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December 2012 COTM: How To Eat -- Weekend Lunch; Dinner

Post here for these dishes:

Weekend Lunch 199 - 294
Dinner 300 - 362

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  1. Chicken Liver Crostini p. 300

    Saute chopped celery, garlic, shallots and parsley until soft. Add chopped chicken livers (previously soaked in milk and dried), stir in tomato puree (paste is what I used) and Marsala. Pulse in processor with anchovies and capers. Return to pan with butter and cook for a few minutes.

    This was a hit for me. My husband doesn’t care for liver...more for me! I found it be rich, flavorful, umami-laden...mmmm. It’s something I will definitely make again.

    9 Replies
    1. re: BigSal

      Good to read your report, Sal. It's on my To Do list.

      1. re: Gio

        I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

        1. re: BigSal

          I love livers but mr lilham hates it. Do you think the mixture will freeze well?

          1. re: lilham

            I don't see why not, althought I did not freeze it myself. Just snacked on it for several days, but nomadchowwoman indicated successfully freezing another liver crositini dish last month.

            1. re: BigSal

              Forgive my asking, but this is a lot of crostini! Did you have a party or do you just do a crostini a day or something?


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                No party, but we did have crostini for dinner for a couple days (think tapas) instead of a traditional meal. Also, I did not make the whole amount of all of the crostini recipes.

              2. re: BigSal

                Yes, I've never had a problem freezing chicken liver spreads/pates. I do it often.

              3. re: lilham

                I have the exact same issue here lilham, mr bc isn't a liver-lover!! Pity we aren't neighbours!! ; - )

                1. re: lilham

                  I haven't made this recipe, but have made other chicken liver pates and they have all frozen fairly well.

          2. Roast Pepper with Green Olive Paste Crostini p. 302

            I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this crostini. I made my own green olive paste (picholine olives, olive oil, anchovies, garlic and lemon juice). Spread the paste on the crostini and top with roasted red pepper (I used piquillo peppers).

            1. Pea and Garlic Crostini p. 301

              Puree peas, roasted garlic, butter and parmesan. Sprinkle with mint. Quick and tasty.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BigSal

                Pea and Garlic Crostini, p. 301
                This is my first from the book, new vinyl being installed in the kitchen is hampering COTM recipe auditions just now.
                For ingredients, BigSal said it all -- I made half a recipe and used my hand blender to puree.
                Having already roasted garlic on hand would be a good idea. I didn't have mint, and think I'd prefer a little more parmesan as a garnish anyway.
                (The bright green are the crostini, the sweet little pastel squares are my new floor.)
                NL suggests cutting bread into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices, dabbing with nice olive oil, and toasting a little in the oven. Mr. blue room thinks "baguette" translates as "big fat" loaf -- I had a full size French bread to use for the crostini, but it all came out well. Recommended, but you'd probably want to make a variety, like BigSal has done, not just this vegetable spread.

                1. re: blue room

                  Lovely! I think the mint is a must- it really makes it pop (I tried a taste before realizing I had forgotten the mint). Also, even though frozen peas work just fine, I think they'd be even better with fresh peas from the market.

              2. Gorgonzola with Mascarpone and Marsala Crostini p. 302

                Crumbled gorgonzola (we used piquant) and mascarpone are mashed together. Add grated nutmeg and marsala. Done. I really enjoyed the addition of nutmeg in this creamy crostini.


                1. Lentil and Black Olive Crostini p. 303

                  Process cooked puy lentils with a black olive tapenade (I made a tapenade with kalamata, garlic, olive oil and anchovies). Add reserved lentil cooking liquid to make a spreadable paste and add cognac. Top with diced cherry tomatoes (I did not peel them) and parsley.

                  This was just ok, but would try again. The taste of the tapenade did not come through as much as I would have liked (this could have been because of my home-made tapenade). I would use more tapenade next time.

                  1. Mushrooms Crostini p. 303

                    Cook garlic and thyme in olive oil, add mushrooms (I used cremini), cook until soft, then add parmesan and salt and pepper. Process until coarsely chopped.

                    This was just ok. I thought I would have enjoyed it much more. Maybe selecting different mushrooms might take it from ok to really good.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: BigSal

                      I find adding a little chopped (cooked) pancetta or prosciutto to the mixture and topping w/some grated lemon zest really gives it a nice kick.

                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                        Now that sounds delicious. I'll have to try it again with your suggested additions.

                    2. Cod Wrapped in Ham p. 323 and Sage and Onion Lentils p. 323 (US Version).

                      These recipes made for a quick and delicious meal on a Monday night. I made the lentils yesterday, so all I needed to do was heat them up and cook the fish.

                      I really enjoyed the lentils and would gladly eat them without the cod (wish I could say the same for the Mr.). Puy lentils are cooked with garlic cloves, celery stalk, minced onions and sage leaves. Once the lentils are cooked, they are added to minced onions and garlic that are sautéed in olive oil with a hint of English mustard. These were deliciously satisfying with a touch of sweetness from the sautéed onions. I am not a huge fan of sage, but it added a nice flavor that did not overwhelm. For those that really enjoy sage, you might want to add a bit more to really have the flavor come through. The leftovers will make a great lunch.

