New Things for New People: Clair (December)

Clair did it too! A new recipe every week for six months. I kept saying I was going to try some of them myself – I never got round to it but it’s on the list for 2017.

Here is her list of new recipes from December. As usual, they all look yum. That trifle actually makes me want to cry.


Salmon and couscous

I was Home Alone one evening for a change so took the opportunity to cook something that only I like. I really like salmon and this recipe was just for one so it seemed ideal.

What’s new?

The recipe and using fat-free natural yoghurt.

How did it turn out?

It was really tasty! Although despite the amount of chilli involved it didn’t come through as much as I would have liked, so maybe next time I can put more in. The tomatoes I originally bought looked too anaemic and I remembered that I had some ‘heritage’ cherry tomatoes in the fridge, which were riper, and they were very tasty.

I hadn’t found any salmon with skin on to buy, but I don’t think it mattered. Salmon fillets are oblong and my very non-mathematical mind couldn’t quite work out what slicing it widthways into finger sized strips meant, because the strips would surely be too short for fingers? Anyway, I ended up with little finger sized strips.1c-1

I was really worried that the vegetables and especially the salmon wouldn’t cook properly in just a couple of minute bursts here and there but it all cooked perfectly.

I think I put a little bit too much water in the couscous as it was a bit wetter than I would have liked. So pay heed to Jamie when he says pour over just enough to cover the couscous! Remember that you add liquid to it in the form of lemon juice too.

I bought a Greek variety of yoghurt which was quite thick so wouldn’t really spoon over anywhere, so it ended up in a blob at the side of the plate. It really did lift the dish though, being fairly sour.

Jamie is very good at flavours and very quick recipes like this, so if you like salmon give it a go!1g



Because we were going to stay with my husband’s family for Christmas, I invited my parents over for Christmas lunch a few days beforehand. I wanted to offer something different for myself and my mum to drink as an aperitif. In the December issue of Sainsbury’s Magazine, various cocktail recipes were featured (but not provided online), including Lemon fizz and Chambord royale.2-1

Lemon fizz

Pour 1.5 tbsp Luxardo Limoncello and 125ml Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano, chilled, into a Champagne flute and serve garnished with a few lemon strips.

Chambord royale

Pour 1.5 tbsp Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur into the bottom of a Champagne flute. Top up with 125ml Blanc de Noirs Champagne by Sainsbury’s, chilled. Stir, then garnish with 3 raspberries.

What’s new?

I’ve never made a cocktail of any sort before! These are really simple though, just adding something to some fizz (I had the limoncello and prosecco already too), but I didn’t want to spend much time on it as well as cooking.

How did it turn out?

I had the Lemon fizz, and my mum had the Chambord royale, which I made with prosecco rather than Champagne.

I couldn’t find plain cocktail sticks in the supermarket so I ended up buying ones with umbrellas on – classy!

The Lemon fizz was really refreshing and not too sweet. Limoncello is quite tart so the prosecco sweetened it up a bit.

I found the Chambord royale a bit sweet for my liking. Maybe using Champagne would have made it less sweet? My mum liked it though. It’s definitely different to Kir royale, which is made with blackcurrant liqueur, which I think I prefer.

Overall, the cocktails were a bit of fun, and looked pretty, and acted as a good aperitif!


I did two recipes in one week, having been away for one week.

Roasted root vegetable & squash stew with herby couscous

After Christmas I wanted to avoid eating yet more meat, so looked for a vegetarian recipe to try.

What’s new?

The recipe, and using red wine vinegar.

How did it turn out?

I used a dried bay leaf, and chopped tinned tomatoes, as these are what I had in the cupboard.

I think the amount of couscous specified in the recipe, 50g, was far too small and wonder if it’s a typo? I changed it to 250g (with 300ml stock), which is what we usually have. It’s strange because 100ml stock left over from the 500ml original amount would be enough for 50g couscous.

