hearty bowl of this soup will fair fill you up!

I don't think I've ever actually used this recipe, last time I just threw a few things in the pot and to be honest it was a tad bland. That may have also been down to the spupermarket smoked fish which is nowhere near on a par with fresh fish from the fishmongers. We are lucky to have a local fishmonger on hand and his produce is simply fantastic. He also lets me have the fish bones to make my own stock although I was lucky this week to get one as the 'lobster pot man' had been in and cleared the fishmonger out. Last time I got a whole halibut carcuss which made a very rich stock, this time some bream made a more subtle stock.

Anyway, back to the book. The recipe was a doddle and the end result was fantastic. A couple of tweaks (I prefer to make a healthy option so I used semi-skimmed milk, no butter and my fresh homemade stock). I also prefer frozen to tinned sweetcorn however I bought this book at the end of the 80s when tinned veg was still "all the rage"!

Week 12 - The Cupcake Cook & Baking Kit - Fairy Cakes

Quick a serious bout of illness meant I was struggling to cook for a few weeks however one day when feeling not too bad Little Cook and I had a small flurry in the kitchen and made some fairy cakes for an awards night. As you can see from the photo Little Cook was in charge and I sat on the sidelines and 'supervised'.

It was not just a recipe book but a recipe kit which in this case rose to the challenge. My Aunt kindly gave me this little box-set a couple of Christmases ago and for some reason it's been stuck on the shelf and never used. Little Cook loved opening up the box and sorted out with the contents which consisted of a nice little recipe book, piping bag with nozzles and some stencils.

We opted for the 'classic vanilla' recipe as it was easy and also included a little milk in the recipe. I find with the GF flours they tend to be a little drier so the addition of a little extra milk always helps. In this case we just added a little more to the amount in the recipe. 

Very easy to make, the piping bag came in handy, cupcakes were light and fluffy and we scoffed loads whilst they were still warm. The finished cupcakes were decorated with the club logo. These were ordered from Top Your Cake where they specify on their website the ingredients http://www.topyourcake.co.uk/ingredients.html

Weeks 8 to 11 - No challenge :-(

Unfortunately due to illness weeks 8-11 were a write-off. Does this mean I will have to do the full challenge again next year?

Week 7 - Chocolate and Baking - Curry Pasties

Now you may wonder how I managed to find a recipe for pasties in a chocolate and baking cookbook? This little gem of a book has been donning my bookshelf and the fact it automatically falls open at the Millionaires Shortbread recipe just says it all. I've had the cookbook for many years pre wheat-free and it's a book I was reluctant to give up on. There has been many a WF recipe based on the recipes in this book with a few disasters down the way (we just don't talk about scones in our house).

I decided as it's so well used to flick passed the chocolate recipes (for once) and focus on the 'baking' section where there are many a savoury morsel to be had. I have to confess I haven't frequented this section very often so it was a bit of a revelation.

Sporty kids meant I was cooking lots of grub for a day at the athletics and at these type of events sandwiches don't always hit the spot. I thought the curry pasties would be a welcome addition to the packed lunch bag so set to work making a batch. The recipe stated that they made four so I doubled it up. I made a few tweaks to the recipe (including some non wheat-free requirements) so I will post my new and improved recipe for you to try. They were good, but not as good as the cassoulet from week 6...still drooling at the thought of that...

Week 6 - Monica's Kitchen - Easy Duck Cassoulet

I must confess I felt a wee bit guilty using this cookbook as it was a Christmas present for Mr Chef and he hasn't had a chance yet to cook out of it. I've been perusing it for weeks now and the temptation just got the better of me. There is something special about using a recipe out of a cookbook for the first time when it is all shiny and clean; no oily splatters or pages stuck together with stray ingredients.

Anyway back to the challenge. I believe this is Monica Galetti's first cookbook and it is organised by occasion. It makes a nice read and the type of book that you can read without even needing to cook. I picked the recipe from the section "A Leisurely Weekend" as I liked the idea of cassoulet without all the time (and calories) from making duck confit. 