                      Now on to the fish, which could not have been easier. Cod is brushed with melted butter, then wrapped in prosciutto di Parma, brushed with more melted butter and baked until cooked. Our fish was done in about 15 minutes, but the prosciutto was not crisp so we finished it under the broiler for a minute. The fish was flaky and had a richness from the butter and prosciutto. Although the cod was delicious as is, I think adding a touch of lemon and capers to the melted butter would brighten it up.

                      Because the lentils were already made, dinner was on the table in half an hour. I’d be happy to have either dish again. The picture is a little dark, but hopefully you can get a sense of the dish.

                      1 Reply
                      1. page 289
                        Spring Lunch for 8
                        or in my case Autumn Lunch for 1

                        I made the salmon baked(fillet) in foil(not difficult at all)
                        and peas, avocado and mint

                        delicious-will do this again-next time with the tabouleh

                        1. The Tenderest Chicken p. 315 (US Version).

                          Chicken pieces (we used chicken thighs) are marinated in buttermilk, garlic, Dijon mustard and soy sauce for at least 8 hours. Dry the chicken, season, brush with melted butter and oil and bake.

                          I marinated the chicken before leaving for work this morning making things very simple upon my return. We baked this using the convection feature on the oven and it was done in 25 minutes. This recipe received mixed reviews at our house. We both agreed that the chicken was moist and tender and the skin was crispy, but I thought it was rather bland. The Mr. enjoyed the simplicity of the dish and said he would eat it again.

                          ETA- just realized I set the temperature to 450 (instead of 425) and the convection feature lowered the temp to 425. The chicken was moist and not overcooked, but thought I should mention it since I did not give the chicken a glowing review.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: BigSal

                            Crossing this one off my list. I am completely uninterested in bland chicken. Sorry to hear it was on the dull side.

                            1. re: BigSal

                              I made a recipe from the smitten kitchen site that was based on this recipe but tweaked. We all really enjoyed it.

                              1. re: Westminstress

                                Thanks for this link, Westminstress. I've assembled all the ingredients and since Smitten Kitchen's recipe is based on Nigella's which I was originally going to make, I thought I'd make this one instead for tomorrow's (Sunday) dinner. The chicken will marinate for 24 hours which might just be what the it needs to infuse the flavors .

                              2. re: BigSal

                                The Tenderest Chicken, Pg.315, US Edition, Smitten Kitchen's Version

                                There. That's what we made. It was delicious. Specifically, 2 chicken quarters (all 1.81 lbs. of it) marinated over night - 24 hours - in a combination of buttermilk, 5 smashed garlic cloves, Kosher salt, sugar, smoked paprika and black pepper. When it's time to cook remove chicken from marinade, dry thoroughly, season with S& P, place onto a foil lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with more paprika, put into a preheated 425F oven, roast 30 min or until golden brown and slightly scorched in spots. This took us about 40 minutes total. When serving I sprinkled a mixture of minced parsley/cilantro/scallion over top.

                                The chicken breast and thigh meat was tender and juicy, skin was crisp, flavor was not bland but rather more like a very well seasoned chicken. Little grace notes of the smoked paprika came through.as did the garlic. Just enough to create a tasty bite of chicken. So easy to put together. I served Fagioli all Uccelletto from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook as a side dish. A satisfying and very flavorful dinner...

                                A big Thank You to Westminstress for pointing us to SK's version of Nigella's recipe.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Sounds delicious Gio. Do you know if SK's version is materially different from Nigella's? Is there something that makes it preferable I wonder? I see Big Sal felt Nigella's version was a bit bland.

                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    Not having cooked Nigella's original recipe I cannot compare the two. I suppose the wise and fair thing to do would be to do that and then see what's different. All I do know is that although I've been eating chicken in a multitude of iterations all my life some methods stand out and some... you know, just get forgotten. SK's recipe created a chicken taste that was the essence of chicken. She omitted a few of NL's ingredients and inserted her own. Basically the directions for cooking are almost the same. And simply put, we liked it. Westminstress posted the link to SK's online recipe...


                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Thanks Gio. Funny, in that post SK says her "biggest changes were to increase the salt, garlic and marinating time" when in fact the quantity of garlic is identical, and Nigella's minimum suggested marinating time is actually longer than SK's. Nigella says to marinate for at least 8 hrs whereas SK says at least 2. It seems the main change is, as you say, a couple of ingredients. SK uses paprika and salt vs NL's Dijon and soy sauce.

                                      I'll bet some Harissa would be a nice sub for the Dijon as well. I'll have to try this recipe...it seems like it would make for a quick weeknight meal.

                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        I toyed with the idea of using the Dijon but in the end I thought it wouldn't be compatible with the other ingredients. I used significantly more salt than I usually do. My half-baked theory is: the buttermilk probably Does tenderize the chicken meat but does not flavor it. Other ingredients have to do that job. So, any herbs/spices/or whatever can be used...

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I totally agree w your theory Gio. I love using buttermilk for marinating chicken and do this anytime I have buttermilk leftover from a baking recipe. I've found that a hefty dose of garlic and/or onions in the marinade usually do the trick in terms of adding some flavour to the chicken. I tend to season the chicken w whatever herbs/spice I intend to use just before it goes in the oven. We usually omit salt and just pass it at the table. I do tend to use soy when its called for though because, unlike in this instance, it tends to be a component of a broader flavour profile, especially in Asian dishes.

