24 July 2011

Successes and failures - a typical cooking week or so!

What BBC Good Food thought it should look like.
Now, where was I when it all went pear-shaped?

Aaah yes, it was Friday of the week before last (how DOES the time slip past so quickly?) and we were due to have the Sticky Chinese Chicken and Thai Carrot Salad.  Hmmmn, well, that all went very much to worms, I'm afraid.

The chicken went well enough - although it was far from "sticky", but very nicely flavoured all the same.  The Thai Carrot Salad was just such a disaster!  The dressing seemed to be weighted very heavily in the Fish Sauce direction and, having spent over a week trying to purchase rice vermicelli noodles, found that they didn't react in the way that the instructions on the packet intimated that they would.  The carrot mixture, on it's own, was barely edible - but having introduced the noodles to the equation, it became totally inedible.  So that wasn't a successful attempt - which was very disappointing, after the spectacular success of the New Potato, Bacon & Goat's Cheese salad.

The Pork with Lemongrass & Cinnamon didn't happen, which was a shame, but I just didn't feel up to making it.

However, the Pot Roast Chicken just had to be made as the dinner for the following day was relying upon it - not to mention Sunday's dinner!

I really love cooking pot-roast chicken.  There’s something so homely and comforting about having a chicken chuckling in a stock pot on your cooker.  I think it’s also the smell of the herbs and vegetables that go to make up the stock ingredients, combined with the knowledge that the chicken will emerge from its bath both subtly flavoured and succulent. 
I always roast the chicken for a half hour at 200deg prior to dunking it into its bath of gorgeous stock ingredients.  I think it imparts some of the “roasted chicken” flavour without resulting in the sulphurous effect that can be brought about by just roasting alone.
For the stock, I used onions, garlic, celery, thyme, parsley, basil, black peppercorns and included a star anise for that lovely and very distinctive flavour it imparts.  The smell, as the chicken cooked, just improved as the 90 minutes (it was a big chicken!) went on.
I'll be blogging the whole process as my next blog post, hopefully!
The sausagemeat balls were a bit of a disaster, unfortunately, as we didn't manage to get sausages from our local butcher - and the Tesco versions we did get were pretty darned pallid.  I'll have another go when I can get the butcher's sausages I was after to begin with.

It was very worthwhile taking the trouble to cook that chicken, even though I was feeling so rough, as the Coronation Chicken wraps we had on the following day were spectacular.  I included some lovely avocado in the wraps for us grown-ups - Son & heir has yet to obtain a liking for avocado - and with the lovely fresh crunchy lettuce they were just the job.

Which brings us to the start of this week's fare.

Rather cunningly, we decided to deviate from my self-set rule of not cooking separate dinners for everyone, and bought Son & heir a frozen pizza to have while we had a rather delicious Porcini Mushroom risotto.  Made by hubby's own fair hand, it contained the lovely chestnut mushrooms as well as the usual shallots and other ingredients.  For me, I was challenged a little bit by the grittiness of the dried Porcini.  As hard as you try to avoid including any grit from them, it just isn't possible to filter it all out - even with leaving the last of the soaking juice behind in the bowl.   Some people are challenged by fat in their food, I'm challenged by grit.  If an omelette includes even the tiniest bit of eggshell, I'm afraid that's enough to stop me stone cold dead in my tracks - and probably bring what I have eaten, back.  It's really such a shame, as the risotto was just SO mushroomy and gorgeous.  I loved the flavours - but could have done with having a comedy set of teeth, i.e. removeable, in order to eat it.

The next meal on the list was a Chicken & Cauliflower Curry.  For some reason, I decided to go about this curry by blitzing the onion, garlic and chilli before frying them off.  I suspect it's too much food t.v. that planted this particular idea in my mind.  I really don't know why I did it, because in the past whenever hubby has made a curry this way, I haven't really liked it because it leaves the sauce quite textural and almost gritty (again).  In fact, part-way through the cooking of this curry (shortly after the addition of some yoghurt, which promptly split) I was seriously considering consigning it to the bin.  However, I persevered and once the cauliflower began to cook, the whole thing came together quite nicely.  It wasn't bad, but I have to admit that I much prefer the "slice onions, fry, add garlic & chilli, fry, add spices, fry" approach to making a curry!