The recipes are beautifully laid out, simple to follow and the end result was fabulous. This recipe goes straight to the top of my list so far and it's going to take a good one to knock it off this spot! It's one of those recipes that you just want to cook (and eat) time and time again. From a GF perspective, the only change I made was to replace the Brioche breadcrumbs with GF breadcrumbs.

Week 5 - Women's Own Classic Cookery - Sweet Chilli Prawns

Week 5 brought a Chinese twist and I guessed you expected to see someone like the legendary Ken Hom or the lovely Ching-He Huang in my review but in actual fact it was from my slightly dogeared Women's Own Classic Cookery. I don't know when or where I purchased this book but it's one of my 'original gang' and it's starting to show its years. The classic rice pudding page is stuck together after an incident with a pint or milk, the cover is splattered by many an ingredient and it automatically falls opens at the chapter on deserts!

Now the recipe called for prawns however after having a good rake in the freezer I came across some nice looking cod (it did say in the recipe you could swap the prawns for cod...honest!)

The great thing about this recipe is it uses cornflour so for once I didn't have to swap ingredients for GF versions. I would therefore like to say I wholeheartedly followed the recipe however I didn't have sherry or white wine vinegar (and I grudged buying a whole bottle of sherry when I only needed a few tablespoonfuls). I therefore swapped the sherry/white wine vinegar combo for sherry vinegar. Genius or what?

The recipe was a doddle to follow; a handful or ingredients and lots of shiny photos. Unlike over at  The Grumbling Tummy HQ I remembered to marinade (Mrs Grumbling Tum tends to forget this part), in fact I think I may have over-marinaded it and the fish 'cooked' in the acid.

I made some fried rice to accompany the fish and overall the result was yummy, easy and a wee bit different for Sunday dinner.


Week 4 - Star Wars Cook Book - Wookie Cookies

So instead of a main meal, week four brought us some treats and also brought us some fun with the Star Wars Cook Book. This cookbook was bought for my partner who is a massive Star Wars fanatic. We've cooked a couple of recipes from it, but mostly just had a giggle over the recipe titles. 

Little Cook bowed out of this and big brother stepped up to the challenge (obviously the macho-named Wookie Cookies were a tad more interesting than last week's fish!)

Instructions were easy although I had to refer to my conversion charts a couple of times as it was in American measurements and oven temperature.

I also had to change the recipe quite a bit, enough to warrant posting it on here as I can now safely say it's my recipe.

The big (and I mean BIG) bit we got wrong was spooning the dough onto the baking tray. We made them far too big which meant they spread and merged into pretty much one huge cookie! Batch two were touching and batch three were perfect.

The finished taste was fantastic; very chocolaty and chewy. 10 out of 10 and a force to be reckoned with.



Week 3 - Ainsley Harriot Low Fat Meals in Minutes - Virtually Fat Free Falafels 

This recipe book is actually an old favourite of mine. It seems a wee bit lost on the bookshelf amongst some of the 'bigger' TV chefs like Gordon, Jamie and Hugh but I always think back to Ready, Steady Cook with a smile.

I've cooked quick a few recipes from it and the homemade curry paste for the aubergine and potato curry is almost always the starting point for most of my curries. 

Anyway, back to the recipe for this week; falafels - or in my case falafails as they managed to deliver on taste but failed miserably on texture.

To be fair, I think it may have been my fault on this occasion. You use an egg to bind the mixture and I used one of the eggs from a hen which has only just started laying so the egg was perhaps on the small side. The recipe also said to "lightly spray the balls with oil". As I couldn't find the spray thingy I just rubbed a little on top with my finger. The end result was tasty but very very dry. The kind that stick to the palette of your mouth. Not nice!

I am confident that it was just a blip and not the recipe, so much so that I have cooked another batch of chickpeas and they are all ready to be blitzed when I get home this evening. I am also ditching the 'virtually fat free' part of the recipe and going to fry them in a little oil. Watch this space...