                                  2. re: Gio

                                    So glad you liked it Gio! How were the fagioli? I had marked that recipe to try (I pretty much marked all the bean recipes from that book).

                                    1. re: Westminstress

                                      WM the fagioli were sensational. Very easy to pull together after first cooking the base recipe of Fagioli alla Toscana that's on a preceding page. Here's my report...


                                2. Garlic Potatoes p. 315 (US Version)

                                  We made this to accompany "the Tenderest Chicken." Olive oil coated potato chunks are roasted with unpeeled garlic cloves at 425. We used red potatoes instead of baking potatoes, our chunks were a little more than an inch (1.5"), and I inadvertently salted them before baking (habit). I cooked them at the same time as the chicken using the convection feature of our oven and everything was done and crisp in about 25 minutes. The potatoes were your typical roasted potatoes, but the garlic turned bitter and inedible. I just looked at the recipe again and think I set the temperature to 450 and the convection feature lowered it to 425F. I think that mistake changed our results. I'll have to try this again at the right temperature. Oops.

                                  1. Red wine, Cumin and Onion Gravy (over sausages and mashed potatoes, p. 245, US ed.)

                                    Nigella says not to use anything but regular pork sausages. Of course I disobeyed her, and perhaps that is why I liked but didn't love this meal. Could also be the extremely stinky blue cheese we snacked on while I was cooking. I used italian turkey sausages, which I roasted (as she suggests - never done that before). Made my mashers (which were, if i do say so myself, completely and absolutely fabulous), and the gravy. The recipe here is basically just for the gravy: Heat beef drippings or vegetable oil, saute thinly sliced onion until soft, add cumin, saute a little more, add flour, saute more, then add beef or veal stock and red wine and let simmer until it cooks down. It was good, but somehow not as special as I expected. Perfectly fine food, not divine in any sense.

                                    Endive and Mustard Salad (p. 318, US ed.)

                                    Served this as the side. I have to admit to subbing sour cream for the creme fraiche, but it is a pretty basic dressing: sherry or cider vinegar (I went sherry), dijon mustard, pinch of salt, creme fraiche, olive oil served over endive leaves. We all liked this, not a revelation or anything, but we liked it.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      Red wine, Cumin and Onion Gravy, p. 245, US ed.

                                      I have no idea what "an honest pork sausage that is without distracting flavors" means. You could use bananas and blueberries in your breakfast pork sausage, or black and red pepper!
                                      No problem, I just picked a mild bratwurst made by a local company. The gravy, like LulusMom said, is the actual recipe -- I liked it fine, but it seems like the sausage choice should be more important. We usually have mustard/beer/cheese flavors with hot dogs and sausages, so a beef gravy with onions, wine and cumin should rate a particular meat, right?
                                      I roasted the sausage in the oven, browned them for a minute under the broiler too. Served with broccoli, and of course mashed potato.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        I've had the endive salad bookmarked from the NYT for a few years (! - I know, but only I eat endive in the house and then I usually just eat it plain) and never realised it came from this book, probably because in the UK edition it is filed as a chicory and mustard salad, rather than endive. Thank you for pointing this one out. I adore endive so I imagine I'd love this.

                                      2. Translucent Apple Tart p. 277
                                        I'm used to cookbooks being set up like meals -- appetize, nourish, end sweetly -- but this one has large sections of whole lunches and dinners. This recipe (which she atttributes to Jane Grigson*) is part of a lunch menu called "Late Summer Lunch for 6". I think it's good enough to be dessert anytime.
                                        I used the Sweet Pastry Dough on page 39, and recommend it. I let it get 50% too brown, but it is really very delicious with a light-to-the-tooth texture.
                                        The apple filling flavor is not the ususal cinnamon/nutmeg, it is tart apple and a little vanilla. The apple is grated (after peeling) and stirred into a butter/sugar/egg/vanilla mix. The filling couldn't be easier. I was delighted with the flavor (Mr. blue room was impressed too.) It isn't much to look at (grated foods are grated-looking) but I can't think how to garnish it, since whipped cream or ice cream would be too sweet. Maybe just a bowl of green apples sitting nearby. Try it, you'll like it!


                                        1. To end a dinner party I made the baked caramel apples in Weekend lunch (Lunch, tentatively outside, for 8, though not for 8!), p.252

                                          I've never made baked apples before and the method seems fairly typical. I made 5 apples instead of 8 because that's what we had left. Core the apples, draw a line across their middle using a sharp knife (not sure why, but the skins split along this line once baked making them easier to eat later), fill with butter and brown sugar. I used less butter and sugar than called for since I was using fewer apples, but instead of scaling the recipe down I just stuffed the apples until full, setting aside the remaining butter and sugar. Place the apples in a roasting tin.

                                          Pour in 250ml calvados and the juice of a lemon into the tin. I didn't have calvados so used half brandy, half apple juice. I have not tasted calvados so don't know if the proportions were appropriate but it tasted good. Bake at 180C for 50 minutes (my timer actually got stuck so I have no idea how long I baked them! Possibly for a little less). Pour the caramelly juices into a sauce[an, setting the apples aside. Reduce till syrupy and add 125ml single cream (I added 150ml since that's the size the pot came in).

