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Posts Tagged ‘cookbook’

Tonight I am cooking one of my favourite staple dishes. Great for family or informal dinners with friends. Freezes beautifully into portions. And actually good enough to serve at a grown-up dinner party too.

The recipe is from Stephanie Alexander‘s mammoth tome The Cooks Companion. This is the kind of recipe book that totally daunts people who consider themselves non-cooks thanks to its sheer size. It shouldn’t. This is the recipe book everyone should have in their kitchen. I gave The CC to friends Tash and Ian for their wedding on the basis that they could spend the next 50 years cooking their way through it. Tash thanked me through faintly gritted teeth but I feel quietly confident that now they have two mini-Tash’s this is a very useful book to have.

The Cooks Companion

Kilos of book: The Cooks Companion

It is the cookbook that does the following:

  • is structured alphabetically by standard ingredients e.g. for rhubarb focussed recipes visit R for Rhubarb. This is a lot handier than it sounds. Think about the moment when you have a load of rhubarb that you are looking at blankly with a feeling that you should do something about it. The CC gives you an overview of the basics of rhubarb (poaching etc); load of rhubarby recipes; and a  bunch of other ideas including cross references to other recipes in the book that include rhubarb.
  • is beautifully indexed and cross referenced. So if you are cooking chicken with chickpeas you can find it under C for Chicken or C for Chickpeas/
  • has all the basic recipes up front such as: pastries (short / sweet / flaky /puff / choux); scones; stock; batters etc
  • is great for the moments when you buy a walloping lamb leg to feed 1o. And then have no idea how long to roast it for to attain pink deliciousness. Just go to Lamb and at the beginning it has Roasts and Legs (boned or unboned).  Even the most competent cooks have baffled moments contemplating large pieces of meat. As a competent cook I probably angst more about getting it right as there is  no excuse for a beautiful cut of organic meat to be ruined.

Anyway, back to the recipe for tonight. Moroccan inspired chicken on page 295.

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs
salt & freshly ground pepper
2T olive oil
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 X 2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
pinch of saffron threads [don’t scimp on the saffron – ever]
1/2 t of chilli flakes
1 cinnamon stick
2 T cumin seeds
2 carrots, cut into 1cm dice [I use whole baby carrots]
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1cm dice [I use whole or half teeny baby turnips – they are surprisingly good in this and soak up the flavour]
1 litre chicken stock [anyone who uses cubes will be blocked from this site][
500g pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
2 cups cooked chickpeas [I chuck in 2 400g cans usually]
rind of 1/4 preserved lemon [substitute with zest of a whole lemon]
stalks and leaves from a 1/2 bunch of coriander, chopped [I ADORE coriander so tend to chuck in a whole bunch]
Cous cous to serve [I am not telling you how to cook cous cous, read the packet]

Heat oil in large heavy based stock pot or saucepan. [If you have a big Le Creuset casserole dish use this.] Saute onion, garlic, ginger, saffron, chilli flakes, cinammon stick and cumin seeds until onion has softened. Add chicken which has been lightly salt and peppered and brown on all sides. Add carrot, turnip and stock, bring to a simmer and cook on low for 30 minutes. [I use a simmer pad on my gas stove]. Add pumpkin, chickpeas and lemon and simmer for another 20-30 minutes until pumpkin is tender. Stir in coriander and taste for seasoning. [i.e. add more salt now if you want to]. Serve with cous cous.

If you cannot get pumpkin or other base vegetable ingredients (e.g. had a big struggle finding pumpkin in the UK) substitute with other root vegetables e.g. parsnip, sweet potato etc.

Love this dish. Et voila (below).

Stephanie Alexander Moroccan Inspired Chicken

Moroccan inspired chicken in Le Creuset pan!

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This post will be extended later when I have actually cooked something from the book. Lulu and John gave me this beautiful book by David Thompson for Christmas.  I have started branching out into Thai and other SE Asian cooking thanks to all the travel (and eating) in the region. It is a classic book of its genre with a fabulous outline of everything from culinary history of Thailand through to an extensive overview of different ingredients up front.

I do have a confession though. This book is a teeny bit daunting. Every recipe has several sub recipes each with lists of 542 ingredients most of which you have:

a) not heard of,

b) need to get from a speciality Asian food market, and

c) wouldn’t recognise if you tripped over it.

I absolutely adore Thai food and have started more gently with Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. It still has the complex pastes etc that you make from scratch but is marginally less complex than David Thompson’s manual. Having said all that, I have every intention of cooking from Thai Food. But this is a new style of cooking for me and I will start with a couple of Rick Stein’s versions of the recipes before stepping up to the stove with the Thompson version.

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Nigella Lawson’s Feast is a total stalwart in my book collection. At her best her approach seems to involve slapping a walloping piece of meat in the oven, suggesting substantial and interesting sides, and stuffing people to the gills. Dinner party guests roll home after consuming recipes from this book. This is by far my favourite of her books.

In some of Nigella’s others the cooking effort and skill seems to be reduced so far down the evolutionary chain I am unclear whether she is targeting preschoolers or chimps. Any recipe that involves tipping a load of Mars bars into a pan and melting them does not deserve to be printed.

I also have How to Eat which frustrates the heck out of me. I cannot stand recipes that seem to involve a chatty  stream of consciousness  with all the ingredients randomly mentioned throughout. I like a nice list of ingredients at the top for shopping purposes. Then instructions. If the writer feels the need to chit chat about their life and experience do it as a paragraph at the beginning of the recipe or the end. Just give us the list of ingredients or I will forget some. Nigel Slater needs a hand slap for this as well for The Kitchen Diaries. In his case though the recipes are sufficiently good, and the verbage is so charming that it is worth sifting through the diary entries to find them and locate the ingredients amongst the burble.

Back to Feast. It is a great book. Broken down into themes (Christmas, Easter, chocolate cake hall of fame). Tasty food that is pretty straightforward to throw together. Great if you have a celebratory dinner or Christmas to plan for.

Her chocolate gingerbread also deserves special mention. Really outstanding and good for freezing in chunks.

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You can tell this is one of my favourites by the appalling state of the book. It looks well used. Really delicious Spanish food with a Moroccan flair. Or the other way around. Try the baba ganoush recipe which is just superb. You want to seriously char your eggplant on the barbeque. The more burnt it is the more delicious and smoky the baba ganoush. Also some great lamb recipes with several very good marinades. Try the one with yoghurt and saffron. Just fab with the saffron rice.

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