I’m not actually that keen on sweet potatoes but they were quite flavoursome here. I love squash. The amount of celeriac was just about right, as it could be overpowering otherwise.3a-1

The red wine vinegar smelt like balsamic vinegar, and was very appetising.

I’m not sure what the purpose of the flour was, for cooking with the onions, as it clumped together a bit on the base of the pan each time I stirred it. But the onions cooked very well and I didn’t notice the flour at the end, I suppose it had melted away.

I couldn’t really taste the lemon in the couscous, so maybe I needed more.

This was a very tasty and filling recipe, very tomatoey. All the herbs involved really lifted the dish.3f-1

Black Forest trifle

We didn’t feel like doing anything on New Year’s Eve so I decided to just cook a nice meal. I thought it might be nice to end the year by repeating a new recipe I’d made during this blogging exercise, as well as finding a new one.

We both really enjoyed the Sicilian pork recipe from October, which I decided to pair with a boozy dessert, the Black Forest trifle. I chose this as my brother-in-law gave us a jar of Kirsch-soaked cherries three Christmases ago, which we still hadn’t used. I figured that with all the alcohol involved the cherries wouldn’t have gone off (and there was no expiry date on the jar anywhere)!

What’s new?

The recipe, and using Kirsch-soaked cherries. Adding melted chocolate to plain custard to make chocolate custard (I was overly excited about this). I don’t think I’ve made a cream trifle filling including mascarpone before.

How did it turn out?

4h-1Well, it certainly was boozy! The minute I opened the jar of cherries, the kitchen was filled with the smell of Kirsch. The cherries and the Kirsch are quite strong so you would have to like the taste. The chocolate custard was lovely, although slightly speckled so maybe the chocolate hadn’t completely melted? It tasted good anyway. The recipe could do with a bit more chocolate and a bit less cream mixture.

I had underestimated the sheer amount of ingredients involved: I was a bit worried at the start that it wouldn’t fit in a trifle bowl, but this is what the recipe specified you should use. It turned out that I’d only filled my dish (which is already larger than a usual trifle bowl) with under half of the ingredients before I ran out of space!

My remedy was to remove a layer of sponge fingers and make another trifle in a smaller bowl. I ended up with just two layers of filling in each, plus a custard layer. In the ensuing stress I forgot to take photos of the layers as I went along so you’ll have to imagine this.

I brought the smaller one to my brother-in-law when we went there for dinner on New Year’s Day. He really loved it! The trifle actually improves over time and the Kirsch taste becomes less alcoholic tasting. He has now given us a jar of Boozy Berries (Pinkster Gin-soaked raspberries) for Christmas (as part of a hamper, not a weird fetish for alcoholic fruit!) so I’m on a mission to find a suitable recipe to use them in.

In summary, this recipe is a definite treat! Remember to use only half the ingredients too unless you are feeding a lot of people. It would be easy to make mini versions in separate dishes too.4k-1

Reflections at the end of the year!

Well, I said that I would follow a new recipe each week from July 2016 until the end of the year and I have succeeded! There were only a couple of times when time constraints meant that I struggled to fit it in.

At the start, I said I wanted to try various things:

  • 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

I’ve checked, and I’ve only failed at a few of these, which is very satisfying!

I failed to make any jam, soup, or salads. And I didn’t use or buy any new gadgets. I will remedy this in 2017.

I am particularly pleased however that I managed to learn some new techniques and used ingredients that were in season. My favourite recipes overall were the Sicilian pork, and the apple and gooseberry pie. I loved making gingerbread for the first time with my niece too.

This has been a very useful exercise in proving to myself that trying something new doesn’t necessarily take up lots of time, and it was fun to plan things when I had more time. My confidence in trying new things has definitely been boosted. There are some recipes I really enjoyed so will make them again.

In 2017 I will try to challenge myself more regarding new techniques and more complicated recipes. I would like to cook more vegetarian dishes, or healthier meat dishes, and perhaps less muffins.

It’s been fun!  Many thanks go to Maria for allowing me to join in her new things and well done on managing a whole year of it!


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