                                          The apples were good and the sauce really delicious, with a light apple flavour.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: limoen

                                            (These are on page 228 in the US edition.) Nothing better or simpler than baked apples! I've never had Calvados either, I know I like hard apple cider though.

                                            1. re: blue room

                                              Yes, I'm working from the UK edition. I'm in Britain so all the cider here is hard ;). You could probably do half brandy half [hard] cider as well.

                                          2. Ham in Coca-Cola (Don't have the book in front of my for page numbers). I admit to a shortcut - I didn't do the braising in coca cola step (though I've done it before and it was good) but I used the glaze recipe (Breadcrumbs, cola, mustard, brown sugar) on a ham I bought and then whizzed it in the oven for about 30 minutes). I upped the mustard and cola to make it more sticky, and people really seemed to like it. You don't think of cola as an acid (at least I don't) but it does add a nice acidity to the glaze.

                                            As an aside - I have the hardbound UK edition which I bought because my paperback US edition completely fell apart, and the binding is coming off the UK one ,too. I've had the book for several years, but I dont' cook from it THAT often -- is it just me?

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: Savour

                                              Coke is very acidic. A little less so than lemon juice, but more so than grapefruit juice, wine or orange juice. It doesn't seem so acidic because of the amount of sugar, which makes it taste more sweet than sour, but the pH is low.

                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                It's one of those things I know (We've all seen the horror stories with the teeth, right?) but I forget because of the high sugar content.

                                                1. re: Savour

                                                  You've got it, it's the sugar that makes it so deceiving.

                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                    You know to soak your shower head in coke if it gets plugged, don't you? It get it nice and running like new. Maybe we shouldn't be drinking and/or cooking with this stuff? :)

                                                    1. re: herby

                                                      I use cheap vinegar for it. Would never do that to coke. (It's my favourite drink)!

                                              2. re: Savour

                                                I made this tonight, though I did do the braising step, using some gammon we'd bought. And not in Coke but a generic cola which was cheaper. As with you, it was certainly enjoyed, and the braising liquid permeated the ham with a delicate though not overpowering sweetness. Lots of leftover ham as well, for sandwiches. I like the punchy crust though I don't think I de-blubbered my ham enough, as it kept falling away in great chunks. Also, I took off the string tying the gammon together and this was a mistake as it was then quite floppy and went everywhere and was hard to crust up.

                                                I made this with Brussels sprouts, fried egg, roast carrots and chips made a la Nigella's Tuscan fries in Nigellissima (i.e. form cold oil - very successful!) though without the Tuscan add-ins

                                              3. Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage p.335
                                                This is crisp and green, not a lengthy red cabbage recipe (though I love that too!)

                                                Fast and a nice surprise. Sliced green cabbage, tossed while cooking in heated oil until it starts to wilt. Sprinkle with just a little soy sauce, then pour on a mix of white wine vinegar/salt/sugar. Cook just a little more.
                                                We usually have green cabbage (braised or boiled) with butter, S&P. This is a worthwhile new thing to try. I had made ham fried rice to use leftover ham, so this was perfect as a side.

                                                1. One from the Dinner chapter (399-400 in the UK edition): Spanish stew

                                                  This is low-key family-style cooking, good for a busy person or family. The recipe is written conversationally without veering into the overly descriptive, a fine line which Nigella sometimes oversteps.

                                                  Fry up an onion, throw in some garlic. Meanwhile you're instructed to chop up 400g chorizo. Add chorizo, a bay leaf and some sherry, mix it up and add in 1kg halved waxy potatoes. Nigella says "I just stand by the pot, knife in hand, slicing them in one at a time", which explains why I think it's leisurely and low-key. Pour over some water from the kettle just to cover, simmer for a bit and then let cook away in a preheated oven. Nigella says serve with bread and salad, though I served it with buttery peas. Broad beans would have been a nice touch.

                                                  This met with rave reviews and it was very good, but it wasn't really more than the sum of its parts; I would have liked something with a bit more spice and savour and complexity. I imagine if I had young kids running around underfoot I'd appreciate this speedy and efficient recipe a bit more.

                                                  1. Lemon Chicken

                                                    This was originally our sunday lunch. But things got busy in the weekend, and this got pushed back and became a monday dinner.

                                                    Brown chicken in a roasting tin with salt, pepper, oregano (herbs de provence because I picked up the wrong box) and lemon zests. Add white wine (vermouth) and boil for a bit. Add water and put into oven for 30min. Take out of oven, pour meat juice into jug and measure out 100ml for the sauce. (I'm making 1/3 of the recipe).

                                                    I started out following NL instructions for the sauce. She said the sauce might curdle and to be safe, you can use a electric whisk and double boiler. So I started with egg and lemon juice in a pyrex mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk with my electric whisk until light and frothy. Add meat juice and continue mixing. After a bit, I can't see my sauce thickening at all, so I abandon mixing bowl, and pour the lot into the saucepan. I also have to switch to a hand whisk to fit into the tiny saucepan. Even with that I have to increase the heat on my hob to get the sauce to thicken. I honestly don't know how it would have thicken to custard consistency on a double boiler! And I don't see it how it could have curdled on a direct medium heat either.

                                                    NL suggests serving with rice and basil buttered peas. I did a oriental twist and served it with sake flavoured rice and pea (http://justbento.com/handbook/recipe-...). The original menu has a sticky chocolate pudding. But because it's a weeknight, and I felt like a bit of indugence since it's christmas week, I made the gooey chocolate pudding from the Fast Food chapter (also in How To Eat) instead.

