New things for new people: Clair (July)

I feel like a magazine editor with all these guest blog submissions pouring in. This is a new monthly list from Clair who has taken a different angle which involves food, everyone’s favourite thing. She’s finished July a bit early; I could’ve waited and posted it at the appropriate time but I just get too excited. Everyone is putting me to shame at the moment – my new thing yesterday was to change the time slot for my Sainsbury’s delivery. 

Intro

I have been inspired by my lovely friend Maria’s blog to do new things! Maria is trying something new every day for a year and blogging about it at the end of each month. It is fascinating and appears to be very rewarding for her so far. I don’t think I can quite manage that though so I am hoping to contribute to her blog in another way. I am going to try a new recipe each week until the end of December. Gulp!

I have become very bored by all my usual recipes. Cooking has become a real chore but when I do try something new, especially baking, I find it really satisfying. I have collected a lot of recipes that I haven’t tried so it’s about time I did!

I don’t think I’m a particularly adventurous cook, in terms of ingredients and techniques. I was vegetarian for about 25 years and so meat in various forms hasn’t featured much until fairly recently. I’m still not sure I will ever be able to stomach red meat. The recipes I feature may not seem very adventurous to some people, but for me in some cases they will be!

Doing this will also give me a new interest, distraction as well as motivation, and hopefully a more varied diet.

It will probably also provide a good excuse to buy some new kitchen equipment!

What do I want to try?

  • Baking (cakes, pastry, biscuits and possibly bread, eek!)
  • Sauces
  • Salads and dressings
  • Meat
  • Fish (although my husband hates fish so this might be tricky)
  • Drinks
  • New techniques
  • New ingredients, especially those that are currently in season
  • Side dishes
  • Vegetarian
  • Healthy
  • Jam
  • Marinades
  • Soup
  • New gadgets

How will the guest blog posts work?

I will include the recipe, and post before and after photos (because sometimes things look great before they go in the oven and then go wrong, so I might at least have something successful looking) and make a few comments on what was new and how it turned out. Maria will post them monthly.

If you want, please do send me some recipes that fall into the simple and tasty categories and I might give them a go! And if you make any of the recipes I feature, send me a photo!
I really hope I can do Maria justice! Here goes …

Clair

WEEK 1

Irish soda bread
I think this is very brave of me for my first recipe! My Irish mother-in-law makes amazing soda bread in about 5 minutes flat and my husband eats loads of it when we’re over there, so this is a bit of a tall order. There are many types of soda bread but I prefer the ones made with buttermilk.

What’s new?

I’ve never used buttermilk before, kneaded anything, or baked any kind of bread, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever used wholemeal flour before either. When I eventually found buttermilk in the supermarket it was in the section where the cream is, which I suppose makes sense, although its consistency and smell resembles natural yoghurt to me, slightly sour and wobbly.

How did it turn out?

It was really quick to make (10 minutes). The dough came together really easily but I did need just a dash of milk to finally bring it all together.20160703_143450

I had a bit of a ‘bake off’ moment when I wondered whether to open the oven after 30 minutes but took the plunge and knocked the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounded hollow, and it did so I took it out. But I think it could have done with at least 5 more minutes as it was slightly doughy in the middle.

It looks a bit misshapen (I think that’s due to my kneading – I should have watched the video on how to knead dough beforehand!) but it looked nice and golden, smelt nice and tasted like … soda bread. It’s a lighter version than my mother-in-law’s.

I am so proud of having made bread for the very first time!20160703_163456

WEEK 2

Apple and rhubarb muffins

What’s new?

I had to use up the remainder of the frozen rhubarb from my parent’s garden and found this recipe. I have never cooked with oat bran before; I’m not really sure what else people use it for although it seems to be some sort of breakfast cereal option? I have also never baked with rhubarb or sunflower oil. I like baking muffins as the ingredients are usually just all mixed together and the mixture is allowed to be lumpy! The addition of the topping for this recipe is unusual too.
20160709_170723

How did it turn out?

The cinnamon and nutmeg topping smelt amazing while the muffins were baking, like Christmas! I was a bit worried about the defrosted rhubarb as it loses most of its liquid and it was a bit rubbery (I think it’s better stewed, in a crumble for example). I might prefer using wholemeal flour too. I think these are best eaten on the day or the day after but they’re very tasty!

WEEKS 3 and 4

I’m going on holiday in the last week of July and won’t be able to cook so will be cooking two new recipes in week 3!

Boulangère gratin

This recipe came from an issue of Cambridge Magazine:

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • A few thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5kg floury potato, such as Maris Piper or Désirée, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 425ml vegetable stock

Method

  1. Heat oven to 200°C / Fan 180°C / Gas mark 6. Fry the onions and thyme sprigs in the oil until softened and lightly coloured (about 5 minutes).
  2. Spread a layer of potatoes over the base of a 1.5-litre oiled gratin dish. Sprinkle over a few onions and continue layering, finishing with a layer of potatoes.
  3. Pour over the stock and bake for 50-60 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the top is golden and crisp.

What’s new?

It’s a new recipe for potatoes as I’m really bored with the way I usually cook them. I like the idea of onions and thyme and using stock.

I presume the recipe served 4 so I halved the ingredients for two of us, and we had the potatoes with roast chicken.

I used Kallø organic vegetable stock cubes as they are always in my cupboard (good for making couscous with) and they are tasty because they have some actual vegetable bits in (carrot, parsnip, celery, onions, tomatoes, and a bit of salt) and there’s no other seasoning in the recipe.

I fished out the woody thyme stalks before using the onions as I didn’t think it would good to find them later on!20160716_185847

How did it turn out?

It was really tasty! It got a bit burnt on top because our oven is on its last legs and it had to go on the top shelf because of the chicken being cooked at the same time, but a bit of tin foil over the top for the last 10 minutes or so would solve that. A nice change to the usual.

20160716_195923

WEEK 4

Oven-steamed herby salmon with beetroot

This is from an issue of Sainsburys Magazine:

Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 1 lime, plus wedges for serving
  • A handful of coriander
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • 150g fine green beans
  • 12 cocktail beetroot in natural juices

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Put the salmon fillets skin-side down on a sheet of baking paper. Thinly slice the chilli and zest the lime.
  2. Sprinkle the chilli, lime zest and coriander on top of the salmon; drizzle with olive oil. Season, then bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Cook the beans in boiling salted water until al dente; drain. Drain and quarter the beetroot; toss with the beans. Serve with the salmon.

What’s new?

I’ve only recently started eating salmon and I really love it baked and grilled so I wanted to cook it differently to how I would normally (seasoned, drizzled with olive oil then wrapped loosely in foil and cooked for 15 minutes). I’ve never had any of the ingredients above with salmon before. I halved the ingredients to serve just me.20160719_191447_kindlephoto-1508092

How did it turn out?

It was tasty, but would have been tastier if I’d remembered to season the salmon and if I’d used the beetroot in its natural juices rather than in vinegar (I bought that by accident and it was a bit overpowering) and added more chilli. I will make it again though.20160719_193246

P.S. I need to buy a zester.

Yummy! Can’t wait for next month’s list. Might be brave and try the soda bread myself. Very inspiring!

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