All was safe and sound by the following day's meal.  I have cooked the Sausage & Mozzarella Pasta Bake dozens of times now.  However, this time was a little different in that hubby was cooking.  I had to write the recipe out, as our printer has given up the ghost, and he even managed to read my writing correctly.  He turned out a lovely rendition of the dish - and for once, not having cooked it, I suppose - I could understand why the whole family like it so much!

We're up to Friday now, and owing to certain things happening rather suddenly (which I won't go into here, as I'm sure you'd be bored by it all), the planned Stromboli (regrettably, I failed to keep a note of the website which fired up my interest in the dish, or you could have seen it) fell by the wayside when I ran out of time in which to prove the dough required.  Pizza managed to fall into the gap again.

Yesterday, Saturday, I had planned on making a Quiche Lorraine.  Following a bit of comparing and contrasting various Quiche Lorraine recipes - from those with an ingredients list a mile long, to those with four or five ingredients - I decided on a fairly plain recipe.  I knew that the ingredients I had - Burford Brown eggs, Butcher's Bacon and a lovely strong piece of mature cheddar, were probably enough.  I will admit to adding a pinch of nutmeg, but that just seemed to make sense at the time!

The end result was a quiche of quite glorious proportions and taste, too - which I'll be blogging second on the to-do-list.  With a fairly simple salad, it made for a lovely meal.

Tonight's dinner is going to be roast bacon - I bought a lovely little roasting joint from Spring Fields Butchers on Friday - together with a Pasta Ratatouille bake.  I was after something a bit nicer than your average fare, but that was easy to prepare.  Hopefully I hit that nail on the head - I'll let you know later!

So far, I've boiled the little chap in some apple juice and water - approx 50/50 dimensions - with some thyme, a cinnamon stick and some pepper.  It smelled lovely when I got it out of it's bath to go into the roasting pan.  I'm currently cooking it long and slow - it will probably have had about two and a half hours in the roasting tin, by the time dinner is ready.  Fingers crossed, it will be falling apart tender by then.

All of which just leaves Monday.  I'm taking the car back to the garage to have the work done for the MOT pass on Monday, so we needed something easy to make and flexible - just in case we got the "come and get the car" call right at an inopportune moment from the dinner's point of view.

There's really only two meals that fall easily into that category - either spaghetti bolognese or chilli con carne.  As we've had a number of pasta dishes just lately, we opted for the chilli.  Hubby will be cooking that one as he's the Chilli-meister, so I'll be able to sit back and lick the wounds that the MOT will have undoubtedly caused.  If I had the money, I'd buy a new car every year, just so that I didn't have to go through this MOT nightmare annually.  It'd be worth it, I'm sure!



  1. ALL Together Now......!
    Hip...Hip...Hoorah! (Have to say hoorah and not hooray, as my Dad was an ex Guardsman). :).
    Glad your back Jenny, hope all's o.k.
    Was check'in my PC...And, my 'Pinkberry' mobile, on and off, Just had curry for lunch.....And, Whey-Hey up you come...
    Lost for words now.....Me, lost for words..Neah!
    Should have been born a woman....LOL. (So l've been told).

    Love...Pot Roast Chicken. In my opinion, it's the best way to have it, taste, flavor and texture.
    Any left overs, can be used in all so many ways.
    I use it mostly for curry, mixed with a masala, and simmered, lovely.....!

    Just to finally say...Loving the new Rick Stein series. Brilliant.
    Though, last week they showed a bit about bull fighting. The only place l like seeing a bull, is on one of my wooden steak plates, cooked very rare with a large baked potato on the side.

    Glad yer back Jenny.....Don't get ill again.....! :). LOL
    Take Care Now.....!

  2. Thank you, thank you! LOL "Pinkberry" - LOL!

    I guess you can't do a programme about Spain without referring to bullfighting somewhere along the line. Can you believe that chap who had done the Bull Run at Pamplona SEVEN times, though! Crazy!

    I'll try not to get ill again - but right at the moment, it's a bit pot luck!

  3. Very nice to see you're back Jenny! Keep well :)


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