                                                    Mr lilham didn't like the look of the finished dish. He doesn't like anything that looks like meat, veg and potatoes. He commented it looked like boiled meat with rice. We both thought it tasted like a slightly lemony Hong Kong style chicken a la king. We liked it, finished it off quickly. I might make it again when I want roast chicken for a weekend lunch. But we don't do roast very often, so it won't be on my regular list.

                                                    1. Hazelnut Cake p. 324

                                                      Very very happy with this! It's made with superfine sugar (just spin regular sugar in the food processor for a few seconds) processed (nuts ground pretty fine) with toasted skinned hazelnuts. Stir in some zested orange peel. Then whip egg whites with a little salt until you've got stiff peaks. Fold gently with the sugar/nut/zest mix. Sift flour over this while again folding gently. It is baked in a prepared pan for an hour.
                                                      Great nut flavor, just enough orange, not crazy sweet, plump and golden brown. Mr. blue room approves too.
                                                      I made a half recipe in a 6" wide, 2" high cake pan.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: blue room

                                                        I've made this to raves and have, despite Nigella's claims that it would be wrong, served it with cream. Delicious

                                                      2. Loin of Pork w/ Bay Leaves (tweaked) pg. 308 US edition
                                                        Lentils (as written) pg, 309

                                                        Wonderful. For eons my standard roast pork marinade has been Julia Child's dry salt rub. This was better.

                                                        The marinade is olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, pepper (black & white in my case), & crushed bay leaves (some dry some fresh in my case). The recipe calls for a 4 lb. boned pork loin with the bones set aside. I had a 1.75 lb thick cut bone-in chop w/ both loin and tenderloin attached. I marinated the meat in a half batch of marinade for about 4 hours.

                                                        Using a different than called for cut of meat, I decided to brown the meat, first scraping the marinade off, then draining some of the oil from the marinade into my roasting pan, browning the meat on both sides, draining off the oil from the pan, then off-heat adding to the roasting pan the called for onion plus an off-recipe addition of a coarsely cut carrot, putting the chop on top of the veg, and then scraping & drizzling the remaining marinade plus several more bay leaves on to all. Covered my roasting pan, and put it into a very hot oven (400 degrees) for 40 minutes. Basting once at 20 minutes.

                                                        Remove the meat from the pan, put the pan over a medium heat stove top, add white wine ( a white Alsatian pinot gris was perfect here), reduce by half. One should then strain the sauce, but I was loathe to give up my gorgeous roast veggies, and decided to spoon the sauce over the meat un-strained. (Probably not the way to do it if serving company, the crushed bay leaf bits were a bit off-putting).

                                                        Meanwhile cook puy (plain old green in my case) lentils in water for 30-45 minutes--who are we kidding, mine were done in under 20--drain, add a little olive oil to the dry pan, add garlic slivers, add lemon zest, return the lentils to the pan to warm. Serve the pork over the lentils the sauce over all.

                                                        I can't tell you how much we both enjoyed this. I'm not generally big on gravy/pan jus/sauce, but this was the exception that proves the rule. Really, really delicious, the perfect way to start an extended weekend.

                                                        Merry Christmas All.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                          Thanks for this review! I often do roast pork of some kind for Christmas dinner and was thinking of trying this recipe but feared departing from my tried and true faves (Judy Rodgers' crown roast of pork or mock porchetta). Good to know this ones a winner.

                                                          1. re: qianning

                                                            You beat me to it! Have been eying this recipe since we have a 3 lb. pork loin in the freezer to roast this Tuesday.

                                                          2. Shortbread p. 247
                                                            Merry Christmas, everyone!
                                                            I used Nigella's recipe for shortbread to make Christmas cookies. (Made a half recipe.)
                                                            It does make a very tender shortbread, I'm impressed. Powdered sugar, flour, and cornstarch (in almost equal amounts!) are mixed with lots of butter. No granulated sugar in these smooth babies. I rolled the dough into balls instead of cooking it flat. Then adorned half of them with vanilla frosting and a hazelnut, the other half with maple frosting and a walnut.
                                                            They're small rich little things.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. Mildly Wintry Dinner for 8 - p 352 (US edition)

                                                              The menu consists of three courses: an onion tart served with a salad of bitter greens, roast monkfish with pumpkin puree and mixed mushrooms, and an orange cake for dessert (this is actually from the Cooking in Advance chapter so I will review it in the appropriate thread).

                                                              We had a lot of the ingredients for this dinner around the house so I thought I would try cooking the entire menu for our family & another family of four who were coming to dinner last night.

                                                              Overall, the menu worked out nicely and everyone liked the food. I was happy that I was able to do several parts of this menu ahead of time - the cake was baked two days before, and I caramelized the onions, made the pastry, prepared the cherry compote and baked the pumpkin the night before. It was lovely to see the whole meal come together, on time, properly cooked and to see everyone's reactions as they ate... really, that's what cooking is all about for me at the end of the day and I am happy I tried this menu.

