Some of our friends were coming over for dinner last night so I took the opportunity to try out this month’s cookbook on them.
It can be pretty tough going cooking from multiple recipes, each with a number of different sides/accompaniments for an evening. So let’s just say it took quite a bit longer than one and a quarter hours (5 dishes). I didn’t even serve one of the dishes because I was faffing with getting the dessert (another test from a separate show!).
My thoughts so far:
Chicken Dim Sum
I’d actually tried making the coconut buns before but I steamed them on a steamer insert (like this one) and it was tricky to stop the buns from squishing into the centre. Not ideal for even steaming so I wasn’t too happy with that.
And although I understand the attraction of having a two-ingredient recipe (just 1 can of coconut milk with 2 can’s worth of self-raising flour). I tried this when I watched the programme last month and I made it exactly as specified in the recipe (as I usually do the first time round). I’d used newly bought self-raising flour and I still found the buns a little dense but maybe the steamer set-up didn’t help.
This time I put a teaspoon extra baking powder and some salt I thought the texture and taste was better.
And the dough kept well and steamed up fine the next day too.
As a caveat, one has to really careful about the water drying out in the wok because the Hoi Sin sauce from the chicken drips through and burns.
It dried out last night, and even more foolishly today, I left the buns steaming while I took a photo of the chicken and didn’t get back in time.
This dish was not something I would normally think to make but now that I’ve done it, I think I’ll make it again.
Cookbook Club has triumphed again in getting me to expand my range of regular techniques/dishes. Marvellous.
Sizzling Chicken Fajitas
This one has several components so I’ll give my comments on the various parts separately.
Rice & Beans
I actually liked the taste of the crisped up beans. Beans are not my first choice of food because of the often mealy texture. Frying them till they were crispy skinned before mixing them into the rice helped.
I’d make this again. But not for Tom as rice are beans are pretty far down his usual choices of carbohydrates.
I often cook this bit with minor variation so it was as it always is.
Jamie likes whizzing up coriander stems! Well, he likes blending up stuff in general in this book. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, I probably wouldn’t bother with this book.
I can’t remember making salsa in a blender before and actually it’s a reasonable shortcut. The bubbles were a little disconcerting at first. But hey I’m easily pleased with sauces made with chilli, salt and lime juice so it was hard for this to go wrong. It delivered as expected. It gave the rice a needed boost of flavour.
Sticky Kicking chicken
I took the photo before I remembered to add the chilli and sesame seeds. Ooops. So that’s why it doesn’t look remotely sticky. It’s not terribly different to stuff that I sometimes cook (because it’s so easy) so I didn’t find it exciting.
I couldn’t get the noodles crunchy at all. In fact I had to dump the bit I tried to fry. Maybe I misunderstood the instructions. I liked the dressing – it’s got a little punch and went rather well with the crunchy vegetables in the salad.
I didn’t not like making these at all. Maybe I needed to add more flour? The patties were so wet that they were hard to get to crisp. They tasted okay in the end but I did cook them again in the oven to dry them out a little.
The cottage cheese with sweet chilli sauce is a bit odd.
This is a different salsa from the one in the chicken fajita but I have the same feelings about it.
I had also made the filling for the Camembert parcels but I ended up not putting these together so I’ll write more when I’ve cooked them!
Overall, I don’t like the layout of the paragraphs of instructions. This is not uncommon in cookbooks. It feels like production editors who don’t cook from recipes are the one employed to typeset cookbooks. Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are ridiculous in layout. The recipes are delicious but such a pain to cook from.
Because the recipes in this book are so simple, I think for the experienced cook can just take ideas from each page rather than bothering to follow them to the letter. (Which is what many people do with most non-baking recipes anyway).
Well, I’ll (hopefully) report back with more in the coming weeks.