Week 2 - Jamie's 30 Minute Meals - Tasty Crusted Cod

Week 2 and the recipe this week was a lucky dip, it involved Big Cook (me) running a finger along the bookcase until Little Cook shouted "stop". Same method applied as I thumbed through the book and hey presto, we landed on page 142.

This book was a gift for Christmas 2011 and although I've perused the book umpteen times, I've never actually cooked from it. The recipes all look easy and delicious but I think the whole 30min barrier has put me off. For me, cooking is a pleasure, something to be enjoyed, so I like to take my time and clear up as I go along. It also means when you sit down to eat, you don't have to worry about a mountain of clearing up afterwards therefore although I chose to follow the recipe, there wasn't a clock in site.

Now here is where I get my Technical Author hat on! Something I didn't expect to be doing. A big part of my day job is writing procedural instructions and bullet points and numbered lists are heavily used in instructional text (like a recipe) for a reason; it makes it easy to follow and the reader can quickly glance back and forth at the recipe and find their place. Oh Jamie, your book really lets me down here! The layout of the book may look lovely (each recipe of similar size printed on the left with glossy pictures on the right) but from a usability point of view it's terrible. The text is so small and multiple tasks are clumped together in large paragraphs making it impossible to find your place. I actually managed to make two mistakes when following the recipe and I wasn't even trying to complete it in 30min!
Anyway back to the end result. I have to say the cod was delicious (and the anchovies that I added to the breadcrumbs by mistake were tasty). Obviously I used gluten-free bread in my recipe. I also cooked some without the topping as it had quite a kick and just breadcrumbs for Little Cook.

Mashy peas (mashed potato, broccoli and peas) were also delicious. Little Cook had about 10 (yes 10) helpings of these so if you have a wee one who is fussy about veg this might be your answer.

Salad complimented the dish perfectly.

Finally I couldn't make  the tartare sauce as I used the anchovies in the breadcrumbs by mistake. I did however have some shop bought stuff and it did the job grand.

The idea of putting it all on the table and everyone helping themselves is a lovely idea. Maybe putting the pot I cooked the mashy peas in directly onto the table was taking it a bit too far but it was one less dish to wash afterwards!

So to sum up, great dish even if the recipe is hard to read and keep your place. I reckon it took me about 40 leisurely minutes to get it ready (minus the tartare sauce).


Week 1 - The River Cottage Family Cookbook - Pheasant Casserole

This is week one of the recipe challenge conjured up over at The Grumbling Tummy and I have to say this is a challenge I am going to really embrace. Week one is a double whammy, cooking a new recipe with a new ingredient; pheasant. The reason? Well I am lucky enough to work with someone who rears pheasant and got a treat when he brought some into work for me.

On this occasion I perused my vast collection of cookbooks and Hugh came up trumps (but then when, in my opinion, dos High not come up trumps?). As usual I had to tweak the recipe slightly as it used a whole pheasant,  and I had in my hand four plump pheasant breasts. I also had to replace the normal flour with GF cornflour (which I guess you folks would do automatically). The last 'tweak' was to the requirement for redcurrent jelly. I didn't have any and as the recipe required only a teaspoon I grudged going out to the shop and buying a whole jar, so instead I threw in some leftover homemade cranberry sauce (well it's the same colour...right?).

As with all the recipes in this fantastic book they are pretty quick and easy. A few things browned and sweated in the pan, then thrown together in the oven on a low heat to cook (in fact it was such a low heat I also popped in a rice-pudding on the shelf below).

I chose to serve it with creamy mash and some Spring greens. Utterly delicious.

Thanks Hugh, as ever a big thumbs up for this book. I will cook from it again this year, however it will be aside from the 51 other recipes books to be selected. 

Week two (randomly selected by Little Cook) is tasty crusted cod from Jamie's 30 Minute Meals. To follow...

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