                                                              On the down side, this was a very intensive meal - I spent two hours cooking before we sat down at the table, and the pre-cooking bits on the prior days took 3-4 hours in total as well. I couldn't really see myself having time for this type of cooking very often, and I can't imagine someone who works full-time outside the home having enough energy to come home from work, cook dinner, supervise homework, put kids to bed, etc then take 2 hrs to pre-cook a bunch of food for the coming weekend. On top of that, the way Nigella writes her recipes and a lack of editing forced me to spend a lot of time re-reading the pages and pages of description for this menu to make sure I didn't miss anything. To be honest, there was a part of me that kept thinking "I wish I had signed Jamie's 30 minute meals out of the library and cooked from that, instead."

                                                              I'll write up separate posts for each of the dishes so that it's easier for others who cook the same dish to respond with their experiences.

                                                              22 Replies
                                                              1. re: geekmom

                                                                Sounds like a lot of fun. I know what you mean about the prose way in which the recipes were written. I enjoy reading them, but kind of a pain otherwise. I offered to paraphrase one of her recipes for another chowhound: once I got into it, I wish I hadn't!


                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  Yes, it was quite fun and I'm happy that I had some holiday down-time to devote to this big menu. I'd be curious to know whether NL's later books have had a bit more careful editing & testing so that there aren't as many confusing gaps in the writing of the recipes.

                                                                2. re: geekmom

                                                                  Onion Tart - p 353 (US ed.)

                                                                  I made the variation suggested at the end of the recipe to use red onions, red wine and yogurt, and it turned out very nicely. Really, you can't go wrong with caramelized onions and a creamy filling with lots of freshly grated nutmeg. The tart did not disappoint and was a great start to the meal alongside a salad of mixed greens. Nigella recommends buying lots of bitter Italian leaves and mixing anchovies, lemon juice and olive oil for the dressing, but I decided to stick with a basic supermarket spring mix drizzled with some really nice olive oil and a tiny bit of balsamic redux, and I heard no complaints.

                                                                  This recipe created some issues for me in the way it was written. In the intro to the recipe, NL tells you you can make the pastry and roll it out a day ahead of time, but then she doesn't follow up in the instructions by telling you precisely how to do this (ie, what do I wrap it in before I put it in the fridge overnight? Do I need to bring it back to room temp before I proceed with blind baking the next day?) The instructions for baking the tart, as written, assume you are going to do everything at the same time rather than splitting the work between two days. I made the caramelized onions ahead of time and put them into a container in the fridge, and even though I left them out at room temp for almost an hour beforehand, they were still a cold, solid lump when I was ready to add them to the pie, which made it difficult to spread them around the pastry as instructed. Also, Nigella gives you a list of pastry ingredients and refers you to a recipe on another page for instructions to make the pastry, but doesn't tell you what to do with the egg yolk mixed with salt and creme fraiche which are not mentioned on the other page, nor does she list in her ingredients several tablespoons of ice water which will be needed to get your pastry to come together. I was able to figure this out because I've made pastry a bunch of times, but a less experienced cook could be baffled. Recipe testers & editors should have caught these issues.

                                                                  The pastry itself was good, once I worked out how to make it properly, and it held up well to my ineptness with the rolling pin & my clumsy transfer into the tart pan.

                                                                  I did appreciate that Nigella instructs you to have the tart come out of the oven 40 minutes before you intend to sit down to eat. This made it much easier to organize the timing of the other dishes.

                                                                  In the end, I would make this again because it was delicious, but wish I hadn't had to mentally fill in so many gaps in the recipe (which, at nearly two full pages of solid text, really should be quite comprehensive!)

                                                                  1. re: geekmom

                                                                    wow, you did an amazing job. I would have been at a total loss, only have made pastry once or twice. It sounds incredible, but also like it would have left me scratching my head after having thrown the book across the room.

                                                                  2. re: geekmom

                                                                    Roast Monkfish - p 354 (US ed.)

                                                                    Mixed results with this one.

                                                                    This is one of the many recipes in this book that doesn't have a list of ingredients at the beginning. Were they trying to save space? It's frustrating. You have to carefully read through all the instructions in order to make a shopping list.

                                                                    I went to a market with four fishmongers and pretty conclusively proved that one cannot buy a fresh monkfish tail, skinned but with the bone still in, in Vancouver. Sure, you can buy some imported frozen monkfish fillets, if you don't mind spending $20/lb (a total of $80 for the amount of fish NL suggests you will need). So we had fillets of lingcod, which are just as ugly and more sustainable than monkfish. I had to adjust the roasting time a bit as a result, and I wish Nigella had included some suggestions for alternative fish if you don't live in her world of fishmongers with abundant monkfish tails lying around waiting to be roasted on the bone.

                                                                    The fish is sauteed briefly on the stove in lots of butter, then you put the pan in the oven and bake it sprinkled with sea salt and lemon zest. I found the fish a little on the bland side, and I don't know if this would have been less of an issue if I'd used the bone-in monkfish like Nigella recommends (she says cooking it on the bone adds more flavour). It also seemed a great pity to me that all the delicious, buttery cooking liquid is left in the pan - NL says to move the fish onto a platter, add some water to the cooking liquids in the pan, and only sprinkle about a tablespoon of the resulting sauce over the fish! Why? I wish I had ignored her instructions and poured it all over top, especially since we had some nice baguette we could have dipped into all the lovely juice.

                                                                    1. re: geekmom

                                                                      That's interesting because monkfish tail, bone-in, is a common enough cut in Europe; you can just buy it off the shelf in some places at the local supermarkets, no trip to the fishmonger necessary. I think this just reflects that it was indeed written for the British market without an eye on internatoinalisation (Nigella's subsequent cookbook have a more international focus). It's a bit like USAmerican cookbooks utterly frustrating Brits but especially Europeans who have little idea of how to measure things (especially veg) in cups.

                                                                      Monkfish itself is not hugely flavourful (I've only had it steamed) but it is dense and 'meaty', with a lot of substance, and it might have added something more robust to the plate.

                                                                      1. re: limoen

                                                                        I absolutely love monkfish, and find it very flavorful. I also love the texture. Just shows different tastes for everyone.

                                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                                          I liked it too. I might have preferred it not just steamed, though. However, when it comes to fish cooking I am in a salmon rut.

                                                                        2. re: limoen

                                                                          Interesting, limoen, thanks for explaining about the monkfish. It makes sense to me, of course, that I would have trouble finding the same fish here on the Pacific coast of Canada. But the advice specifically to look for a tail with the bone in & ask for the skin to be removed did suggest to me that NL assumes you have a fishmonger you visit regularly -- which of course most Britons would have. Again, a real pity that the US editors didn't make a bit of extra effort to adapt this recipe a little further or at least make a note about other fish options.

                                                                      2. re: geekmom

                                                                        Pumpkin Puree - p 355 (US ed)

                                                                        This was simple, delicious and very easy. I had two red kuri squash lying around from last summer's CSA farm subscription, so I used those instead of the mini pumpkins NL suggests. You cut up the squash and roast the chunks, skin on, wrapped in foil. (I went through about half a roll of aluminum foil while making this dinner!) with big chunks of butter and salt and pepper. Once the squash has cooled, you scrape it away from the skin (very easy) and either mash or puree with a food processor or blender. Taste, season and serve. Very easy, and with the addition of some chicken broth I can see the leftovers being an appealing soup for lunch today. (And there were a LOT of leftovers -- the recipe calls for 6 lbs of squash, which makes a very large quantity of puree.)

                                                                        More editing issues for me with this recipe. Like I said in my review of the monkfish dish, WHY could they not have included a list of ingredients at the top of the recipe? And since the dinner menu says you can cook the pumpkin ahead of time, it would be very helpful to know at what point in the process you're supposed to stop and put everything in the fridge for tomorrow. I opted to remove the skin and put the baked pulp into a container in the fridge, puree the next day and then slowly reheat in a pan on the stove, but again, a less experienced cook might find it confusing trying to work out *how* precisely they are supposed to go about splitting the cooking into two days.

                                                                        1. re: geekmom

                                                                          The stipulation to use pumpkins amused me; if this recipe were being written now, it would doubtless specify butternut squash, the gourd du jour.

                                                                          Reading over the recipe, not having cooked from it, I thought the format looked okay, despite not having a list of ingredients. It's just pumpkin and some storecupboard ingredients, and listing out this way made it seem more open to being cooked 'per portion' rather than strictly following the recipe. However, as I said I wasn't cooking this (and I'm using the British version) so it might be more problematic when making it - or it might just be different strokes, etc. Saying that, Elizabeth David's recipes are formatted very poorly, in my opinion, for the reasons you've listed above

                                                                          1. re: limoen

                                                                            You're right, it is just pumpkin, salt, pepper and butter - nothing fancy! And in principle I don't have a problem with reading through a recipe in advance, but given that this recipe is listed in the context of a larger dinner with multiple dishes to be cooked, it is rather frustrating to have to sit and read through 4.5 pages of text just to make sure you haven't missed anything for your shopping list, YK?

                                                                            1. re: geekmom

                                                                              Yes, it's true that I was thinking about it more as a stand-alone recipe rather than in the context of a multi-course dinner.

                                                                              HTE is a bit too chatty. Sometimes this is comforting, but often the layout of recipes on the page is far too long for some extraneous nattering that could have been cut short. The balance between chat and recipes is much better in subsequent books.

                                                                        2. re: geekmom

                                                                          Mixed Mushrooms - p 355 (US ed)

                                                                          Minced shallots and garlic are cooked slowly in butter and olive oil, then a variety of mushrooms are added and slowly cooked down. Freshly grated parmesan and parsley are stirred in just before serving.

                                                                          The recipe calls for dried porcini, cremini, portobello, white button, chanterelle, shiitake, and wild mushrooms. The markets around here seem to cater more to the asian population so it was hard to find all of these varieties. I opted for the suggestion to simply buy a box of pre-sliced mixed mushrooms from the supermarket; I ended up with a pound of mixed white button and brown cremini mushrooms, and a pound of portobello mushrooms. This meant that I didn't have any soaking water because I didn't use dried porcini, and the recipe assumes that you will have that soaking water and add it to the mushrooms partway through the cooking time. (Why, I don't know - there was already plenty of liquid in the pan which had come out of the mushrooms while they cooked, but I was trying to follow the recipe so I added a bit of vegetable broth in place of the porcini soaking water, and then I had to get my turkey baster out later on and remove most of the liquid so that I had some hope of getting the cooking liquid to reduce down to a "syrupy" consistency...)

                                                                          This was probably the most popular dish of the night. Several people went back for seconds & there was hardly anything left over, even though (like the pumpkin dish) there was a very generous amount of mushrooms on the table. I would like to try making this again in the summer when the mushroom vendors are out at the farmer's markets and I'll have the chance to make it with a big variety of mushrooms - I bet it will be even more delicious.

                                                                          I would highly recommend this as a side dish to any meat or fish - it really isn't too hard to make at all, and is SO delicious.

                                                                          1. re: geekmom

                                                                            Absolutely stunning reports on all the recipes you made for your dinner. I get a clear picture of what the process was and the end result. Your cooking skills were certainly up to the challenge and you were able to make sense of instructions that were less than complete. A hearty Happy New Year to you! Now rest...

                                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                                              Thank you, Gio :-) Happy new year to you & yours, as well!

                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                Agreed - as I've been commenting along I just wanted to add my thanks. The food all sounds very delicious

                                                                              2. re: geekmom

                                                                                Geekmom, I think that the reason to add soaking water is not because the dish needs extra liquid but because it is very flavourful and will add this wonderful woodsey note.

                                                                                Great cooking and reorting! You are tempting me to open HTE and give it another try :)

                                                                                1. re: herby

                                                                                  I think you're right, herby, and I tried to compensate for this by using vegetable stock but I was very surprised by how much liquid there was in my pan at that point. It was hard to estimate how much soaking liquid would have been left over from reconstituting dried mushrooms that I didn't use, and I would have liked some guidance in the recipe on how to proceed in this situation. Next time I'll probably try to track down the dried porcinis.

                                                                              3. re: geekmom

                                                                                That sounds like a fantastic meal! The dinner chapter is about dinner parties and that by definition is supposed to be impressive. (Like come dine with me). I'd love to be eating that dinner :) Even the weekend lunch chapter which is supposed to be easier entertaining looks daunting to me. Hats off to you for pulling it off successfully.

                                                                                As for NLs later books, it depends on which one. I've got Nigella Express and that's very very easy cooking. The recipes have numbered steps. The chatting is limited to before the recipes. I know Kitchen is mostly easy cooking too.

                                                                                1. re: geekmom

                                                                                  Thank you, geekmom, for these funny, thorough and helpful posts!
                                                                                  I am retired and have spare time -- more than useful and productive people :) -- but even I noticed how offhandedly placid The Nigella can be.
                                                                                  I knew monkfish was expensive (and ugly) -- loved your account of not using it. My Mr. is fond of onion quiche-type pies, I'd like to try this one. I don't mind making pastry -- I use this followed to the letter http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...
                                                                                  Red kuri squash is unknown to me, but because of Chowhound COTMs I pretty much trust any squash to sub for any other squash -- butter, salt & pepper, that's how we like it.
                                                                                  The mushrooms! I've never made a dish of *just* mushrooms --
                                                                                  but you have convinced me. Also, like poster herby, I won't close this book yet. Much worthwhile, just presented wobbly.
                                                                                  Thank you again.

                                                                                  1. re: blue room

                                                                                    Thanks, blue room, I'm glad that what I wrote has inspired you to give this book another look & maybe try the mushroom recipe! Thank you so much for that pastry recipe; pastry really is my cooking nemesis and I'm trying hard to learn how to make it properly. I'll try the link you sent, for sure. Have you ever tried Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry recipe? It's the only one that has ever worked reliably for me. https://www.maggiebeer.com.au/recipes...

                                                                                    Re: the monkfish - there was a funny moment last night when we were talking about our choice of fish for dinner and my son (11) insisted on getting out my Masterchef Kitchen Bible and showing everyone the full-colour half-page photograph of a monkfish. Thankfully it didn't put everyone off their dinner. :-)

                                                                                2. Finally made the minestrone (page 216) and it is bland and boring. Even though there were 3 large sliced onions the lack of seasoning and spices produced a very dull soup. Going to try to fix it with some garlic and herbs as we are stuck with a huge vat of it.

                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                    Thanks for this. It's one of the things I've marked to make. I guess I'll give it a pass now.

                                                                                    1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                      Were you able to throw in a parmesan rind like the preamble suggests? I am going to guess this is an essential flavouring element even though it's not in the ingredients list.

                                                                                      1. re: geekmom

                                                                                        No I couldn't get the parmesan rind although I did gaze longingly at the tiny pieces of parmesan at Whole Foods, priced at ~ 10 bucks. I used a vegetable broth, mostly homemade and flavorful and part College Inn, and she says either water, veg broth or chicken broth. Perhaps if I had used my home made chicken stock it would have been better but I am hoarding it for another soup. Part of the fix will be some shaved parm/asiago/romano mix from Trader Joe's

                                                                                        1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                          Yeah, more cheese usually does help just about any dish :-) I've been saving parmesan rinds all summer/fall in my freezer and I think I finally have enough to make soup -- I think after reading your review of this minestrone I will go with the parmesan soup in "Plenty" instead.

                                                                                      2. re: Berheenia

                                                                                        Oh what a shame. I had the same experience with the Spanish Stew. But since G threw the whole thing away there's no opportunity to fix it. As for the Minestrone, I'll simply point you to the Vegetable Soup on page 21 which we loved. After reading your report of the stew I'm glad I chose the soup instead...


                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                          Sorry you had a bad experience with the spanIsh stew, gio, but good to know to avoid it!